Photo by Ted Johnson via flickr.com
On CNN.com, sociologist Michael Kimmel weighs in on the veracity of the latest declaration of a “war on men” by author Suzanne Venker (writing for FoxNews.com).
Rejecting the oh-so-popular tactic Venker employs—“Blame it on feminism!”—Kimmel argues that men still dominate, but attempts at equality may have been disorienting for a group used to a status quo that disproportionately benefits them:
I thought of how painful it is when you are used to having everything to now have only 80%. What a loss! Poor us! Equality sucks when you’ve been on top—and men have been on top for so long that we think it’s a level playing field.
Sass aside, Kimmel writes that equality is what many men want, based on the interviews he did with young men for his book Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. Kimmel refuses to let Venker speak on men’s behalf when she calls for women to “surrender to their nature—their femininity.” Instead, he calls for rethinking what makes forsatisfying gender relations:
Who says we can’t be happy with fully equal female colleagues and coworkers? Who says we can’t enjoy the joys of shared parenthood? Who says that we are biologically programmed to be both rapacious testosterone-driven animals and lazy remote-hogging couch potatoes unable to lift a finger in the kitchen?
Venker paints a most unyieldlingly awful portrait of men, one that is happily belied by actual, real, American men. And we won’t stand for the sort of male-bashing Venker offers. We want it all also —and the only way we can have it all is to halve it all.
How do you decide what "half the work" means? Photo by Adam Jones, Ph.D. via flickr.com.
In a June 2012 TIME Ideas column online, author Judith Warner reflects on the recent work of sociologist Andrea Doucet (of Ontario’s Brock University). Warner writes that Doucet’s focus on shifting family paradigms, as well as women’s increasing numbers in the ranks of “family breadwinners” (that is, primary earners in heterosexual relationships), has led the researcher to look for a change from “50-50″ thinking to a focus on egalitarianism across the board. This leads to “something more like fairness—or like ‘symmetry’.”
Doucet tells Warner:
My overall aim is for gender equality… but it always bothers me when the measures we use are not quick in synch with how people live their lives… Maybe what we need to change then is that larger set of conditions that allow people to make choices that work.
The problem, the author explains, is that, even though many attempts have been made to create greater equality by assuming the gold standard would be “lives of sameness.” Through a series of rhetorical questions, Warner reasons that Doucet’s concept could open up space for families to define egalitarianism based on their own measures of earning power, love of career, and the rewarding (and annoying) aspects of various tasks that keep a family humming along:
It’s something of a “from each according to his abilities to each according to his needs” formulation, one that might, for once, just possibly work. Sharing, as opposed to equality.”
The real key here might lie in changing public discussions to reflect the actual lives of families, who are already negotiating, balancing, and flourishing in egalitarian homes. These mothers and fathers, wives and husbands might just need the vocabulary to explain their (gasp!) Marxist micro-communities.