When Will It Be Time’s Up for Motherhood and Marriage?
September 12, 2018 11:59 AM   Subscribe

 
Do not ask her how you can help. That’s actually not helpful. You are smart, figure it out.

and there will be no Figuring Awards dispensed
posted by SinAesthetic at 12:19 PM on September 12 [44 favorites]


Just a heads up to other readers that this piece contains some very cis assumptions and generalizations about women's bodies and experiences.
posted by ITheCosmos at 12:45 PM on September 12 [17 favorites]


A friend of mine had the I Can’t Do All This Myself I Am Exhausted You Have To Actually Parent fight with her husband when their baby was a couple of months old. He was deeply apologetic, promised to do better, in fact that very next morning he’d take the baby out by himself for a few hours so she could get a long-deserved lie-in.

Next morning, he gets up, picks up the baby, she drifts back to sleep thinking “finally.”

Fifteen minutes later he shakes her awake to ask if she thinks the baby, the baby that he is holding, needs changing.
posted by Catseye at 1:08 PM on September 12 [43 favorites]


Yeah this definitely is giving the white straight cis women's perspective.

That said, it's an excellent analysis of the disconnect many (straight white cis) men have between their political support for Me Too and the gender imbalance of their personal lives.
posted by medusa at 1:13 PM on September 12 [7 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Let's not jump into this as if the "women's issues" umbrella somehow doesn't include trans women's issues. If you want to talk about the subset of women's issues that this essay is about, please just do that.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:31 PM on September 12 [20 favorites]


FYI, medium has a paywall now for their featured articles (3 free, then sign up), but Incognito mode will go around it.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 1:55 PM on September 12 [4 favorites]


Man here, speaking on behalf of all men: we're not gonna fix our part in this mess of a culture out of altruism. Your best plan here is to remove us from positions of power whenever possible and elect/appoint women in our place. Collectively, we will take this very poorly, but I don't have any better ideas.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:07 PM on September 12 [32 favorites]


Yeah this definitely is giving the white straight cis women's perspective.

Well. Is it, though? Of course these issues play out differently for different groups of women, but it’s not as if e.g. Black women aren’t dealing with high mortality rates in childbirth or having their medical concerns ignored and dismissed, or lesbian mothers are exempt from poor treatment in the workplace. Of course not every woman will experience any one of these, but the whole “women as a broad class get exploited because of their reproductive capability” thing has been going on in general since... the invention of agriculture, maybe? Women who do not give birth or raise children or marry men still suffer from the wider knock-on effects of this: you are not the default human, you don’t need to be taken seriously, your voices don’t matter as much, your lives don’t matter as much.

(unless I misread you and that’s exaxtly the point you were making, that various groups of women get this shit even worse due to the intersection of other axes of oppression, in which case sorry!)

Aaaaaaanyway. On a less Marxist-feminist note and back to the baby thing I mentioned previously: I’ve just remembered the antenatal class I attended where a bunch of pregnant women got told that it’s really important to involve the baby’s father in care, and not make him feel like everything needs to be perfect, and not try to control everything yourself, just encourage him and don’t criticise him and he’ll come round! Great: not only are men overwhelmingly still not doing their share, but now it’s our fault for failing to woo them gently as one would a nervous faun into parenting. GAH.
posted by Catseye at 2:15 PM on September 12 [40 favorites]


Well, women do, in fact, have a better idea (not that the idea of removing all men from power does not have merit). Women are offering the better idea of: Men, grow the fuck up and do your own work, as well as some of the collective work, without expecting us to tell you how, or give you a cookie for it, or take it all on ourselves.
posted by crush at 2:16 PM on September 12 [35 favorites]


Your best plan here is to remove us from positions of power whenever possible and elect/appoint women in our place.

"Your" best plan. Whose work is this? Women's work?

I know a white cis man in my local arts scene who every time he gets a gig, he gives 1/2 to 2/3 of his time and/or space to women who do the same thing he does, usually women of color. On the rare occasion the venue gives him grief, he calls them out on social media. We need so many more like him.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 2:23 PM on September 12 [61 favorites]


Men, please wake up, look up from your navels, and start giving a shit. About the human beings you are sharing your lives with and working with and living next to. Please, we are collectively SHAKING YOUR SHOULDERS and BEGGING YOU.
posted by bleep at 3:08 PM on September 12 [5 favorites]


Your best plan here is to remove us from positions of power whenever possible and elect/appoint women in our place.

Oh is that all we have to do? Well, that should be EASY, why haven't we done that yet?!?
posted by agregoli at 3:15 PM on September 12 [31 favorites]


I love how quiet it got in here after that first helpful suggestion about how to fix things got so thouroughly rejected 😂
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:03 PM on September 12 [8 favorites]


I really miss the days of yore when editors controlled what was published.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:06 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]


In our house you can say 'please' and 'thank you' or you can leave.
posted by poe at 9:16 PM on September 12


I was wondering when we'd get the next EL thread, and what it would be about. Emphasis added:
...we try to frame every horrifying reality for our children — sexual assault; school shootings; ready for prime-time, hoods-off racism; the criminalization of and discrimination against every imaginable ‘other,’ children being ripped from their parents’ arms; every immoral failing of a man in power (there are so many!) — in a way that doesn’t send them spiraling into the utter depths of anxiety and despair. And while we’re at it, our culture adds to the To-Do list: Unbreak boys. Fix that whole toxic masculinity thing while you’re at it. It’s on you. You are the mother.
Not just, "you're the mother; fix it!" but "...also, don't make your children aware of how much traumatic emotion you have to wade through in order to teach them how the world works. Always be a source of comfort for your family."

It's a vicious catch-22: if we succumb to despair, we have failed to share the resilience our children need to learn to cope with life; if we don't, they pick up the lesson that all hardships are tolerable, because hey, mom is okay so the world must not be too bad.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:24 PM on September 12 [7 favorites]


I'm not planning on having children for a myriad of reasons, but this is certainly one of them. And there are more and more women making that same assessment and opting out.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:55 PM on September 12 [13 favorites]


If you make parenthood miserable for women, more women will opt out. I think we are seeing that reflected in the birth rate.
posted by domo at 1:47 AM on September 13 [15 favorites]


This is tongue-in-cheek (but also not-so-tongue-in-cheek): my burden of unpaid labor has decreased magically and spectacularly since I got divorced and the kids started spending half their time with dad. As a lifestyle choice, divorce + shared custody is hard to beat!
posted by MiraK at 9:24 AM on September 13 [11 favorites]


"Well, women do, in fact, have a better idea (not that the idea of removing all men from power does not have merit). Women are offering the better idea of: Men, grow the fuck up and do your own work, as well as some of the collective work, without expecting us to tell you how, or give you a cookie for it, or take it all on ourselves."

This conversation never goes the other way. Why don't women adopt the idea of doing less work for others and themselves, without being told or telling people how to do anything. Everyone seems so focused on making men be better without even considering the easier option of everyone else just matching them in levels of being the worst.
posted by GoblinHoney at 9:36 AM on September 13


Yes, how silly of women to want "better" rather than "the worst". Why didn't we ever think of living in filth and never taking our children to the doctor.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:00 AM on September 13 [25 favorites]


This conversation never goes the other way. Why don't women adopt the idea of doing less work for others and themselves, without being told or telling people how to do anything. Everyone seems so focused on making men be better without even considering the easier option of everyone else just matching them in levels of being the worst.

Literally never, except for every time emotional labor comes up and someone swaggers in to say that maybe women should just, like, chill out and not even send Christmas cards or remember birthdays or plan a grocery list so they can feed their children, man.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 10:09 AM on September 13 [25 favorites]


Has anyone made an Emotional Labour Discussion Bingo Card yet?
posted by Secret Sparrow at 10:10 AM on September 13 [8 favorites]


Because men are the ones who need to step up. Because this is a known thing, with data, that women do the majority of housework, emotional labor, and childrearing. When asked to do more work at your job, do you tell them, "Nah, lower your standards, why are you asking me to do my share?" It's an absurd suggestion, is why.
posted by agregoli at 10:10 AM on September 13 [3 favorites]


I'm going to do the mature emotional labor of assuming that was a bad joke. See how better things are when we don't all double down on being absolute garbage monsters?
posted by bleep at 10:31 AM on September 13 [2 favorites]


I swear to god this website is filled with people who only care about making the world better for one another regardless of context.

(bleep, I was joking but I also was not aware that ass-backwards sentiment was commonly asserted genuinely in these discussions, which really deflates the whole bit)
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:55 AM on September 13 [5 favorites]


It's asserted Every. Single. Time. Which is why we can't see the joke. Glad you didn't mean it.
posted by agregoli at 10:59 AM on September 13 [9 favorites]


And while we’re at it, our culture adds to the To-Do list: Unbreak boys. Fix that whole toxic masculinity thing while you’re at it. It’s on you. You are the mother.

As a mom of two boys, I think about this a lot. One of my boys is a sensitive, gentle, loving child who feels everything so deeply, and I worry about him. I want him to stay soft. I want him to continue befriending the youngest kid in his class, and holding the hand of the kid with ASD when she needs it. I want him to keep sewing little pikachus to give to his friends, and to be afraid of movies with masks in them, and to be physically and verbally affectionate. But I worry that the world is going to be harsh on him, and that soft boys don't make it through middle school very well. He's only six, but I don't know how to prepare him.

My other kid swings between playful hilarity and aggressive rage on a dime, but he's only three. He's broken my wife's nose, stabbed his brother in the eye, and last week brushed his teeth with toilet cleaner. Mostly I'm just trying to keep him alive until adulthood. One does what one can.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:14 AM on September 13 [9 favorites]


When asked to do more work at your job, do you tell them, "Nah, lower your standards, why are you asking me to do my share?" It's an absurd suggestion, is why.

It's not absurd. That's how life is for men, which is why the suggestion that men 'step up' is never going to fly without serious consequences. In fact, most services are becoming more and more automated so people (mostly men) don't have to do more 'emotional labor' at work. 'Holding out' -ie: doing nothing while asking for more income is a legit strategy for men in sports for godsake.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:42 AM on September 13


Frankly, I find it EXTREMELY absurd.
posted by agregoli at 12:08 PM on September 13


Holding out only works as a strategy if (1) you're okay with nothing being done, and (2) the other party won't literally kill you for saying no.

I'm very fond of the solution Suzette Haden Elgin suggested in the Native Tongue series: do what the men demand of you, and withdraw emotional connections. Not "refuse to help," because women who take formal steps to withdraw from providing support and advice to men can get killed for it, but providing about the level of emotional support connection that a good teacher provides for preteen students: plenty of "hang in there" and "aw that sounds awful" and "I bet you can do that if you try," but nothing at all about herself - no offering hopes, or worries, or asking for help except with physical activities, and not expecting to receive it even for those.

This is a harsh, maybe callous, approach to relationship problems - but it's one of the few changes she can make that doesn't immediately put her at risk of retaliation, and doesn't rely on his cooperation.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:41 PM on September 13 [8 favorites]


Sadly, I think there are a lot of men who would be perfectly happy with that arrangement and not having to be "bothered" with women's concerns.
posted by DebetEsse at 2:00 PM on September 13 [3 favorites]


Being a good, fully realized human being requires being capable of empathy, compassion and a willingness to do your actual share of the actual work. If men are not willing to be any of those things, well I'm onboard with telling them all to fuck off forever and let the species die out, but that attitude tends to upset some people.
posted by emjaybee at 2:28 PM on September 13 [8 favorites]


I think there are a lot of men who would be perfectly happy with that arrangement and not having to be "bothered" with women's concerns.

There are indeed, resulting in the "epidemic of male loneliness" that we are somehow supposed to do something to fix, despite men telling us, over and over, that we aren't fit to be their companions and close friends; they don't want to talk with us; we need to stop nagging; and so on.

I'm looking forward to a future where a substantial number of young women in college realize that what they want out of a marriage has very little to do with gender, and that they can arrange for sex without needing to try being a partner to someone who consistently rejects the idea that they should have an equal say in what happens in the relationship.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:13 PM on September 13 [12 favorites]


[Couple things removed. If you're coming fresh to the concept that pregnancy has costs and yet women still have babies sometimes, please do some independent reading instead of putting it to other commenters to solve your pregnancy riddle.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:49 PM on September 13 [13 favorites]


Heck, it took me until my 40s to realize that it was actually perfectly normal to want to spend time with your partner and talk to them. I wasn’t “needy” or “clingy” for wanting to have conversations or hang out. I spent nearly my entire adult life being told by men that having emotional needs was weird.

Nearly all the relationships I’ve had have put me in the position of being a glorified personal assistant and fixer, doing tons of emotional labor (and actual labor) that was NEVER reciprocated, and in fact I had to listen to several speeches from various dudes about how they wouldn’t buy Christmas presents, accompany me to the emergency room, or invite me to the family Labor Day barbecue because that would cramp their style somehow. They want a fucking maid who occasionally sleeps with them and enhances their reputation for being a whatever. Whatever the goal is for men who don’t do shit with their lives and expect their female partner to conjure the illusion that they do. Well, fuck that.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:11 PM on September 13 [10 favorites]


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