One thing I find ridiculously offensive is when a man tries to relate to a woman because he has had to do the dishes and take care of the kids this one time. “When school is out, I take care of the kids, cook dinner and do the dishes … but when school starts back we divide those responsibilities equally … although my wife does end up doing a lot more than I do … so it is as challenging for me to be a working father as it is for women to be working mothers.” Oh you poor little thing! Here, let me get you a Tampax to dry those tears of oppression.
My last entry was about sarcasm as a means of fighting back, and this entry is going to be laced with some heavy sarcasm, and some of it might be painful. There. You’ve had your warning.
Same man says that he thinks it’s absolutely obnoxious that Hollywood decided to use Sally Field to play Crystal Lee Sutton in Norma Rae because Crystal Lee Sutton was a fat dog. He didn’t say that, but he did post a picture of her, and he did comment about how Hollywood chose a beautiful actress to play her and how deplorable it is that we should have to have beauty like that thrust in our faces. Yawn! Please don’t support the patriarchy by sounding like you’re against it. It’s boring and offensive. What is sad is that this man probably believes he is a progressive man, who supports women’s equality. He may even vote Democrat! (GASP!) He believes that pointing out the disingenuous beauty standards of Hollywood in 1979 makes him the perfect manpresentative for the women’s movement. Really what he wants though is absolution from us. He wants us to say men are like “this” except for you. He wants to be recognized for the one-third contribution he makes to his household’s Dirty Dish Reclamation Program. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And speaking of wolves…these “progressive” men who think they don’t have anything to do with the patriarchy like to make sure and point out they don’t by telling us what they “Allow” the women in their lives to do and be. <How Now Brown Cow?> Say what? Oh yes, by all means, let me inaugurate you into the secret and uplifting world of feminism where you can be our Manpresentative because you did the dishes in the summer LETTING your wife have a break from her chores when it was convenient for you to do so and you LET your wife pursue her own career.
Another sad fact: the women in these men’s lives probably think they’re married to or dating really progressive men too. “My husband did the dishes and laundry and kids’ doctor appointments ALL SUMMER!” It’s like they’ve succeeded at toilet training. Look who’s a big boy now, going in the potty like a grown up!
Another sad fact: the reason some men NEED us to know how progressive they are comes from a lack of self-respect and self-confidence. They NEED us to know how well they see what we have to face and they NEED us to know how deplorable they think it is so that we can make it OK for them to exist. They don’t want to change anything, they just want to FEEL like we’re okay with them, like we approve of them. Doing the dishes in the summer doesn’t cut it, buddy. I don’t care how much you think it does. There is a termination point to that kind of “progressiveness.” The termination point is Autumn. Does your wife have an equal opportunity for a termination point? If not, then you’re just a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If not, then you’re just pretending to be equal. You’re just LETTING her be your equal when it’s convenient, in the summertime, when you don’t have to go to work five days a week. It’s a pacification. A patronization. Not real equality. It’s like comparing moving out on your own for the first time with summer camp. Summer camp does not give you any kind of real idea of what being an independent adult is like because there is a termination point for summer camp. You know you’re going back to the safety of mom and dad in a week or two weeks. Really all summer camp does is give mom and dad a break and give you mosquito bites and a false sense of independence. When you go back to work full time in the Fall, it’s like coming home from summer camp. You’ve had a wild ride away at camp, running around without your parents looking over your shoulder, doing the dishes all by yourself (who’s a good boy?), and it was fun while it lasted, but now it’s time to go home…to go back to NORMAL. See how that plays out, Mr. SummerEqualitySpouse? Don’t gimme nona dat bullshit about how progressive you are if there is a roundtrip ticket back to Your Wife Actually Does More of the Work when you’re both working full time. All you’re doing is LETTING her have some time off from what you really think are HER primary responsibilities, and it doesn’t matter if you don’t see it that way because THAT is the way it is. You can see it however you want to. It’s about that tricky difference between truth and reality – one is subjective and the other is not.
You’re doing her a FAVOR, you think. You think doing her a favor makes you equals. That’s not equality. That is a debt relationship, my friend.
There are men who have immense self-respect and self-confidence, who don’t need any one’s absolution because they don’t participate in the patriarchy, explicitly or implicitly. These men don’t feel like they need any one’s approval because they don’t feel like anything they do is special in any way. That other guy, Mr. SummerDishes, feels like he is doing something special for his wife, and therefore needs recognition to fulfill his own parasitic self-confidence. A self-confident man with self-respect does the right thing because it is the right thing to do. This is integrity – doing the right thing because it is the right thing, especially when no one is watching you to recognize how great you are for doing it. So, don’t come crying to me about how much you understand the oppression of women because you do the dishes when you’re off work in the summer. The right thing to do is the dishes at least half the time no matter what time of year it is and no matter what your work schedule is.