Friday, May 21, 2004

More book reviews (kind of)! I should point out that part of the reason it took me so long to read “How Tough Could It Be,” is that I was working my way through Scott Coltrane’s “Family Man,” which is as dense as “How Tough” is fluffy and as important a resources as “How Tough” is ephemeral.

The book’s been out for nearly a decade, so giving a review isn’t really worth much. It’s a long read, packed with information and pages upon pages of meticulous endnotes. Think of it as a dad encyclopedia.

But I wanted to note the optimism behind “Family Man.” Coltrane lays out 10 reasons why the proportion of men doing housework and childrearing should continue to rise for the foreseeable future. In retrospect, that seems like a safe bet, but it’s worth remembering that he was writing in the mid-1990s, when Robert Bly’s manlier-than-thou treatise “Iron John” was a permanent fixture on the best seller lists and the traditionalist Promise Keepers were popular fodder for media stories.

In short, Coltrane published “Family Man” near the height of the sensitive-guy backlash, when it could certainly be argued that progress toward gender equity in the family was in some peril. Us sweet guys, though, we triumphed over the macho ones. After all, how many men are still going out in the woods to bang drums with other guys?

That’s of interest because, as I pointed out a few months ago, Susan Faludi (of Backlash fame) has warned that there’s likely to be another tough-guy backlash coming against the rash of metrosexual/at-home dad/sensitive-man trend. I doubted Faludi at the time, arguing that involved dads aren’t a passing fancy, but evidence of some real social change. Reading “Family Man” – and remembering how quaint and faddish “Iron John” now seems – reinforces my conviction that we’re here to stay.

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