It’s a great day for stay at home dads everywhere. Jezebel has, kind of, sort of, told women that stay at home dads are okay.
After gesturing to that study showing testosterone levels are lower in involved dads, and playing it up for a few good gags, writer Tracy Moore moves on to note a cultural resistance to the idea of men staying at home: While men may have to do some adjusting and soul-searching in order to accept the new shift in roles, women also have to overcome some possibly deeply held opinions about being in a relationship that sees their male partners in the house more than in an office. So Tracy Moore provides some pretty good arguments to help mom convince herself and her friends that everything is going to be okay. But for some reason, along the way she takes a couple of shots at dads. What the hell?
Being a stay at home dad, Tracy Moore offers, does not mean that dad couldn’t get a real job. It doesn’t mean that he won’t be able to take care of a baby as well as mom would. It doesn’t mean his friends will laugh at him, or that he’ll laze about, or feel threatened, or be overwhelmed by how difficult everything is. No, he’ll be fine. (And as I’ve written before, that’s also the point of the film Mr. Mom.) This is all to the good, and exactly the sort of attitude that will help increase the broader acceptance of stay at home dads.
But Tracy also can’t resist injecting her piece with some old stereotypes about guys. Despite all the parenting jobs dad will be just as good at doing as mom, so she needn’t worry about the kids, dads still can’t be trusted to clean the house worth a damn.
“I can’t count how many theoretically adult men I’ve known who seem to have no idea that cleaning a kitchen involves actually wiping off the counter or sweeping the floor. This one takes a helluva lot more than lower testosterone to conquer, such as it often is due to a lifelong lack of training (ahem, looking at you, mothers of sons everywhere). But the coddling must end, and there’s no better goddamn time than goddamn now to give a man a goddamn tutorial and tell him how to clean a goddamn house like a goddamn adult. Take one for the team, indeed. Zero tolerance on this one, ladies! No man is allowed to call himself an adult who cannot properly clean a bathroom. Wahhhh, sounds like I’m nagging? Do. Not. Care. Grow. Up.”
No, it doesn’t sound like nagging. It sounds like cheap comedy. It’s the premise for every paper towel commercial out there. It contributes to the culture of buffoonery that the rest of Moore’s piece undermines. And despite the exaggerated nature of the accusation, this doesn’t come off as an opinion she is lampooning through hyperbole; this is what she thinks about guys in general, and so, by extension, what must be true about stay at home dads in general too. But it is the nature of at home dads to be outliers, to subvert stereotypes about masculinity. Moore celebrates and defends this in other parts of her post, but seems to forget this about stay at home dads when she succumbs to the need to write an Everybody Loves Raymond style diatribe.
Likewise Moore’s offhand remarks about men as fully-realized human beings, which follows, ironically, a call to end the stereotyping of guys as buffoons:
“…it’s time to stop this dumbing down of the American male and give him actual credit for being a person, a whole, complex person. Or at least three-quarters of a complex person and one-quarter emotional fugitive. They still need our help!”
An overt statement of enlightened respect just took a left turn into Pander-town.
This is what stay at home dads can look forward to from our ideological friends, those who would like to see an economy and culture that don’t put any weight on irrelevant gender differences. It’s utterly disheartening to see that even our friends don’t think it at all strange to kick dust in our eyes as we climb out of a cultural sinkhole.
I know, I know: Lighten up, they were only jokes, some of her best friends are probably dads; hey, look at all the great points she makes; stop complaining, you man with centuries of cultural, social, and economic dominance supporting you.
Okay. Well then, I guess on behalf of stay at home dads everywhere, let me say: Thanks?