Shoulder to shoulder and oar to oar: a response to “YM” about feminism and marriage: UPDATED

This email came in yesterday from someone called YiddisheMama (YM):

Hello there, Mr Hugo,

I found your website while researching anti-feminist women’s groups. Just wanted to let you know that its not only younger females who are antifeminist. There are also older women like me (48) who have always been anti-feminist, in my case, actively so since my teen years. In the 1970s I volunteered with Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum/STOP ERA.

Why does it unnerve you so that so many females are against feminism, and see through the lies of it? Why does it bother you that so many of us had strong male role models in the persons of our fathers, and because of that, were able to do anything and be anything we wanted in life, dependent (sic) of feminism?

Do you even realize how sexist feminism is, because they say that women CANNOT achieve anything of importance without THEIR help? I never asked those women to do anything for me, and I resent their claim to represent me!

I have, over the last 32 or so years, noticed that the only women who are the most committed to feminism are women with poor relationships with the males in their lives. I’ve never had that problem; the men in my life (boyfriends, male friends, father, son, husband of 25 yrs so far)
have been nothing but good and helpful to me. I love men. So why would I join a movement that so often is perceived (and so often is) detrimental to the rights of men?

The post YM refers to is this one.

In any event, I sent a short reply back to YM, making it clear that I didn’t intend to convey the impression that it was only young women who held anti-feminist positions. I did take issue with her implication that “all feminists have poor relationships with men.” I wrote:

My wife, my mother and my sisters, who (for inexplicable reasons, seem to get along splendidly with me and other men) are stauncher feminists than I. True love can endure and thrive in a relationship with interchangeable gender roles. I live that out with my beautiful wife everyday.

To which YM replied this morning:

They get along with you well because you see things their way. Women always like men who are willing to follow their party’s line.

I repeat parts of what has been a civil exchange because I hear similar things from anti-feminist folks all the time. YM wrote to me because she bristles a bit at the implication in my post that most anti-feminist women were young. It certainly wasn’t my intention to convey the impression that women “of a certain age” couldn’t also be ardent anti-egalitarians, and if I did so, I’m sorry. But YM, like many anti-feminists, has no trouble judging the state of my marriage — or any heterosexual relationship grounded in feminist principles.

Anti-feminists assume several things about men in the feminist movement. Frequently, we’re labeled as “gay”. As any sociologist will tell you, “gay” is code for “not a real man”. To the anti-feminists, “real men” (whom they assume are all heterosexual) could not possibly embrace an ideology of radical gender justice.

Of course, if we do seem to be happily hetero, the attack shifts: we’re sexual predators, wolves in sheep’s clothing, using feminism as a tool to seduce vulnerable young women. Our feminism isn’t real, merely a facade.

If we’re married to a woman and evidently monogamous — and still committed to feminism — then we must be “whipped.” Sometimes I think folks hear me say “I’m in a passionately feminist marriage” and they imagine that I’m married to an emasculating tyrant who only stays with me because I’m her sniveling “yes” man! That’s certainly YM’s implication when she riffs about my following the “party line.”

My wife, as those of you who read this blog and know us both will attest, is indeed a very strong woman. Yes, she could probably beat me up, but that has more to do with her martial arts prowess than her temperament. And I find her raw physical strength to be incredibly sexy. But my delight in her strength is not linked to my own sense of being weaker than her. If there’s one thing both she and I agree on, it’s that neither of us is turned on by a power imbalance. I have no desire to dominate her or she me. We love working out together, sweating together, lifting together, sparring together, doing century rides together. I don’t need her to be weak so that I can feel powerful and masculine. My sense of myself as a man is not contingent upon being able to do for her what she cannot do for herself.

As with working out, so too with every other aspect of our marriage. Our roles are, in most ways, interchangeable. We both do laundry. We both earn money outside the home. We both do chinchilla care. My wife generally does do most of the cooking, and I generally handle the washing-up when she does so. (I do enjoy doing laundry and doing dishes, but I really can’t stand cooking. We all have our strange little preferences.) We’re not relentlessly keeping score of who is doing what, but we’re also both mindful that our marriage is a shared project requiring equal levels of effort. And we’re both working equally hard to make that marriage a success.

The “complementarian” view of marriage, to which YM and other anti-feminists tend to subscribe, sees men and women as fundamentally ill-suited to step outside traditional roles. This “separate spheres” ideology assumes women are better nurturers, better parent-figures, better home-makers; men are better leaders, better earners, better protectors. In a complementarian marriage, each does for the other what he or she cannot (because of their sex) do for themselves.

A feminist marriage, like a complementarian marriage, recognizes that two different people will always have different gifts. But a feminist marriage doesn’t assign roles based on sex — it allows for flexibility based not on genitalia but on desire and on need. My wife will be the one getting pregnant, and nothing can change that — I can’t take on that role. But when it comes to earning, spending, cleaning, planning, building, washing, dreaming, shopping, and caring — we are both equally well-equipped as full and complete human beings to do these tasks. We both wear pants in our family.

If there’s one thing I know with absolute certainty after all these years and all these relationships: marital power is not a zero-sum game. A family does not need a single leader, because a family is not (pace, my right-wing friends) a military unit. A marriage is not a broth to be spoiled by too many cooks. I like me some metaphors too. So here’s the image that comes to my mind when I think about my marriage:

My wife and I are sitting in a row boat. It’s wide, and we sit side-by-side. We each have one oar, and we’re rowing together in tandem. If one of us pulls harder than the other, our boat will start going in circles. We’re rowing together, pulling identical oars, using identical force, talking together about which direction to take, trusting that God will give us a favorable current. The boat won’t move the way we need it to if we don’t row equally hard, in the same rhythm, with the same stroke. We’re not gazing at each other, but we’re side by side, our shoulders touching, close and companionable and alive and in love. This is the way we’re crossing the great ocean, and this is the way — lord willing — we’ll someday arrive at the undiscovered country on the other side.

My wife and I don’t always agree. Feminist marriages have quarrels too. What makes our marriage work — what makes it feminist — is not the absence of conflict, but the way in which we work through our disagreements. We mutually submit, one to the other, and we mutually lead. It may not work that way in the military, but by God, it works that way on Marengo Avenue in Pasadena, California. And I’ve seen it work for plenty of other folks as well.

Note: the title of the post, if not the theme, is at least partly inspired by Amy and Leon Kass.

UPDATE: I ought not to have taken YM’s bait, or KellyMac’s. This thread at an MRA site, replete with the inevitable vulgarity, misogyny, homophobia, and puerility one associates with these types, is fairly indicative of what we’re dealing with.

0 thoughts on “Shoulder to shoulder and oar to oar: a response to “YM” about feminism and marriage: UPDATED

  1. I didn’t grow up with that complementarian view of marriage, and it took me years to realize that so much of the opposition to gay marriage comes from that spot. (I remember referring to a guy as another guy’s husband and having the person I was talking to ask, “So which one of them is the wife?” Huh?)

    The anger of some anti-feminist women I find hard to cope with. I recently posted to my blog about not letting a guy pay for a first date (warning: this post is not at all explicit, but the rest of my blog is about bdsm and may be offensive or disgusting to some). I linked to an article in which a woman advised men not to go on a second date with women who wanted to pay their own way, and the woman came and absolutely flipped out in my comments. I was told, among other things, that I would eventually realize I wanted a “real man” and not a “metrosexualized twat.”

    And, of coures, that I “have issues.”

    Of course I have issues. Everyone should have issues with the messed-up way gender is viewed. Why would I find being essentially wrong about something (which is what being non- or anti-feminist is, in my view) as an appealing characteristic of a partner? How does this make one more “manly” in a good way? (I have to theoretically reject “manly” as a good quality in any case, but, to the extent that I have responses to positive masculine qualities, being wrong about gender is not one of those qualities.)

  2. Well, Mr Hugo, thanks to a female anti-feminist friend, I now know that you chose to make our e-mail exchange public. That’s OK, I’m very proud of my anti-feminist activism.

    Its hard to give too much info in a short email, but it might interest you to know that I was raised by a mother who was a hardened feminist, and yes, she hated men (well, actually, my father.) She amde his life miserable and would often make anti-male comments to me.

    The only male she thought was “perfect” was her brother: a weakling who “yes ma’am”ed his sister and his mother, never married and turned out to be a pedophile on top of it all. Did I mention that he too, was a feminist?

    I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, during feminism’s so-called “second wave”. I got to see feminism at its rawest, before they woke up and realized they needed to do some serious damage control because of their image. But I’m old enough to remember them the way they REALLY were, and the way they would still be today if society had not given them such a backlash.

    Do I think men like you are pussies? Yes. The sad thing is, most men like you are gung-ho feminist because you want to insure you never have to spend a night on the sofa, the way traditional men sometimes have to.

    But you know, as a woman, I respect men who do their OWN thing, and do not kow-tow to any woman in their lives. I like dominant (not dominEERING) men, men who have strong masculine character, men who treat women like LADIES, not as some sort of androgynous “equal”. Equality, to me as a woman, is very unsexy.

    Normal women want to WORK WITH men like you. We do NOT want to sleep with them.

  3. Anti-feminists assume several things about men in the feminist movement.

    Hugo, before you tell “YM” what she thinks of you and your marriage, I suggest that you might consider addressing what looks to me like her central issue with feminism: the perception that feminism comes with a party line, defined as an exclusionary ideological straight-jacket. Other people, including plenty of feminists, have raised this problem, addressing visions of feminism they saw as bound to class and culture.

    Does this apply to all forms of feminism? Not on your life. Does it apply to the picture of feminism you project? I think it does. You make no secret of your desire to change people, and you have claimed that certain attributes, attributes I experience as bound to class, culture, and ability, constitute an essential (and, you have insinuated, legally mandatory in some circumstances) elements of full humanity. You ban people from commenting on his web-log, primarily, for all I can see, because they disagree with you.

    I don’t claim the title of feminist precisely because I don’t want to get into a row over what, if anything, would entitle me to call myself a feminist. I don’t like having people tell me I “have” to believe or even accept particular ideas. If the people who present themselves as the public face of feminism will not embrace the discipline, and the humility, of tolerance, the essential understanding that while you believe certain things, you have no right to impose them on other people because you recognize the possibility that you could have made an error, then people like me will choose not to fight you for the right to stand with you, and people like YM will have a ready-made argument against you. And you will have chosen that situation.

  4. @theverycold:
    yeah! I should say so. wow.

    @YM:

    While I can understand how anti-feminists could be disturbed at the raw anger underlying feminism (at least the wave you describe and I would think the others as well), that anger is righteous anger at injustice. It may be unpleasant to confront that anger, but it isn’t wrong or evil to be angry when someone (or society, a destructive social construction of gender, etc) has done you wrong.

    That said, while I disagree with your entire post, you’ve got the right to live your life the way you want. So do I. Seems to me that maybe the anti-feminist men and women should marry one another and go have their gender-role marriages, feminist men/women should do the same for their own egalitarian model. Would everyone be happy then?

    While I would DESPISE living in a ‘traditional’ marriage with a ‘traditional’ man (and those traditional rules, yuck), as long as no one forces me to do so, I’m not going to go throw rotten eggs at anti-feminists. Can we leave each other alone? I don’t know.

    @Hugo

    That said, I’m not sure who YM insulted more, you or your wife. Sheesh.

  5. So Hugo finds a physically strong woman sexy – sounds like a normal perversion to me… how does that make him a feminist? A female supremacist, perhaps, but not feminist… oh wait, they’re the same thing- my bad.

  6. This is a gorgeous post — thank you for your eloquence, Hugo. This is my vision of marriage, too.

    From YM’s comment:

    Do I think men like you are pussies?

    Well, at least she’s come right out and admitted that hating women’s bodies is the heart anti-feminism. Why should the organ that is both the center of women’s pleasure and the source of all life be something undesirable?

  7. @YM – what on earth do you mean by equality being “unsexy”? See, to me, sexual contact between people who aren’t equals is rape.

    @ John Spragge
    “the perception that feminism comes with a party line, defined as an exclusionary ideological straight-jacket. Other people, including plenty of feminists, have raised this problem, addressing visions of feminism they saw as bound to class and culture. ”

    Yes! But when you want to Other a particular group, learning about the group’s diversity and individuality is a real hindrance. So I suspect people like YM, even if presented with a cross-section of the diveristy of feminist thought, would simply dismiss anything they found that didn’t match their preconception. (see YM’s comment about “damage control”)

  8. YiddisheMameh, the plural of `anecdote’ is not `data’.

    John, I’ve been reading Hugo’s blog for at least 2 1/2 years now, possibly almost 3. I’ve seen many, many fights break out at other sites in the blogosphere because of Hugo’s willingness to let anti-feminists speak. In that time, he has driven off exactly two regular commentators for banning their comments — Mr Bad, a vocal anti-feminist, and ginmar, a vocal feminist. He doesn’t ban people because they disagree with him or any other feminist party line. He bans people for saying ignorant, inflammatory, or offensive things that start stupid and pointless fights.

    You have a more substantive and more accurate point. Hugo has what philosophers like me call a very `thick’ conception of the good human life. That seems to be right. Living the good life, he thinks, involves being a feminist, a vegan, an amateur athlete, probably a Christian, and having a rich social life filled with family, friends, students, and mentors. It requires an appreciation for literature, poetry, history, philosophy, and political debate. It’s very, very different from a `do whatever you feel like doing’ libertarianism.

    You’re also right when you tie these attributes of a good life to a certain class, culture, and ability. The way things are right now, very few people have the education, health, and luxury time to have even half of these things.

    But you’re wrong when you call Hugo’s beliefs that these are the essential attributes of the good human life an imposition on other people. (At least, you come close to accusing him of doing that in your last paragraph.) Expressing one’s beliefs is not the same as insisting everyone else believe them, too. Not even banning people who disagree from his blog is doing the latter. It’s a personal space, after all — banning a troll from a blog is like throwing a disruptive drunk out of a bar, and completely unlike state censorship.

  9. She said:

    Why does it bother you that so many of us had strong male role models in the persons of our fathers, and because of that, were able to do anything and be anything we wanted in life, dependent (sic) of feminism?

    Freudian slip much?
    Funny sad weird.

  10. @Daisy Bond:

    I agree, but I think it’s not just hatred of women’s bodies. It’s used to mean weakness, and to mock and hold in contempt the very roles and attitudes these people demand that women have. In fact, women are to have nothing else. And yet they spit on them. Huh.

  11. Elaine: Typos happen.

    Why does it shock feminists to learn that some women have no need for their movement? That some of us have been able to accomplish everything in life we chose to, without feminism?

    I’ve been a tomboy since I was very little. My father was my best friend. He was no feminist by any means, but when it came to his daughter, there wasn’t anything he didn’t think I could do if I set my mind to it. In fact he used to tell me that.

    This was a guy who was a labor union leader, who voted against the ERA when it came up for a vote in his union, who called women “broads” and “dames”…but his daughter? She was different! And I benefited from his attitude, even if other females didn’t.

    When my husband and I married almost 25 years ago, we agreed that if we had children, they would carry both our surnames joined by a hyphen. We decided to do this with the blessing of both families, because otherwise, the male line would have died out on both sides.

    To this day people we meet are shocked to learn we are not feminists, and even anti-feminist, because they see my surname and the surnames of our children, and are confused. Its a great way to teach people that not everything people do is rooted in feminism. And no, feminism did not give me the ability to do what we did: I gave myself the ability. And we did it for a very patriarchal reason.

    Why am I amti-feminist? Because feminism never did anything positive for me, in fact feminism has HARMED regular women. There is nothing more annoying to a regular woman than to have people and society assume we agree with feminism just because we have two breasts.

    Throughout my life, almost all my closest friends have been men. And in the last 30 plus years, I’d heard many a horror story from men I love and care about, of what women under guise of feminism did to them. In one case, I witnessed a male cycling friend falsely accused of domestic abuse, by a vindictive wife who didn’t like him cycling on Sunday mornings with a female partner.

    I’ve seen men I know and love abused by women….ripped off by women….I remembr holding one male friend while he cried, because his girlfriend chose to murder his unborn child, even though he desperately told her he would assume all parental duties, and even assume sole responsibility for the child, if only she would let the child live.

    As I said before, my mother was a feminist of the 1960s. And not only did she hate most men, she hated children. She tried to abort me in 1959 when she found out she was pregnant..I was an “unplanned pregnancy”…yet this “unplanned pregnancy” is the hated child who is now taking care of her in her old age, because her other daughter (the feminist one, like her), refuses to.

    She would refer to me as “my accident baby”. She also would verbally blast Governor Reagan whenever he appeared on TV, because he was pro-life. She also verbally blasted a local congressman who was pro-life, whenever he appeared on TV. I saw feminist behavior from the inside out, and to this day, I cannot see it otherwise.

    Feminism has modified their positions and their behavior, but those of us who lived through it, remember how it REALLY was.

    Experience can be a good teacher. In my case I learned what feminism is like before they decided it was better to sanitize everything they said and did.

  12. Thanks, YNWA!

    Random Lurker, I agree, definitely: “pussy” is shorthand for feminine, which is synonymous with weakness, which is synonymous with disgusting.

    It’s fascinating to me that someone would use the word “pussy” to try to insult a self-proclaimed feminist, as if women’s bodies are so inherently horrible that anyone and everyone would (or should) be hard at work trying to avoid the label.

  13. I think it’s fairly evident, YM, that you’ve had some scarring experiences which impacted your view of feminism. The “men like you are pussies” line, you realize, doesn’t exactly help your credibility here. The implication that my wife is not “normal” because she is sexually attracted to the likes of egalitarian me is also more than a little offensive.

    Feminist men, at least the ones I know, aren’t “yes” men. As I said, my wife and I quarrel sometimes — and voices get raised — and words are exchanged in an atmosphere of high emotion. I love her and she loves me and we are both more committed to transformation than we are to pleasing and soothing each other. I do not live in fear of her, walking on eggshells, as you imply.

    Noumena, thanks for a very accurate summary of my position. I’m grateful.

  14. I think YM lost all credibility in her argument when she opted for using ‘pussy’. She has no idea how much she is perpetrating sexist language. Her logic makes me believe she is the the epitome of those self rigtheous republican/neo-cons.

  15. I can venture a guess where women like my daughter get their anti-feminist ideas; when they hang around feminists, take Women’s Studies Classes, hear men bashed, and when they object that their father, or their brother, aren’t like that at all, they get called “Sell outs” or some variation of the theme.

    And yeah – maybe only one or two say it – but when the rest of them stand around in mute complicity… well, silence gives assent.

    Please do continue to give the lame and weak “Not all feminists think alike” excuse, while the “extremists” continue to rant unchecked or corrected, though. It does far more to make converts for me than anything I can possibly say.

    After all – I don’t have to comment or report – I just point and let them read for themselves.

  16. “I’ve been a tomboy since I was very little. My father was my best friend. He was no feminist by any means, but when it came to his daughter, there wasn’t anything he didn’t think I could do if I set my mind to it. In fact he used to tell me that.”

    Hey, sounds like my dad, except we also shot off guns! Yet I turned out a feminist. Where did he go so very wrong?

  17. I make no secret that I am no feminist, but am, in fact, a vocal supporter of men’s rights. That is why I am amused at the apparent belief that only feminists can have marriages that are not governed by strict gender roles. I’ve been married for nearly 20 years (yes, it’s my first and only marriage), and if anything, we’re closer to the opposite of what you would think of as traditional gender roles.

    We each operate according to our strengths. We both earn money, we both do housework, we both run the kids all over hell and back. You don’t have to be a feminist to have mutual respect. In fact, if he weren’t unafraid to be a man, with all that that implies, I would respect him less. But that’s because I know that it’s not a crime to be feminine. I don’t have to be constantly defensive and vigilant for some (real or imagined) slight to me for being female, because I accept myself the way I am.

    I grew up with society telling me that I was a victim, that I was oppressed, that I would have to work twice as hard to get the same recognition as a man. And you know what? It was all bullshit. That wasn’t true for my mother (although she believed it was), and it wasn’t true for me.

    I don’t know which marriage this is for you, Hugo, but if it floats your boat, that’s fine with me. What I resent is being told that my life has to fit a certain mold, or I’m a traitor to my sex. Oops, I mean gender. You’re in a “passionately feminist marriage”? What does that even mean???

  18. Pingback: Feminst Men: Gay, Predatory or Whipped, right? « Cheerful Megalomaniac

  19. I like dominant (not dominEERING) men, men who have strong masculine character, men who treat women like LADIES, not as some sort of androgynous “equal”. Equality, to me as a woman, is very unsexy.

    So YM is out there fighting against my political interests because my political interests don’t turn her on. Jesus.

    You know, I’m glad my boss isn’t allowed to harass me or pay me poorly just because I’m female. I’m glad that if I marry my boyfriend, he still won’t be legally permitted to rape me. I’m glad I can control my own fertility. If that doesn’t make YM all hot and horny, too damn bad. I don’t see what her sexual tastes have to do with my rights.

  20. Kelly, please cite where I called you or YM a “traitor to your sex.” Talk about straw men!

    The fact that a feminist marriage can be vibrant, exciting, and fulfilling doesn’t mean anyone who isn’t in an avowedly feminist union can’t have a good marriage.

    As for what makes a marriage “passionately feminist”, more on that to come.

  21. Sorry about that, Hugo. I didn’t mean to imply that you had said that. I was just repeating something that I’ve heard many times, although not here on your site. It was more in the way of a general complaint about how I am received on feminist sites.

  22. Fair enough. And what I’m trying to create here is a space where we can get past those stereotypes. And please know, as I’ve blogged about before, I do my best to HEAR what anti-feminist women are saying, and to reflect — as a feminist — how I can choose my words more carefully to make the case for egalitarianism more winsome.

  23. Noumena, I appreciate your thorough and reasonable response to what I wrote.

    I’ve seen many, many fights break out at other sites in the blogosphere because of Hugo’s willingness to let anti-feminists speak.

    Hugo did not create the situation on his own, but as you very clearly illustrate here, some parts of the feminist movement have a very strong sense of a party line and an aversion to listening to the other side. That carries a specific disadvantage: it alienates people who do not differ, or differ much, with you on substantive issues.

    Hugo has what philosophers like me call a very `thick’ conception of the good human life…. It’s very, very different from a `do whatever you feel like doing’ libertarianism…. you’re wrong when you call Hugo’s beliefs that these are the essential attributes of the good human life an imposition on other people.

    I would not say Hugo makes any bones about his aim to convert other people to his specific version of the good life. That, by itself, may not qualify as imposition. But he certainly supports an intrusive version of politics, and he pretty much lays out rules, in a way that I read claiming that people have an obligation to follow them. Unless he has canvassed all the people who have a stake in the things he believes, I’d say that at least comes close to imposing his definitions. Then he makes claims about what things fall under the domain of culture, and what things belong to a universal definition of full, grown-up humanity. I’d call that an imposition, particularly since he (and I) both represent a culture with a long and bad history of imposing our perceptions on others. And on top of that, we have the recent debate over redefining rape, morally if not legally.

    Also, libertarianism does not necessarily mean ‘do whatever you feel like doing'; at its best, libertarianism stems from an essential humility, an understanding that we have neither the wisdom nor the right to dictate our concept of the good life to other people.

  24. …how I can choose my words more carefully to make the case for egalitarianism more winsome.

    From my point of view, making your concept of the “good life” a lot less comprehensively directive– I liked “Noumena”‘s use of the word “thick” in this connection– would help a lot. More respect for diversity, cultural and neurological, would go a long way too. Right now the message I get from you reads a lot like this: I hear you believe in radical equality, but I also get the message that you seem to believe that people like you should get to say exactly what equality means.

  25. Kellymac, You say you have been married for 20 years (first marriage).
    I’ve been married for 25 years (first marriage.)

    Gee, maybe we’ve done something right? I think I read somewhere here that Mr Hugo is on his third marriage? I know my older sister (another militant feminist) is married and divorced four times, and is now a bitter 58 yr old with a houseful of cats and alone once again.

    I think I am beginning to see a pattern here….nothing personal, really, just another observation over a lifetime of observaing feminist behavior.

  26. John –
    I used the phrase `insisting everyone else believe them, too’ in my last comment, and based on your latest comments I think that’s a bit vague. Going around physically threatening people if they don’t do what you say is insisting that everyone else believe what you believe. But so is saying and writing things like `here’s what I believe is good, here are reasons why I think they’re good, here’s why I think they’re reasons for everyone, and so why you should believe they’re good, too’. That’s insisting on one’s beliefs, at least in one sense, but it’s also what I hand in mind by expressing one’s beliefs. Hugo believes that pretty much everyone should share his thick conception of the good life — indeed, I suspect his beliefs require him to share his beliefs in this way, and try to convert them. (He does call himself an evangelical, after all.) So he feels called (and, again, that word choice is deliberately) to, as he puts it, make a winsome case for that conception of the good and all its different components.

    But is this objectionable? Is this an unjust imposition? He’s not going around physically threatening people if they don’t believe as he believes. He’s not, at least as far as this straight white male can tell, using hateful or offensive speech except on the rarest occasions — and then he apologises immediately and profusely and takes advantage of the opportunity for more self-reflection. He’s not blaming those who, because of sexism, racism, classism, and other injustices, and through no fault of their own, are unable to pursue his vision of the good human life. So, no, I don’t think this is objectionable. You say yes, it is. But, after reading your comments several times through, I still don’t see what you think is the problem here.

    Oh, and you’re right that the most best versions of libertarianism aren’t hedonistic, `do whatever you feel like doing’ libertarianisms. But the version I encounter most often — the version held by many college students — is exactly like that. In any case, even if it is a strawlibertarian, it’s a useful contrast to Hugo’s views, as this sort of libertarian has a very `thin’ conception of the good human life. That contrast is all I meant to make when I brought it up earlier.

  27. And John:

    I do believe in the Great Commission: the call to go out into the world and make disciples of the nations. There’s a lot of brutal imperialism in the history of that Great Commission, but also a lot of liberation — when we bring people the good news of egalitarianism (just like when we bring them the Good News of Jesus) we give them a new set of options to consider. And I want to make the case for a particular option. I am, as Noumena, says, an evangelical — I am interested in transformation, including the transformation of people and cultures who do not perceive the need to be transformed. That doesn’t mean I don’t take other views seriously, I do — but ultimately, I think God is calling us to a specific way of living that is justice-filled, and I want to make a compelling case for that way of life.

    What some libertarians call humility, I call an abdication of responsibility.

  28. YM — without much thought, I can come up with a half dozen marriages based on strongly pro-feminist principles that have lasted very well, and I know of marriages not based on feminist principles, which have not. While I agree that “the plural of anecdote is not data”, and anecdotes do not make a good cover for ad hominem, my own experience leads me to reject your claims. I support feminism; I just do not support the narrow views of some of its adherents.

    Noumena: I have three specific objections to Hugo’s presentation of his version of the “good life”: first, the implicit condescension and arrogance of one person or one culture setting themselves up as the arbiter of the “good life”, and ignoring or trivializing the presence, and the importance, of diversity in the world. Secondly, I just plain don’t accept that Hugo does not threaten people who differ from him. His proposal to adjust the rape laws, (see my comments to his post on “viral”), which happens to disadvantage people “wired” differently from him, certainly has some very threatening implications for those of us it might affect. Certainly, he does not renounce the possibility of using force to promote his ideas. And finally, he foists all this on feminism, without, as far as I can tell, bothering to consult women who need allies, and who might not want to have people who might support them told they should accept Hugo’s large, indigestible, “thick” vision of the good life as a price for supporting feminist ideas and principles.

    Hugo: I don’t particularly agree with your view of the “Great Commission”; I would urge humility on all missionaries. But whatever my reaction to missionaries, particularly the “gun and gospel” variety, at least they did not claim the authority to impose their own perceptions and claims; they spoke in the name of a Gospel they believed had the authority of divine revelation. They preached not their own conception of the “good life”, but what they believed God had revealed and commanded them to preach. Most of the vision of the “good life” that we read on this web-log has no such authority. Your message seems to me to boil down to the claim that we have an obligation to live a radically egalitarian life, and you, Hugo, a white man who can live his vision of the “good life” thanks in part to the genocide of the rightful owners of the land you live on, will tell us exactly what “egalitarian” means. I personally have not the slightest intention of swallowing this contradiction. If you make, explicitly or implicitly, accepting your ideas part of the “price” for supporting feminism, do you have the consent of the millions of women who do not remotely have your privileges, and who actively need allies?

    By the way, I reject your and Noumena’s attempt to classify the ideas at stake as “libertarian”. I certainly do not accept that as a description of my own views. Call me rather an opponent of cultural genocide (in the sense that I put my life on the line to stop it, rather than just writing on web-logs), and a passionate supporter of diversity. I, too, believe in right and wrong, and contempt for other people and cultures that happen to differ from you comes rather high on my list of wrongs.

  29. John –
    Thanks, I have a much better idea of your objections now. I won’t respond here, in part because I’m busy working on something else today and in part because this is the point at which I’d feel presumptuous and uncertain claiming to speak on Hugo’s behalf. (And Hugo, I am interested in hearing what you have to say to these objections, so I hope you have the time today to respond.)

    Let me just repeat that I did not mean to paint libertarians with a broad brush as hedonists, and I’m sorry if that was done unintentionally. Nozick and Narveson, the two biggest names in libertarian political philosophy, are certainly not hedonists, and I am happy to acknowledge that you are not one either. I was at no time trying to contrast Hugo’s thick conception of the good life with Nozick’s, Narveson’s, or yours.

  30. So YM is out there fighting against my political interests because my political interests don’t turn her on. Jesus.

    This is supposed to be a compelling argument because, as we all know, the only reason for men (heterosexual men, anyway) to support feminism is in order to get laid, not because we think it’s the right thing to do.

  31. Noumena and John–

    I would just like to say, as a long-time lurker and very-very occasional poster, how nice it is to see a well-reasoned civil debate in the comments around here. Thanks.

  32. YiddisheMameh:

    ‘My father was my best friend. He was no feminist by any means, but when it came to his daughter, there wasn’t anything he didn’t think I could do if I set my mind to it. In fact he used to tell me that.’

    I have always thought, and acted on the assumption, that the behaviour you describe above was/is about the best condensed definition of feminism you can get. So I would describe your father as a feminist. Just because a person doesn’t use that word, it doesn’t mean their behaviour and attitudes don’t fall in line with feminism.

    You say the balance you have achieved in your life and relationships is not down to feminism, but many of the good things you describe are only possible because of government legislation brought about by womens’ rights movements: votes for women, equal pay for equal work. And I doubt your children would have been able to take your name without the womens’ movement, no matter what you say your motives were. Typos and Freudian slips are far from mutually exclusive.

    You talk about feminism in the past tense, as if what happened to you at the hands of your mother in the 60s and 70s is the one true version of the movement. My mother is also a feminist – and she was abusive towards myself and my father. That is due to her issues, NOT feminism.

    What you say in your post reminds me of things I’ve heard said about Christianity and certain elements of the Catholic church during the 40s and 50s. Both my parents and their brothers and sisters were raised Catholics and attended faith schools. They suffered at the hands of nuns and now see Christianity as a destructive force because of this. I don’t tell my parents about my Christian beliefs, because, like your view of feminism, their view of Christianity has been damaged by traumatic experience.

    On pro – choice and marraige. I am a feminist and am against abortion, unless a woman faces extreme circumstances such as extreme poverty, the father being a rapist or the mother still being a child (under 16) and unable to cope with parenthood. I too have seen the disastrous effects of a person ending the life of their own child. Do not assume all feminists are pro – abortion (Hugo I am not trying to initiate a debate on abortion, so I hope that’s not what happens in respnse to this). I have never been married or in a relationship longer than three years – does this mean I am a failure as a woman in your opinion? you seem to be equating the value of one’s choice of stance on gender politics with longevity of marital status.

    BTW I love men! if I didn’t I wouldn’t care how men and women relate and wouldn’t care half so much about feminism.

  33. Hugo, I simply pointed out things I have noticed.

    The vast majority of feminist leaders, as well as feminists I have known in my life, had poor relationships with the men in their lives, be it husbands, brothers, sons or fathers. Its just what it is. MOST feminists I have known were multiply divorced, or had other iffy situations with the men in their lives.

    To the contrary, most of the anti-feminists I know and have known, have good, longterm relationships (marriages.) That tells me something, and I’m sorry if that “something” is offensive to you.

    My father was not a feminist…I love how fems always like to grasp at anything and lay claim to it.

    My father voted against the ERA when it came up for a vote in his labor union. To me that is not the sign of a true feminist.

    He did not believe married women should work outside the home.

    I knew him for 39 years, whereas those here knew him not at all. So I think I can best judge what he was and was not. Aside from the fact that, whenever I asked him, he would generously donate to the anti-feminist causes I was active in in the 1970s (Eagle Forum and STOP ERA.)

    At best you might be able to say he was a feminist as it pertained to his daughter, but not to anyone else. He never saw gender with me….which is why we were able to go to football games together, go shooting at the range (I ended up being a police officer back in the 1980s due to his influence), go to the fights, go fishing, etc

  34. One of the most basic lessons of feminism is that sometimes divorce is the best possible outcome for a marriage. Not all divorces are based on selfish whim, and not all long-term marriages are good.

    As Hall and Oates sang, “the strong give up and move along, the weak give up and stay.”

    And YM, when you say The vast majority of feminist leaders, as well as feminists I have known in my life, had poor relationships with the men in their lives, be it husbands, brothers, sons or fathers. you’re arguing from anecdote. The plural of anecdote is not evidence. I frequently use anecdotes from my own life to make a point, but I don’t confuse my perspective with verifiable fact.

  35. It is possible that your dad was a feminist towards you because he loved/loves you and only the best will ever do for any daddy’s girl. Maybe he was a good enough father not to vent the anger he felt towards your mother (and her big bad feminist friends) on you. Going by what you have written, your father was a feminist towards you – especially if he never perceived you in terms of gender.

  36. The vast majority of feminist leaders, as well as feminists I have known in my life, had poor relationships with the men in their lives, be it husbands, brothers, sons or fathers. Its just what it is. MOST feminists I have known were multiply divorced, or had other iffy situations with the men in their lives.

    To the contrary, most of the anti-feminists I know and have known, have good, longterm relationships (marriages.) That tells me something, and I’m sorry if that “something” is offensive to you.

    Perhaps they had difficulties, like I did, because they chose not to put up with men who wanted women to fit into a particular stereotype. The anti-feminists may have been very happy to live in that stereotype. It may not be the women who are at fault (of course, being anti-feminist, that may be hard to believe) but the mismatch in expectations or even the men who refused to budge on their stance.

    I divorced a man who was antifeminist precisely because of this situation. He wanted me to be submissive to him and not do anything that made him look bad or inferior to me. He wanted me to be a shadow. Unfortunately, he was not effective at a lot of things in life, which left me very few options. I got the sense later that his anti-feminist streak was very much due to his coming from a place of insecurity about his own lack of abilities, and it was only there as a means to make him feel better about himself when the women in his life were succeeding at things he could not.

    It’s interesting to me that you characterize anti-feminist men as being more masculine, when my experience is that this set of beliefs is a response to covering up or diverting attention away from men’s weaknesses. I would much rather that men be open about their weaknesses so that they can be dealt with instead of hiding behind stereotypes. But I suppose this stance about actually discussing that men can have weaknesses is probably hostility toward men.

  37. I’m really curious about what labor union “voted on ERA” on the floor of their hall. ERA was voted on in State Assemblies, not union halls. If her father sat on the PAC committee, it’s possible that the PAC took a vote on whether or not to support certain candidates based on their position on the ERA—but I’m thinking that’s damn unlikely for two reasons:

    1. Labor union PACs are first and foremost concerned about the effect of laws and policies on worker’s paychecks, ability to find work, job conditions and benefits, job safety, etc. Most politicians who supported ERA were pro-labor, while most who were anti-ERA were anti-labor. Regardless of lack of warm fuzzy feelings any given PAC might have towards ERA, those committee members (and the elected officers of the union, along with most of the membership) are going to “vote their paychecks.

    2. Depending on geographic location, it could have been a moot point anyway (meaning: either all the candidates likely to get elected were for ERA, or against. No real competition in the election).

  38. YM– do you not realize that you having the ability to get an education, own property, vote, work on a political campaign, give your children your name, and become a cop are all things that feminists in the past have brought about for you? Sorry, you did not accomplish it all by yourself. You accomplished it because a lot of really determined and brilliant women worked hard so you could have those opportunities. Not to mention all the other people in your life (your dad, for example) who also worked to give you opportunities.

    You said “Do you even realize how sexist feminism is, because they say that women CANNOT achieve anything of importance without THEIR help?”

    and in fact, everything that I listed above, and that you seem so (rightfully) proud of, would have been impossible without the help of feminists.

  39. “I have, over the last 32 or so years, noticed that the only women who are the most committed to feminism are women with poor relationships with the males in their lives.”

    This is completely false, and patently offensive. I suggest YM looks at this article http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071015102856.htm reporting on research that indicates feminists have healthier and happier relationships than those that do not value equality.

  40. I’ve been married 7 years, and always felt that my marriage was fairly feminist. We do split the work down lines that make sense to us, based on each of out strengths – I do anything dealing with paperwork because I have freakish powers of patience in sorting things out, and he deals with most of the home improvement stuff because he has a background in that and I am a weenie about cutting holes in the walls and ceiling . But since our son was born 7 months ago, I’ve felt the shift towards a more traditional gender role relationship happening, and it doesn’t make me happy.

    I think we have a lot of cultural expectations that go unexpressed until certain conditions are met, and then they play out and can wreak havoc on a marriage. Perhaps notable feminists do have more difficulty navigating these unexpected bumps because there is little cultural support for the feminist perspective. My husband and I are both slobs, but somehow now that the baby is here, I’m expected to take care of all baby stuff, and all joint used stuff (he notes that I never clean the middle floor toilet – but then, neither does he!). I feel that I am in a loose/loose position – pushing for him to do what I think is a fair split of the work creates anger and agitation at a time when baby stress makes us both hyper-reactive.

    The dominant cultural dialog about parenting puts women as responsible parties and men as witnesses, as far as I can tell. It’s not like we didn’t talk things to death before I got pregnant. But so much I didn’t expect has surged to the surface that I feel overwhelmed and sometimes aghast! If we don’t get back into a more mutually sympathetic groove, I can see us eventually getting divorced, and I never thought like that before the baby was born.

    I want the best for myself, my husband, and my child. My perception of the traditional female role would dictate that I work for the best for my child and husband, usually at the expense of what is best for myself. I would not ask that of my husband or child, and I will not ask that of myself. I am a living template for my son for what ‘women’ are supposed to be. And I want to be a healthy and happy template as much as I want my husband to be a healthy and happy template for what a man is supposed to be. I just wish culturally we didn’t have to navigate a set-up that can quickly devolve into a mutually exclusive situation!

  41. “YM– do you not realize that you having the ability to get an education, own property, vote, work on a political campaign, give your children your name, and become a cop are all things that feminists in the past have brought about for you?”

    Acer, this is what you have been told, but it’s mostly half-truths or untruths.

    Get An Education: The first women’s college in the U.S., Litchfield Female Academy opened in 1792, and remained open until 1833. In 1833, Oberlin College started enrolling women. Wesleyan College opened in 1839. The list goes on.

    Own Property: In 1839, Mississippi passed the first Married Women’s Property Act, and similar laws were passed in other states over the next decades. In fact, the Homestead Act of 1862 specified that the head of the family had land grant rights. It did not specify that the head of the family had to be male:

    “Sec. 1 . . . head of a family, or who has arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and is a citizen of the United States, . . . shall, from, and after the first January, eighteen hundred and sixty-three, be entitled to enter one quarter section or a less quantity of unappropriated public lands, upon which said person may have filed a preemption claim, or which may, at the time the application is made, be subject to preemption at one dollar and twenty-five cents, or less, per acre; . . . .
    Sec. 2: And be it further enacted. . . . upon application to the register of the land office in which he or she is about to make such entry, make affidavit before the said register or receiver that he or she is the head of a family. . .“
    Single women were allowed to own property far before that.

    Vote: I couldn’t find specific U.S. stats, but in the U.K., men were granted the vote in 1918, and women got it 10 years later. This is hardly centuries of oppression.

    Political Activism: I’ve never personally heard of women being forbidden from working on a campaign. I found a reference to a woman, and a black woman at that, writing political pamphlets in the 1830’s. Maria W. Stewart.

    Give Your Children Your Name: To be honest, I never even thought about this one. Not sure how to even go about looking it up. Isn’t it more of a tradition than anything? Like marrying into a clan, and they take care of you like family?

    Becoming A Cop: This is likely true. Didn’t research the history. But isn’t it also true that, like the military and the fire department, the physical requirements for women are less than men? Why should that be?

    And even if what we were told was true, as you said yourself, women are able to do all of those things today. What in the world else do you want??

  42. Kelly, this is thread drift — this is a feminist blog, not a debating centre. Limit your comments to the narrow subject of my post.

    I write here primarily for those who share a certain fundamental set of beliefs. If this were a blog for Catholics, I wouldn’t give much space to those who think the pope is the anti-Christ.

  43. Hugo delete this if you think its a thread drift.

    KellyMac:

    I would have thought a Brit with as much interest in history as you claim for yourself would have heard of Mary Woollstencraft – I’m sure you’ll find this link educational:

    http://www.philosophypages.com/ph/woll.htm

    Kate – what you describe is such a big fear for me. Childrearing is so demanding that I’m sure people fall back into patterns easily then, and once you have the child you are bound to such a big degree. Mary Wollstencraft seemed to have had a similar problem. We still have such alot to do, even more than two hundred years later. I hope you and your husband work things out.

  44. UPDATE: I ought not to have taken YM’s bait, or KellyMac’s. This thread at an MRA site, replete with the inevitable vulgarity, misogyny, homophobia, and puerility one associates with these types, is fairly indicative of what we’re dealing with.

    You made a lot of accusations, are you going to back them up?

  45. “Thread drift”? Why is discussing the evils of feminism a “thread drift” when the entire thread was initially ABOUT an email Hugo received ABOUT the evils of feminism? Or does it only become a “thread drift” when the topic gets too hot for some to handle?

    And why is someone here assuming Kellymac is a British subject?

  46. Kate – what you describe is such a big fear for me. Childrearing is so demanding that I’m sure people fall back into patterns easily then, and once you have the child you are bound to such a big degree. Mary Wollstencraft seemed to have had a similar problem. We still have such alot to do, even more than two hundred years later. I hope you and your husband work things out.

    It has been my observation that the source of such frustration arises most often when the man is expected to be the “Assistant Mom” instead of “Dad.”

  47. This thread is about marriage, folks – feminist marriage. Not feminism as an ideology. Those who are fundamentally hostile to feminism as a system are not welcome to post here, something I’ve made clear again and again.

    Scum: using words like “pussy” and “mangina” as epithets for feminist men automatically forfeits any claim you and your ilk might otherwise have to credibility. Instantly. And the thread to which I link is rife with it, as well as anti-Semitism.

    And no, you don’t get to respond to that here. Take it up at your place.

  48. Kate,

    I can sympathize with your situation, going from a carefree couple to a couple with a new child. Lots of new problems and challenges, especially if it is your first child. Your whole life changes and becomes a whole different ballgame.

    Before, you could afford to play with gender roles and judge who is doing or not doing the most work. You could put your own personal happiness at that the top of your list of most important aspects of your life and your marriage. And perhaps your husband was cool with that and perhaps ok with you being the sole arbiter of what was fair and equal sharing of the household responsibilities (I suspect he is not and perhaps you are not the only one thinking of divorce).

    But some things become more important with the arrival of your first child.

    Now, it’s not “the best for myself” that is the most important thing. Or at least it shouldn’t be. And I hope, since you are trying to be a living template for your son, that you can find it in yourself to be able to teach him self sacrifice. Putting the needs of others above your own is not a bad thing. Really. There are whole religions built around the concept and you might be surprised to find that men do this for their families all the time as well.

    There is a big difference is putting the needs of others above your own and being a doormat. Nobody expects that from you or even from those crazy “traditional women” whoever they are.

    One good thing about sacrificing for others, is that it tends to make them want to sacrifice for you.

  49. Gonzman:

    >>It has been my observation that the source of such frustration arises most often when the man is expected to be the “Assistant Mom” instead of “Dad.”

    What is your definition of a “dad”? I don’t tend to think of parenting from a gender split responsibility perspective. I see that there are a set of tasks that need to be done – primarily laundry, baby interaction, feeding, bathing, grooming, transportation. If a situation occurs that anyone of these tasks needs to happen, then one of us has to do it (or both, depending on the circumstance). I object to being the only one who ever bathes the baby, or clips his fingernails, or does his laundry. There is no baby related task my husband does that I do not also do, but there are plenty of baby tasks that I do that my husband doesn’t do. He told me that he thinks Jack (our son) should have memories of me taking care of him. I want Jack to have memories of my husband also taking care of him. I was sick with the stomach flu all last week, and I wasn’t able to take care of the baby, and on top of that, I felt stress and guilt because my husband had to do most of the baby care, and it made him stressed and angry. Doing what I do every day was annoying and stressful for him, and he let me know it.

    Privileged Male:

    Six weeks after my son was born my husband told me that he wasn’t certain that he could handle the whole baby thing, and that he hoped we wouldn’t end up divorced. According to him, he resents the changes in his life, and pretty much obsesses on how to get everything to go back to the way things were before the baby was born. He calls that “getting back to zero”. I want him to be able to be honest with me, and I want to be able to be honest with my husband. How can I ask him to do more if he is overwhelmed now? Regardless of how overwhelmed I am feeling, I never considered divorce as an option. Subsequent to that conversation, I have felt very constrained in what I feel I can ask of him. And we both acknowledge that we each feel the put upon member of the household. A key difference in how we express ourselves about it, to me, is that he feels free to say how he feels, and I don’t make judgmental comments about those feelings. I say how I feel, and he lets me know that I am getting what I deserve for having a child. A child we agreed to have, and paid money for reproductive technologies to have. Because I am the one who initiated the have a kid thing, I have less right to alone time or sleep than he does. That drives me freaking crazy, and I feel like I can’t call him on this bullshit without pushing him away and eventually amping up tension until we get a divorce.

    Clearly, I need some counseling, and we probably need some couples counseling.

    I don’t make decisions based on what is good for me, damn everyone else. I just don’t want to make all of my decisions on what is good for Jack and my husband, and not consider what I need as well, or even consider what I need last all the time.

    Kate

  50. Priveledged male:

    I have to say that in my experience if you sacrifice for others you have to be very very careful that they are not ‘takers’ who will walk all over you – they do exist. Otherwise you will very much be a doormat or worse. No child wants a mother or father who is down trodden and has low self esteem.

    Kate, my heart goes out to you. I wish I could speak from personal experience but I have never had a child – but I will say this – you don’t say if your husband expresses loves for your child. A couple of my closest friends have just had a baby, they have what I would call a low key feminist marraige ie, they neither of them writes a blogg about it, and they are sharing everything. They are both elated. So I know it can work. I think your right, speaking to an independent professional is probably best. Or if you have family you’d trust with this.

  51. Babies don’t smile for the first 6-8 weeks, and don’t sleep long stretches of time for months, so that was the hardest part so far. On good days, my husband tells me that he’s glad that we had Jack, that Jack is so lovable and darling that no one could resist him, and that he loves Jack more than he thought he would. On bad days he just wants everything to go back to the way it was pre-Jack.

    I strongly suspect that depression is interfering with how MH (my husband) and I interact – in the past we were both focused on solutions to problems rather than on the problem itself. In fact, that is one of the compliments MH has often given me, that I am always part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Since the baby was born, he seems mired in the problem (I don’t like my life now) and not at all able to focus on solutions – in fact, explicitly thinks there aren’t any, and he will just have to suffer until Jack grows up sufficiently to change the situation. A circumstance that depending on the day, MH doesn’t think he can do.

    I have suggested that MH make an appointment and go back on anti-depression medication. He went off it about 3 years ago when his medication was pulled from the market for causing liver damage, and he never was willing to go through the search for a new medication again, as it can be a harrowing experience to find the right medication and dose (on the first drug he tried, he called a friend from the bridge he was going to jump off of, and cried on her couch for 12 hours straight. That scared the pants off him!)

    There is a lot going on for us dealing with the new ‘normal’ of having a child, and how that impacts us as individuals and as a couple. The reason I brought my life as anecdote into this conversation is that I intellectually knew that things would change when we had a kid, but I wasn’t prepared for exactly which things changed. Or how to talk honestly about the changes. Culturally, the message to new parents is that having kids is difficult, involves self sacrifice, so suck it up. What we don’t talk about is what kinds of self sacrifice are normal in this situation? What is too much to ask? Just invoking the idea that being self sacrificial will inspire other to sacrifice for you as well seems to me to be a crock of hooey. If you give out and out, at what point can you call in your markers and say I need to be given to now? My impression of being self sacrificial is that it’s never okay to stop and say I need to take too.

    The feminist issues come into play through new unspoken expectations that I feel are placed on me (and that I undoubtedly am placing on myself and on MH) about who SHOULD do what, how they should do it, when it should be done (I ask MH to do something, it gets done on his schedule. He asks me to do something, and it should be done on his schedule…). Add to all of that the already spoken threat that if he is sufficiently unhappy he will leave and I will be a single mother, and that makes for a lovely stew of anger, resentment, and repression. And then I get to add the guilt (he’s depressed, cut him some slack – he’s older than you are (by about 26 years) so he isn’t in his physical prime, cut him some slack – the internal litany goes on and on). And I ask myself, when do I get to have some slack?

    Thank you all for your thoughts on my situation. I appreciate the well wishes, and the varied opinions. 7 months is not a long time to get used to such a drastic change, and the good thing is that Jack keeps getting better and better. As he gets older and develops more personality and abilities, interacting with him for both of us (and Jack) becomes more satisfying. I can say that from my perspective, the situation isn’t getting worse (even if it isn’t exactly getting better all on it’s own).

  52. Kate, I’m sorry that you have to go through all this.

    I love my kids enormously, but one thing that no one ever says is that most of the time, actually having kids sucks. The few wonderful moments make up for the majority of stress and heartache, and it does get better as they get older (before it gets worse again as they enter the teenage years–or so I’ve been told) but your life never goes back to ‘what it was’. Now you have this little person that you’re responsible for and it puts stress on the relationship (and I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to do it alone). I hope you and your husband can find a way to communicate effectively about this and can work it out in a way that is acceptable for you both. And you definitely deserve to have some time for yourself and to yourself if that’s what you need. My personal view is that happy, fulfilled parents make happy, fulfilled children, and the mother definitely falls in the category of parent and deserves to be happy, or at least content, as much as anyone else.

  53. “It has been my observation that the source of such frustration arises most often when the man is expected to be the “Assistant Mom” instead of “Dad.”

    Gonz – that isn’t my experience. I just wrote on this in my blog, because I’ve always been a man that has been very comfortable with infants, and I see no justification for the belief that men can’t do everything for their children that mom’s do, right from the start. When I was feeding and caring for my children,I absolutely never felt like an “Assistant Mom” I was a dad, pure and simple, and I’ve never felt more masculine in my life.

  54. kate, I am sorry you are going through this. If your husband will not go with you to counseling, go alone. You should not allow the threat of divorce to be used to frighten you tolerating unfair, selfish behavior that hurts your family.

    No idea what Gonzman means, but many anti-feminists think that Mom’s role is to do all the crappy day-to-day things, and forcing Dad to (say) change diapers or worry about the pediatrician is destroying his contribution to the family and turning him into a second mommy. (Remembering Dan Quayle hastening to add that fathers being more involved didn’t mean they had to change half the diapers?)

  55. If my husband were a total jerk jerk all the time instead of for brief, brilliant snatches, working out this situation would be painful but easy in some ways. When your way is clear, even if it is difficult, you can get some forward momentum. The crazy-making aspect of this for me is that I feel paralyzed – there is no going back, and I have no idea how to successfully go forward. And I do not define success as a divorce with child support payments. Success to me is that we achieve a new normal that is acceptable, even happy making, for all of us.

    The puzzle for me is that every other challenge we have faced, we were able to pull together and problem solve together. I’m not sure why this challenge has us pulling apart.

    Hugo – it sounds as if you and your wife are considering having children. How are you expecting/hoping children to change your lives?

    Kate

  56. Kate,

    After reading your subsequent posts, I can see more clearly your problem, and I apologize if I came off condescending concerning selfishness and sacrifice. Clearly I underestimated and oversimplified your situation.

    I remember my first son very well, and I remember the many many changes in my own life that were at time pretty difficult to get through. I was indeed privileged in that I spent the majority of my waking hours bringing home the bacon instead of 24/7 home with my child.

    I certainly had the easier of the two jobs. My wife spent the entire day alone (mostly, she had a good social life, even with the baby and that helps immeasurably) and she made it look easy. But it wasn’t and there were days that I spent the entire day at home with my boy, and it stressed the heck out of me. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that taking care of a baby is a constant non-stop affair. In fact I would consider you abnormal if you weren’t stressed out, or at least consider you a super-woman of some kind. The days I spent in my wife’s shoes, at home all day with the baby, just had me pulling my hair out. But it got better. JJ got older, had a little sister (two actually!) and things became even better as we got used to it and we got older.

    The other thing is, I had no problems with doing whatever needed to be done for the baby, whether it was diapers, bathing, washing cloths.. Whatever. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed just spending time with him and I honestly can’t understand any man that wouldn’t. My son and daughters were the best thing that ever came into my life and in many ways have been one of the more rewarding aspects of my life. . You should not feel guilty for wanting or even expecting that . .

    I’d just like to throw in that counseling really is a good thing. My wife and I gained a lot from it when we were first married. We were young and not really very good at the whole marriage thing. It’s an acquired skill. We didn’t use it to resolve our issues. We learned *how* to resolve issues. It helps to filter out the game playing, the guilt trips, the bullying tactics, and not so subtle Jedi mind tricks that can develop in relationships. The best money I ever spent. Twenty-two years and we still haven’t strangled each other.

    I wish you the best of luck..!

    Leapfrog:
    Certainly you have to be mindful of “takers”. You give them the boot, not turn into a selfish cynical person yourself. What have you really gained if you do? I learned long ago how to weed those people out of my life.

    Kate says self-sacrifice and using it to inspire others is “hooey”. Perhaps it is in the sense that if you are constantly keeping count or expecting to constantly be repaid, you will always be disappointed. Always. You do it for yourself, and your own piece of mind. Forgiveness was never about helping the other person, it is about helping yourself. If you run into the above “taker” – remember the boot!.

  57. Of course you give takers the boot!!!! but who am I to tell if Kate or anyone else is with a taker. They don’t always show their cards straight away. Endless self sacrifice is never a good idea.

  58. “It has been my observation that the source of such frustration arises most often when the man is expected to be the “Assistant Mom” instead of “Dad.”

    Gonz – that isn’t my experience. I just wrote on this in my blog, because I’ve always been a man that has been very comfortable with infants, and I see no justification for the belief that men can’t do everything for their children that mom’s do, right from the start. When I was feeding and caring for my children,I absolutely never felt like an “Assistant Mom” I was a dad, pure and simple, and I’ve never felt more masculine in my life.

    I’m going to respond to both you and Kate here with a little story.

    When my son was a wee bairn it happened one night that my (now ex) wife were to go out. She fed and changed him, and went to shower. I cleaned out the diaper pail and dressed him, and then after a couiple minutes he started to cry.

    Immediately his mother started bemoaning that “she just changed him” and telling me to check him. So I went and picked him up and he burped. Problem solved. Happy baby.

    Well, she came out, picked him up, looked at his diaper, and began with the “You men are so helpless around babies, can’t even change a diaper right, blah, blah blah…” So she re-changed him, went to thropw the diaper away, and asked, “Where is the diaper you changed?” Whereupon I (smugly) informed her that I changed no diaper. That was the diaper she put on him.

    This is illustrative of her complaints about me “doing nothing.” Never mind that I did – easily – more than half of the midnight feedings, woke him up, dressed him, took him and picked him up from daycare ROUTINELY… All these “tasks” you cite … none of it was “Counted.” If he’d yarp on himself, I’d wipe it off. If he got dirty playing, I wouldn’t wash him every hour. I’d wipe his lunch off his face. Unless he soiled his clothes, back on they went.

    And so on. She changed his clothes 4, 5, 6, 7 times a day. Get dirty? Immediate bath. She fed him lunch – that was the task at hand. Me? I’d work, sit him in his high chair next to me, and let him eat at his pace. She set him down for naps at a sety hour, and got him up at a set time. I ballparked it. He wanted to sleep a little early, into the sack he went. Woke up a little early – out he came.

    So that was how it went – she’d leave for work at five am, I’d get me and him up later, feed him, dress hiom, change hiom, drop him off while I went to class, pick him up, feed him, change him, play with him, set him down for his nap, do homework, grade papers (I was doing the TA thing), and she’d get off after work, I’d have dinner ready – and he’d be ready for bedtime a couple short hours later.

    But I “Didn’t do a damn thing to help her.”

    Why?

    I didn’t do it her way. Thus, I did it WRONG in her mind. Thus it was all discounted.

    Even though I was doing – without a doubt – most of the child care, I didn’t accede to her direction and authority in matters baby – I wasn’t the “assistant mom” – so as far as she was concerned, I wasn’t parenting, just babysitting “her” baby, and nothing I did pleased her.

    That is maternal gatekeeping, the difference being I didn’t have the leisure to say “Screw you, then, if all I am going to hear is nagging about how bad I suck at being Dad, you do it, then.”

    I also didn’t cater to her insecurity about me being as good a parent – or better – than her, but that’s another story.

  59. Oh!, and Priveledged Male:

    Something I didn’t say in my original comment but as you are clarifying things you may want to respond –

    There was no hint in your original post of you thinking Kate’s marraige and son would benefit from the husband giving without limits, only Kate – even though she was clearly already at her wits end through gving so much. Do you think only the mother should give without limits? I know you said some men do this too, but it was clear from Kate’s post that her husband was not one of them (at least in his current actions).

    It seems to me that your name is apt and you are priveledged: a happy marraige to someone you met at a young age. There are all kinds of ‘takers’ or whatever you want to call them out there, and they don’t all let you know that straight away, usually any innate selfishness, or destructiveness shows itself when the S*** hits the fan. Maybe you have never experienced anyone like this and I wish you well in that.

  60. Oh – and, as Kate was saying, its not so easy to ‘give someone the boot’ when you have child together. A person’s self esteem can hit rock bottom within a year, surely you’d give the father/mother of your child that long.

  61. I may need to clarify a few things about my situation. I work out of the home all day, and my husband stays home. We send the baby to daycare because infant care is intensive, and can be very stressfull. We had anticipated that MH would be a full-time caretaker, but that idea got nixed before my maternity leave was up. So we have evenings, mornings, and weekends to deal with.

    I’m not shocked or even angry that MH and I have different perspectives on who does more. I choke on the inability for us to talk about the situation, and what I perceive to be veiled (or not so veiled) threats of abandonment.

    Kate

  62. Gonz:

    “That is maternal gatekeeping” Yes it is, and there is a lot of truth in your story. Now I understand what your original point about being “assistant mom” and it makes sense to me. There are a lot of woman that get threatened if anybody else, including dad, handles the baby as well as she does, or better.

    Kate,

    I’m not saying the above has anything to do with your situation. I’m sorry for your difficulty, and I hope that the improvements you noted continue.

  63. There are a lot of woman that get threatened if anybody else, including dad, handles the baby as well as she does, or better.

    Sure. It’s like paternal gatekeeping, where some men feel threatened if Mom takes over traditional “Dad duties” like discipline or roughhousing, or get upset if their wives are the breadwinners.

    Of course, while I’m sure this wasn’t Gonz’s issue, “doing it wrong” so you don’t have to do a chore ever again is a trick most of us learned as teenagers, but some people manage to keep working into adulthood. One acquaintance of mine with a severely disabled child is married to a man who “can’t remember” how to, say, clean up after giving the baby needed medical treatment.

  64. The presumption of your statement being, of course, that women have a lock on “doing it right.”

  65. Of course you give takers the boot!!!! but who am I to tell if Kate or anyone else is with a taker. They don’t always show their cards straight away. Endless self sacrifice is never a good idea.

    Neither is counting on you fingers every time you do something for someone and obsessing over them not doing something, or the right thing or enough things for you. As for who is and isn’t a taker, who are any of us to judge if either Kate or her husband are ultimately givers or takers. Especially with the limited information about them at hand. There are more dynamics here at play than who is changing the most diapers. There is working at home. Depression. The age difference. And apparently much more that none of us here are qualified to judge. The one thing I am sure of is that neither of them are happy.

    Look: I’m certainly not suggesting endless self sacrifice, just to stop obsessing over who is doing what try to get on and enjoy your lives. Kate feels she is constantly short changed. Hubby feels nagged and depressed. Meanwhile the baby hangs out at the daycare. Not an ideal situation and not a situation that’s going to improve by obsessing more.

    The one thing I do find disheartening is that Kate feels afraid to discuss these issues with her husband. Whether Kate’s or her Hubby’s complaints are valid is irrelevant here. Hubby has a duty to either stop intimidating his wife, or , if he is honest with himself and genuinely is not playing that game, find out why she feels intimidated and to put a stop to it. Intimidation is a screwed up dynamic in a relationship. If there is any reason counseling make sense, this is it.

    Oh!, and Priveledged Male:
    Something I didn’t say in my original comment but as you are clarifying things you may want to respond –
    There was no hint in your original post of you thinking Kate’s marraige and son would benefit from the husband giving without limits, only Kate – even though she was clearly already at her wits end through gving so much. Do you think only the mother should give without limits? I know you said some men do this too, but it was clear from Kate’s post that her husband was not one of them (at least in his current actions).

    Then let me specifically say that yes, I do feel that men have that obligation as well. Men can and often do give it their all, and the difference in mean livespan between men and women is to me, an indicator that this is indeed true. Men often give in different ways and because of that, sometimes women don’t recognize or value those sacrifices. It’s much the same way that women’s sacrifices are sometimes ignored by the men in their lives. Would that we all take our spouses for granted less.

    It seems to me that your name is apt and you are priveledged: a happy marraige to someone you met at a young age. ).

    Thank you! Yes I am! And extremely blessed as well. Did I mention I have five grandchildren?

    There are all kinds of ‘takers’ or whatever you want to call them out there, and they don’t all let you know that straight away, usually any innate selfishness, or destructiveness shows itself when the S*** hits the fan. Maybe you have never experienced anyone like this and I wish you well in that. ).

    Sure I have. I divorced her.

  66. The presumption of your statement being, of course, that women have a lock on “doing it right.”

    Huh?

  67. Mythago.

    I’m not sure what you are getting at with the example of one guy that you think forgets things purposely – I’m wondering if you are just trying to reinforce a stereotype.

    I think we need to question the attitude that men are always reluctant caregivers for babies, always looking for excuses not to participate fully in the care of their infants. That men have to be shamed into doing their “fair share’ as determined by mom, and watched carefully to be sure they are “doing it right” when they are nagged into helping. Sure, some men fall into that category, but there are certainly exceptions, me being one of them. As I said in my post on this, I have always been an enthusiastic caregiver of babies. It is something I always took a great deal of pride in, and the last thing I needed was someone keeping score of how much I did in that area, or looking over my shoulder to see if I “did things right.”

    And perhaps I was fortunate. While some woman might react poorly if dad handles baby easily, my wife never did. She was a neonatal intensive care nurse, so she certainly had nothing to prove and no lack of confidence in that regard. In fact, while I think I am better with babies than most woman, I never had that feeling with my wife. I might well have had some problems if I married someone less competent and less secure in her mothering.

    I’m wondering who ever made the law that mothers – and not fathers – always get to set the expectations for what is right and proper when it comes to baby care? That if we need to know if baby is being properly cared for, we ask mom first, never dad? I hear lots of talk about the tyranny of arbitrarily constructed gender roles when it comes to some things – like work – but the one gender role that is never questioned – by anybody – is that mom gets to set the standard of proper care of infants. And that dad better measure up.

  68. Priveledged male:

    nowhere did I say that anyone should keep count. And I have been aware of the complexities of Kate’s situation – or any crisis in a marraige with small children. What I said was just a warning against letting yourself be taken advantage of – just as you protected yourself in your first marraige/divorce, that’s all. Note you didn’t give your ‘taker’ the boot before you got to the alter. Congratulations on the Grandchildren, sounds wonderful. You are blessed.

  69. Priveledged Male:

    Also to be fair, your original comment was made without alot of the information you’re referring to here. I made a vague comment about being careful about takers because I wanted Kate to protect herself if she needed to, and because I knew I didn’t have much information. Your comment didn’t take that possibilty into account so I wanted to put a bit of balance into the responses. I have a father who has given to me in many ways, even to the point where he has sacrficed himself – so I do not need to be told about how much men can give, I know already. This is also why I am in a position to warn people about self sacrifice. I don’t know where the assumption that I was unaware of how men give, or the one you made about me thinking people should keep score came from.

    Also – you seem to be repeating some of the things I said. E.g. ”Intimidation [referring to the behaviour of Kate's husband] is a screwed up dymnamic in a relationship [and that needs to be addressed]”. How dfferent is that from saying that Kate needs to be careful her husband is not a taker?

    Best, I have enjoyed debating with you.

  70. What do you mean “Huh?”

    Your statement ““doing it wrong” so you don’t have to do a chore ever again is a trick most of us learned as teenagers, but some people manage to keep working into adulthood.” is based on the premise that someone is indeed actually doing it wrong.

    If a man nitpicked, snarked, and groused about something his wife/girlfriend/S.O. did everytime they did it, and she eventually threw up her hands and said, “You know what? There’s no pleasing you. Buggar off, then, do it yourself from here on out” Hugo would write a post excoriating him for his insecurity about “wimmins being as good as him” and say that doing it himself was what he deserved, and he needed to do penance to get back in her good graces, and the comments section would be 64 long with “You go, boy!”

    I used to have women – total strangers – come up to me all the time in public offering to change diapers so the “helpless widdle man” didn’t have to or inform me “Your son has ketchup all over his face.” Gee – YA THINK? How did that happen? Oh, yeah, we have a 20 month old eating fries with ketchup. And he’s not done yet. And when I wipe his face off, he’ll have it on again in about four seconds flat. So unless he’s trying to put them in his eye, or wash his hair with them, I’ll just let it ride while he’s still eating and just wipe his face off ONCE.

    I didn’t have men come up and inform me that my toddler – in a stroller, no less – had his shoe untied and “could trip.” I didn’t have J. Random Man walk up and archly offer me sunscreen, like I had automatically forgotten to put it on him (That whole “Helpless with babies” gene that rides on the Y chromosome). Fathers didn’t snidely ask me “Don’t you have a jacket for that baby?” in seventy degree weather. (Yes, I do. He takes it off. He doesn’t want to wear it, and seventy degrees isn’t going to either kill him or give him TB)

    None of that is “doing it wrong.” It’s doing it different.

    I’m Dad. I’ve got it under control, and I don’t need a redundant X chromosome to know what I am doing.

  71. Gonzman

    The presumption of male incompetence in family/child care is maddening, as is the presumption of female incompetence with traditional male role activities. I think that you an I have been on the receiving end of an attitude that is very very annoying – that the other person’s way of doing things is the default, and any deviation on our part is wrong. WFT?!?!? I don’t ask others to do things my way when they are acting, and I don’t want them to expect me to do it their way when I am acting, be it doing the dishes, feeding the baby, or whatever. While I may have opinions about how other people do things, I only feel compelled to point things out when I feel there is immediate danger (toddlers roaming in the parking lot unattended, kids standing in shopping carts about to tumble out head first, etc.) And I’ve notice that those situations don’t seem to be confined to one gender.

    That said, I’m not in perfect compliance with my ideals. Have I been accused of maternal gate keeping? Yes, twice in 7 months, that I recall. And I agree, that MH and I aren’t as happy as we used to be, and aren’t as functional. On the plus side, Jack is growing like a weed, and knows that he is loved, and is well cared for.

    I also agree that bean counting in relationships is a bad bad idea. If one of the partners feels such an imbalance (real or merely perceived) that bean counting becomes a problem, then something needs to be done to address the issue. I think that MH and I are doing some bean counting – which isn’t a very attractive thing to realize about yourself, or your relationship. I must admit, I feel some base annoyance at myself, and at us as a couple for not being more competent at the whole ‘and baby makes three’ thing. Having prided ourselves on the quality of our marriage in the past (pride goes before the fall, doesn’t it?), I am chagrined that I can’t make the same statement now. Ah well, we will get through this because the alternative is not acceptable to either one of us at this point.

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