There are reasons that men don't clean as much as women, and they're not all related to men being insensitive loads of pond scum. Part of the reason men grow up to be lunkheaded on domestic issues is that we're told, from a very early age, that domestic issues are Someone Else's Problem, and by "Someone Else," we mean "Your mom and/or wife."
Today's exhibit is Popular Mechanics' "25 Skills Every Man Should Know," a skill set that is...well, somewhat limited in its scope:
1. Patch a radiator hose
2. Protect your computer
3. Rescue a boater who has capsized
4. Frame a wall
5. Retouch digital photos
6. Back up a trailer
7. Build a campfire
8. Fix a dead outlet
9. Navigate with a map and compass
10. Use a torque wrench
11. Sharpen a knife
12. Perform CPR
13. Fillet a fish
14. Maneuver a car out of a skid
15. Get a car unstuck
16. Back up data
17. Paint a room
18. Mix concrete
19. Clean a bolt-action rifle
20. Change oil and filter
21. Hook up an HDTV
22. Bleed brakes
23. Paddle a canoe
24. Fix a bike flat
25. Extend your wireless network
Now, none of these skills, in and of themselves, is a bad one to know. Indeed, I think that most are good things to know. Some, of course, are somewhat esoteric if one isn't a hunter or fisherman, but being able to get a car unstuck or back up data or build a campfire -- these are skills that will keep one in good stead.
No, my objections to the list aren't based on what's in the list, but what isn't in the list. First and most obviously, why are these things every man should know? I think my daughter needs to know how to how to paddle a canoe no less than a son would.
But that's just garden-variety sexism, almost too common to comment on. No, the other objection to the list is not what's in it, but what isn't.
Of the 25 skills every man should know, only one -- painting -- is a domestic skill.
I can tell you that I never -- not once in my life -- have needed to clean a rifle. Indeed, given my general attitude on firearms, I find it unlikely I ever will, at least until the revolution comes. On the other hand, I've cooked dinner countless times. I've needed to know how to dust, to do laundry, to run a dishwasher. I've never had to patch a radiator hose. But I have had to sew a button on a shirt. I've never had to rescue a boater who had capsized, but I've changed more diapers than I care to remember.
Would it have been insane for them to suggest basic sewing as a skill? Or cooking? Or God forbid, taking care of a sick child? I mean, if hooking up an HDTV makes the list, shouldn't boiling pasta be on it? The latter is more difficult, all things considered.
I don't blame Popular Mechanics, exactly; they're as much a prisoner of our dysfunctional society as anyone else is. But by publishing a list declaring that these are the 25 important things that men should know, they're reinforcing the tired gender norms we're all familiar with. For men, they say, being able to hook up electronics is important. Being able to care for a kid is not. It's a depressing message, all in all. But not a surprising one.