Philobiblon: The 'problem that has no name' returns

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The 'problem that has no name' returns

It is said that those who don't read history are doomed to repeat it. Salon is looking at a magazine for opt-out mothers, who formerly had high-flying careers - this year's "great, definitive trend" for women according to well, just about every major news outlet - and finding its articles seem designed for women "desperate for a ray of positivity in what sounds like their hellish daily lives".

One chart called "Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda" compares, "just for fun," what CHOs are obligated to do during the holidays vs. what they would actually like to do. Among the required tasks? "Do all the shopping for my entire family and my husband's relatives," "Buy a new dress for my husband's company party," "Cook endless batches of cookies" and "Put the decorations away and clean the house on New Year's Day." Among the things that CHOs would like to do are "Sit in front of a cozy fire drinking wine," "Buy a whole new winter wardrobe" and "Send my husband to the bakery."
Another table listing "20 ways to amuse yourself on a bad day" includes suggestions like making "pancakes in the shape of those really nice Jimmy Choos you used to wear before you had kids," and affixing "a smiley face sticker to your forehead, because frankly, it's the only smile that's been on your face all day." (You have to sit through the Salon advert for that link.)

The article includes an interview with the editor who keeps answering desperately that this is all meant to be a joke, that it is merely tongue-in-cheek.

It sent me looking for a passage from Marilyn French's The Women's Room, a book that should be compulsory reading for every high school student (or at the very least the girls):

"Husbands were rarely discussed, but they were always in the background. They were usually brought up to illustrate some absurdity or some construction:
'Paul likes his coffee strong, so I make it strong and water mine.'
'Norm refuses to eat pork.'
'Hamp will not touch a baby's diaper. Never has. So when they were little, I couldn't leave them with him at all. That's why I toilet-trained them so early.'
No one ever questioned such statements, asked why Natalie or Mira didn't simply insist, or Adele make the coffee the way she liked it and let Paul make his own. Never. Husbands were walls, absolutes, in small things at least. The women would howl and cackle at their incredible demands and impossible delusions, their inexplicable eating habits and their strange predjuduces, but it was as if they were de black folks down to de shanty recounting the absurb pretensions of de white massas up to de big house."

An essay question: compare and contrast this passage with the words of Erika Kotite, editor of this new ornament to the newstands, called Total 180! -
One of the feature stories for the next issue is called "My Husband Is a Single Man Who Happens to Have a Family." I mean, I'm sure you found from reading the magazine that we're trying to be humorous. I don't know how to put it, but men, as we know, maybe even biologically are able to focus on one thing at a time. Women juggle. The fact that I stay home and watch my kids gives my husband the freedom to not wear that pager because he knows I've got it covered. When we're both home we share. But we had to have that discussion many times, about having shared duty. It's the same thing women talk about all the time, that their husband doesn't clean the house or doesn't do this or that. A man will step over the bag of garbage to get to the beer in the fridge, and a woman will pick up the bag of garbage as soon as she walks into the kitchen.

(I also just love the infantilising, pink-dominated design of the magazine website. Nothing like publishing for grown-ups as though they were 10-year-olds.)


Blogger Badaunt said...

Good grief.

I am so pleased I am with a man who does the housework, takes out the garbage, cooks, does his own washing and makes his own tea and coffee.

I don't think he considers himself a feminist, though. He's into common sense and being practical, and doesn't like 'ism's. But in everything but name he is one.

Until I came to Japan (from NZ) I thought the US was full of feminists. I was hopelessly uninformed, and was totally taken aback when an American woman asked me one day if I ever 'got sick of supporting my husband.' I asked her if she asked the same question of her male friends with wives who didn't work, and she told me that was 'different.' Men don't have babies, she said. When I told her that I don't plan to have a baby either, she STILL insisted it was different for men. Men should support their wives. My man was USING me.

No, I said, he is supporting me. Maybe not financially, but in ways that are just as important, or more so.

She couldn't see it.

What HAPPENED to feminism in the US?

12/18/2005 03:07:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Good question.

12/18/2005 03:31:00 pm  

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