Women Were Designed to Multitask: Bra-Burning and Blowjobs for a Better Tomorrow

This AP article, about on a report released this morning by the Council on Contemporary Families summaraizing trends in men's contributions to housework and child care, is such a total clusterfuckastrope, I hardly know where to begin. In no particular order:

• The inordinate focus on men being "rewarded" with sex if they do housework. Despite the fact that the report (a term I use loosely) quotes one psychologist as saying, "Equitable sharing of housework is associated with higher levels of marital satisfaction—and sometimes more sex too!" both the article lede and headline (which may have been bestowed by the Times) are all about more sex for dudez, yo!

Headline: Men Who Do Housework May Get More Sex

Lede: "American men still don't pull their weight when it comes to housework and child care, but collectively they're not the slackers they used to be. The average dad has gradually been getting better about picking himself up off the sofa and pitching in, according to a new report in which a psychologist suggests the payoff for doing more chores could be more sex."

• Sadly, that's not the worst part of article. The worst part is that it probably shouldn't have been written at all, given the report authors' apparent agenda. Sociologists Scott Coltrane of the University of California, Riverside and Oriel Sullivan of Ben Gurion University cite their report's conclusions in such a way as to suggest they were also the report's raison d'ĂȘtre, which is of course a cardinal sin of the social sciences.
For thirty years, researchers studying the changes in family dynamics since the rise of the women's movement have concluded that, despite gains in the world of education, work, and politics, women face a "stalled revolution" at home. According to many studies, men's family work has barely budged in response to women's increased employment. The typical punch line of many news stories has been that even though women are working longer hours on the job and cutting back their own housework, men are not picking up the slack.

Our research suggests that these studies were based on unrealistic hopes for instant transformation.
"Typical punch line" is, suffice it to say, not what a serious social scientist considers appropriate language for a report abstract, no less a full report. Similarly, the editorializing about "unrealistic hopes for instant transformation" is just laughably unserious. If the authors' intent was not to suggest they were scolding women for their unrealistic expectations and constant bitchin', Mssrs. Coltrane and Sullivan have failed in their mission.

• The article repeats the notion that the perception men have failed to "pick up the slack" is rooted in "unrealistic expectations" and a compulsion to underestimate "the degree of change 'going on behind the scenes' since the 1960s." And, seemingly like the report, it does so without even a passing attempt at an explanation about why it is "unrealistic" for women who adjusted "instantly" to increased responsibilities outside the home to expect men to adjust "instantly" to increased responsibilities inside the home.

• And then we come to the actual numbers, introduced earlier in the article with this tantalizing intro: "One [study] found that men's contribution to housework had doubled over the past four decades; another found they tripled the time spent on child care over that span." Yes, men's average contribution to housework has doubled from 15% to just over 30% of the total. Wheeeeeee!

And men in two-parent homes (an important if glossed-over qualifier) tripled their time engaging in childcare and interaction with children—while women merely doubled theirs. Shockingly, actual figures are not provided, but if, in 1965 men spent 5 hours a week on childcare (probably high), and women spent 10 (probably low), that means that by 2oo3, men were spending 15 hours a week on childcare while women were spending 20. The authors suggest, "This mutual increase in child care appears to be related to higher standards for both mothers and fathers about spending time with children," but fail wholly to acknowledge that including "and interaction with children" as part of "childcare" suggests, as other studies have found, that fathers in two-parent homes have increased the average time they spend with their children not by taking on additional parenting responsibilities, but by participating in more fun family activities. Which is not to denigrate that extremely important part of parenting, but it is a shockingly mendacious misrepresentation of engaging in "childcare."

So we've got figures like 30% of housework and increased-but-still-likely-far-less-time-than-women spent on childcare backing up Coltrane's and Sullivan's ever more dubious conclusions. Awesome.

• The article ends with Carol Evans, founder and CEO of Working Mother magazine noting, quite rightly and optimistically, that "There's a generational shift that's quite strong. The younger set of dads have their own expectations about themselves as to being helpful and participatory. They haven't quite gotten to equality in any sense that a women would say, 'Wow, that's equal,' but they've gotten so much farther down the road."

Great news. But the idea that finding women are still doing 70% of the housework (and more yet if one includes ''invisible'' housework like "scheduling children's medical appointments, buying the gifts they take to birthday parties, arranging holiday gatherings" etc.) is an occasion on which to celebrate men's forward movement, no less obliquely suggest that women should be rewarding men with "more sex" for their measly 30-year improvement, is appalling.

And how unbelievably bloody insulting to the men who are great contributors around the house, not to mention that this whole attitude of "Hey, you can't expect men to adjust to the idea that they've got to do their fair share overnight—they need at least five decades or so (or lots of blowjobs to motivate them)!" is a spectacular affront to men generally. Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Yeesh. One wonders how gay men manage to keep their homes clean without women to reward them with sexual favors.

(Thanks to Mustang Bobby for passing that along.)

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