Dear Grant, (@grantfeller)
Oh man, where do I begin with this?
So I read your article in Sunday Style Magazine (Why Men Make Terrible Mothers, 28/10/14) and I’ll be honest: I had to close the magazine and go for a walk in the fresh air. Because, really. Are we still doing this? In 2014? In the face of actual real life statistics that prove what we all inherently know – that the bond between an adult and a child is profoundly influenced by the quality time that they spend together, not whether or not the adult has lady parts or man parts – you still want to get out of nappy duty by playing the gender card.
Oxytocin – the love hormone – is a wonderdrug. It helps women grow healthy babies in their bellies. It helps them get those babies out. It masks the pain and trauma of childbirth. It forces a bond between mother and child so that the child won’t be abandoned. It assists with the creation of milk for those babies. That’s a whole lot of crazy shit, but it all happens over a very short space of time in a new human’s life – 6 months, 12 months, or for the hardcore amongst us, a couple of years. But what’s a couple of years compared with the 18 that you are legally obligated to take care of that child? Or the lifetime that your heart compels you to be there for them? Women get a head-start in the bonding department – absolutely. But without constant and consistent time spent with that child, a bond won’t form on its own. Love grows and continues to grow long after the maternal oxytocin wears off. And men produce oxytocin, too. Why do you think that is? So that they can bond and connect with fellow human beings. Think about the people in your life whom you love – do you honestly think you love them less than the women in their lives?
This whole backhanded ‘Women: The Altruistic Wonders’ argument is precisely the kind of manipulative shit that keeps women from pursuing the same social privileges as men. Because why bother hiring a woman if she’s just going to exercise her natural instinct to go off and have babies? Why bother educating her if she’ll never fulfil that potential? In fact, why bother letting her out of the house in the first place if all she’s ever going to do with her life is raise children because she naturally wants nothing more than to live it in servitude to her kids?
As nicely and jovially as you tried to put it, you essentially said that women belong at home and men belong in the workforce. Bollocks. Humans belong where they are best suited, whatever bits they have between their legs. Gender roles are a dangerous social construct that only serves a small few (but perhaps you are one of those few). This constant suggestion that women have a set role to play isolates and limits them, and in turn isolates and limits men. This is problematic for both of us; it causes deep-set anxiety in women who find themselves not enjoying motherhood as intensely as society expects them to, and it breeds a sense of powerlessness and obligation in men. What will men do without the women in their lives if they are so inherently incapable of taking care of the kids? What if they are unable to provide for their family? What control do they really have over their own offspring as mere men? God forbid they actually enjoy caring for their children and feel emasculated by doing something they love.
Insistence of set gender roles has darker and more sinister undertones, too. There is a proven link between the respect and authority that women have in society as a whole and the incidence of violence against them. In communities where women are represented in a diverse range of roles and responsibilities, and revered in positions of authority, lower instances of domestic abuse and rape are recorded. And it’s not just women who suffer from the crippling social expectation of strict gender roles. The most common cause of death in young men is suicide. Men, who are taught that feelings are something they shouldn’t have, would sooner die than talk about what’s troubling them. This is not a coincidence. I want to be part of a world where women have more choices, but I also want to see men living long, happy and healthy lives. The two can’t be separated.
I’m gonna level with you. The job you’re doing – being at home as the primary carer of a child, while also trying to nurture a fledgling business – that shit is HARD. It’s not hard because you’re a man, it’s hard because it’s HARD. I know. I do the same job and I’m a woman. I was legitimately surprised at how shit I am at this job. The suggestion that you’re not good at it simply by virtue of being a man is a cop-out. And if that’s the case, what’s my excuse? Women are expected to be good at raising kids so they pretend they’re happy, even when they’re struggling (#lovemyjob). Men are not expected to be good at it, so are either praised when they manage a basic task, or excused if they drop the ball. But it’s all unfounded bollocks; if you’re not enjoying it, or you’re finding it hard, the problem and its solution lies with YOU. If you’d rather be at the pub than at a play date, it’s not because you’re a man, it’s because those are your priorities. And OK. No judgment. I’d rather be at the pub some days, too. It might get better with time or it might not, but ultimately you have choices – far more than I do over here in the same boat – that you can exercise to better your situation. If your choice is to walk away from being a primary carer, have the courage to say that you couldn’t make it work. Not that you are a man and all men are incapable, cleverly ridding yourself of the disappointment and responsibility that you might actually have to face.
I grew up with less choices than my male counterparts on the basis of my gender. I want more choices for my daughter. And more again for the granddaughters I may one day have. I want my son to never feel trapped or emasculated if his favourite film isn’t Full Metal Jacket. Please, be part of the solution. It’s easy, even trendy, to stand up to blatant sexism and misogyny – those lines have long been drawn in the sand. But it is so hard for women like me to stand up to the kind of everyday sexism that you have displayed in your article because you either think it’s a joke or it makes no difference. Please, it is not a joke and it makes a difference. It’s puts women in their place, with a smiley face.
You’re doing a hard job. I’m doing a hard job. We’re neither of us particularly good at it, or enjoying it as much as we’d like, but we’re doing our best. And for fuck’s sake, let’s get on the same side here because we’re all in this together.
Caroline says: Yeah, what she said ^^^. Grant, I’d be happy to catch up with you during the day to lament together how our businesses aren’t traveling at the warp-speed they could be because we chose to have children. Let’s whine in unison over a soy flat white in a (pram-friendly) cafe and compare notes on how boring sheet-changing really truly is and how we just aren’t congratulated enough for those little jobs around the house. Friends got a promotion and a new car? What about us? My kid is rolling like a trouper but where is my thanks? We can congratulate each other Grant, cos lord knows we deserve it. But let’s please do it as people, as parents and as ourselves. Not as sweeping generalisations of our gender. Men and women deserve more than that.