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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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242 Responses

  1. Julie
    Julie February 27, 2012 at 9:12 pm |

    I could not agree more. Women need to run far in the opposite direction of that dude. I was so angry a couple weeks ago when my dad was explaining to me that if we were in the 1960′s, back before today’s “astronomical tax rates” I could have stayed home with my babies, because we could have lived on my husband’s salary. Of course, that totally erases me and the fact that I have no desire to be a stay at home mom.

  2. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong February 27, 2012 at 9:22 pm |

    Sorry Charlie, but it is 100% sexist to want to marry a woman who has “traditional values” and will stay home

    No, it’s not. It’s 100% sexist to believe that women should stay home and raise children, or to expect your wife to do so regardless of what she wants, but its not sexist to include wanting to be a stay-at-home mom or dad in your ideal-partner-criteria any more than it is to hope to marry someone who wants a career.

    For example: I know anyone I’m in a long-term relationship with has to be ambitious and driven, and that usually means having a career. Otherwise, frankly, I get bored. Here’s the thing, though; that’s just me. That’s a totally subjective standard which excludes a ton of otherwise great people, and so I don’t judge others who look for different things. My best friend wants to have children and a career, and so she hopes to marry someone who will stay home and take care of them, since she believes that at least one parent should. That’s fine, too.

    Now, “traditional values” is a term with its own set of baggage, and I certainly think the people who are likely to want their female partners to stay home are probably also more likely to believe all sorts of other sexist things. But independently, no, wanting to marry someone who prefers to stay home isn’t sexist, because a) a lot people like that do exist and so b) its OK to express a preference for them.

  3. kungfulola
    kungfulola February 27, 2012 at 9:47 pm |

    For me, the final red flag was “40 years too late”. Oh yes! I am sure that era would have been a utopia for you, what with the prevailing sexist cultural attitudes, lack of sexual harrassment laws, reduced access to divorce and support for battered women. I bet you spank it to Mad Men, don’t you, you retrograde jackhole.

  4. Josh
    Josh February 27, 2012 at 9:48 pm |

    Believing that your wife should stay home with your kids — not that a parent should stay home, not that you want your children to have a full-time caregiver, but that your wife should stay home — is sexist.

    1. Being straight is not sexist.
    2. Wanting a parent to stay home with child(ren) is not sexist.
    3. Wanting a career for oneself is not sexist.

    Assuming those three things are true and apply to Charlie (and all indications are that they do), how do all three of them combine to form sexism?

  5. Helen
    Helen February 27, 2012 at 9:49 pm |

    I actually like the fact that this guy makes this known up front, rather than weaselling his way into some woman’s life not telling her what the Life Plan is. It gives people a chance to run away screaming.

  6. Sorry Charlie
    Sorry Charlie February 27, 2012 at 9:49 pm |

    I disagree. I think there is a massive distinction between making an argument like Rick Santorum presumably does about what all women should do, and merely having a preference for what your mate will do. If having a preexisting notion about what your future mate’s role will be is sexist, then I daresay that more women are sexist in this regard than men.

  7. Josh
    Josh February 27, 2012 at 9:50 pm |

    And just to clarify: If I am a straight male, and if I want a career for myself, and if I want a parent staying home with my children, it clearly follows that I want my wife to stay home with the children, does it not?

    And apparently it also makes me sexist. Which is the sexist part, though?

  8. LotusBen
    LotusBen February 27, 2012 at 9:59 pm |

    Assuming those three things are true and apply to Charlie (and all indications are that they do), how do all three of them combine to form sexism?

    Because of how Charlie frames the issue. He says his preferences derive from his “traditional values” (almost always code words for religious, authoritarian, patriarchal, heteronormative, and yes, sexist values). Also, Charlies himself admits that women on campus frequently call him sexist. My guess is that they are not imagining things. Also the phrases like “my children,” as Jill pointed out. Also Charlie’s hypothesis that perhaps he was “born 40 years too late.” In other words, perhaps he would have been better adjusted to a society prior to Second Wave Feminism when his sexist values would have been more widely accepted in by his peers.

  9. librarygoose
    librarygoose February 27, 2012 at 10:01 pm |

    If I am a straight male, and if I want a career for myself, and if I want a parent staying home with my children, it clearly follows that I want my wife to stay home with the children, does it not?

    What about what she wants? What if she also wants to have kids and her career? Not considering that a woman would also want to work is sexist.

  10. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. February 27, 2012 at 10:04 pm |

    **GASP**

    Jill, did you just agree with Prudie? I know its a little chilly here in Arizona tonight, but I didn’t realize it was about to freeze…

  11. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong February 27, 2012 at 10:07 pm |

    Well… yes and no. Is it “ok” to express a preference for women who stay home? Sure. Go for it. It should not be illegal.

    I tend to assume that on feminist blogs, at least, we can understand “OK” and “sexist” to be mutually exclusive terms. But good job with the word games (who said anything about legality?), and not addressing the actual point.

    Believing that your wife should stay home with your kids — not that a parent should stay home, not that you want your children to have a full-time caregiver, but that your wife should stay home — is sexist. It’s ok to have that preference. It is allowed. It is also sexist.

    So if you believe a parent should stay home, and you plan on marrying a woman, and you plan on having a career, what exactly does that add up to, Jill? Incidentally, you inserted a word- ‘should’- that appeared nowhere in my argument. I’m not claiming that believing wives should stay home isn’t sexist, I’m saying that it is OK (by which I mean it is not sexist or otherwise problematic) to want children, and believe a parent should stay home to take care of young children, and want a career, and want to marry a woman, all a the same time.

    If you’ve already married that woman, the conversation changes. At that point, saying ‘I expect you to stay home because I’m a guy” is undoubtedly sexist. Considering that there are a good number of people, both women and men, who want to stay home, I think it’s a bit odd to say you can’t hope to end up with one of them.

    I’m sorry, I love most of your stuff, but you’re way off base on this one.

  12. ahimsa
    ahimsa February 27, 2012 at 10:08 pm |

    I was so angry a couple weeks ago when my dad was explaining to me that if we were in the 1960′s, back before today’s “astronomical tax rates” I could have stayed home with my babies, because we could have lived on my husband’s salary.

    This is a bit off topic, but assuming you are talking about taxes in the USA, federal income taxes were actually much higher back in the 1960s. Assuming the information from this web site is correct (http://www.taxfoundation.org/taxdata/show/151.html) the maximum marginal tax rate ranged from 70% to 91% in the 1960s. I guess folks tend to forget all about the Reagan era tax cuts of the 1980s.

    Of course, even if your father were right about tax rates, his opinion that a wife should live on her husband’s salary is messed up in several different ways. So, yeah, his comment is both infuriating *and* based on wrong information. :-)

  13. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers February 27, 2012 at 10:12 pm |

    If I am a straight male, and if I want a career for myself, and if I want a parent staying home with my children, it clearly follows that I want my wife to stay home with the children, does it not?

    And if I am a straight female, and if I want a career for myself, and if I want a parent staying home with my children, it clearly follows that I want my husband to stay at home with the children, does it not?

    But if I consider that a primary quality to look for in a man, and a man unwilling to do that is a deal-breaker… I’m likely to never get married.

    The reason this is a sexist preference to have is that women aren’t allowed to have this preference *and* expect that it will ever be fulfilled. Sure, some women are fortunate enough to find men who want to be stay-at-home dads, but they’re sufficiently rare that you just can’t include that trait on a laundry list of what your husband *must* have and expect that you’ll ever find a guy who matches your criteria. Men have the option of simply assuming that this is not only possible, but likely enough that they can demand it. And the reason they have this option is male privilege, and the clueless exercise of male privilege is sexism.

    Also. If this guy considers this such a vitally important trait to find in a woman, what happens if he gets laid off and she has to work? Does he get resentful and angry? Does he turn into a douchebag? Does he refuse to do any chores around the house because he sees that as emasculating? Saying “I must marry a woman who wants to stay home with the kids” is prioritizing a trait that’s completely dependent on the vagaries of fate. Because Charlie’s cushy engineering job that he doesn’t even have yet might *still* lay him off.

    Now, “I want to marry a woman who’s open to the possibility of staying home with the kids” isn’t necessarily sexist; keep your life options open, play it by ear, if she decides it’s what she wants and that was what you preferred in the first place, fine and dandy. But to consider it a *must* that she is going to stay home with the kids is kind of appalling. Life does not work like that.

  14. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong February 27, 2012 at 10:13 pm |

    What about what she wants? What if she also wants to have kids and her career? Not considering that a woman would also want to work is sexist.

    Right, but that’s different from looking for someone who wants the same thing you want already. By way of analogy; it would be controlling and wrong to try to force someone you’re married to to learn to play piano, even if they’re uninterested, because you always wanted your spouse to play an instrument. But it would be totally unproblematic if, as you consider what you look for in a spouse, playing piano makes the list.

  15. Jadey
    Jadey February 27, 2012 at 10:13 pm |

    I love how he reduces higher education for women to a qualification to be his child-rearer. Because that’s what four years of hard work and a fuckload of debt were for.

    (Note: this doesn’t mean that women with a degree couldn’t desire or choose to be a stay-at-home mom, but it does mean that *looking* for this is pretty fucking insulting. I weep that he is actually surprised that women are offended by this.)

    Desiring a career for yourself and also a spouse who will forgo a career despite having pursued a degree which is ostensibly geared toward the same thing *is* fucked up, regardless of the gender of you or your desired spouse. Then it becomes sexist because in our society this fucked-up scenario is seen as normative and idyllic when it’s a working husband and stay-at-home wife, but bizarre and undesireable when it’s a working wife and stay-at-home husband (sticking within the heteronormative script). It becomes sexist when the pressure is *on women* to take on one role, even when they don’t want it, that also leaves them more financially vulnerable. It becomes sexist when dudes don’t acknowledge the social leverage they have (whether they want to or not) to pressure their partner into accepting a role they may not be comfortable with or alienating women they encounter by reminding them of their failure to conform to these antiquated but nonetheless potent normative expectations about how we are supposed to be behaving.

    I knew a couple where they both felt it was important that there be a parent home with their kids, but neither particularly wanted to let their career get entirely off-track. So they switched off – one year one would stay home, the next year the other did. (They were both teachers, so the summer break made for a good transition time.) They both had the same priorities to balance between (child-rearing and careers), but they didn’t use sexist gender roles as to divvy up the tasks.

  16. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable February 27, 2012 at 10:14 pm |

    and not addressing the actual point.

    Uh. Your point was “it’s not sexist.” Jill said, “Yes it is, and here’s why.”

    I’m excited to see you say more passive aggressive nonsense where you continue to take things out of any relevant context.

  17. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. February 27, 2012 at 10:16 pm |

    And just to clarify: If I am a straight male, and if I want a career for myself, and if I want a parent staying home with my children, it clearly follows that I want my wife to stay home with the children, does it not?

    And apparently it also makes me sexist. Which is the sexist part, though?

    It’s the part where you *want* something and demand your future wife to sacrifice to provide it to you…because she identifies as female.

  18. Xeginy
    Xeginy February 27, 2012 at 10:18 pm |

    Charlie is sexist because:

    This is not about his future wife, or his future children. This is about Charlie. It’s one thing to talk about how you believe children should be raised. It’s a whole other deal to go into a relationship not even willing to negotiate.

    And, seriously. He wants her “educated” but she’s not allowed to have a career? That’s got “Golden-Era” values written all over it. How the hell is she supposed to pay off her student loans?

  19. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable February 27, 2012 at 10:19 pm |

    By way of analogy; it would be controlling and wrong to try to force someone you’re married to to learn to play piano, even if they’re uninterested, because you always wanted your spouse to play an instrument.

    The whole point throughout has been “context matters.” You’re ignoring it because it doesn’t suit your gut reaction. Your analogies are devoid of all relevant context and therefore completely irrelevant.

    Yes, if there has never been a cultural expectation that women forgo their careers so men could pursue theirs without worrying about pesky children, this wouldn’t be sexist, i.e. if there was no such thing as sexism, this wouldn’t be sexist. Really great observation.

  20. Azalea
    Azalea February 27, 2012 at 10:22 pm |

    I think this guy is sexist because I am going to trust the women who know him and have spent time around him when they say he is sexist.

    However, I am not on board with the idea that an ambitious man who wants a wife and children is sexist. I know women who want to marry a man who is willing to be a stay at home parent because they know 1) they want to marry 2) they want to have children 3) they want their career full stop. Being a male and wanting that doesn’t make a man sexist, especially if he is upfront about it. HOWEVER I think it would be sexist if he expected *any* woman he didn’t even know to want 1) marriage 2) children and 3) to be a stay at home parent.

  21. Xeginy
    Xeginy February 27, 2012 at 10:25 pm |

    However, I am not on board with the idea that an ambitious man who wants a wife and children is sexist.

    I think the difference is that he doesn’t just want a wife and some kids. He wants a very specific arrangement that requires the woman he marries to be not only well-educated, but to not utilize her education into a career of any kind, but instead be a housewife/homemaker, and then late at night when he gets home from work, she can entertain him by arguing philosophy.

  22. Lindsay Beyerstein
    Lindsay Beyerstein February 27, 2012 at 10:29 pm |

    I would like a husband who would stay home with my children. But since I’m not blinkered by male privilege, it’s obvious what an unreasonable demand that would be.

    Why would I expect an intelligent man to give up his financial independence and his status in the outside world in order to wipe the noses of my children? That’s crazily entitled thinking. Sure, I might meet a guy who wants to do that. But that would be a lucky coincidence, not something that I would feel entitled to.

    “Traditional values” is code for sexism based on traditional gender roles. He wants a wife who has internalized the same sexist values as he has. He’s not prepared to force other women live according to his “traditional values” but it’s what he expects in his own home. So, yeah, sexist.

  23. Azalea
    Azalea February 27, 2012 at 10:32 pm |

    It’s the part where you *want* something and demand your future wife to sacrifice to provide it to you…because she identifies as female

    That would be applicable for someone who thought women in general should be educated stay at home moms. If the person knew, understood and respected that not all women need to have a formal education to be be intelligent, or interested in marriage or having/raising children but preferred those things for their future lifelong mate I disagree on the sexism.

  24. A dude
    A dude February 27, 2012 at 10:36 pm |

    Even if you insist on ignoring cultural context (which is a really big thing to ignore), it’s pretty sexist that this guy expects and feels entitled to a woman who will “raise his children” for him, such that he whines to an advice columnist about it when he thinks it might not be possible (and feels the need to note that, omg! the girls at school are mean to him!).

    And “she would provide the best environment for my children”? That’s just gross.

  25. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong February 27, 2012 at 10:38 pm |

    Uh. Your point was “it’s not sexist.” Jill said, “Yes it is, and here’s why.”

    No, my point was ‘it’s not sexist,’ and Jill responded to something entirely different from what I said.

    The whole point throughout has been “context matters.” You’re ignoring it because it doesn’t suit your gut reaction.

    Astute! How well you know me.

    Seriously though, nearly all of my close friends- male and female- want to have careers, and nearly all of those who want children also want a spouse who is going to stay home with the kids while those kids are young. I don’t want kids, but if I did, I probably would want that too. I think the idea that this hope is sexist for half my friends and non-sexist for the other half is pretty dumb.

    I think this guy is sexist because I am going to trust the women who know him and have spent time around him when they say he is sexist.

    Oh yeah, I think Charlie sounds like a jerk. Anyone who refers to ‘traditional values’ approvingly is probably someone to stay away from.

  26. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong February 27, 2012 at 10:43 pm |

    I would like a husband who would stay home with my children. But since I’m not blinkered by male privilege, it’s obvious what an unreasonable demand that would be.

    If its a demand which you feel entitled to having fulfilled, it’s unreasonable regardless of gender. If its simply something you’d like from a future partner, then more power to you, and good luck.

    Why would I expect an intelligent man to give up his financial independence and his status in the outside world in order to wipe the noses of my children? That’s crazily entitled thinking.

    Again, expect? Yes, that is entitled. Prefer? Nope.

    And, incidentally, I take issue with your assertion that having a career is inherently better than childrearing. They’re two options which different people prefer, but neither is empirically, objectively superior.

  27. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. February 27, 2012 at 10:46 pm |

    That would be applicable for someone who thought women in general should be educated stay at home moms. If the person knew, understood and respected that not all women need to have a formal education to be be intelligent, or interested in marriage or having/raising children but preferred those things for their future lifelong mate I disagree on the sexism.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree then. I think expecting *any* woman to sacrifice her career and financial independence is sexist. Full stop. Some women may want to do so, and that’s awesome, but the expectation is sexist.

  28. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong February 27, 2012 at 10:49 pm |

    …no. I explained why it’s sexist. You might disagree, and you might not like my answer, but I responded directly to the question.

    You responded to a hypothetical argument in which someone defended the belief that

    your wife should stay home.

    . That’s entirely different from the argument I made, which is that it’s not sexist to include ‘staying home’ on your list of things you hope for in a future spouse, regardless of your or their gender.

    There are sexist reasons to put it on that list- like ‘because I don’t want her to have financial independance’ or ‘because I’m the man and that’s my job,’ but there are also non-sexist reasons, like ‘I think one of us should stay home with the kids, and I prefer working to childrearing.’

  29. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong February 27, 2012 at 10:51 pm |

    I think expecting *any* woman to sacrifice her career and financial independence is sexist.

    Again, you’re confusing expecting a specific woman to do something with hoping that you eventually meet a woman who wants to do something.

  30. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. February 27, 2012 at 10:56 pm |

    Again, you’re confusing expecting a specific woman to do something with hoping that you eventually meet a woman who wants to do something.

    No. I’m saying that you should expect that the population of women willing to do so is zero. As in there are no women who will make their entire lives about caring for your and your offspring.

  31. Azalea
    Azalea February 27, 2012 at 11:06 pm |

    Kristen J, a preference for one is not the same as an expectation of all. We can agree that the Letter Writer is sexist. I don’t find his preference to be sexist though I do believe his reasons are influenced by sexism.Im typing on my droid so I hope autocorrect hasn’t screwed me over.

  32. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong February 27, 2012 at 11:09 pm |

    No. I’m saying that you should expect that the population of women willing to do so is zero. As in there are no women who will make their entire lives about caring for your and your offspring.

    You’re seriously arguing there are no people in the entire world who want to stay home with their kids? Really? That’s funny, I thought I knew one or two.

    Also, offspring are not solely the property of their fathers to the exclusion of their mothers.

  33. the_leanover
    the_leanover February 27, 2012 at 11:11 pm |

    I’m saying that it is OK (by which I mean it is not sexist or otherwise problematic) to want children, and believe a parent should stay home to take care of young children, and want a career, and want to marry a woman, all a the same time.

    It’s fine to want all of those things, as separate hopes and dreams that just incidentally happen to add up to a traditional nuclear family. But it’s a facet of male privilege to believe one is entitled to all of those things simultaneously (that is, to not even entertain the idea that one or more of them may be subject to compromise, as the majority of women are generally forced to do). More importantly, it’s sexist (or at the very least retrogressive) to want them by virtue of their adding up to a traditional nuclear family. The guy doesn’t frame this in terms of ‘I’m really passionate about my career and can’t envision a life without it but I also really want kids; dilemma!’; he specifically frames it in terms of the fact that he holds traditional values, traditional values that presumably involve a male breadwinner and a stay-at-home mother. Really, how is that not sexist? It’s also not a case of, ‘man, I really hope I meet a great woman whose life plans and preferences correspond with mine’; it’s a case of ‘my unnegotiable plan to have a traditional nuclear family needs to be fulfilled by an eligible woman’. It’s about the context and about the wording. Having dealbreakers and dating preferences – even ones that happen to correspond with dominant gender roles – isn’t necessarily sexist, but holding a rigid ‘traditional’ image of what a family should look like and seeking a woman primarily to fill a specific role in that image almost certainly is.

    Also,

    Men have the option of simply assuming that this is not only possible, but likely enough that they can demand it. And the reason they have this option is male privilege, and the clueless exercise of male privilege is sexism.

    Quoted for emphasis.

  34. Seth Eag
    Seth Eag February 27, 2012 at 11:15 pm |

    I suppose it’s something of a compliment to feminism that “traditional values” now sound more like an alternative lifestyle than any actual existing tradition. His letter reads like one of Dan Savage’s “I’m looking for someone who spanks” queries. I guess, in my view, any arrangement entered into consensually is fine. But don’t say it’s not sexist. It’s almost, again, a sexism fetish. It’s at least “traditional sexism”.

    Don’t worry, Charlie, there’s someone for everybody. Just like there are men into golden showers, I guess there’s women who wish to “honor and obey” and be treated like doormats. The Santorum rally/mixer is probably the way to go.

  35. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. February 27, 2012 at 11:23 pm |

    Kristen J, a preference for one is not the same as an expectation of all.

    I would prefer if grapefruit tasted like cotton candy, but if I go to the grocery store seeking grapefruit that tastes like cotton candy that implies that for all practical purposes I expect to find cotton candy flavored grapefruit.

  36. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. February 27, 2012 at 11:25 pm |

    You’re seriously arguing there are no people in the entire world who want to stay home with their kids? Really? That’s funny, I thought I knew one or two.

    No, I said, the expectation is sexist.

    Also, offspring are not solely the property of their fathers to the exclusion of their mothers.

    Funny how the letter writer didn’t get that distinction.

  37. the_leanover
    the_leanover February 27, 2012 at 11:28 pm |

    Also, this is relevant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpA7pfR0FIc

    For those who insist the letter-writer is not being sexist, do you think this clip is also not sexist?

  38. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong February 27, 2012 at 11:28 pm |

    It’s fine to want all of those things, as separate hopes and dreams that just incidentally happen to add up to a traditional nuclear family. But it’s a facet of male privilege to believe one is entitled to all of those things simultaneously (that is, to not even entertain the idea that one or more of them may be subject to compromise, as the majority of women are generally forced to do).

    Yes. Exactly.

    Really, how is that not sexist? It’s also not a case of, ‘man, I really hope I meet a great woman whose life plans and preferences correspond with mine’; it’s a case of ‘my unnegotiable plan to have a traditional nuclear family needs to be fulfilled by an eligible woman’. It’s about the context and about the wording. Having dealbreakers and dating preferences – even ones that happen to correspond with dominant gender roles – isn’t necessarily sexist, but holding a rigid ‘traditional’ image of what a family should look like and seeking a woman primarily to fill a specific role in that image almost certainly is.

    I think the one thing everyone here has agreed on so far is that Charlie sounds like an asshole. But more seriously, I think this is the key point. Thanks for putting this more articulately than I evidently could.

    Oh, you mean I was talking about your comment in the context of the post at hand, in which the author explicitly says that he does not want his wife to work? Silly silly me.

    No, that’s not what I mean. What I mean is that there’s a distinction between saying ‘one’s wife shouldn’t work’ and ‘I hope I marry someone who wants to take care of our children more than work.’ Your insertion of the word ‘should’ shifted the terms of the discussion.

    And yes, tying me to all the beliefs of the letter writer because of one specific exception I took with your assessment of him is, in fact, silly.

  39. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong February 27, 2012 at 11:30 pm |

    For those who insist the letter-writer is not being sexist, do you think this clip is also not sexist?

    To clarify: I can’t speak for anyone else here, but I totally think the letter-writer is being incredibly sexist. I just take issue with one aspect of Jill’s argument as to how he was being sexist.

  40. Cécile
    Cécile February 27, 2012 at 11:31 pm |

    @Josh:

    1. Being straight is not sexist.

    Just my spin on this point that a few people have already addressed. When Jill wrote “Believing that your wife should stay home with your kids — not that a parent should stay home, not that you want your children to have a full-time caregiver“—I think the implication is not “don’t discriminate against yourself—maybe you could become gay and you could end up having a husband!”…

    …rather, it’s just that old Charlie here is not benevolently placing the ‘wellbeing of his children’ on the pedestal he thinks he is: he’s clearly not willing to have the conversation about it “being best for the children if one of us were to stay home as a full-time caregiver, let’s consider all the angles and make the best decision for our family”—he just takes for granted that it will be his wife, whose education, career, and career goals are just expendable by default, while his are not.

    Jadey
    I love how he reduces higher education for women to a qualification to be his child-rearer. Because that’s what four years of hard work and a fuckload of debt were for.

    and Xeginy

    …and then late at night when he gets home from work, she can entertain him by arguing philosophy.

    nailed it on the head.

  41. Cécile
    Cécile February 27, 2012 at 11:32 pm |

    (crap, sorry for the inverted blockquoting… gahh!)

  42. Bunny
    Bunny February 27, 2012 at 11:33 pm |

    Justamblingalong:

    Thing is, the LW himself said “Women I meet on campus frequently call me sexist.”. Now, generally, when you’re meeting women in person, if you’re consistently being told you’re sexist chances are you’re doing or saying something sexist.

    He’s a college student, looking for a college-educated wife who will give up her college education and potential future career to be his homemaker. We’re not talking about a guy who has a certain dream for the future and sort-of hopes he gets it, or generally tries to get it. We’re talking about a guy treating the female portion of his fellow students as a marketplace. Fresh wives! Get your fresh wives here!

    There’s a difference between wanting a certain life and seeking someone like-minded to share that life with, and what this guy is doing.

    That said, as far as the sexism thing goes? Intent matters. “Traditional values” as a concept are sexist in themselves because they revolve around an entirely sexist concept. Traditional values don’t just say “wife is a SAHM”. They say “husband is head of the house”, “wife knows her place”. There’s a power disparity at the very heart of the concept.

  43. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong February 27, 2012 at 11:36 pm |

    Thing is, the LW himself said “Women I meet on campus frequently call me sexist.”. Now, generally, when you’re meeting women in person, if you’re consistently being told you’re sexist chances are you’re doing or saying something sexist.

    I’m really curious why you think I disagree with you about this. I certainly never said I think the LW isn’t sexist (in fact, I explicitly stated the opposite); I just took issue with one facet of Jill’s analysis of why he’s sexist.

    “Traditional values” as a concept are sexist in themselves because they revolve around an entirely sexist concept.

    Yeah, I said the same thing myself a few posts back.

  44. Azalea
    Azalea February 27, 2012 at 11:36 pm |

    Kristen that would imply you were hoping to find it. When I was single, I preferred not to date a man who already had children. Using your analogy I expect heterosexual men in my search area to be childless, excluding the notion that I seek with hope not entitlement.

  45. Shoshie
    Shoshie February 27, 2012 at 11:36 pm |

    Also, this is relevant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpA7pfR0FIc

    OH GOD WHY DID I READ THE COMMENTS?!?!

    Bad, Shoshie. You *know* never to read YouTube comments. Bad.

  46. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong February 27, 2012 at 11:38 pm |

    He’s a college student, looking for a college-educated wife who will give up her college education and potential future career to be his homemaker. We’re not talking about a guy who has a certain dream for the future and sort-of hopes he gets it, or generally tries to get it. We’re talking about a guy treating the female portion of his fellow students as a marketplace.

    It’s funny because based on what you wrote here, and assuming you’re implying that the guy with a certain dream for his future isn’t necessarily sexist, and guy treating his fellow students like products is,, I’m pretty sure there are exactly zero points we disagree on.

  47. Cory
    Cory February 27, 2012 at 11:42 pm |

    “I’m looking for a wife who will fulfill MY personal fantasy. Mine.” said Charlie. “My desires are reminiscent of a more blatantly sexist era,” he thinks, “and more than one woman has told me that I am sexist. Could I possibly be sexist???” he thinks.

  48. the_leanover
    the_leanover February 27, 2012 at 11:44 pm |

    Justamblingalong:

    To clarify: I can’t speak for anyone else here, but I totally think the letter-writer is being incredibly sexist. I just take issue with one aspect of Jill’s argument as to how he was being sexist.

    But the exact aspect that you quoted and took issue with in your very first post was this:

    Sorry Charlie, but it is 100% sexist to want to marry a woman who has “traditional values” and will stay home

    If you read it carefully, it’s saying exactly what I said in the post you just agreed with: that it’s sexist specifically because it’s centred around a woman having traditional values that compel her to stay at home, not around finding a woman who happens to be passionate about the idea of raising kids, or a woman who’s really understanding about the fact that his career is really important to him, or whatever. Jill never said that having those disparate hopes that I listed (have kids, get married, have career) was intrinsically sexist; she implied in this very quote that the sexism was in the framing of the thing.

  49. Bunny
    Bunny February 27, 2012 at 11:49 pm |

    What the_leanover said. I was reading all your future comments as following on from that one. Also, the ones where you clarified a few posts before mine appeared (handily) only after I’d finished typing mine!

    Ah, nothing like arguing with someone you actually agree with! Sorry about that, Justamblingalong.

  50. Susan
    Susan February 27, 2012 at 11:51 pm |

    I’m actually going to have to disagree with this post. We want women to be outspoken of their expectations; is this male not allowed the same?

  51. Anon21
    Anon21 February 27, 2012 at 11:51 pm |

    Two thoughts.

    1) The personal is the political. People who are aware of the way the child-caring expectation for women negatively affects women’s career prospects and causes a gender wage gap should be looking to affirmatively structure their lives and families in order to break down patriarchal gender norms. If you instead have preferences that reinforce those gender norms, your preferences are sexist. It’s not the most toxic form of sexism ever, but neither is it just a value-neutral matter of opinion.

    2)Josh:

    1. Being straight is not sexist.
    2. Wanting a parent to stay home with child(ren) is not sexist.
    3. Wanting a career for oneself is not sexist.
    Assuming those three things are true and apply to Charlie (and all indications are that they do), how do all three of them combine to form sexism?

    So, 2 is itself somewhat sexist. In a society where men and women were equal, I doubt this idea that being a parent is a full-time job would ever develop.

    3 is sexist as applied in a situation where you expect your female partner to sacrifice her career so that you can have things your way. As a man, you should have to decide: what’s more important, a career (for some value of “career” that does not leave time for you yourself to care for your young children), or having kids? You don’t get to have it all by leaning on the sexist gender norm that women are child nurturers and then deny that you’re sexist.

    Finally, I wanted to note that by my count, Prudie got at least six feminism-inflected questions right (not sure if the spell check one is more about gender roles or more about general assholeishness), including this one, and was especially good on the unwed mother shaming. Good work, Emily! Let’s build on this, shall we?

  52. Bunny
    Bunny February 27, 2012 at 11:57 pm |

    I was really pleased with the response to the unwed mother issue, as well!

  53. Cécile
    Cécile February 28, 2012 at 12:04 am |

    By the way, I feel like a fool, but it’s making me laugh. In my first response to Josh, it seems I misinterpreted his train of thought. (And no, it’s not because I don’t understand the relationship between premises in formal logic).

    I just realized why I got so confused though. It’s because he was making the exact same argument as Charlie. It’s crystal-clear now when I look back on it… I guess I just initially gave him the benefit of the doubt that he was trying to take the conversation a step further by looking at it from a different angle… but no:
    *(emphasis mine, just for fun)

    If I am a straight male, and if I want a career for myself, and if I want a parent staying home with my children, it clearly follows that I want my wife to stay home with the children, does it not?

  54. Xeginy
    Xeginy February 28, 2012 at 12:05 am |

    I’m actually going to have to disagree with this post. We want women to be outspoken of their expectations; is this male not allowed the same?

    He’s allowed to be outspoken about it. He can have his own TV show, if he wants. But we’re all allowed to call him on his sexist bullshit, too. That doesn’t take away his ability to voice his expectations.

  55. Sara
    Sara February 28, 2012 at 12:05 am |

    Charlie is obviously sexist. His word choice makes that abundantly clear, and literally nobody in this thread has disagreed with that conclusion. Setting Charlie aside, though, I agree with those who have said that expressing a preference for 1) a female partner 2) who wants to be the primary caregiver for the couple’s children is not *necessarily* sexist. Jill has described in great detail why any given instance of such a preference is highly likely to be sexist in our culture, but none of her arguments have anything to do with whether those two things together are inherently sexist in the abstract.

    I agree with Alara Rogers that “Men have the option of simply assuming that this is not only possible, but likely enough that they can demand it. And the reason they have this option is male privilege.” However, having male privilege is not inherently sexist. It is indicative of a sexist system, but not *necessarily* of sexist beliefs held by the man in question. Alara added that “the clueless exercise of male privilege is sexism,” but Justamblingalong’s point does not imply cluelessness, even though we all know and acknowledge that preferring a stay-at-home wife is highly (but not perfectly) correlated with cluelessness about male privilege.

    Context matters, yes. That’s why we’re using language that differentiates between the probable cultural correlates of such an attitude and the implications which can be derived strictly from the information given.

  56. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong February 28, 2012 at 12:11 am |

    If you read it carefully, it’s saying exactly what I said in the post you just agreed with: that it’s sexist specifically because it’s centred around a woman having traditional values that compel her to stay at home, not around finding a woman who happens to be passionate about the idea of raising kids, or a woman who’s really understanding about the fact that his career is really important to him, or whatever.

    If that’s the argument you’re making, Jill, then I think we’re agreeing (and I apologize for missing your point). I read it as a much broader condemnation of having ‘wants to stay home’ on your checklist of ideal-spouse-qualities at all.

  57. igglanova
    igglanova February 28, 2012 at 12:16 am |

    I can’t believe we’re actually arguing about this. ‘I am seeking a willing domestic slave who will bear and raise my children for me, thereby enabling me to ignore them completely as I pursue my fulfilling career while still attaining the ego boost and higher social status that comes with fatherhood. Also I am a victim and sensitive flower because the mean ladies on campus call me sexist.’ Bitch, please.

  58. Clytemnestra's Sister
    Clytemnestra's Sister February 28, 2012 at 12:19 am |

    Susan wrote:

    I’m actually going to have to disagree with this post. We want women to be outspoken of their expectations; is this male not allowed the same?

    The letter writer presumably was having problems with finding women whose ideas and life plans matched his own, so he wrote to Prudie. Since the women who he shared his life plans with called him sexist and ran away screaming, he asked if he were sexist, and got a resounding YES.

    That’s Jill’s point–that it’s okay to have opinions, emotions, and desires, but one also must recognise that those things do not live in a vacuum, nor do they automatically require that another person think those opinions are great. Expressing his opinions and desires was never the question here–whether those desires were intrinsically off-putting to the very people he wanted to attract was. And again, YES, he was/is putting those women off, by reducing their purpose in life to breeder and child-minder, instead of starting with “partner” and “companion” and going from there.

  59. Xeginy
    Xeginy February 28, 2012 at 12:30 am |

    @60 Sara

    I agree with those who have said that expressing a preference for 1) a female partner 2) who wants to be the primary caregiver for the couple’s children is not *necessarily* sexist.

    Once we take things out of context, then the whole conversation becomes pointless. Sure, in an abstract sense, wishing for a female spouse who will also agree to be the primary caregiver for children is not necessarily sexist.

    However, in the real world, it’s not only sexist, it’s selfish. You’re basically making the entire marriage and relationship about what YOU want, positioning yourself as the one with the most control. As several people above mentioned, if he had framed the question as “I want a spouse and children, but I also think one parent should stay home. But my career is super important to me. What should I do?” That’s a very reasonable and non-sexist question. But that’s not how he framed it, and we don’t live in some imaginary culture where sexism doesn’t exist and we can look at everything “objectively.”

    He’s talking about very, very specific gender roles. Not taste in music, or favorite animal, or being vegan. It is impossible, entrenched as we are in a sexist culture, to want those requirements of a future spouse and assume that you can disconnect those desires from the sexist culture. It’s just impossible. We are products of our culture, after all. So I think that 99.99% of the time, when a man desires a female spouse and also desires that she be the primary caretaker of future children, that desire is coming from a very deep, sexist place in his brain.

  60. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. February 28, 2012 at 12:34 am |

    Kristen that would imply you were hoping to find it. When I was single, I preferred not to date a man who already had children. Using your analogy I expect heterosexual men in my search area to be childless, excluding the notion that I seek with hope not entitlement.

    I would say you did expect there to be heterosexual men in your search area that were childless. I expected there to be heterosexual men in my search that did not want to have children. Expectations are fine, but they aren’t value neutral. When the expectation is that a woman will confirm with sexist norms…then the expectation is itself sexist and (this is probably where we fundamentally differ) I don’t think you can parse the preference from the sexist norm.

  61. Sergey
    Sergey February 28, 2012 at 12:45 am |

    I think we can all agree that an *expectation* of a caregiving wife or a *demand* for one would be sexist, but hasn’t this guy just expressed a desire?

    Like, if there is no woman who fits his criteria, presumably, he won’t get married, right?

  62. Sergey
    Sergey February 28, 2012 at 12:57 am |

    Let’s assume for the sake of argument that his attitude is essentially “I’d like a partner with X qualities. If I don’t find one, I won’t get married.”

    Can someone explain to me how ANY possible value for X could POSSIBLY make the above preference “entitled”?

  63. Anon21
    Anon21 February 28, 2012 at 12:58 am |

    I think we can all agree that an *expectation* of a caregiving wife or a *demand* for one would be sexist, but hasn’t this guy just expressed a desire?

    Like, if there is no woman who fits his criteria, presumably, he won’t get married, right?

    I dunno, dude. What if he expressed a desire for a wife that would let him control all of the family’s financial decisions? What if he expressed a desire for a wife who would always let him take the lead in social situations, and never give her own thoughts unless he invited her to? What if he expressed a desire for a female sex partner who would give oral sex, but not expect to receive in return?

    For me, the distinction between desire, expectation, and demand is just one of degree; it’s the underlying preference that is sexist or not. Now, given a particular sexist preference, it’s obviously worse to attempt to impose that preference on women through force of law than it is to shame women who don’t conform to it than it is to automatically assume every woman you meet will conform to it than it is to simply prefer that the women you conform to it. But that doesn’t make the unadorned preference any less sexist.

  64. Sergey
    Sergey February 28, 2012 at 1:27 am |

    For me, the distinction between desire, expectation, and demand is just one of degree

    I dunno, I guess I see the distinction between desire, expectation and demand as more than just a question of degree – it seems like a whole change in attitude.

    Let’s get at this by way of hypothetical. Say I’m bisexual, looking for either male or female partners. The quality in question is, a burning need to serve me breakfast in bed every day.

    Wouldn’t you agree that there is a profoundly different attitude between saying “Yeah, I desire someone like that, but it probably will never happen” and saying “I deserve someone like that, and I fully expect I will be married to just such a person one day” ?

    One seems more reprehensible than the other.

    And obviously an attitude that DEMANDS I be served breakfast in bed every day makes me an incomparable asshole.

    The sliding scale between desire – expectation – demand can account for the level of offensiveness a particular preference has, regardless of sex.

    What I’m seeing here is a mix – some people seem to be saying “This dude is further down the scale than mere desire.” Those people criticize him for his entitlement. I don’t see how you can get there from what he said.

    The other group seems to be saying “Even the desire, for THIS quality, is sexist.” And that argument is basically “Because, context.”

  65. librarygoose
    librarygoose February 28, 2012 at 1:33 am |

    Totally not sexist! Like how my sister has a preference for a certain type of man, a man who has no interest ( beyond a Victorian-esque benevolent apathy) her children, who never helps clean, who would never cook or do laundry. Sure she lives what I can only describe as slurry of misogyny and misandry. I mean, she thinks all men are incompetent and only fit to bring money home and then fuck off to sit alone somewhere, but does this preference make her sexist?*

    * Hint: the answer is yes.

  66. the_leanover
    the_leanover February 28, 2012 at 1:43 am |

    I think putting it in terms of ‘sexism’ is getting contentious because, as per usual, this is taken as ‘YOU ARE BEING A SEXIST BY HAVING THIS PREFERENCE’ as opposed to ‘we live in a sexist culture where some choices and preferences hold different weight and different cultural meanings than others’. Put it this way: as a straight male, specifying ‘willing to stay home with the kids’ as an important criteria in a potential partner is probably roughly the equivalent of women specifying ‘rich and/or has a well-paying job’ as an important criteria in a potential partner. Both are valid individual preferences, but both are entrenched in certain cultural narratives about what men and women are supposed to do, and expressing them as major non-negotiables sure isn’t helping to overturn those narratives. It’s certainly worth noting, too, that women who want rich partners are generally drenched with much, much more disdain than men who want stay-at-home-wives. Even though both essentially spring from the same cultural source (man-as-provider). Funny that, isn’t it?

  67. the_leanover
    the_leanover February 28, 2012 at 1:56 am |

    Sergey:

    You can abstract it all you like, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still very, very common for men on some level to ‘expect’ women to do the bulk of the childrearing. This isn’t some esoteric ‘wouldn’t it be awesome if I happened to meet someone who’d be up for that’ thing, it’s a commonly held assumption that this is a viable life plan among a significant number of career-oriented men who plan on having kids. Outside of more progressive circles, and among people who are wealthy enough to support a family on one income, I’d be willing to wager it’s still often seen as the default.

  68. the_leanover
    the_leanover February 28, 2012 at 2:02 am |

    Similarly, if you just happen to have a strong preference for women who perfectly match white western beauty ideals, that does not necessarily make you ‘a sexist’(TM) or ‘a racist’(TM), but let’s not pretend that it’s totally innocent and innocuous to express those preferences in your ‘checklist’ as if society has nothing to do with anything. Even if you don’t DEMAND that every potential partner adheres to those preferences!

  69. LotusBen
    LotusBen February 28, 2012 at 2:16 am |

    I think putting it in terms of ‘sexism’ is getting contentious because, as per usual, this is taken as ‘YOU ARE BEING A SEXIST BY HAVING THIS PREFERENCE’ as opposed to ‘we live in a sexist culture where some choices and preferences hold different weight and different cultural meanings than others’.

    This is a great point the_leanover. Personally, I’m not so interested in combating individual, intentional bigotry. I think what really causes problems in our society is, rather, the sort of institutionalized oppression that is passively accepted by the large majority of the population as normal. So racism isn’t just about saying the n-word, it’s about doing or saying anything that reinforces the current, all-pervasive system of racial inequality (white supremacy). Sexism isn’t just about telling “what do you do if your dish washer isn’t working?” jokes. It’s about doing or saying anything that reinforces the current, all-pervasive system of inequality around sex and gender (patriarchy). So, obviously, wanting to have a wife who stays home with “your” kids is sexist by this standard.

    Something else about the letter writer I just noticed that I haven’t seen specifically commented on yet. He said he is looking for a woman who is “willing” to stay home and raise the kids. I think this is pretty deeply fucked up. He isn’t saying he’s looking for a woman who “wants” to stay home and raise the kids. He is looking for someone who will consent to his vision of his family, who will submit to his desires. He is not looking for someone who has genuine preferences and desires that are compatible with his.

    I would like someday to be in a long-term relationship with someone who wants to travel around the world with me. I would not like to be in a LTR with someone who is merely “willing” to travel around the world with me. I want someone who shares my passion with travel, not just someone who willingly puts up with it.

  70. Falcon
    Falcon February 28, 2012 at 5:16 am |

    I am a bit confused by many of the responses and by the LW. How is this ‘traditional’ or ’40 years too late’? And why would this involve sacrifice? The whole idea is to marry someone who wants to be an at home mommy. When I was looking for partners one of the things I told them was that I wanted to stay home when I had babies. Anything else was an absolute deal breaker. This guy might be a sexist asshole but wanting to marry an at home mommy is fine.

    I was with a woman who only wanted a partner who is willing to do the birth and nursing and being at home part. We thought about getting married(not legal at the time but you get the idea) but it didn’t work out and and I ended up with someone else. I would never ever have worked while my kids were little unless starving were the other option so being a good provider was required in a male or female partner. I now have grown children.

    He isn’t talking about asking a woman who wants to work not to work, he is talking about marrying someone like me.(although maybe not bi and a radical feminist ).

  71. Crys T
    Crys T February 28, 2012 at 5:48 am |

    Falcon, have you not read the 72 comments before yours? They go over every single thing you said, in exhaustive detail.

  72. Falcon
    Falcon February 28, 2012 at 5:58 am |

    Point taken.

    I didn’t read the whole thread, I just read the first few ‘sacrifice’ and ‘throwing away your college degree’ posts. The guy is sexist because of his traditional values not because of the mommy part. He sounds like a prick.

    But still, can you imagine the guy with a strident, bi, activist momma I hope someone got a laugh out of the idea.

  73. mary
    mary February 28, 2012 at 9:19 am |

    I am not surprised that the LW has been called sexist by women he knows.

    Despite protestations that “Just because I don’t want my wife to work does not mean I think women in general shouldn’t work”, in my real-life experience men who are entitled and controlling about their wives in the private sphere tend to be entitled and controlling toward women they encounter in the public sphere.

    A lot of men might THINK they can separate the personal and the professional, but they don’t. (The blinders of privilege.) Every male boss I’ve had who had control issues with his wife also had sexist control issues with female employees.

  74. Revser
    Revser February 28, 2012 at 9:29 am |

    Part of this guy’s problem may be that he is looking for this mystery woman at an engineering school. In my limited experience with a few friends who studied engineering, it is still a HIGHLY male-dominated world, and the women who are there have had to fight their way up and are not likely to put that kind of effort into an engineering degree and then give up their careers to stay home. He doesn’t explicitly say that the women calling him sexist are fellow engineering students, but it’s a pretty good bet.

    At the conservative Christian school I went to, many women who majored in early childhood or elementary education did so as code for “I just want to get married and have babies.” Charlie might consider dating around a school like that.

    I never understood my classmates’ willingness to sink $100,000 into a degree when they never planned to work outside the home, but whatever floats your boat, I guess…?

    I do agree with Jill that the whole thing is sexist, but when you grow up in a world like that (“traditional values” world, usually synonymous with fundamentalism), you don’t even see it as sexist. It’s so deeply ingrained that both men and women think it’s just the normal way that life is, and they both think it’s what they want. Were Charlie at a different school, it’s quite possible he’d be seen as the pick of the litter.

  75. piny
    piny February 28, 2012 at 9:33 am |

    If that’s the argument you’re making, Jill, then I think we’re agreeing (and I apologize for missing your point). I read it as a much broader condemnation of having ‘wants to stay home’ on your checklist of ideal-spouse-qualities at all.

    Well, sure, in some cases. But I think desires like this–I want this major effort for our partnership, one which will benefit me as much or more than the other person, but don’t look to me to provide it–can very easily become unfair. I want to live in a clean house, but I hate cleaning, so…. is selfish, even if your partner doesn’t really mind picking up all of the things. And traditionally, it’s the woman who makes the home and family nice while the man enjoys the nice home and family; it’s the man who owns the requirement and the woman who owns the responsibility.

  76. Shoshie
    Shoshie February 28, 2012 at 10:04 am |

    Part of this guy’s problem may be that he is looking for this mystery woman at an engineering school. In my limited experience with a few friends who studied engineering, it is still a HIGHLY male-dominated world, and the women who are there have had to fight their way up and are not likely to put that kind of effort into an engineering degree and then give up their careers to stay home. He doesn’t explicitly say that the women calling him sexist are fellow engineering students, but it’s a pretty good bet.

    Oh, this. I would be appalled if someone, knowing that I was working towards an advanced degree in chemistry, assumed that I would be willing to give up my career to raise some kids. And when you’re a young, female, scientist or engineer, you’re basically not allowed to get pregnant, let alone take off significant time to raise children.

    Mr. Shoshie and I have actually spoken about this at length, because we do want to have children. But there are things like maternity leave and paternity leave and daycare (after 2 months) and spending time with grandparents and co-op daycares and telecommuting and so many options beyond “I want my wife to stay at home with the kids.” It just doesn’t seem like a valid excuse, y’know?

  77. Athenia
    Athenia February 28, 2012 at 10:48 am |

    I really dislike dudes like this. They think they have everything figured out—as long as I have a stay at home wife, everything is going to be great!

    Has this dude ever thought about what would happen if he lost his job and had trouble getting another one?

  78. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil February 28, 2012 at 10:52 am |

    Women I meet on campus frequently call me sexist.

    I think this is the biggest red flag. It takes a lot for me to call someone sexist, so if there are women all over the place calling him sexist? It seems like it must be pretty flagrant.

    Part of this guy’s problem may be that he is looking for this mystery woman at an engineering school. In my limited experience with a few friends who studied engineering, it is still a HIGHLY male-dominated world, and the women who are there have had to fight their way up and are not likely to put that kind of effort into an engineering degree and then give up their careers to stay home.

    I think it depends on the school. Here in the south, there are still plenty of women looking for an MRS, even at an engineering school.

  79. mary
    mary February 28, 2012 at 10:52 am |

    Has this dude ever thought about what would happen if he lost his job and had trouble getting another one?

    A lot of men in this position would suddenly complain that his wife was “spoiled” and “didn’t contribute anything”.

    Get it? You’re emasculating if you want to bring home a paycheck, you’re a golddigger if you don’t.

  80. Brian
    Brian February 28, 2012 at 11:01 am |

    Part of this guy’s problem may be that he is looking for this mystery woman at an engineering school.

    Probably, yes. It’s not terribly hard to find women who’re getting an MRS degree. But in an engineering programme, it’s pretty difficult. Probably he’s better off with eHarmony or something akin to it.

    But advertising your expectations/needs/wants/whatever is an upfront way is the right way to go about things. Is his desire sexist? Sure. But

    Instead of announcing your life plan for the so-far nonexistent woman you plan to marry, you should just date interesting, intelligent women and find out what they want out of life.

    is particularly awful advice. And is particularly awful advice if you swap around genders to suit the situation. If you know you want a homemaker for a partner, announce it upfront and find someone who wants to be a homemaker. Don’t try and force it on someone who doesn’t want it, and don’t set yourself up to resent someone for not wanting it. People are bad at divesting themselves from bad situations once they’re attached – it’s much, much better if they’re forewarned. Once you’ve been involved for a year or two, you’re far more likely to make bad decisions that are disasters for everyone involved.

  81. OEP
    OEP February 28, 2012 at 11:16 am |

    I think part of the confusion is the conflation of individual sexism and societal sexism.

    If the situation involved a gay man speaking about a male partner staying home and raising kids, I don’t think anyone would think it were sexist.

    This reminds me a bit of the elevatorgate debacle. I’ve always wondered if there would have been the same response if the other person had been female.

  82. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil February 28, 2012 at 11:38 am |

    Instead of announcing your life plan for the so-far nonexistent woman you plan to marry, you should just date interesting, intelligent women and find out what they want out of life.

    I actually think that’s pretty good advice. Life can take lots of twists and turns and it’s more fun and interesting if you see where it takes you, rather than totally closing yourself off to possibilities that don’t fit your perspective of What the World Should Be.

  83. EG
    EG February 28, 2012 at 12:16 pm |

    If the situation involved a gay man speaking about a male partner staying home and raising kids, I don’t think anyone would think it were sexist.

    This reminds me a bit of the elevatorgate debacle. I’ve always wondered if there would have been the same response if the other person had been female.

    Well, sure. If you remove the gender dynamic from the situation, it changes entirely and is no longer sexist, because gender dynamics are how sexism manifests. So what?

  84. igglanova
    igglanova February 28, 2012 at 12:21 pm |

    Whoa, did you ever notice that changing every meaningful detail about a scenario makes us alter the conclusions we draw from such a scenario? FAR OUT

  85. Dominique
    Dominique February 28, 2012 at 12:25 pm |

    @Josh: before you try to comment on a feminist blog, read
    this. That way, you can avoid derailing and wasting everyone’s time, including yours. Thank you. Goodbye.

  86. Anon21
    Anon21 February 28, 2012 at 12:56 pm |

    igglanova:

    Whoa, did you ever notice that changing every meaningful detail about a scenario makes us alter the conclusions we draw from such a scenario? FAR OUT

    Ha, so much this. I think OEP was really expecting to blow our minds.

  87. Esti
    Esti February 28, 2012 at 1:41 pm |

    I once had a very depressing conversation with some guys I’m (still) good friends with, all intelligent, highly-educated, very liberal types, who expressed a milder form of this: although none of them saw it as a dealbreaker, all three of them said that they ideally wanted to find a wife (an equally intelligent and highly-educated wife, natch) who would stay home with their children.

    And they, like some of the commenters here, had trouble with the idea that desire was sexist — they would never try to make a woman stay home, and they thought women in the workplace were awesome and obviously equally capable to men, and many women want to stay home with their kids so it’s not like they were imposing things on anyone! It was just that they, personally, wanted to have a demanding career and wanted their children to experience the benefits of having a parent at home, and so their ideal wife would be someone who would facilitate both those desires. It wasn’t about holding women back, it was just about their personal preference for the things that would allow them to have the kind of family and career they’d always wanted.

    But here’s the thing about personal preference: when you’re a successful straight man, the sexism that underpins our society is designed to benefit you. Maybe some people get off on holding women down for the sheer joy of spitefulness, but a huge amount of sexism is utilitarian. So it’s hardly a coincidence that this thing that would make your life so much easier — that would allow you to have everything you want without having to make hard choices about how you prioritize your personal and professional life — would just happen to coincide with something that was historically and systemically an point of oppression for women.

    The fact that your personal preferences are driven by the concrete benefits you’d get from marrying a woman who wants to stay home with the kids doesn’t exempt those preferences from being sexist. And acknowledging that doesn’t invalidate your preferences or mean that you’ve been kicked out of the Good Liberal Men club. It doesn’t mean that women are wrong for wanting to stay home with their children, or that structuring your family that way is a less feminist choice. But when you unreflexively embrace those preferences, without thought for where they come from or what effects they might have, then yes, what you are doing is sexist. You’re sitting on a big old pile of privilege and just rolling around in it while yelling “I don’t see the problem! I just want my life to be as awesome as possible without any thought for what types of social structures and personal sacrifices are necessary to maintaining the life I want!”

  88. Doublylinkedlists
    Doublylinkedlists February 28, 2012 at 1:43 pm |

    You know what is super sexist?

    Jill writes an article about a specific real world opinion that is sexist at its core, and the majority of the conversation in the comments is spent defending some hypothetically neutral straight man’s desire for a stay at home wife.

    This focus on defending straight men’s right to free female labor in the home, even on a feminist website, exactly shows the societal influence and pressure for women to forgo their own capitalistic success and independence in favor of their husband’s.

  89. chava
    chava February 28, 2012 at 1:48 pm |

    Look, it’s sexist. You can’t really get around the fact that a man wanting a woman to stay home and raise “his” children is built on sexist norms.

    Whether or not his preferences are sexist doesn’t effect the fact that HELL YES, it is much better that he be upfront about this, rather than reveal it after discovering that his pregnant wife whose English PhD he assumed was a M.R.S. actually, you know, wants to work.

  90. Jadey
    Jadey February 28, 2012 at 1:50 pm |

    Hey, can we all remember that the whole “MRS degree” bullshit is sexist as well? Because some people are tossing that around like it’s such an obvious thing that plenty of women do – that’s exactly the kind of sexist stereotype that Charlie here is negligently perpetuating. There are women researchers, academics, and professionals who suffer because of the acceptance of this kind of bullshit, because the people around them don’t take their commitment to their work seriously. (Seriously, there are women in my *very young* generation who have been denied assistance by profs or been openly mocked by peers who assume they are only there to get married. This happens. This still happens. And there’s no real way to survey its direct prevalence completely – because most people aren’t actually crass enough to do it out loud – except to look at the way that women are still under-represented and under-served and under-paid in their fields and disciplines compared to men in similar positions.)

    Are there women who go to post-secondary education for the primary purpose of finding a spouse? It’s a big world full of possibilities, so probably. But let’s stop treating it like something which is obviously typical and common without any evidence to that effect. That is the very shit which harms women.

  91. Jadey
    Jadey February 28, 2012 at 1:56 pm |

    Also, women getting married while pursuing post-secondary education /= women who went in with that as their primary goal. Not unless we extend the same analysis to men seeking a “MR degree” – it’s a time of life when people do get married.

    Women who get married and then also can’t find adequate work after graduating also /= women who only went to school to get married. Not given shitty employment rates out there – correlation and causation and whatnot.

    And finally, women realizing that given the shitty state of the job market and the extra barrier of sexist crap they will have to deal with in certain fields leading to the rational and pragmatic conclusion that sometimes (often) conformity (i.e., marrying someone who can get a job and then being a housewife) is easier than bucking the traditional system? Kinda shows just how much sexist realities and not idiosyncratic desires dictate shit like getting a husband instead of a degree.

  92. piny
    piny February 28, 2012 at 2:03 pm |

    But when you unreflexively embrace those preferences, without thought for where they come from or what effects they might have, then yes, what you are doing is sexist. You’re sitting on a big old pile of privilege and just rolling around in it while yelling “I don’t see the problem! I just want my life to be as awesome as possible without any thought for what types of social structures and personal sacrifices are necessary to maintaining the life I want!”

    It’s also sexist to insist that your wife want something you would never choose for yourself. Some people do enjoy staying home to raise their children. These men, on the other hand, desperately want high-powered careers. They need to think about why they don’t want spouses with the same priorities, and whether it makes sense to sling the whole idea into genderless complemetarity.

  93. igglanova
    igglanova February 28, 2012 at 2:12 pm |

    They need to think about why they don’t want spouses with the same priorities

    The prospect of meeting, much less marrying, a woman with equal talents and desires is pets-wettingly terrifying for these guys. They’ve built this whole identity around being better than. A woman with the same priorities is terrifying because she is a competitor – and because she can win.

  94. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl February 28, 2012 at 2:15 pm |

    It’s certainly worth noting, too, that women who want rich partners are generally drenched with much, much more disdain than men who want stay-at-home-wives. Even though both essentially spring from the same cultural source (man-as-provider). Funny that, isn’t it?

    Man-as-provider?

    The wife will go through multiple pregnancies, give birth, raise the children, clean the house, cook the food, wipe dirty bottoms, etc?

    How is that not providing?

    Please tell me you just didn’t think your statement through.

  95. chava
    chava February 28, 2012 at 2:17 pm |

    Hey, can we all remember that the whole “MRS degree” bullshit is sexist as well? Because some people are tossing that around like it’s such an obvious thing that plenty of women do – that’s exactly the kind of sexist stereotype that Charlie here is negligently perpetuating. There are women researchers, academics, and professionals who suffer because of the acceptance of this kind of bullshit, because the people around them don’t take their commitment to their work seriously. (Seriously, there are women in my *very young* generation who have been denied assistance by profs or been openly mocked by peers who assume they are only there to get married. This happens. This still happens. And there’s no real way to survey its direct prevalence completely – because most people aren’t actually crass enough to do it out loud – except to look at the way that women are still under-represented and under-served and under-paid in their fields and disciplines compared to men in similar positions.)

    QFT. I’ve had the above happen to me, and I should know better than to throw it around so casually.

  96. Esti
    Esti February 28, 2012 at 2:22 pm |

    I’m putting this in a separate post because my first post was a complete thought and I don’t want to muddy those waters with a slightly different idea that’s probably going to get some people’s hackles up more.

    The most depressing part of that conversation I had with my male friends was that when I pushed back a little on the idea that they wanted a wife who was just as intelligent and educated and poised to be professionally successful as they were, but who wanted to stay home with the kids instead, two of them came right out and said that what they wanted was a wife who was similar to them but less (professionally) ambitious. They’d had smart, awesome female classmates and coworkers and girlfriends, and they didn’t want to lose the intelligent conversation and the witty banter and the respect for how amazing their partner was. But in their ideal future, they wouldn’t just have a partner who wanted to take care of the kids — they would have a partner whose career wouldn’t conflict with theirs and who wouldn’t have anything preventing them from moving across the country if the dude got an awesome job offer and who would basically want a life that just happened to mirror whatever life these men themselves wanted.

    And again, I’m good friends with these men, who are not bad people or Machiavellian schemers trying to keep women down, and in the abstract what they want sounds pretty great — a relationship with a really awesome partner you love that just happens to not interfere with any of your professional goals or desires and which in many ways fortuitously helps to facilitate those ambitions. I would love to find a relationship in which my partner just happened to love cleaning the apartment but thought that vacation planning was a huge chore, or who had a really mobile career so that if I wanted to move for a job or wanted to go see my parents for a few weeks it wouldn’t be a point of conflict.

    But the problem with that is twofold. The first problem, which I talked about in my first comment, is that there’s no way to divorce those desires from the broader societal context. As a straight woman, I would never think to list “wants to be a house-husband” as one of my ideal qualities in a dream partner, because it’s not something I could realistically expect to find. More than that, even if I found a man just like that it would be impossible for me to ignore the implications of having that desire fulfilled — that I had lucked my way out of compromise and conflict and difficult life decisions because my partner’s life was structured in a way that let me sail through mine unimpeded.

    The second issue is that as a woman who stood in that conversation with three guys I’m friends with and in every way the professional equal of, what I was told is that I would be a more desirable partner to them if I just didn’t care about my career or have strong views about how much my partner worked or where we lived or other big life decisions. That what men really want — even the liberal, feminist ones — is a woman who is smart and interested in the world but who’s happy to have her primary outlet for those qualities be chatting with her husband when he comes home from his day at work. That women in the workplace is great, but the lucky guys get to have it both ways — all the benefits of traditional gender roles without any of the nasty guilt because their partner affirmatively chose that role.

    And yeah, it’s just their personal preference and it’s certainly not the case that all men want those same things. But the unexamined privilege from people I know to be good human beings and generally committed to equality was a depressing wake up call.

  97. mary
    mary February 28, 2012 at 2:31 pm |

    Man-as-provider?

    The wife will go through multiple pregnancies, give birth, raise the children, clean the house, cook the food, wipe dirty bottoms, etc?

    How is that not providing?

    Please tell me you just didn’t think your statement through.

    It seems to me the_leanover was pretty clearly referring to the cultural standard/stereotype that men should “bring home the bacon.” Not personally endorsing it.

  98. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve February 28, 2012 at 2:34 pm |

    I think the whole ‘sexist’ thing is a bit of a red herring. Of course it’s sexist and it’s my opinion that ‘Charlie’ only brings up the issue of sexism because he wants to be told that he’s sexist in order to validate his point that he accepts ‘traditional values,’ and he can blame societal changes and ‘political correctness’ for his inability to have decent relationships with people. Charlie is clearly selfish, shallow, and unwilling to take responsibility for his own life to such a great extent that he is already searching for someone to take care of his hypothetical children.

  99. Jadey
    Jadey February 28, 2012 at 2:40 pm |

    @ chava

    Your comment went up while I was writing mine, actually, so no worries – I don’t think yours played into that so much as acknowledged that it’s a stereotype that exists. It was more a couple of commenters who threw around the idea that, “Well of course this is something women do!” because we don’t have any clue how many women do this because they actually want to in a way that isn’t a product of living in a fucked-up sexist society.

  100. the_leanover
    the_leanover February 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm |

    Q Grrl:

    Uh OK, man-as-financial-provider, if that makes it clearer. Or man-as-breadwinner. But I mean, the term ‘man as provider’ is a pretty obvious standard shorthand for a certain widespread cultural structure where men ‘provide’ and women ‘care’, which you’re correct to point out involves devaluing or ignoring the ‘providing’ that women do in the home (and I really hope I don’t have to point out that I wasn’t actually endorsing that structure…)

    The point was that women who want well-paid husbands and men who want stay-at-home-wives are both operating within a dominant cultural narrative where the man is financial provider and the woman is carer, but women tend to get a hell of a lot more crap for being ‘golddiggers’ than men do for being, uh, ‘carediggers’. Despite the fact that both ‘preferences’ fit into exactly the same set of assumptions, and are necessarily codependent in upholding those assumptions. In other words, even within the traditional structures, even when women’s personal preferences fit with the traditional model, women’s preferences are still devalued: culturally it’s seen as fine for a man to want a wife who will give his kids the best childhood (through her role as carer with enough time to look after them), but not so fine for a woman to want a man who will give her kids the best childhood (through his role as financial provider with enough money for a comfortable lifestyle). The former is seen as wanting the best for your kids; the latter is seen as being a golddigger or a lazy housewife or whatever the fuck.

  101. valentifan69
    valentifan69 February 28, 2012 at 3:34 pm |

    Also? It’s kind of a red flag. A dude has decided outright that he doesn’t want his wife to have financial independence?

    That’s not explicit – I suppose it depends who you hang out with.

    Some of the hottest women I’ve ever met are loaded and workshy. Kate Middleton’s a good example of the type – educated and absolutely smoking, but doesn’t seem to have dedicated any real effort or thought to an actual career. Those chicks are an absolute blast to hang out with because they’re all about having fun and have never been stressed about material concerns or the future like most middle class grafters.

    People have to come from money, but don’t have to some from serious wealth to take that view, you’re talking maybe $40m up. So these women are certainly out there. I’m sure even the most sexist guys wouldn’t reject someone marrying an heiress with a big trust fund. So I’m not sure it’s about women’s financial independence.

  102. Kyra
    Kyra February 28, 2012 at 3:35 pm |

    My theory is, a person can have any expectation they want as a prerequisite to accepting a relationship with someone else. They can not, however, demand that anyone provide it to them. There’s always going to be a play-off between expectations and being single, and having a boatload of expectations is only really viable so long as you’re also perfectly happy and fulfilled while single (in which case it makes sense to retain the expectations on the basis that anyone you date should make you at least as happy as you make yourself).

    Expectations can be passively sexist. Expecting someone to live up to them is actively sexist, and I’d argue that both treating your local public spaces as a girlfriend vending machine and complaining about the lack of women willing to be what you want fall into that category.

    Most of his sexism, however, comes from his thoughtlessness, carelessness, and different valuations of himself and his image of the perfect wife.

    His choice of words—his wife, his children, born 40 years too late—indicate narcissism here. She’s a possession, the kids are his rather than theirs, wah why can’t historic oppression have given something to me?

    He hasn’t put any thought into what might make such an arrangement unwanted by her; he only knows he doesn’t want it himself. He’s not considering the financial subjugation, the abandonment of a career, the drudgery of housework and childcare, the draining qualities of not having any real off-hours when one is not on call, nor vacations nor sick days, presumably, the lack of an important part of life that does not revolve around someone else . . . not that any of these are inextricably inherent to stay-at-home parenthood, but it’s very easy to fall into them and they are traditional to “traditional values” parental gender roles. He could be contemplating how to remove these things from the demands placed on his wife, but he isn’t.

    He also isn’t thinking through his “traditional values” and separating the gold from the dross or contemplating what, specifically, he wants and why he wants it. He wants to be a father—but why? What does he love about children? What sort of relationship does he want with his children? Might he not find it valuable to have time to spend with his children and contribute to their upbringing? What about these traditional values of his? Does he want to be a petty tyrant, or a leader, or a provider, and how can he find ways to lead and provide which don’t insult the children’s other parent? For his wife’s education, why is he focusing on a college degree rather than intelligence, curiosity, and the ability to inspire learning in others? Finding a smart and thoughtful woman who doesn’t have a degree and paying for her to take college courses she’s interested in to expand her horizons might serve his stated goals better. For that matter, so might choosing to work with his wife to unschool their children. Or if he just wants a photo-op status family, maybe he doesn’t really want children at all.

    The most egregious thing that I can see about him, however, is how he expects this future wife of his to do for him what he considers beneath him to do for her. Generally, I think if you’re not willing to catch half the shit for something, you don’t want it enough to expect someone else to catch all of it.

  103. Rob in CT
    Rob in CT February 28, 2012 at 3:37 pm |

    I think that’s a damned good point, leanover.

  104. Emolee
    Emolee February 28, 2012 at 3:40 pm |

    And, incidentally, I take issue with your assertion that having a career is inherently better than childrearing. They’re two options which different people prefer, but neither is empirically, objectively superior.

    Agreed, neither is inherently better, but our society does treat one as superior in that it rewards the person doing it (with money). The labor and contribution of a person with a career is compensated. The labor of a person who is a stay at home parent is not.

    A person who is a full-time parent has almost no financial security and is at the mercy of hir partner (who makes the money). This may (or may not) work fine while everything in the relationship is groovy. But when the relationship ends, the power imbalance becomes an enormous problem for the parent who sacrificed hir career for the sake of the kids and the family. Yes, at first glance the idea of divorce laws may seem to protect hir, but in reality they don’t in many, many cases. Ze may get half of what the partner made during the marriage (if ze is lucky and if they saved any money), but that won’t make up for the opportunity cost of not having a career- and it is very difficult to start a career at an advanced age. I am thinking of many cases where the “breadwinner” left the marriage after the kids were grown and the “caretaker”‘s job was completed, and ze was suddenly enraged at the thought of providing for someone who was no longer providing a service.

    And even though I wrote that gender-neutral, it cannot be ignored that in the vast majority of the scenarios that that described above, the man is the one with the power and the woman is the one depending on his benevolence. Patterns and patterns of this work to perpetuate gender inequality. therefore, a man who expects, or even asks, a woman to give up her financial autonomy for him is sexist.

  105. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl February 28, 2012 at 3:43 pm |

    Charlie sounds really young, sheltered, and clueless, all of which provide the perfect breeding ground for a sexist and entitled mindset.

    I don’t necessarily see anything wrong with using this specific Prudie column as a jumping off point for discussing whether or not relationship related expectations or deal breakers are based in sexism or entitlement, however. Expecting or even demanding that your wife stays at home with the kids and along with that abandoning her career and any professional aspirations she has is clearly sexist. But I disagree that being open to one’s spouse staying home with the kids, if she is desirous of doing so, makes a man a bad guy. Nor does it follow that a woman who stays at home with her kids is doing so because she is under the thumb of a sexist, over-entitled husband.

    Just wanted to get that out there, because too often these types of discussions start to wander into Mommy War territory awfully quick.

  106. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl February 28, 2012 at 3:48 pm |

    The_leanover, I think you’re point is a very astute one. Thanks for fleshing it out a bit more.

  107. Esti
    Esti February 28, 2012 at 3:52 pm |

    Lolagirl, I don’t think a single person has said that being open to a potential partner wanting to stay home with the kids is an issue. The problem is specifically wanting a partner who will do that, with no reflection about what that preference means.

  108. flightless
    flightless February 28, 2012 at 4:32 pm |

    But here’s the thing about personal preference: when you’re a successful straight man, the sexism that underpins our society is designed to benefit you… it’s hardly a coincidence that this thing that would make your life so much easier — that would allow you to have everything you want without having to make hard choices about how you prioritize your personal and professional life — would just happen to coincide with something that was historically and systemically an point of oppression for women.

    Esti, THANK YOU – this is a deft summation that I might have to get printed up on little cards.

  109. Falcon
    Falcon February 28, 2012 at 5:24 pm |

    “In other words, even within the traditional structures, even when women’s personal preferences fit with the traditional model, women’s preferences are still devalued: culturally it’s seen as fine for a man to want a wife who will give his kids the best childhood (through her role as carer with enough time to look after them), but not so fine for a woman to want a man who will give her kids the best childhood (through his role as financial provider with enough money for a comfortable lifestyle). The former is seen as wanting the best for your kids; the latter is seen as being a golddigger or a lazy housewife or whatever the fuck.”

    Oooh brilliant point! I have seen exactly the opposite though. Anything that a woman thinks is best for her kids is ok but a man should not have strong opinions about it. I think both parents should care passionately about what is best for the kids.

    What I would like to see is more flexibility in who stays home, this vagina=home penis=job is bullshit. While you are nursing of course, but after that the equipment is the same. Or half time, or… you get the idea.

  110. Maria
    Maria February 28, 2012 at 5:31 pm |

    OEP…
    If the situation involved a gay man speaking about a male partner staying home and raising kids, I don’t think anyone would think it were sexist.

    This is such a non- argument.

    Yes, if this wasn’t a man looking for a stay-at-home wife, it wouldn’t be sexist. It still might be selfish, but it wouldn’t involve institutionalized privilege.

    But it DOES involve institutionalized privilege based on gender, so it is sexist.

  111. valentifan69
    valentifan69 February 28, 2012 at 5:52 pm |

    Yes, if this wasn’t a man looking for a stay-at-home wife, it wouldn’t be sexist. It still might be selfish, but it wouldn’t involve institutionalized privilege… But it DOES involve institutionalized privilege based on gender, so it is sexist.

    I don’t see how it involves institutionalized privilege. I mean, from his own email people call him a sexist all the time, he hasn’t had any success in finding anyone willing to be a SAHM, and he’s questioning whether this is even possible in the modern world, and the columnist and commenters here think he’s a dick. It’s not a success story, it’s a lament about failure.

    50 years ago it would have been a different story. But the fact he’s not having any luck shows this isn’t institutionalised or privilege. Women aren’t taking him up, so the institution doesn’t seem to exist, and succeeding in getting preferential treatment is privilege, but failing certainly isn’t.

  112. Josh
    Josh February 28, 2012 at 6:14 pm |

    I was away from this for a long while, but I just want to say that my posts way upthread shouldn’t be taken to mean that women shouldn’t get to desire/have the same thing that this guy desires. As long as he’s upfront about what he’s looking for, as long as he never misleads anyone, I don’t see how it’s sexist to merely desire the relationship/marriage that he desires.

  113. Josh
    Josh February 28, 2012 at 6:17 pm |

    It’s the part where you *want* something and demand your future wife to sacrifice to provide it to you…because she identifies as female.

    This is exactly what I’m referring to in the comment I just left. He’s not demanding his future wife provide him with anything, he’s *hoping to find a wife who wants to provide what he desires*. There’s a difference. As long as he’s not forcing anyone to do anything, what’s the problem?

  114. Popi
    Popi February 28, 2012 at 6:44 pm |

    Here’s my two cents…

    So if you believe a parent should stay home, and you plan on marrying a woman, and you plan on having a career, what exactly does that add up to, Jill? Incidentally, you inserted a word- ‘should’- that appeared nowhere in my argument. I’m not claiming that believing wives should stay home isn’t sexist, I’m saying that it is OK (by which I mean it is not sexist or otherwise problematic) to want children, and believe a parent should stay home to take care of young children, and want a career, and want to marry a woman, all a the same time.

    Even if we take the request out of context and say that you are not adopting sexist ideas that exist in society when you want to have a career, want your children to have a full time caregiver and it is not up for debate that the caregiver has to be your wife there is still something undeniably sexist to this request: This is not like asking for a good sense of humour or education. If you have not met the woman and this is a deal breaker for you that means that every time you go out with someone or have a relationship with them you, at some point, ask this person if they are willing to accept to live by this rule and if they are not you interrupt the relationship/don’t go out with them any more. And if they do accept they are not allowed to change because that is a deal breaker for you. Rejecting potential life partners because they are not willing to sign up for a life as you want it instead of being willing to plan that life out according to the kind of people you both are is problematic. It is also sexist when you are using the power that a sexist “traditional” family model (prevalent in society) has given you, as a man, to validate your feeling that you are entitled to someone that will accept your uncompromising position on how you are both going to live.

  115. Falcon
    Falcon February 28, 2012 at 6:55 pm |

    @ Josh

    “This is exactly what I’m referring to in the comment I just left. He’s not demanding his future wife provide him with anything, he’s *hoping to find a wife who wants to provide what he desires*. There’s a difference. As long as he’s not forcing anyone to do anything, what’s the problem?”

    That is my problem with Prudie’s advice. That was unbelievably stupid. The only sensible thing to do is to find someone who wants what you do and marry them. Finding an intelligent woman in engineering school and then springing this on her later, I think not! Or falling in love with a woman who doesn’t want to stay home with kids and then trying to be an at home daddy when he doesn’t want to, yeah that would work. He is right to look for a woman who wants what he does from the outset.

  116. EG
    EG February 28, 2012 at 7:07 pm |

    Those chicks are an absolute blast to hang out with because they’re all about having fun and have never been stressed about material concerns or the future like most middle class grafters.

    People have to come from money, but don’t have to some from serious wealth to take that view, you’re talking maybe $40m up.

    You and I not only come from different worlds–$40 million is serious wealth where I come from, hell, one million is serious wealth where I come from–but have completely different tastes. The women you describe above sound like the most annoying people in the world to hang out with to me.

  117. sprout
    sprout February 28, 2012 at 7:19 pm |

    That is my problem with Prudie’s advice. That was unbelievably stupid. The only sensible thing to do is to find someone who wants what you do and marry them. Finding an intelligent woman in engineering school and then springing this on her later, I think not! Or falling in love with a woman who doesn’t want to stay home with kids and then trying to be an at home daddy when he doesn’t want to, yeah that would work. He is right to look for a woman who wants what he does from the outset.

    Falcon, I think Prudie’s advice was more along the lines of suggesting he should open his mind and broaden his horizons a bit, that maybe it should be more important to find a woman he finds interesting rather than only looking for someone to pop out babies and entertain him. At least that’s the way I understood Prudie’s advice. I assumed she was trying to imply that maybe by dating interesting women, regardless of their future child-plans, he might actually learn to respect them as people with their own interests and goals and then be willing to actually compromise with them to help meet both partners’ goals. Maybe I’m being too generous though… I agree with you that if he is going to continue to be that inflexible in his wife-requirements, he should put that out there from the start.

  118. petpluto
    petpluto February 28, 2012 at 7:49 pm |

    I think Prudie’s advice was more along the lines of suggesting he should open his mind and broaden his horizons a bit, that maybe it should be more important to find a woman he finds interesting rather than only looking for someone to pop out babies and entertain him. At least that’s the way I understood Prudie’s advice. I assumed she was trying to imply that maybe by dating interesting women, regardless of their future child-plans, he might actually learn to respect them as people with their own interests and goals and then be willing to actually compromise with them to help meet both partners’ goals.

    This is exactly what I got from Prudie’s advice. That instead of looking for some mythical woman who will be an accessory to the life he wants to live and the way he wants to have his life structured, that he should instead look for a woman who he will want as a partner.

    I’m not sure it will work, but I know plenty of people who have a strict set requirements about the type of person they’re willing to date – and how some of those requirements sometimes get left completely off the table when you meet the right person. When I was younger, my requirements for a guy I dated were “can cook, can clean, knows how to do laundry, doesn’t play D&D, is liberal, is feminist, was raised without video games, reads what I like to read, and doesn’t like horror films”. What I ended up with is a guy who can cook, can clean, knows how to do laundry, plays D&D and loves is, is (now) liberal, is (now) feminist, plays video games all the time, doesn’t read what I read, and not only loves horror films but wants to make them.

    The parts that I kept from my list are the parts that are the most important to me. The parts I didn’t keep, are the ones that don’t actually bother me now that I have a living, breathing partner and not just my fantasy guy.

    That’s not to say that’s going to happen for Charlie if a stay at home wife and mother is the most important thing to him, or if he’s not interested in having a full-fledged partner instead of someone who is there more for his ego than not. And yes, when you start referring to your future potential offspring as “my children” and you want your wife to have a degree so she can intellectually stimulate you, then you are looking for an ego stroke more than a living, breathing, human being.

  119. LotusBen
    LotusBen February 28, 2012 at 8:21 pm |

    As long as he’s upfront about what he’s looking for, as long as he never misleads anyone, I don’t see how it’s sexist to merely desire the relationship/marriage that he desires.

    What does being upfront and honest have to do with whether he is sexist or not? It’s sexist to hold “traditional values.” It’s sexist that he wants to marry a woman who will raise his rather than their children. Almost everything he says reflects that his desires are completely sexist to their core. I agree that it’s totally great that he’s being upfront and honest. That gives people the chance to criticize his views and also to avoid him. And yeah, maybe he will find someone who wants to be with him, and they will have a great, mutually satisfying marriage. That would be wonderful. As Prudie pointed out, going to a Santorum rally might be a good first step. She meant it in a snarky way, but it really is a better bet to go looking for the woman he wants there than it at an engineering college. He could also try cruising at Evangelical Churches. That’s where a lot of people who believe in “traditional values” meet their prospective mates.

  120. Azalea
    Azalea February 28, 2012 at 8:32 pm |

    72
    the_leanover 2.28.2012 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    I think putting it in terms of ‘sexism’ is getting contentious because, as per usual, this is taken as ‘YOU ARE BEING A SEXIST BY HAVING THIS PREFERENCE’ as opposed to ‘we live in a sexist culture where some choices and preferences hold different weight and different cultural meanings than others’.

    Exactly. Charlie is clearly a sexist male and his sexism nflueced his preference for a stay at home wife. However, the idea that wanting children, a career and preferring that your partner stays home to help raise the chldren instead of having two parents workng 60+ hour work weeks, traveling ad nauseum and the children beng raised by nannies. I read an article about female CEOs and self made millionaires with children and they ALL say: had their husbands NOT agreed to be stay at home dads, they could NOT have done thier jobs at the expense of their children. someone has to stay with them.

    Put it this way: as a straight male, specifying ‘willing to stay home with the kids’ as an important criteria in a potential partner is probably roughly the equivalent of women specifying ‘rich and/or has a well-paying job’ as an important criteria in a potential partner. Both are valid individual preferences, but both are entrenched in certain cultural narratives about what men and women are supposed to do, and expressing them as major non-negotiables sure isn’t helping to overturn those narratives.

    Theren lies the problem, at that point you are asking people to change what they want in a lifelong partner so that people they will not be spending the rest of their lives with will approve of their choices. If there is a well off educated heterosexual man who wants a stay at home wife and an educated heterosexual woman who wants an educated well off husband; if they meet, date, disclose their preferences and hit it off why is that bad? Who are they hurting?

    The problem isn’t people who seek out the individuals they want, the problem is the people who wait until after time and emotions have been deeply invested to tell a man who wants a career woman, no children that she wants to be a stay at home mom, or a man who tells the career woman that fell in love with him (and has no desire to procreate) that children are a dealbreaker and she needs to stay home to raise them. That effectively turns a preference or desire into a demand and emotional blackmail. That says : THIS is your place as provider or homemaker and you BETTER do it or Im leaving you. That’s different than this is what I am looking for in a mate, this is who I am, are *we* compatible?

    It’s certainly worth noting, too, that women who want rich partners are generally drenched with much, much more disdain than men who want stay-at-home-wives. Even though both essentially spring from the same cultural source (man-as-provider). Funny that, isn’t it?

    No disagreement here, that’s sexism through and through. But there are women who would say the women who want a rich husband are sexist- buying into the notion that men are supposed to be providers.

  121. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve February 28, 2012 at 8:43 pm |

    I agree that it’s totally great that he’s being upfront and honest. That gives people the chance to criticize his views and also to avoid him.

    But he’s not. Not honest, I mean. He says: “I hold traditional values and I would like to get married to a woman willing to stay home and raise our children.”
    The ‘traditional value’ is that it’s a woman’s duty to stay home and take care of the kids. ‘Willing’ implies free choice, it implies anothe option. Sure, he’s not going to force someone to marry him, but really he wants someone who is ‘willing’ to relinquish free will in order to be with him.

  122. Azalea
    Azalea February 28, 2012 at 10:04 pm |

    This focus on defending straight men’s right to free female labor in the home, even on a feminist website, exactly shows the societal influence and pressure for women to forgo their own capitalistic success and independence in favor of their husband’s.

    Being a stay at home parent is not free female labor. Some women are SAHM (Stay At Home Moms) because they want to breastfeed exclusively, some want to be a parent fulltime, some do it to support their spouse’s ambition/success, some do it because they want to, some do it because they cant find meaningful work, some do it because thier spouse makes more than they do and they can’t afford the 2-3K a month childcare costs can be. There are a MULTITIDE of reasons a woman would choose or prefer to be a SAHM. Hell we just saw an article posted where many many working mothers would rather work part time and spend more time with their children if they could afford to.

  123. AMM
    AMM February 28, 2012 at 10:06 pm |

    He’s not demanding his future wife provide him with anything, he’s *hoping to find a wife who wants to provide what he desires*. There’s a difference. As long as he’s not forcing anyone to do anything, what’s the problem?

    What difference? The letter writer is doing a lot more than just hoping. He’s requiring it. As for “not forcing”: that’s what the “socially and institutionally supported” part of the definition of sexism and racism are about. An employer who won’t hire blacks may claim “it’s just my preference, don’t I have a right to my preferences?” But we know, from bitter experience, that when enough people with the power to hire and fire have the same kind of “preference,” it amounts to force, which is why this particular preference is _illegal_ (in the USA.)

    Evils like racism, sexism, anti-semitism, and the like, aren’t perpetrated by a tiny band of evil, mustache-twirling villains. They are perpetrated by millions of rather ordinary people all making little choices that move things in the same, evil direction. By insisting that he will only consider women who meet his sexist standards, the letter writer is making himself one of those millions. He is making his contribution to the power of these sexist standards. As are those in this thread who are pretending that having sexist “desires” isn’t sexist.

  124. Falcon
    Falcon February 28, 2012 at 10:48 pm |

    “This is exactly what I got from Prudie’s advice. That instead of looking for some mythical woman who will be an accessory to the life he wants to live and the way he wants to have his life structured, that he should instead look for a woman who he will want as a partner.”

    “I agree with you that if he is going to continue to be that inflexible in his wife-requirements, he should put that out there from the start.”

    This isn’t inflexible. Daycare vs. not isn’t like the other traits mentioned. It is an absolute deal breaker. Can you imagine the mommy wars in your marriage? People are a nightmare about that issue about *other* people’s kids. He should find a woman he wants but only from a pool of women he won’t be at war with.

  125. Azalea
    Azalea February 28, 2012 at 11:09 pm |

    By insisting that he will only consider women who meet his sexist standards, the letter writer is making himself one of those millions. He is making his contribution to the power of these sexist standards. As are those in this thread who are pretending that having sexist “desires” isn’t sexist.

    So it would be better if his sexist ass was dating women who mght not even want children, let alone be a SAHM?

    I find your analogy between race ased discrmination and this to be extremely far reaching. If I am more qualfied for a position than a white person applying yet I am routinely passed up because of my race, that has nothing to do wth my ability to do my job the way the employer would want me to and everything to do with my race. Please, let’s not compare dating politics to racism.

  126. Falcon
    Falcon February 28, 2012 at 11:54 pm |

    Evils like racism, sexism, anti-semitism, and the like, aren’t perpetrated by a tiny band of evil, mustache-twirling villains. They are perpetrated by millions of rather ordinary people all making little choices that move things in the same, evil direction. By insisting that he will only consider women who meet his sexist standards, the letter writer is making himself one of those millions. He is making his contribution to the power of these sexist standards. As are those in this thread who are pretending that having sexist “desires” isn’t sexist.

    So is everyone who is feeding the assumption that only working outside the home is more valuable. Feminists are often horrible about that.

    One of the worst failures of feminism has been that rather than managing to convince society to place any value on traditionally female work, woman have to do traditionally male work in order to get any respect. If this were working out better both men and women might be willing to care for children or trade off with each other. We should be doing this by preference not gender and nurturing shouldn’t be left behind as worthless.

  127. vivian
    vivian February 29, 2012 at 12:13 am |

    Haven’t read through all the comments so don’t know if this has been pointed out already.

    The economy has changed. Expecting one parent stay at home looking after the kids is a luxury and a privilege that just isn’t possible for most people in this day and age. For most adult couples with children, both parents have to work to have a shot at a middle class lifestyle.

  128. EG
    EG February 29, 2012 at 12:20 am |

    I agree, Falcon, that nurturing is incredibly important and worthwhile work, but the fact is that becoming a stay-at-home wife and/or mother puts a woman in an incredibly vulnerable position financially. It’s part of what has made women as a class so much less powerful than men. And it’s something that has screwed countless, countless women over. I watched it happen to my mother. Second-wave feminists didn’t disdain nurturing because it was feminine; they saw what happened to women who invested their lives in looking after their children and husbands.

    I would love to spend the first couple years of my future children’s lives as a stay-at-home Mom, but even if it were financially feasible, I am not going to put myself in such a vulnerable and powerless position, ever. Perhaps if I lived in a country with a decent social welfare system, I could.

  129. vivian
    vivian February 29, 2012 at 12:27 am |

    Charlie meets Charlene. Charlene dreams of being a stay at home mom. They finish school and get married. Charlie applies and applies for engineering jobs but no offers. They start to run out of money. A baby is on the way. Charlene gets a job offer and says “honey, you know I’d rather stay at home, but one of us has to work or we ain’t gonna make it”. Charlie grimaces and thinks of the alternative (moving in with mom and dad) and gives in. The end (of Charlie’s traditional values)

  130. Falcon
    Falcon February 29, 2012 at 1:21 am |

    EG and Emolee

    This is exactly the problem I am talking about. We aren’t demanding reasonable arrangements like half time for each parent. There should be some way to take care of kids without making women financially vulnerable. I do think it is hugely linked with status though. You should hear the things people say. “But don’t you do anything?” “But don’t you think you should contribute to your household?”

    If it were a high status thing to do and just as many men did it as women then women wouldn’t be in a vulnerable position. Right now there is this miserable choice of financial shakiness or children just not getting to be with a parent. This isn’t good enough and we are just rolling over. Neither women nor children should be getting screwed over. Things are better than they were with the enforced home maker crap but having to shove your kids in day care is only a slight improvement.

  131. EG
    EG February 29, 2012 at 1:41 am |

    I agree, but that isn’t that we, as feminists, weren’t demanding those things–check out all the second-wave buttons saying things like “wages for housework”! It’s that we lost. And it’s all bound up with a host of fucked up things. If both parents drop down to halftime (in the US), nobody has health insurance, so that’s a lousy idea. And I would love to have a reasonable amount of family care leave time, but it seems that even when available, men don’t take that time unless they’re forced to. It’s all fucked up, and I don’t think it’s fair to lay the situation at the feet of feminists.

  132. Falcon
    Falcon February 29, 2012 at 2:01 am |

    I agree, but that isn’t that we, as feminists, weren’t demanding those things–check out all the second-wave buttons saying things like “wages for housework”!

    I’d like to resurrect it as an issue. We did lose. I want to un lose:). I think it is only a tiny minority of us who care though so I am disappointed in other feminists. I know we can’t get everything done all at once though.

    Seconed-wave, egads, which wave are we on these days? I’ve raised good feminists at least.

  133. Sonia
    Sonia February 29, 2012 at 4:00 am |

    Frankly, having seen a lot of men who do exactly as Prudie suggests, pretending to have an open mind and snagging a girl and then subtly pressurizing her into giving up her career, this guy is wonderful for laying out his issues and preferences up front. If you have any out of the way desires I would strongly prefer to the guy lay them out right away so I don’t spend 3-4 or whatever number of dates before having some sprung up on me.

    Also, plenty of women would prefer exactly the kind of lifestyle he desires. He may just not find them in American colleges.

  134. almondice
    almondice February 29, 2012 at 7:17 am |

    What happens if Charlie meets the woman of his dreams, they get married and she/they can’t have kids? Does he dump her? Does she then try to have a career?

  135. Namu
    Namu February 29, 2012 at 8:19 am |

    Frankly, having seen a lot of men who do exactly as Prudie suggests, pretending to have an open mind and snagging a girl and then subtly pressurizing her into giving up her career, this guy is wonderful for laying out his issues and preferences up front. If you have any out of the way desires I would strongly prefer to the guy lay them out right away so I don’t spend 3-4 or whatever number of dates before having some sprung up on me.

    Also, plenty of women would prefer exactly the kind of lifestyle he desires. He may just not find them in American colleges.

    …and your point is? I don’t see how pointing that he’s upfront about his ‘preferences’ is relevant. And how is that the last paragraph supposed to mean, anyway?

  136. EG
    EG February 29, 2012 at 8:27 am |

    I’d like to resurrect it as an issue. We did lose. I want to un lose

    Gotcha, and I’m on board!

    Seconed-wave, egads, which wave are we on these days? I’ve raised good feminists at least.

    I dunno, I stop counting after second. But my stay-at-home mom raised some pretty good feminists, too! I just wish she hadn’t had to pay such a steep price for the life and care she gave–gives–me.

  137. the_leanover
    the_leanover February 29, 2012 at 8:33 am |

    Falcon:

    I’d like to resurrect it as an issue. We did lose. I want to un lose:). I think it is only a tiny minority of us who care though so I am disappointed in other feminists. I know we can’t get everything done all at once though.

    I don’t know that it’s such a tiny minority who care; it’s just that those of us who do care tend to frame it in other terms. ‘Wages for housework’ was an idea that I’d totally have been on board with, but it was never going to do anything in itself to shift the natualized assumption that women would still prefer to be in the home. At this point in history, that assumption has shifted to a pretty decent degree, but the society we live in – as this thread aptly demonstrates – still makes it really fucking hard to raise kids without a minefield of work-life negotiation that still hurts women more than it does men. Personally, I believe the only solution to that is not wages for housework, but a complete restructuring of our entire shitty capitalist labour system. I want a society where it’s a realistic choice for both parents to alter their working patterns without either of them giving up work entirely, for both parents to divide maternity/paternity leave as they see fit, for both parents to be able to work part-time without risking their careers and their livelihood, and for both parents to be adequately supported by the state should they find themselves in a vulnerable position. All this, preferably, along with a cultural shift that stops fetishising masculine economic success and wealth accumulation as the ultimate aspiration. Fuck the domestic/economic division of labour. This might seem like overreaching (especially, I imagine, from a US perspective), but I believe in attacking the structures that facilitate inequality rather than advocating for sticking plasters (like ‘wages for housework’) that leave the structures intact.

  138. Falcon
    Falcon February 29, 2012 at 8:37 am |

    want a society where it’s a realistic choice for both parents to alter their working patterns without either of them giving up work entirely, for both parents to divide maternity/paternity leave as they see fit, for both parents to be able to work part-time without risking their careers and their livelihood, and for both parents to be adequately supported by the state should they find themselves in a vulnerable position. All this, preferably, along with a cultural shift that stops fetishising masculine economic success and wealth accumulation as the ultimate aspiration.

    This! Oh very much this!

  139. the_leanover
    the_leanover February 29, 2012 at 9:00 am |

    The only thing with critiquing careerism, though, is that we do have to be careful to not fall into the trap (which I think some people on one side of ‘the mommy wars’ sometimes have done) of telling women ‘hey, capitalist economic success is overrated and ideologically bankrupt, so you should be

    happy

    that you’re expected to stay at home with the kids, because that’s a much more valuable and fulfilling job anyway!’ Of course that’s great for some women, and corporate careerism is shitty, but for most women working outside the home isn’t just about adhering to masculine wealth fetishisation or gaining respect on male terms – it’s also about forging an independent life and identity that don’t revolve around being a mother, and I think it’s very important to make sure that option is kept open and valued, even while trying to dismantle the culture of capitalist careerism. Ideally, everyone would be able to choose between a fulfilling work life, a fulfilling parenting life, or – and this is the option that’s missing right now – both.

  140. the_leanover
    the_leanover February 29, 2012 at 9:01 am |

    haha, whoops, ‘happy’ was supposed to be in italics rather than blockquotes…

  141. igglanova
    igglanova February 29, 2012 at 10:38 am |

    I don’t know why disdain for homemaking even came up? The choice to stay at home with the kids is not un-feminist if the mother in a het relationship chooses it, but it is hella sexist for the man to make that choice for her.

    I wonder what happens if LW meets the lady of his dreams, they get married, and then she changes her mind about wanting to stay home with the kids. Will he respect that? Doubt it.

  142. Rob in CT
    Rob in CT February 29, 2012 at 11:16 am |

    After my daughter was born, I requested that I be allowed to work part-time (I wanted to just drop Fridays).

    I was denied, and given two reasons: 1) HR changed to a census count that counts any employee as “1″ rather than counting part-timers as fractions, and this made it difficult to have more part-timers in the department; and 2) they don’t want to let me drop a day, but might (at some point, maybe) consider letting me work shorter days.

    #2 is consistent with the other part-timers in the office (all mothers). #1 basically means that even if I pointed to them and said “I want that” I stand a good chance of being told no.

    Hey, at least they let me take unpaid leave. FLMA, it turns out, is “per family” and since my wife and I work for the same company, she burned all of our FLMA time. So when I wanted to go out as she came back to work, I had to take “personal leave” which is a different animal and entirely at the employer’s discretion.

    For lots and lots of people, a stay-at-home parent involves major sacrifice (or may simply not be possible). Even for those who could afford it (like us), it’s a big deal. I’d have to kick a really solid job to the curb, leave the workforce for a few years and then try to get a new job (and I *hate hate hate* doing that). During that time, not only do we lose my income, but my 401(k) stalls out, resulting in a hit upon retirement. So I took my 16 weeks leave and then we hired a nanny. [the discussion of stay at home parent was all about me, b/c my wife has more of a career - paid more, likes it more, all that. She, however, at least gets to work from home on Fridays. Being in IT can be nice].

    I don’t know what all went on in the 70s over the issue of SAHMs, but I could certainly understand why someone fighting for women’s lib would argue it’s a dangerous choice (even if it’s a choice that is freely chosen, not the result of a metric fuckton of pressure). My aunt did the SAHM thing. 3 kids. Loved it. But her marriage was disfunctional and, now that the kids are grown, has broken up. She’s trying to get a job, but… it’s hard, especially now. She hasn’t had a job in two decades. She has fybromialgia. She chose the path and is fine with it, which in the end is what should matter. But there’s no question that she’s in a tough spot now.

  143. AMM
    AMM February 29, 2012 at 12:00 pm |

    @132 Falcon:

    One of the worst failures of feminism has been that rather than managing to convince society to place any value on traditionally female work, woman have to do traditionally male work in order to get any respect.

    The devaluing of and lack of respect for “women’s work,” whether paid or unpaid, long predates feminism, is mainly driven by sexism (“if a woman can do it, it must not be very important”) and capitalism (“if it doesn’t have a market price, it must be worthless), and feminists have been the main ones protesting it.

    It is true that eliminating the obstacles to women going into traditionally male jobs has been a feminist cause. Partly, this is simple justice: why should women be forbidden to do any particular line of work, simply because they are women? But partly, it is because the jobs that one can support a family on are traditionally male. It may be holier to stay home and take care of the kids full-time, but it doesn’t pay the rent or put food on the table. And women have learned the hard way that relying on a man to provide that money is a road to destitution.

    BTW, the fact that blaming Teh Feminism for evils that are in fact perpetrated by the anti-feminists is a popular tactic of MRAs, misogynistic trolls, and the like should be enough to make you think about whether what you are saying isn’t in fact just a sexist trope.

    If this were working out better both men and women might be willing to care for children or trade off with each other. We should be doing this by preference not gender

    Regardless of whether full-time unpaid childcare (or elder care) is valued or not, the fact that it is almost always women who are expected to do it, and it is almost always women who in fact do it, should be a red flag that sexism is at work.

  144. Falcon
    Falcon February 29, 2012 at 12:49 pm |

    @AMM

    It is true that eliminating the obstacles to women going into traditionally male jobs has been a feminist cause. Partly, this is simple justice: why should women be forbidden to do any particular line of work, simply because they are women? But partly, it is because the jobs that one can support a family on are traditionally male. It may be holier to stay home and take care of the kids full-time, but it doesn’t pay the rent or put food on the table. And women have learned the hard way that relying on a man to provide that money is a road to destitution.

    This has been critical, we just aren’t done yet. This has been a huge step forward but I hate to see women giving up part way and not fighting for daddy time off and having a baby not being career death and all like that. And ugh I wish I could put this into words better, as you point out, if a woman has done it it probably isn’t worth much. How do we fix this? That stuff is valuable!

    Dear God, I did not mean to imply that anything we have done has been a step backwards. Holier-than-thou has nothing to do with it. I am trying to find way to bully corporations into doing what is best for families, that is why this has to be a political thing not an individual family one. If women just stay home we never get flex time and daddies and having this whole stupid dichotomy being gone.

    BTW, the fact that blaming Teh Feminism for evils that are in fact perpetrated by the anti-feminists is a popular tactic of MRAs, misogynistic trolls, and the like should be enough to make you think about whether what you are saying isn’t in fact just a sexist trope

    Egads! I should have phrased my point better. I didn’t mean we had caused the original sexist practice of devaluing women’s work, just that we shouldn’t perpetuate it. Thank you for calling me on that I will be careful about that.

  145. R. Dave
    R. Dave February 29, 2012 at 1:22 pm |

    Jill wrote: “It would be possible for that “preference” to be non-sexist if we lived in a society in which sexism and gendered expectations did not exist. And yet here we are, and so context matters. And yes, it is sexist for all the reasons I said earlier, and for what others have pointed out — it’s reflective of a big ol’ heap of male entitlement.”

    So, given that we live in a sexist culture, is there any way for an individual to have a preference that corresponds to a sexist cultural paradigm without that individual and their preference themselves being sexist?

  146. Joe from an alternate universe
    Joe from an alternate universe February 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm |

    Mr. Shoshie and I have actually spoken about this at length, because we do want to have children. But there are things like maternity leave and paternity leave and daycare (after 2 months) and spending time with grandparents and co-op daycares and telecommuting and so many options beyond “I want my wife to stay at home with the kids.” It just doesn’t seem like a valid excuse, y’know?

    Shoshie,

    Great point. To add to the options you list, I would add other factors that influence these decisions other than salary and career: city & state, location, schools, support systems, family, flextime, hours, costs, home prices, taxes, etc. These may trump most desires when it comes to deciding if anyone at all stays home.

    More than that, even if I found a man just like that it would be impossible for me to ignore the implications of having that desire fulfilled — that I had lucked my way out of compromise and conflict and difficult life decisions because my partner’s life was structured in a way that let me sail through mine unimpeded.

    Esti,

    Interesting and provocative perspective.

  147. igglanova
    igglanova February 29, 2012 at 2:25 pm |

    So, given that we live in a sexist culture, is there any way for an individual to have a preference that corresponds to a sexist cultural paradigm without that individual and their preference themselves being sexist?

    No. A preference cannot be abstracted away from its real-world consequences. Thanks for trying.

  148. the_leanover
    the_leanover February 29, 2012 at 2:33 pm |

    So, given that we live in a sexist culture, is there any way for an individual to have a preference that corresponds to a sexist cultural paradigm without that individual and their preference themselves being sexist?

    Oh come on; as has been pointed out a whole bunch of times, a preference can be ‘sexist’ in terms of social structures without you as an individual being A SEXIST. Like LotusBen said somewhere upthread, figuring out who counts as an individual bigot and who gets an anti-sexism pass is not that interesting nor that important and I wish we could move away from that focus. If you’re attracted almost exclusively to white women, that doesn’t necessarily make you ”’A RACIST”’ (because we all know that’s the absolute worst thing you can be called, right guys), it might just be a preference you can’t control, but yeah, it’s a pretty racist preference and it’s a preference that has certainly been shaped to some extent by the racist society that you exist in. And even if you can’t alter that preference, it would be an expression of unexamined privilege to express it uncritically as ‘just what I happen to like’. I mean seriously, the idea that sexist/racist structures are often unconsciously reinforced and upheld by individuals who aren’t actually sexists and racists is some pretty 101 shit.

  149. Lizzie
    Lizzie February 29, 2012 at 3:38 pm |

    @EG @ Falcon – actually in a world where those parents who (mutually with their partner) choose to stay home were paid, Charlie cannot afford the wife he thinks he can. In addition to an engineering degree, Charlie’s ideal wife is probably attractive and free of major diseases. So her eggs are worth 50-100K a pop. Her pregancies are worth 20-80K (surrogate salary). Even if she includes those as a bonus, he envisions her as a part-time tutor (so that her degree benefits his kids), f/t nanny, f/t cook/housekeeper, and f/t executive assistant, and she’s doing all those things at the level of someone capable of a very tough degree. Top people in those fields make, respectively, $60-200 an hour, say 40K a year p/t, 50-100K plus car/flights/accommodation, 25-40K plus accommodation, and 50-250K – say 80 for Charlie’s wife, which is what a friend makes as a high level corporate PA. Even at a huge discount for combining the jobs, her net value is still comfortably into six figures.

    Now, I am assuming that this woman is seriously wifing the shit out of Charlie, but that’s what he seems to expect. Just as not all paid workers in similar jobs have the same skills and salaries, nor would all SAHMs if they were paid. Unless Charlie is in the top 5% of earners every single year of his working life until the kids leave home, and the top 10-20% thereafter, with a substantial pension, he expects his wife to subsidize his career and lifestyle to the tune of literally millions. His entitlement is writing checks his earning potential almost certainly cannot cash.

  150. R. Dave
    R. Dave February 29, 2012 at 3:39 pm |

    the_leanover said: “Oh come on; as has been pointed out a whole bunch of times, a preference can be ‘sexist’ in terms of social structures without you as an individual being A SEXIST.”

    What’s the difference between being sexist (adjective) and being “a sexist” (noun)? Is there a morally relevant difference? Note that I’m not just playing word games here. You seem to be drawing a distinction between someone who has unexamined/unconscious preferences that have been shaped by and (albeit unintentionally) serve to reinforce the sexist structures of the culture in which they live and someone who expressly/consciously embraces those sexist structures. If such a distinction is meaningful, isn’t it misleading or at least inadequate to simply apply the same label – “sexist” – to both?

  151. Esti
    Esti February 29, 2012 at 4:09 pm |

    R. Dave, I don’t think this is as complicated as you are trying to make it.

    A person can say things that are funny (adjective applied to specific behaviors); if they say enough of them, they may be called a funny person (noun describing the person generally). A person can be giving to those around them (adjective applied to specific behaviors); if they are generous often enough, they might be called a giver (noun describing the person generally). A person can say sexist things or hold sexist beliefs (adjective applied to specific behaviors); if they do that enough, they might be called a sexist (noun describing the person generally).

    All of us hold some beliefs that are sexist, because all of us live in a world that teaches us a lot of sexist things. Some people hold more of those beliefs, or more extreme versions of them, or refuse to examine them, or actively embrace them. At some point, you get far enough along the continuum that people start to view you — and not just a few isolated things you think or do — as sexist more generally. The fact that there’s no clear tipping point between the two doesn’t mean that the continuum isn’t morally relevant.

  152. R. Dave
    R. Dave February 29, 2012 at 4:28 pm |

    Hm, good point, Esti. Hadn’t thought about it that way. Thanks!

  153. Tamara
    Tamara February 29, 2012 at 8:00 pm |

    Just wanted to say i appreciated Kyra’s analysis upthread. It is wholly sexist and entitled of Charlie not to consider the implications of his “preference” for the woman who will share her life with him.

    And @Lizzie, absolutely correct but of course this is happening everywhere and has been for a really long time.

    @ Falcon – in New Zealand the “wages for housework” battle is being fought although on a slightly different front: carers of adults with disabilities are paid by the state if they are not those adults’ family members. If you’re looking after your disabled adult child rather than someone elses you get nada. This is currently going through our courts.

  154. H
    H March 1, 2012 at 12:51 am |

    So what does that make women who are interested in the strong silent type or people who have specific preferences for individuals of a given race?

  155. librarygoose
    librarygoose March 1, 2012 at 2:11 am |

    Women who like strong and silent: Marry mimes.

    People with racial preference: Probably kinda racist.

  156. Falcon
    Falcon March 1, 2012 at 5:48 am |

    @ Tamara

    Good to know. Always interesting to see how disability intersects in various places. We have the same thing here, so you have to work to get someone else to care for disabled relatives.

  157. Crys T
    Crys T March 1, 2012 at 7:18 am |

    I know this has been said before, but for some people it doesn’t really seem to sink in: until very recently, no one, anywhere had the concept of parenting as a full-time job.

    The upper classes had nursemaids and nannies, then sent their children away to school, and the rest of society brought up their kids more or less communally (as had been done probably since humans first evolved).

    This idea of 1 person devoting all their time and energy to raising children–or even just 1 child–is just freaking weird. Hell, even when I was growing up (late 60s to 70s–not centuries ago, people), there was no expectation–even in suburbia–that our mothers would be constantly hovering over us, engaging us in activities, etc. We were for the most part left alone to get on with it. And I’ve spoken about this very topic to people from other (USian & European) backgrounds and they say it was more or less the same for them.

    And the result was that we had some freaking freedom to explore things and ideas, (gasp) make some mistakes, and just generally develop as people. I find it horrifying that parents now think they should be monitoring every move their children make and every thought they have.

    I can’t believe that full-time parenting is healthy for either parent or child.

  158. Falcon
    Falcon March 1, 2012 at 7:42 am |

    This idea of 1 person devoting all their time and energy to raising children–or even just 1 child–is just freaking weird.

    Hmm good point. I need to think about that.

    On the other hand in most places and times doing normal activities while wearing a baby is more normal than sending the baby away. All your time and energy is way too much. It seems more balanced to be getting on with other stuff while the kids are around.

    I can’t believe that full-time parenting is healthy for either parent or child.

    Creepy incessant hovering? Me neither, but spending all day with people you can’t bond to isn’t either.

    Of course this makes me sound like I am arguing with you when the whole point of what I am doing is to try to get women the ability not have to do either day care or SAHM. Both parents should be able to spend a lot of time with kids *and* have careers.

  159. Crys T
    Crys T March 1, 2012 at 7:50 am |

    Both parents should be able to spend a lot of time with kids *and* have careers.

    I agree with that.

    To be clear, I don’t think it’s weird or wrong for people to want to spend time with their kids. I just wonder where the idea that mothers (because it always is mothers) should never want to do anything else but came from. Probably one of those mid-20th Century, or even post-2nd Wave We Gotta Get Those Women Back In The Kitchen hysteria things.

  160. EG
    EG March 1, 2012 at 7:58 am |

    And there is an age below which you can’t send the kiddies out of the house on their own, because they can’t walk very well or reliably feed themselves. From what I’ve read, kids were often out playing by themselves, but there was mostly somebody at home to run to if need be, in recent decades. That certainly seems to have been the case in books I’ve read about children from previous eras. But that misses a more fundamental point, which is that it’s significantly harder to let kids do that and maintain your peace of mind without a given level of community.

    I have seen a shift in how early kids are allowed to go do things by themselves. I was allowed to go to a familiar place (library, movies) with a friend when I was in fourth grade, so…ten? And within a year of that, I was allowed to go places by myself. Nowadays it seems that above a certain class stratum, ten would be considered outrageously young to trust your kid on his or her own with a metrocard. I’m not entirely clear on why, as it doesn’t seem to me that the city has gotten more dangerous for children, and nowadays you don’t even have to worry that your kid will spend all his/her money and not have a quarter to call you for help if need be. You can just hand him/her a cell phone.

  161. Crys T
    Crys T March 1, 2012 at 9:36 am |

    a given level of community

    This is absolutely key. It seems that the more we lose a sense of community, the more women outside of paid employment–and any children they may have–are isolated.

    I agree about the age children are deemed to be competent at going out unaccompanied seems to be rising. In the early 70s, I could, as an 8-year-old, go off to the shops myself. Now, I recognise there’s some privilege there, as not everyone then lived in a place safe enough to do that. But nowadays, I know people with 8-year-old children, and even in communities as safe now are mine was then, letting a child that age go off on her own is seen as virtually criminal.

  162. H
    H March 1, 2012 at 10:11 am |

    @librarygoose

    Mimes why didn’t I think of that. :)

    Racial preference isn’t just about skin colour though. I know there are non-asian men who find asian* women incredibly attractive. I personally don’t see the fascination not that I wouldn’t date or marry an asian woman. We should be very careful about using the sexist or racist label when people express certain kinds of opinions like their general preferences for mates etc. If we are not careful we will end up arguing in effect that everyone is racist or sexist (Since we all have similar kinds of ideals on various levels.) and the words loose their power. Or worse yet in this context that the only acceptable preference is a uniform preference of no preference at all.

    I suspect that women around the guy in the OP call him sexist either because they use the term in an overly broad way or he acts in ways that actually are sexist, and/or is actively resistant to women having careers of their own etc.

  163. EG
    EG March 1, 2012 at 10:16 am |

    I know there are non-asian men who find asian* women incredibly attractive.

    Sure, but fetishizing and orientalizing a certain group of women is significantly different from finding a certain body type or physical feature attractive. I’ve read more than one screed by a woman of Chinese/Korean/Vietnamese/Japanese descent about how obnoxious and objectifying white men with “yellow fever” often are.

    I mean, honestly, what are they finding attractive? Asia is the biggest continent in the world. There isn’t a single characteristic shared by all the women descended from people from that part of the world. What those men are interested in is the projection of their own orientalizing fantasy onto a woman, without reference to her as an individual.

  164. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl March 1, 2012 at 10:18 am |

    Crys T, do you even have children?

    This idea of 1 person devoting all their time and energy to raising children–or even just 1 child–is just freaking weird. Hell, even when I was growing up (late 60s to 70s–not centuries ago, people), there was no expectation–even in suburbia–that our mothers would be constantly hovering over us, engaging us in activities, etc. We were for the most part left alone to get on with it. And I’ve spoken about this very topic to people from other (USian & European) backgrounds and they say it was more or less the same for them.

    And the result was that we had some freaking freedom to explore things and ideas, (gasp) make some mistakes, and just generally develop as people. I find it horrifying that parents now think they should be monitoring every move their children make and every thought they have.

    I can’t believe that full-time parenting is healthy for either parent or child.

    Do you not see how this is insulting to parents who do stay at home full time with their children? I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you didn’t intend it to be insulting, but describing it as weird and unhealthy is quite insulting.

    That is why upthread I pointed out that there are reasons that parents end up staying home to care for their children that have nothing to do with sexism and warned against this discussion devolving into a Mommy Wars-type back and forth. If it isn’t for you and you don’t want to do it, and of course we both agree that it shouldn’t be a societal expectation of a woman that she will either have children or be a full time, at home caregiver, that’s fine. But don’t assume that others who do make that choice are weird, unhealthy tools of the patriarchy.

  165. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl March 1, 2012 at 10:32 am |

    Of course this makes me sound like I am arguing with you when the whole point of what I am doing is to try to get women the ability not have to do either day care or SAHM. Both parents should be able to spend a lot of time with kids *and* have careers.

    I agree, Falcon, it should be the case that both parents should be able to have a career and spend time with their children. Unfortunately, that is not a practical reality for an awful lot of people. I also want to dispel this notion being repeated here that a parent staying at home is only a luxury afforded by a few who can afford it. Full time child care costs can be exorbitant in many places (it sure is here in the Chicago area, and I’ve been shocked at how much more expensive it is in major metro areas on either coasts.) It isn’t a myth or a lie that lots of women do the math and make the decision that it isn’t economically worthwhile in the short term to work and pay someone else to care for them while the parents both work.

    Add in the current state of our economy here in the U.S., where tons of parents of both sexes are out of jobs and at home with their kids and it really turns a lot of the traditional assumptions about why parents become full time, at home caregivers for their children on their collective ear.

  166. EG
    EG March 1, 2012 at 10:44 am |

    That’s true. I’ve met women who’ve left the labor force because they wouldn’t have been able to make enough money to cover childcare costs, and given the pay differentials between men and women, if someone has to give up a salary, it usually makes economic sense for it to be the woman. Patriarchy and economic exploitation: they go hand in hand!

  167. Falcon
    Falcon March 1, 2012 at 10:58 am |

    Do you not see how this is insulting to parents who do stay at home full time with their children? I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you didn’t intend it to be insulting, but describing it as weird and unhealthy is quite insulting.

    Yeah that got my back up to. I am hoping she meant the Stepford wife shit. Or this trend of moms who go to 85 gymboree events a week and don’t have friends activities for themselves. Full time parenting should not mean so full time that you don’t get to have adult interests.

  168. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl March 1, 2012 at 11:36 am |

    Yeah that got my back up to. I am hoping she meant the Stepford wife shit. Or this trend of moms who go to 85 gymboree events a week and don’t have friends activities for themselves. Full time parenting should not mean so full time that you don’t get to have adult interests.

    I think that trend is pretty limited to UMC women who run in the same circles as those who write articles for the NYT.

    It’s true that parenting, whether one works or not, can be an all-consuming endeavor. There are only so many hours in the day, and adult interests sometimes have to take a back seat when one has small children to parent. Frankly, the only women I know who seem to be able to balance all of this stuff well have tons of outside help, usually of the paid variety. Even when both spouses try to do their best to both carry their own weight, this stuff can still be quite fraught, which is why it becomes such easy fodder for the aforementioned Mommy Wars.

  169. EG
    EG March 1, 2012 at 11:50 am |

    Even when both spouses try to do their best to both carry their own weight, this stuff can still be quite fraught, which is why it becomes such easy fodder for the aforementioned Mommy Wars.

    See, I actually think that this is what she was getting at, that in earlier eras, when kids were conceived of as more independent in their daily activities and neighborhoods were a bit more communal, it was more possible to combine an adult life with a parental life because childcare didn’t require the continual monitoring that it seems to in many contexts today, that being a SAHM today–in the middle class or the working class–means something very different than being a SAHM fifty years ago did.

  170. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl March 1, 2012 at 12:19 pm |

    See, I actually think that this is what she was getting at, that in earlier eras, when kids were conceived of as more independent in their daily activities and neighborhoods were a bit more communal, it was more possible to combine an adult life with a parental life because childcare didn’t require the continual monitoring that it seems to in many contexts today, that being a SAHM today–in the middle class or the working class–means something very different than being a SAHM fifty years ago did.

    But this isn’t really an accurate description of what parenting (and especially mothering) was like 50-odd years ago. Fathers worked outside the home, sure, and for the most part they did absolutely none of the actual caregiving of their children. Mothers were supposed to shoulder the parenting responsiblity as well as all of the housekeeping, all the while making it look effortless enough that she could also keep up the appearances.

    I highy doubt that most women who parented 50 years ago would agree that she was still able to maintain outside, adult interests in addition to her responsibilities as wife and mother. The only exception would have been for those sorts of activities that shored up the happy wife and mother mystique, like volunteering at the children’s school or at church, or maybe playing bunco with the other neighborhood mothers once a month.

    I’m kind of left scratching my head at this one. I think there is a weird filtering of one’s childhood-laced memories of days of yore that is proving to not really depict accurately what was truly experienced by our mothers when we were kids.

  171. EG
    EG March 1, 2012 at 12:24 pm |

    Well, yes, it wasn’t good, particularly for those women isolated in suburbia, hence the success of The Feminine Mystique. But I do think it is a more accurate description of women who lived in cities and/or were not comfortably off financially. You did get packs of neighborhood kids running around by themselves and women dropping by each other’s houses for coffee or tea and playing cards or talking–and I’m not just basing this on fiction but on sociological discussions I remember reading back when I was young. But the only way you could even begin to think about taking responsibility for all the housekeeping, especially in pre-labor-saving-device days was by granting kids significantly more independence than they have now. Now I think SAHMs are expected to do far more in the way of child-entertaining than they were ever expected to do 50 years ago.

  172. librarygoose
    librarygoose March 1, 2012 at 12:30 pm |

    I know there are non-asian men who find asian* women incredibly attractive.

    EG already covered this, but I want to reiterate, this phenomenon can be extremely racist and sexist. The idea being Asian women are more submissive, and they want a submissive wife. I’m not saying being attracted to certain look or type is inherently racist, but a dude who says “Oh, I only date Asian women”= Prolly kinda racist (and sexist). Now there s the whole idea of being a certain culture wanting to date within that culture, but I don’t really feel comfortable condoning or condemning it.

  173. librarygoose
    librarygoose March 1, 2012 at 12:34 pm |

    Now I think SAHMs are expected to do far more in the way of child-entertaining than they were ever expected to do 50 years ago.

    I noticed it being even more intense than when I was little, and I’m not that old. I mean, when I was younger there were times I would leave the house at 9am and not be back until it was dark. Just gone, for hours. I’d maybe check-in, but generally I was allowed to just be gone. Now, kids can barely roam. Although, I have 5 siblings and it was assumed that I’d see one or more during the day.

  174. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl March 1, 2012 at 12:41 pm |

    Well, yes, it wasn’t good, particularly for those women isolated in suburbia, hence the success of The Feminine Mystique. But I do think it is a more accurate description of women who lived in cities and/or were not comfortably off financially. You did get packs of neighborhood kids running around by themselves and women dropping by each other’s houses for coffee or tea and playing cards or talking–and I’m not just basing this on fiction but on sociological discussions I remember reading back when I was young. But the only way you could even begin to think about taking responsibility for all the housekeeping, especially in pre-labor-saving-device days was by granting kids significantly more independence than they have now. Now I think SAHMs are expected to do far more in the way of child-entertaining than they were ever expected to do 50 years ago.

    I think we are mostly in agreement on this, EG, I’m taking issue with Crys T’s comments for the most part.

    I do think that the only upside to the SAHP as entertainer of the child(ren) phenomenon is that it is made possible by both parents taking a more active role in both parenting and household-related tasks. That has been a fairly recent development, taking place by and large in the last 30 years or so, and as a direct result of the women’s movement pushing for it. Most SAHMs I know (and for better or worse, the majority of SAHP I know personally are women) have spouses who understand and embrace the idea that the SAHP’s main role is to take care of the kids. Housekeeping takes a back seat to the parenting and the WOHP makes a real effort of carrying their own weight and actively parenting their kids as well when not at work.

    It’s still not necessarily ideal, but it’s still far better than the “good old days” when the wife was responsible for everything and the husband responsible only for bringing in a paycheck.

  175. Falcon
    Falcon March 1, 2012 at 12:53 pm |

    I noticed it being even more intense than when I was little, and I’m not that old. I mean, when I was younger there were times I would leave the house at 9am and not be back until it was dark. Just gone, for hours. I’d maybe check-in, but generally I was allowed to just be gone. Now, kids can barely roam. Although, I have 5 siblings and it was assumed that I’d see one or more during the day.

    I think it depends where you live. There is a manhunt for a serial killer in my city and I was involved in a case for a teen rape 18 months ago(involving strangers not the usual family case). We also have quite a few registered level 3 sex offenders near where I live. So no, I wouldn’t wanderer around alone and unarmed, you can bet my kids aren’t allowed out. Some places are much safer.(I wish people would stop telling women and girls not to worry about stranger rape because acquaintance rape is so much more common, that makes no sense).

    There is a difference between expecting the kids to read and build things with their toys in the house and do school activities and the like and letting them go places.

    But this isn’t really an accurate description of what parenting (and especially mothering) was like 50-odd years ago. Fathers worked outside the home, sure, and for the most part they did absolutely none of the actual caregiving of their children. Mothers were supposed to shoulder the parenting responsiblity as well as all of the housekeeping, all the while making it look effortless enough that she could also keep up the appearances

    Stepford wife shit, sure enough. Things are different for modern SAHMs with liberal partners who actually do things. The kids who who have dads or another mommy too.

  176. EG
    EG March 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm |

    But Falcon, my question is, is that less safe than your area was fifty or sixty years ago? Because I’m looking at areas that common wisdom says are actually safer now than they were when I was a kid. So why are the reins being tightened on kids who live there? Is it that we’re more aware of potential dangers? But that doesn’t really make sense, because we were certainly aware of the dangers of abduction and sexual abuse when I was a kid. I’m wondering what has changed, culturally.

  177. Falcon
    Falcon March 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm |

    It’s still not necessarily ideal, but it’s still far better than the “good old days” when the wife was responsible for everything and the husband responsible only for bringing in a paycheck.

    I think you are selling it short. Or maybe you think far better says it all and I am just being defensive. I don’t know what your experience has been but my life has been full of time outside and gender equality and GBLT and anti-torture activism and taking care of disabled vets and science and research into rare diseases. My kids saw the political process up close and how to do volunteer work and how to do science and what the outside is like. I didn’t get relegated to amusing kids, I did real stuff all the time and so did my kids.

    My life has never been what I would describe as just better than the hideous nightmare of being a housewife. Just not doing paid work is nothing like that.

  178. Falcon
    Falcon March 1, 2012 at 2:39 pm |

    I know this has been said before, but for some people it doesn’t really seem to sink in: until very recently, no one, anywhere had the concept of parenting as a full-time job.

    Ok, I went away and thought.

    This is a terrible argument. Never use ‘people used to do this’ as and argument. “The upper classes had nursemaids and nannies, then sent their children away to school, ” The same women didn’t have the vote, or property, or protection from marital rape.

    I am not saying that this invalidates any of your other arguments, just don’t use precedent. Gender equality is new, just about everything in the past oppressed women.

  179. Falcon
    Falcon March 1, 2012 at 2:43 pm |

    Bloody hell. I didn’t mean to put myself in block quotes. That was just me. Might as well edit, should be “an argument not and”. Stupid hypoxia, I can’t think.

    The great thing about parenting trends today is that we are giving rights to children such as not getting beaten or molested, education and all that. Pretty neat.

  180. Ismone
    Ismone March 1, 2012 at 5:28 pm |

    To the men who don’t understand why this is sexist:

    Here is the thing about being a stay-at-home parent. Some people love it and are very fullfilled by it (my mom, a few work friends, one of my brothers-in-law) some are not (a female relative, a few work friends). It is actually really hard to predict which group you are going to fall into until you actually have your own children. And I am saying this as a former nanny who spent tons of time with family members and friends who were SAHP, and whose sister was a night nanny.

    Sometimes, a parent decides to stay home, and realizes that it is making them bonkers. Being so set on someone who “wants to stay home” misses the point that no matter how clever you are, you cannot always know that. A member of my extended family is all traditional-minded and shit, and as a result she *wants* to be a SAHM, but frankly, she isn’t cut out for it, or at least not for as many children as she has. She is a great, great woman, and very sweet, but it is clear that her family responsibilities traumatize her. Compare and contrast with my mother, who had just as many kids (a lot), was not all that invested in traditional roles, thought that maybe she never wanted marriage and kids, and who loved being home with us.

    The expectations and the promises and the traditional values imposed on my other family member has put her in a really unhappy situation. And her husband (my relative) apparently isn’t focused enough on her as a human being to pick up on that fact.

    The big scary about Charlie, and the reason it is sexist, isn’t just because it is something that is expected of women, not men, but because not everyone is really cut out for that kind of focused parenting.

    And as some others have pointed out, historically, you had community members to help with the childcare. Being the former partner of a child abuse victim, I remember telling some friends that if my ex had lived in a communal living situation with aunts/uncles/grandparents/cousins, it probably wouldn’t have mattered that his parents were so terrible, because someone would have loved him and looked out for him at least part of the time. Even his awful, awful parents couldn’t have done as much damage if he had other people to bond with who were invested in him.

  181. Ismone
    Ismone March 1, 2012 at 5:32 pm |

    To expand on what I mean about Charlie being sexist:

    He wants to find someone who knows she wants to be a stay at home parent and has all these other qualities. He does not seem to have given a lot of thought to what that would mean to her and her life, and whether she could accurately predict that it would work for her.

    When I had a partner who wanted to stay at home, we had a lot of talks and I made it really, really clear to him that if childrearing wasn’t something that worked out for him full-time, or if he realized he wanted to go back to school and get a grad. degree after children were in the picture, we would make that work. Even though I was going to earn more, I refused to make the relationship about my career.

    Charlie should be no different. We should all be thinking about what we are asking of our partners, and whether or not it is fair, and whether or not it is polluted by assumptions that it is okay for us to want someone else to be an adjunct to our lives because of sexism.

  182. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl March 1, 2012 at 5:56 pm |

    My life has never been what I would describe as just better than the hideous nightmare of being a housewife. Just not doing paid work is nothing like that.

    I actually agree with you completely, Falcon. I suppose in my own way I’m kind of defensive about being a SAHM. In feminist circles especially I feel like I have to be apologetic about it and that I have to downplay how important it is to me on a very personal level to have been at home full time with my kids.

    And maybe that’s the rub, like it or not, there are some more vocal feminists out there who are so stridently against the whole SAHM construct that it can be difficult to not feel unwelcome (see Crsy T’s earlier comments.) I certainly get why the experiences of the past and even of today can lead to such strong sentiments, but all of that acrimony too often leads to circular tail chasing instead of the finding of some sort of middle ground.

  183. Falcon
    Falcon March 1, 2012 at 6:11 pm |

    And maybe that’s the rub, like it or not, there are some more vocal feminists out there who are so stridently against the whole SAHM construct that it can be difficult to not feel unwelcome (see Crsy T’s earlier comments.) I certainly get why the experiences of the past and even of today can lead to such strong sentiments, but all of that acrimony too often leads to circular tail chasing instead of the finding of some sort of middle ground.

    Yes but with decades as an activist I hardly think I am not being feminist enough. I am hardly on either side of the mommy wars but she was just being rude.

  184. EG
    EG March 1, 2012 at 6:46 pm |

    I disagree about rejecting precedent as a means of argument. There’s no reason for precedent to trump anything such as justice, kindness, not doing harm, when it comes to values, but neither is it inherently a bad thing. History is not teleological. Sometimes some things get better, but sometimes some things get worse. Referring to past cultures as a point of comparison and as a way to estrange our culture or to interrogate assumptions underlying our own cultural practices is no different from referring to contemporary cultures that are not ours. No doubt any culture, past or present, has lots and lots of objectionable practices. But that doesn’t mean that all of its practices are objectionable or that the non-objectionable ones can’t serve as points of comparison for us.

  185. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines March 1, 2012 at 7:30 pm |

    Is “childfreesplaining” a word yet? If not, it really should be.

    I love the way people who are not mothers are so quick to decide how a mother should be. Everyone else gets to have complex lived experiences that people should listen to and consider, but motherhood is apparently such moo cow shit work, that anyone feels they can just roll up and pontificate.

    In response to the OP, Prudie is indeed right and it’s been said enough upthread about sexism being ingrained in which “choices” are easier to make then others, so I’ll nod my head and leave it there.

  186. ginmar
    ginmar March 1, 2012 at 8:23 pm |

    #172…..Why is it her job to cover child care expenses? That assumes that she’s only being allowed to work, that the kids are her sole job alone. Why don’t they combine their finances? They’re his kids, too.

    Furthermore , it reduces womens’ jobs to just money, when there’s all kinds of intangible and tangible advantages paid work can bring: contact with other adults, netowrking, socializing, and so on.

  187. EG
    EG March 1, 2012 at 8:30 pm |

    Hey, I completely agree, particularly about the intangible benefits of staying in the workforce, to say nothing of the tangible ones, like accumulated raises and experience, if they are available. But it is not uncommon for a couple to realize they would be operating on a lower net income with childcare expenses than they would be if they relied solely on the higher earner’s salary and the lower earner left the workforce and cared for the kid(s). And hey, presto, by the magic of patriarchy, the higher earner just so happens to be the man, go figure. It’s always nice when things come together like that, isn’t it?

  188. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl March 1, 2012 at 9:22 pm |

    Why is it her job to cover child care expenses? That assumes that she’s only being allowed to work, that the kids are her sole job alone. Why don’t they combine their finances? They’re his kids, too.

    Absolutely, children in a hetero marriage are the product of both the man and the woman in that relationship. I very much agree that it is not the sole job of the woman in that relationship to take care of the kids.

    However, and speaking from my own experience, I can tell you that when I was working the dollar value of what my personal income added to our net marital income did matter to me. I’ When I had my twins, I looked at what it would cost us to put them in full time childcare and how that would affect our combined income as a couple. When I realized that, after taxes and child care costs, we would only have a true pittance remaining (and also factoring in the reality that I had a highly stressful and time consuming job that I hated with every fiber of my being) it was a lot easier for my to say eff it and quit my job.

    But, and this is probably most important of all, I wanted to stay home with my kids. Furthermore, my husband was supportive of that decision, and we came up with a financial plan to protect me and the kids in the case of various worst case scenarios actually occurring.

  189. ginmar
    ginmar March 1, 2012 at 9:24 pm |

    It’s like magic! And it’s precisely why those little choices need to be pointed out because what happens if the marriage ends? The one holding the short end of the stick ain’t going to be the guy—-his career’s up to date, and so on. Besides, putting a price on the woman’s welfare is a really cynical way of showing how much she’s valued, literally.

  190. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl March 1, 2012 at 9:41 pm |

    It’s like magic! And it’s precisely why those little choices need to be pointed out because what happens if the marriage ends? The one holding the short end of the stick ain’t going to be the guy—-his career’s up to date, and so on. Besides, putting a price on the woman’s welfare is a really cynical way of showing how much she’s valued, literally.

    Right, which if you actually read what I wrote you would have seen the part about how my husband and I came up with a financial plan to protect both me and the kids if something like his death or a divorce came to pass.

    But, go ahead and grandstand away. Who am I to get in the way of you making your highly cynical and insulting point at my and other women’s expense. If you can’t see how insulting it is to assume that women who do SAH are foolish or clueless or whatever than there can be no further polite and informed discourse on this subject.

    Commence circular tail chasing.

  191. EG
    EG March 1, 2012 at 10:05 pm |

    I think that Ginmar was responding to me and that she was writing her post at the same time as you were, Lolagirl, because I referred to the magic of patriarchy in my post.

    But yes to everything you said, Ginmar. I watched it happen to my mother. She is a wonderful mother and the time and energy she spent raising me and exposing me to every good thing that could be found in NYC on a low budget are gifts I will never stop appreciating. And I saw exactly how hurt she was when my father left, and what she was left with when she couldn’t afford to go to court. And nobody ever expects that will happen in their marriage. But it can and it does.

  192. Pursuing your goals in a world with other people. | Adventures in Ethics and Science

    [...] of the discussion here, I offer some general thoughts on pursuing partner, career, family, or other aims one deems [...]

  193. ginmar
    ginmar March 2, 2012 at 1:17 am |

    Uh, Lolagirl, I wasn’t talking to you. Or about you for that matter.

    I’ve been wanting to reply to #191, without quite knowing how, because I’ve seen how childfree bashing and evo pysch (?) crap tend to crop up in discussions of motherhood—-for example, there was stunning amounts of both in the infamous ‘smaller cuter whatever’ debacle last year, which got totally shoved under the rug and into the closet in favor of some serious rewriting. The idea that motherhood makes one a better person of a sort impossible to attain without using one’s ovaries was thrown all over that discussion and seems to be in danger of surfacing here. Meanwhile, comments bashing the childfree from that contentious discussion got ignored: “Just stay in, then. Stay in and order in,” to start, for example. Calling critiques of motherhood ‘childfreesplaining’ is a pretty good example. Analyzing motherhood has little if anything to do with mothers themselves. One wonders why the response takes the form that it does.

    You can see its return in the criticism of CrysT’s remarks about how society now demands so much more of mothers these days. Mothers fifty years ago didn’t have the standards imposed on them that mothers do today. That was her point. The response was, “do you even have kids?” Well, no, but I was a kid, and I was a kid forty years ago, and I walked to and from school by myself, and in the summer my mom threw me out of my house in the morning and I played up and down the neighborhood for hours till the next meal, at which point my mother and other mothers yelled kids’ names out the door for us to come home and eat. What did she do during those hours? I don’t know, but I do know she and the other moms gossiped over the back fence, sometimes literally, and they all felt perfectly okay with grabbing us by the ear or the shoulder and either spanking one of us themselves or taking us home to our moms for a lecture. At about the age of 12, we could go by ourselves to movies and stuff like that, and it wasn’t at all unusual to be sent to the corner store for stuff with instructions to bring home change and not so much as think as spending it on candy. I can’t speak for every kid of that generation, but I loved it, even though standards for kids were far more stringent in some ways than they are now. Mom went back to work when I was 12, partially for monetary reasons, but partly because she wanted to get out of the house. Dad’s salary, never really comfortable, was not even covering the utilities by then. The standards have changed today so that mothers have to produce absolutely perfect, genius, precocious kids, and every moment has to be devoted to the kids, even while women—all women— struggle more and more to have a say in shaping those roles. CrysT was nothing but historically accurate in remarking upon how much standards for mothers have risen lately.

  194. ginmar
    ginmar March 2, 2012 at 1:28 am |

    EG, you read my mind. “Nobody ever expects it to happen to them.” I was reading a book called, I believe, “The Unfinished (or incomplete, maybe?) Woman” and it contained a scene where two women lawyers were proudly going after their clients’ soon-to-be-ex wives with a scorched earth attitude that proved how post feminist they were. The reader checked back in a couple of years later and found that both were shell shocked, because one was in the process of a divorce herself, and experiencing her own tactics herself, while the other had just been served.

    My mom was probably a horrible mom by today’s standards, because she wasn’t touchy feely or demonstrative, but she read to me all the time, and made life magical for me without any special guide books. She told me the dew drops on spider’s webs in the morning were fairy diamonds and helped me deliver papers on my paper route and more intangibly, made me a partner in her culinary machinations, which was an amazing feeling. When I was very little, Dad did the classic Sixties thing of coming home and collapsing, but when she went back to work, he started doing the dishes and ironing some of his own clothes. It wasn’t a perfect marriage, but it lasted: when he died, they’d been married for 56 years. Maybe that’s why it lasted: it wasn’t perfect, neither of them expected perfection, and that included us kids. Mistakes were inevitable and perfection was what you saw in a palace or a museum. The best thing of all was being included in their Nick-and-Nora back-and-forth. Like I said; not at all perfect; could the expectations be too high? (Frankly, I think fathers get off too easy these days, and don’t get me started on the whole ‘Dads babysitting their own damned kids’ thing.)

  195. DonnaL
    DonnaL March 2, 2012 at 2:17 am |

    Analyzing motherhood has little if anything to do with mothers themselves.

    What? Do you have any idea how utterly absurd that sounds?

    they all felt perfectly okay with grabbing us by the ear or the shoulder and either spanking one of us themselves . . . .

    Now that’s a stellar recommendation for the good old days!

  196. Crys T
    Crys T March 2, 2012 at 5:01 am |

    Falcom, you’re right, “it used to be so” is a terrible reason for doing anything.

    To better explain, what I meant by that is that the idea of mothers being “supposed” to devote 100% of their time and energy to their children is a very recent construct, even though it’s touted as “traditional values.” And also, that this constuct came out of a very, very specific context: that of painting women with careers as “unnatural” and “taking work away from men.”

    All I meant was that those people who rant on about how it’s “natural” for mothers to stay at home and have zero interests outside of maintaining their homes & kids & that “women in the good old days never wanted anything but mommy-&-homemakerdom” don’t actually know what they’re talking about.

    And btw, thanks ginmar for getting that. Funny how some people are so determined to interpret “it’s crap that mothers are expected to be nothing more than child/homecare units” as “SAHMs are crap” or even “mothers are crap.”

  197. Crys T
    Crys T March 2, 2012 at 5:08 am |

    Sorry to double post, but in reply to DonnaL re this:

    Analyzing motherhood has little if anything to do with mothers themselves.

    I don’t want to put words in ginmar’s mouth, but I interpreted this to mean that analysing the socially constructed role of motherhood has little if anything to do with mothers as people/individuals. Which I think makes a lot of sense.

  198. Crys T
    Crys T March 2, 2012 at 5:25 am |

    OK, this one really is my last for the moment:

    I highy doubt that most women who parented 50 years ago would agree that she was still able to maintain outside, adult interests in addition to her responsibilities as wife and mother.

    Yes, and 50 years ago was 1962–the mid-20th Century, the period that I specifically mentioned as significant in the development of a lot of these “Women should be 100% Mommy, 100% of the time” ideas:

    Probably one of those mid-20th Century, or even post-2nd Wave We Gotta Get Those Women Back In The Kitchen hysteria things.

    Also, when I said “I can’t believe that full-time parenting is healthy for either parent or child.”

    Lolagirl said:

    Do you not see how this is insulting to parents who do stay at home full time with their children?

    Yes, if you take it completely out of the context in which I was talking about how mothers today are expected to hover incessantly over their children and not give them any breathing room. And you know what? If you are that hovering mother and you’re insulted by my words, GOOD! Because you’re seriously fucking up your kids by not giving them space and you’re not doing yourself any favours by not having a freaking like of your own. Jesus.

    Like I said, any time someone says, “expectations put on mothers are crap,” somebody else will be bound & determined to interpret it as “mothers are crap.”

  199. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines March 2, 2012 at 6:27 am |

    I want to talk about race. I’m white.

    But I don’t need to talk to people of other races. I can analyse the theory of race all by myself!

    Yeah, that works. /sarcasm.

    I’m getting out my bingo card here, because we’ve already had mention of children in restaurants AND that physical discipline is a-ok for children and there should be more of that.

  200. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date March 2, 2012 at 6:48 am |

    I don’t want to put words in ginmar’s mouth, but I interpreted this to mean that analysing the socially constructed role of motherhood has little if anything to do with mothers as people/individuals. Which I think makes a lot of sense.

    Nonetheless, it is possible that a person who both has/had a mother and is a mother may have a different perspective on the socially constructed role of motherhood from a person who has/had a mother and is not a mother.

    For example, the idea that mothers today are expected to incessantly hover over their children and not give them any breathing room. This expectation may exist in certain sectors of American society, but it is not universal, and I, personally, as a mother, have not encountered it.

    Also, while we’re at it:

    The upper classes had nursemaids and nannies, then sent their children away to school, and the rest of society brought up their kids more or less communally (as had been done probably since humans first evolved).

    George Orwell’s essay “Such, Such Were the Joys” (speaking of George Orwell) addresses the former, and — since I assume this blockquote refers generally to English society — The Condition of the Working Class in Manchester in 1844 addresses the latter. Actually, so does Charles Dickens. It’s not a time that I, personally, would like to take for a model of child-rearing.

  201. Crys T
    Crys T March 2, 2012 at 7:04 am |

    Let’s get this straight: I never said the old days were ideal. I never said that the old days were something we should emulate. I only–GET THIS: ONLY–said that the idea that mothers should spend 100% of their time hovering over their children wasn’t in vogue, as it seems to be today. Get that? That’s IT.

    Yes, there were some good aspects of the old days, such as people being willing to give mothers a bit of a break by spreading out the childcare duties. And yes, there was a fuckload of bad aspects about the old days, only of which was the frequent use of corporal punishment on children.

    But Jesus, just go ahead and pretend I’ve been saying something I haven’t if you need to.

  202. Crys T
    Crys T March 2, 2012 at 7:24 am |

    And btw maybe on your planet, PMED, people don’t expect mothers to constantly hover over their children, but down here on Earth that attitude is really fucking common*. Just look at any account, anywhere of a child who:

    a) has an accident
    b) gets into trouble
    c) does/says anything that anyone could possibly construe as “offensive”

    The first thing most people do is start screaming, “And where was the mother when all this was happening???!?!?!?” You know that is true.

    And over the past 10-15 years or so, there has been increasing pressure for parents to ensure that every waking minute of their chldren’s lives are accounted for and occupied. It’s in the press, it’s on TV, it’s on the lips of real people around me as they discuss their lives: parents (which, as we all know, is almost always code for “the mother”) who don’t monitor their children 24/7 are not Good Parents.

    You may be magically insulated from all this, PMED, but I’ve talked to mothers who find it soul-crushing.

    Just waiting now for someone to pipe up triumphantly about how I’m trying say that 2-month-olds should be left to fend for themselves, so my entire argument is invalidated.

    *and NB, “common” does not equal “universal” or “monolithic,” ‘kay?

  203. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date March 2, 2012 at 7:49 am |

    Just look at any account, anywhere of a child who:

    a) has an accident
    b) gets into trouble
    c) does/says anything that anyone could possibly construe as “offensive”

    The first thing most people do is start screaming, “And where was the mother when all this was happening???!?!?!?” You know that is true.

    That doesn’t reflect the belief that mothers must hover over their children at all times. It reflects the belief that if anything goes wrong, it’s the mother’s fault. Either she didn’t do something she should have, or she did do something she shouldn’t have.

    So yes, mothers who do not monitor their children 24/7 are not Good Parents. But mothers who do monitor their children 24/7 are also not Good Parents. You know, because they hover.

  204. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl March 2, 2012 at 11:49 am |

    Yes, if you take it completely out of the context in which I was talking about how mothers today are expected to hover incessantly over their children and not give them any breathing room. And you know what? If you are that hovering mother and you’re insulted by my words, GOOD! Because you’re seriously fucking up your kids by not giving them space and you’re not doing yourself any favours by not having a freaking like of your own. Jesus.

    No, I didn’t take anything you said out of context. You wrote spefically:

    This idea of 1 person devoting all their time and energy to raising children–or even just 1 child–is just freaking weird.

    And then went on to insult SAHM further with this gem:

    I can’t believe that full-time parenting is healthy for either parent or child.

    I’m not putting words in your mouth, Crys T, nor am I taking them out of context. If you didn’t intend your statements to read as broad, sweeping generalizations of all SAHMs, then you should have further clarified accordingly in your comment. I think you are also muddying the waters by not sufficiently clarifying what you mean by “hovering mother”, because that sort of terminology gets trotted out an awful lot these days to throw stones at mothers in the popular press.

  205. ginmar
    ginmar March 2, 2012 at 12:23 pm |

    My, DonnaL, what amazing intellectual honesty, but apparently since I didn’t use college feminist-approved language, you don’t have to bestir your butt to see that motherhood is a role and a sentence created by society and forced on women for long periods of time without their input. Or, as CrysT said, ‘deconstructing the social construct of motherhood.’

    As for your second comment: missing the point by a mile. If you aimed at a point that was a mile away, your sight’s so far off you might accidentally hit my point.

    I see Safiya is bound and determined to get the childfree bashing and blaming underway, because apparently my remark about the moms in the neighborhood means that I heartily endorse and campaign for everything from child abuse to indentured servitude.

  206. Sandy
    Sandy March 2, 2012 at 3:13 pm |

    This idea of 1 person devoting all their time and energy to raising children–or even just 1 child–is just freaking weird.

    I can’t believe that full-time parenting is healthy for either parent or child.

    I didn’t see much context to either of these statements, they kind of stood alone. And this:

    Analyzing motherhood has little if anything to do with mothers themselves.

    struck me as ridiculous as well.

  207. EG
    EG March 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm |

    Yes, I’m going to have to go ahead and agree with Donna and Sandy here (big surprise, I know).

    To my mind, still one of the best books analyzing the political institution of motherhood–how the state of being a mother has been constructed and constrained by patriarchy–while still discussing the profound emotional validation and satisfaction many women gain from it is Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born; it’s got a boatload of problems, particularly around race (she refers to the nanny she had as a child as her “black mother,” and even the footnote she added to later editions owning the racism and blindness to racism involved in doing so is not great), but she does an amazing, poetic job of teasing out the experience of motherhood from the strictures and pressures that have come to define how motherhood is enacted under patriarchy.

  208. shfree
    shfree March 2, 2012 at 3:39 pm |

    Full disclosure, I’m white, and was raised middle class. However, my roots are second-generation working class, so I dunno where all this “mothers stayed home with the children and didn’t work back in the day” thing came from, because statistically, that really isn’t true. It applied to a very specific set of women, that being middle class white women. Both my grandmothers worked, and my parents were largely cared for by their grandmothers, who lived with each of their respective daughters. (My maternal-maternal great-grandmother was widowed, my paternal-maternal was divorced. Shocking!) My mother worked part time, at the both of the floral shops, because she could bring me with her when I wasn’t old enough to go to school yet. And when I was ten or eleven, I forget exactly how old, my paternal grandmother came to live with us after she retired from running her shop. (Although that was mostly because she was a terrible saver and unless you plan ahead as an independent business owner, you are screwed on retirement. Regardless, instant free caregiver) So y’all are entirely ignoring women of other classes and other races, who DID work, sometimes even in the houses of upper class women, taking care of their babies and houses while other family members saw to their babies.

  209. Sandy
    Sandy March 2, 2012 at 5:03 pm |

    @PMED

    That doesn’t reflect the belief that mothers must hover over their children at all times. It reflects the belief that if anything goes wrong, it’s the mother’s fault. Either she didn’t do something she should have, or she did do something she shouldn’t have.

    So yes, mothers who do not monitor their children 24/7 are not Good Parents. But mothers who do monitor their children 24/7 are also not Good Parents. You know, because they hover.

    Ha, this is so true.

  210. Falcon
    Falcon March 3, 2012 at 10:11 pm |

    Let’s get this straight: I never said the old days were ideal. I never said that the old days were something we should emulate. I only–GET THIS: ONLY–said that the idea that mothers should spend 100% of their time hovering over their children wasn’t in vogue, as it seems to be today. Get that? That’s IT.

    I am glad that was what you meant.

  211. Falcon
    Falcon March 3, 2012 at 10:38 pm |

    To better explain, what I meant by that is that the idea of mothers being “supposed” to devote 100% of their time and energy to their children is a very recent construct, even though it’s touted as “traditional values.” And also, that this constuct came out of a very, very specific context: that of painting women with careers as “unnatural” and “taking work away from men.”

    All true. Good points.

    Funny how some people are so determined to interpret “it’s crap that mothers are expected to be nothing more than child/homecare units” as “SAHMs are crap” or even “mothers are crap.”

    Not determined, defensive because people say that to us all the time. I am so glad you clarified. It sounds like we have very similar views on the whole thing.

  212. Falcon
    Falcon March 3, 2012 at 10:45 pm |

    I don’t want to put words in ginmar’s mouth, but I interpreted this to mean that analysing the socially constructed role of motherhood has little if anything to do with mothers as people/individuals. Which I think makes a lot of sense.

    That is how I read that. Ginmar is that wrong? That isn’t absurd at all it makes perfect sense.

    Now that’s a stellar recommendation for the good old days!

    So modernize to concept and get the point! Other adults around who will keep an eye on things and have a discussion with kids, take away what they are hitting each other with perhaps and take them home to their parents.

  213. Falcon
    Falcon March 3, 2012 at 10:54 pm |

    I want to talk about race. I’m white.

    But I don’t need to talk to people of other races. I can analyse the theory of race all by myself!

    I see Safiya is bound and determined to get the childfree bashing and blaming underway, because apparently my remark about the moms in the neighborhood means that I heartily endorse and campaign for everything from child abuse to indentured servitude.

    I call foul. Ginmar is in no possible way suggesting that her views are the be all and end all and invalidate what mothers say. Just because mothers have *more* data points does not mean that no one else has a place in this discussion. Other people have mothers and live around mothers and might become mothers. Thinking about child welfare and mothering as a construct is not remotely the same as being one of those people who tell you everything about how to raise your kid.

    BTW She is not advocating physical discipline, that wasn’t the point of what she was talking about.

  214. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines March 4, 2012 at 10:00 pm |

    Falcon – It’s not that no one else should have a place in the conversation, it’s recognising that when we’re talking about motherhood whether as a construct or lived experience, people who are actually mothers should be centred in that.

    I have no problem whatsoever with stepping back and listening on topics such as LGBT issues, race issues and so on, because there are people at the centre whose words are far more informed and important then mine.

    But if you mention something about motherhood getting a similar treatment then it’s “Noooo! I need to talk about this one time this child was really loud in a restaurant”.

    And it’s not like there are no 600+ comment threads on here full of that sort of stuff.

  215. igglanova
    igglanova March 4, 2012 at 11:01 pm |

    Falcon – It’s not that no one else should have a place in the conversation, it’s recognising that when we’re talking about motherhood whether as a construct or lived experience, people who are actually mothers should be centred in that.

    Eh, fuck this snotty attitude. Mothers probably are more likely to know certain things about childrearing than childless folks, but it is not a guarantee, and their voices should not get special treatment. If mothers’ ideas really are SO much better than other people’s, then they will rise to prominence on their own, and they often do.

    I mean, shit. Who has better credentials re: parenting in this hypothetical sitch – a mother who works as, say, an engineer, or my childless sister who spent years in school to get her ECE? How about a childless sociologist who does actual research on motherhood for a living? Should she just step aside in any conversation involving motherhood because, I dunno, being of barren uterus, she’s on the B-list?

  216. EG
    EG March 4, 2012 at 11:18 pm |

    Who has better credentials re: parenting in this hypothetical sitch – a mother who works as, say, an engineer, or my childless sister who spent years in school to get her ECE? How about a childless sociologist who does actual research on motherhood for a living?

    All that would depend, but for general in-the-trenches knowledge on mothering, I would go to the engineering mother. ECE is about education, not mothering, and while the two may overlap, they’re not the same thing at all (how many kindergarten teachers who have never been mothers have to worry about how long it’s been between pumping sessions and whether or not there’s something to keep the baby amused while they’re hooked up to the equipment). I would trust the sociologist with respect to her area of expertise, but again, general in-the-trenches mothering concerns? I’d go with the mother every time.

    I wouldn’t necessarily agree with her, mind you, but just as I’d ask the sociologist about conditions in sociology departments and how the funding is and what kind of esteem deans hold sociology departments in and suchlike first, I’d ask the mother first.

  217. LotusBen
    LotusBen March 4, 2012 at 11:59 pm |

    I wouldn’t necessarily agree with her, mind you, but just as I’d ask the sociologist about conditions in sociology departments and how the funding is and what kind of esteem deans hold sociology departments in and suchlike first, I’d ask the mother first.

    I agree with this. People become experts from what they experience, not from what they study. Someone who studies mothers a lot will become an expert on studying mothers, but ze will not become an expert on being a mother. The expert on being a mother will be someone who’s been a mother (that sentence sounds kinda stupid, but yeah).

    And besides, the only way someone who studies something can even become half-of-an-expert on that topic is if they actually listen to the people who experience the phenomenom. This is what a good sociologist would be doing anyway, if you go directly to the mothers you are just cutting out the middlewoman. Talking to mothers about their experiences rather than talking to a sociologist about motherhood is just cutting out a potentially helpful, but ultimately distorting layer of abstraction, in the same way one will get closer to the truth by reading primary historical documents and forming one’s own opinions rather than merely reading an encyclopedia article that cites them.

  218. igglanova
    igglanova March 5, 2012 at 5:36 pm |

    @ EG: Yes, I agree with all that. But my point was basically that ‘motherhood’ is such a broad topic with so many different subcategories that it behooves us to pay attention to different experts in each field – even if some of those experts are not parents themselves. It makes no sense to subjugate childless experts’ opinions on ‘motherhood’ across the board, because in some situations they will have far better insight than the average parent.

    Not to get too touchy or anything, but I’d also like to point out that ECEs have a ton of ‘in the trenches’ experience with kids, too, and probably more than many parents. It’s not some chin-stroking ivory tower type of job. And while there is obviously an emphasis on education in an ECE program, there is a ton of background psychology one has to learn about child development in general in order to get that certification.

    On another note – I don’t think you’re doing this, EG, but I find it incredibly irritating when people act like knowledge gleaned from the ‘lived experience’ of parenting is somehow sacrosanct, and any less likely to be riddled with errors than other untested opinions. (See also: the prevalence of stereotypes that people swear are corroborated by lived experience, but end up proven to be wrong as shit when they’re actually tested scientifically.) Anyone who has been involved with the staff end of Family and Children’s Services, no matter how tangentially, sees pretty sobering evidence of how plain bad and ignorant a parent’s knowledge base can be.

  219. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines March 5, 2012 at 6:01 pm |

    Igglanova – It’s not the same. That is not in any way to dismiss the role, knowledge or experiences of ECE’s, but working with children, however intensely is not the same as being a parent and I speak as someone who works with children myself.
    Saying that someone has a first hand experience of parenting is not the same as saying they are perfect sources of knowledge, but it’s tiring having it being so readily dismissed.

  220. j.
    j. March 5, 2012 at 6:21 pm |

    Crys T., #163: Right. Fucking. On.

    Not surprised that your comment went up the asses of individuals like Lolagirl, who seems to think that the act of reproducing makes her more of an expert on the history of motherhood than, for example, sociologists who specialize in the history of motherhood. Also, that feminist discussions exist to validate every choice she makes.

    And maybe that’s the rub, like it or not, there are some more vocal feminists out there who are so stridently against the whole SAHM construct that it can be difficult to not feel unwelcome (see Crsy T’s earlier comments.)

    Yeah, I can’t imagine why feminists would be critical of a construct that leaves women intensely vulnerable to poverty should their mayyy-unn die, become disabled, or run off.

    And, Safiya, if “childfreesplaining” is a word, “mommysplaining” should be as well, because that’s what this damn thread is shot through with.

  221. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines March 5, 2012 at 6:34 pm |

    J – Yay! Let’s all bow to academia shall we? That perfect place of equality and absolutely zero privilege as to whose voice gets heard and whose doesn’t. Because it’s not like academia isn’t riddled with racism, classism and every other ism going.

    It is like social justice 101 goes out the window every time anything about motherhood or children gets mentioned.

    I totally agree that being a SAHM can lead to great financial vulnerability, so surely the solution to that would be to ensure that SAHM is valued financially as opposed to telling women they can’t do it. Oh, and good maternity/paternity leave packages, affordable childcare and flexible working hours would help too in terms of actually keeping women in the workforce after becoming a parent… But that’s not as fun as mocking mothers, is it?

  222. Falcon
    Falcon March 5, 2012 at 6:55 pm |

    I totally agree that being a SAHM can lead to great financial vulnerability, so surely the solution to that would be to ensure that SAHM is valued financially as opposed to telling women they can’t do it. Oh, and good maternity/paternity leave packages, affordable childcare and flexible working hours would help too in terms of actually keeping women in the workforce after becoming a parent

    Exactly! YAY!

    @ j This is a much more helpful solution than being rude and unsupportive to other women.

    Not surprised that your comment went up the asses of individuals like Lolagirl, who seems to think that the act of reproducing makes her more of an expert on the history of motherhood than, for example, sociologists who specialize in the history of motherhood. Also, that feminist discussions exist to validate every choice she makes.

    What!? How on earth did you get there? Figuring out how to set up social structures and what things are like from different perspectives is a part of feminist discourse. Being a mommy is different from the sociological perspective. Both are valuable.

    I can’t speak for Lolagirl but I took offense at Crys T earlier until I understood her actual point. Now I understand what she was saying and find it interesting.

    You on the other hand appear to be intentionally hostile. Is there some reason you think that this is useful to feminist discourse?

  223. EG
    EG March 5, 2012 at 7:45 pm |

    That perfect place of equality and absolutely zero privilege as to whose voice gets heard and whose doesn’t. Because it’s not like academia isn’t riddled with racism, classism and every other ism going.

    To say nothing, actually, of hostility to mothers. Most academic women have no children, and the vast majority of academic women who have children have only one. That is going to massively influence how academics–even those who study motherhood–understand it and its impact on women’s lives.

  224. EG
    EG March 5, 2012 at 8:49 pm |

    igglanova, I get that ECE-degree holders study psych and a number of other things (I get a ton of ECE students in my classes), and that they have lots of hands-on experience with kids. But the issue isn’t whether or not they have lots of hands-on experience with kids; I have lots of hands-on experience with kids, for that matter. The issue is whether or not they have lots of hands-on experience with mothering, which involves a whole host of issues regarding identity and social expectations and emotions, among other things, that ECE students don’t necessarily have to grapple with.

  225. Kim
    Kim March 5, 2012 at 10:10 pm |

    Well said. You would think it would be easier for people to understand such a simple view point in todays day and age. If men like him think it’s oh so necessary that their children be taken care of 24/7 they can step up and volunteer themselves to do the job. But I guess it’s not so easy when you’re the one who has to give up a career and everything you’ve worked hard for.

  226. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl March 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm |

    Not surprised that your comment went up the asses of individuals like Lolagirl, who seems to think that the act of reproducing makes her more of an expert on the history of motherhood than, for example, sociologists who specialize in the history of motherhood. Also, that feminist discussions exist to validate every choice she makes.

    Thanks for the dig intended to reduce me to one of my body parts, but if it’s all the same to you I ask that you leave my ass out of this discussion.

    You certainly seem to be intent on putting words into my mouth and ascribing motives to me in a dishonest and overly hostile manner. I never claimed to be an expert on anything, and I don’t need you or anybody else to validate my decisions to be happy with them.

    However, if you think that the only people who can claim to be knowledgeable about motherhood are sociologists you are seriously mistaken. Futhermore, if you think that feminism does not nor need not concern itself with the issues faced by mothers you are the one who is misinformed. It sounds as though you expect women to sit on the back of the proverbial feminist bus once they become mothers because they are no longer entitled to take part in feminist discourse.

    Fuck that noise. I am just as entitled to have an opinion and express it as you are. Feminism is not limited only to the issues and concerns of women who do not have children, just like it is not limited to white, UMC, college educated women either. It’s about all women being entitled to find and express her own voice, and you’re attempts to shut me down and shut me out is really rather reprehensible.

  227. j.
    j. March 6, 2012 at 8:22 pm |

    Cry harder, Lolagirl. You’re no less entitled to have an opinion than childfree women are. “OMG DO YOU HAVE CHILDREN?!?!” isn’t an argument. And I’ll be as “rude” as I want, so long as there are “hip mamas” implying that their choices should be immune to critique.

  228. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines March 7, 2012 at 5:01 pm |

    J – You haven’t actually brought any critique though.

    There’s also the issue of instead of criticising being a SAHM, you should probably criticise the poor maternity leave + pay, access to child care and flexible working hours that prevent many women from rejoining the workforce. There are many women who can’t actually afford to go out to work, because childcare would cost more then their wages.

    Then, going back to your point about SAHMing not being financially valued – you could also ask why on earth this is the case? We are starting to see divorce settlements that take note of the SAHM’s contribution to the running of the home, hopefully this will become the norm.

    Also, you’re completely ignoring that for many women (particularly women of colour and poorer women), being able to stay home with their children is something they’ve fought to be able to do.

    Finally what is it with the “hip mamas” crap? Is this a mod-friendly way of calling us breeders? Regardless, the issues I’ve described affect many mothers, from a variety of backgrounds. If you listened to mothers, you’d know all this already.

  229. Sandy
    Sandy March 7, 2012 at 7:01 pm |

    However, if you think that the only people who can claim to be knowledgeable about motherhood are sociologists you are seriously mistaken. Futhermore, if you think that feminism does not nor need not concern itself with the issues faced by mothers you are the one who is misinformed. It sounds as though you expect women to sit on the back of the proverbial feminist bus once they become mothers because they are no longer entitled to take part in feminist discourse.

    I have no problem whatsoever with stepping back and listening on topics such as LGBT issues, race issues and so on, because there are people at the centre whose words are far more informed and important then mine.

    But if you mention something about motherhood getting a similar treatment then it’s “Noooo! I need to talk about this one time this child was really loud in a restaurant”.

    And it’s not like there are no 600+ comment threads on here full of that sort of stuff.

    QFT.

    Mothers shouldn’t speak to motherhood, their lived experiences aren’t worth much, better let sociologists, academics, ECE specialists and CPS workers do it instead? Sure, cause that’s totally in line with standards for social justice movements.

  230. Falcon
    Falcon March 7, 2012 at 7:37 pm |

    @ safiya and lolagirl

    I kept wanting to quote you but those whole posts were so full of win I couldn’t think of any bits to leave out so instead I am just offering you virtual cookies.

    Seriously, do we lose our feminist cards when we have babies?

  231. igglanova
    igglanova March 7, 2012 at 8:34 pm |

    Mothers shouldn’t speak to motherhood, their lived experiences aren’t worth much, better let sociologists, academics, ECE specialists and CPS workers do it instead? Sure, cause that’s totally in line with standards for social justice movements.

    I’d like to know if you’re taking a swipe at me with this statement, because that is absolutely not what I said when I mentioned ECEs, sociologists, and FACS. I suppose it’s a lot easier to formulate a snotty rebuttal when you don’t bother indicating to whom you are responding, though.

  232. Falcon
    Falcon March 7, 2012 at 8:58 pm |

    igglanova

    That comment wasn’t from me but since I support it I am going to answer for why and the poster can answer why she posted it. The two things may be entirely different.

    Personally I think input from people who study this stuff is useful but it shouldn’t be instead, it should be in addition to. Mother’s get told way too often that they have no idea what they are doing and that they should defer to childless people with degrees. As I said earlier, both points of view are useful and not at all the same as each other.

    You aren’t being a confrontational bitch though. J is.

    As far as I can see you don’t attack mothers, you just don’t think that non-mothers should be excluded from talk about parenting issues. This seems reasonable to me. Mommies have lots of experience with one aspect of the situation and there is another perspective to be gained from studying.

    There is *no value at all* in the horrible, elitist, condescending attitude that sometimes does show up. I don’t think you have it but I think that is what people are complaining about with academics.

    The other thing that mommies *hate* is when random people tell us how to raise our kids. If you would just: hit them more/ less, be more consistent, feed them organic, not bring them out in public, homeschool/not homeschool, work outside the home/not work outside the home…

    I haven’t seen you do that.

  233. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines March 7, 2012 at 9:17 pm |

    Igglanova – That is exactly how your comment at 221 came across with the “who knows more, a mother who is an engineer or my sister who spent years getting her ECE?”

    Then when people told you that it isn’t the same as being a parent, you went on to talk about all the experiences ECEs have “in the trenches”. Which is true, but it still is not the same as being a parent. Which has been politely explained to you several times now.

    Then you claimed that if mothers ideas were so good they’d rise to prominence on their own merits – which pretty much flies in the face of social justice 101, but as has been noted, accepted ideas of privilege seem to fly out of the window with the mention of motherhood.

  234. Sandy
    Sandy March 8, 2012 at 12:01 am |

    I’d like to know if you’re taking a swipe at me with this statement, because that is absolutely not what I said when I mentioned ECEs, sociologists, and FACS. I suppose it’s a lot easier to formulate a snotty rebuttal when you don’t bother indicating to whom you are responding, though.

    Yes, it was a remark on your commentary. Because that is absolutely how your comments came across to me. Safiya @ 239 and Falcon @ 238 have already covered the reasons why beautifully.

    No one here claimed that lived experience is the be-all end-all of everything ever. No one is dismissing the importance of the voices, knowledge, and experience of ECE’s. What has been said is that mothers with lived experience have something rather important to bring to the table regarding the subject of parenting, and that mothers should be centered in a discussion of motherhood. Not denigrated and condescended to. That’s all.

  235. winston
    winston March 18, 2012 at 6:45 pm |

    Posters seem to think men have a choice.

    As a single dating man I can tell you there are very very few women who will accept a man who stays at home and cares for the children.

    I would like to have children, and I would prefer they be raised by me or their mother (not commercial daycare). I wouldn’t mind staying home, but I know that my chances of finding a woman who will (without resentment) financially support me and our children are low. It’s unfair, but it is what it is.

    Much more common are women who want to stay home with the children while I work. So I know if I want my children to be raised by a fulltime parent, I HAVE to go the “traditional route”

  236. Falcon
    Falcon March 19, 2012 at 4:27 pm |

    @241 Perhaps if you just present your position as just that, “I want someone to be with the kids” (Maybe you already do?) You’d have a start to working something out.

    It is very cool that you are willing to be the SAHP if you run into a woman who wants that sort of arrangement. I keep running into women who would love that. Not nearly as many as want to be the SAHP but it is becoming more common. Some couple manage to trade hours and things but that is hellish with insurance and such. Yay! good involved daddies!

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