Following the powerful and historic Women’s March that took place on Saturday, a New York Times writer attempted to take a unique spin on the story by profiling a New Jersey town that was left virtually empty — of moms, anyway — after most of its women flocked to Washington, D.C. The article posed one riveting question: What happens when the women all go away and the men are left to care for the children?
(Uh … they handle it?)
If there’s something that sounds a bit 1950s-eqsue about all of that to you, you’re not alone. The article was met with wide-spread criticism in the last few days for perpetuating several stereotypes about both men and women, prompting a response from the paper and the writer behind it.
The piece, which was titled, “How Vital Are Women? This Town Found Out As They Left to March,” centered around the upper middle class suburban town of Montclair, N.J., which consists of a largely pro-Hillary and anti-Trump voting population.
It opens with a description of the many local haunts typically crawling with moms that had become noticeably sparse on Saturday, as they’d all flocked to the D.C. — places like the local Starbucks and yoga studios. (Ahem, stereotype No. 1.)
If you scroll through the Montclair, N.J. Women’s March Facebook page, it’s not surprising that the town felt a bit empty last weekend. Posts about sign-making events, tips on safety and travel, and businesses offering food and services to women before they departed fill the newsfeed. The women in this town were fired up, and ready to go.
… And the menfolk?
Well, as the writer then goes on to describe, in their wives’ absence, men were left to do all the things that typically fall on their shoulders — namely taking their kids to dance, soccer, and cleaning the refrigerator. (Well hello there, stereotype No. 2!)
— Ben Casselman (@bencasselman) January 23, 2017
One dad was said to be in “survival mode,” having to handle everything by himself. And descriptions of the local park being packed with dads, miraculously handling the difficulties of watching their children play, were woven throughout the piece.
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) January 22, 2017
By now, we all know the old joke about the incompetent, hapless dad is played out and untrue. Even the writer himself — a 65-year-old Montclair resident named Filip Bondy — admitted in his apology that he did quite a bit of parenting work when his children were young, as he and his wife both worked full-time.
In his defense, the writer did include a poignant quote from one woman, Elizabeth Coyle, who said she left her kids at home with her husband without hesitation because “he’s a parent, not a babysitter.”
“He was great, and there was no expectation he wouldn’t be,” Githens Coyle told NYT. ” … The children are still alive.”
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) January 23, 2017
Let’s be honest: Lauding other dads for doing things like taking their kids to birthday parties, the park, and the grocery store (tasks many moms do daily without fanfare) is also an insult to dads. These are not award-winning feats. That’s just parenting. Men are more than able to handle the job, and they don’t get awards for it any more than their wives do.
It should be noted though that while Bondy is now apologizing profusely and even said “I deserved it” in response to the backlash, his original intent does not sound malicious. The concept of the piece was a spin on the old “What happens when the men go off to war?” story, and instead, “What happens when the women go off to war?”
The problem is that it’s not 1917. It’s 2017 and women already go to war. So unfortunately, Bondy’s clever idea fell flat, and he’s now embarrassed and left to apologize.
Maybe if the article hadn’t covered the single greatest women’s movement of our generation, the tongue-and-cheek descriptions would have come across as less offensive. I am a mom, and I love yoga and Starbucks as much as the next girl. But I am far more than that, and I sure as hell was last Saturday when I left my very capable husband with our three kids and joined our local march.
Women around the world left their home towns — towns just like Montclair — and boarded buses, trains, planes and cars, leaving their families to be a part of something historic. And the fact is, both they and their husbands deserve more respect than this antiquated New York Times piece sadly provided.