Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Time: "Happy Father's Day, You Undeserving Goons!"

Man, I have no idea where to start with Time's stunning Father's Day piece from anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, which starts like this:

The folks at Hallmark are going to have a very good day on June 17.That's when more than 100 million of the company's ubiquitous cardswill be given to the 66 million dads across the U.S. in observation ofFather's Day. Such a blizzard of paper may be short of the more than150 million cards sold for Mother's Day, but it's still quite atribute. What's less clear is whether dads--at least as a group--havedone a good enough job to deserve the honor.

And goes downhill from there.

First: At the risk of sounding like I want my journalism all warm-and-fuzzy, what the heck is this magazine doing running a hit piece on dads *this week*? I get that not all dads are doing right by their kids and that there are some real problems there. And I enjoy reading about efforts to correct those problems. Time -- apparently -- is not. So what's next for the magazine? A child abuse feature for Mother's Day? A Christmas cover story announcing that Santa isn't real?

Second: What's up with the stats? Yes, it's true that dads spend an hour a day on what is defined as "child care." But that's pretty much where moms were in 1985 (so much for gender differences) and hardly evidence of our innate disinterest in parenting. But rather than calling for more sane work-life policies, Hrdy wonders aloud why monkey daddies make better patients.

Third: While we're talking about monkeys, I'd like to make a blanket condemnation of anyone who tries to explain extremely complex human social behavior by looking to animals. Look, I know there's a biological component to all of this. But that is swamped by the social component. The same goes for the study of indigenous people. It's interesting, but it doesn't come close to explaining why I make the choices I do.

Fourth: I find it remarkable that you can write a whole piece on fatherhood and not note how quickly it has changed -- and generally for the better -- in a relatively short amount of time. It's tough for even the sociologists to keep track of where fatherhood is nowadays, things are changing so fast. Time's piece utterly fails to even give a nod to those huge changes in social expectations.

I'm sure I could keep going ...

[Update: Some really good commentary to this one, including RebelMom. Click on the comments to read more.]

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