Monday, March 24, 2008

The Long Road to Equality at Home

I've been struggling with what to make of all the press that the various abstracts for the 11th Annual Conference of the Council on Contemporary Families have received. I already linked to Paul Nyhan's great look at Scott Coltrane's paper. You can see a more complete version here, and it is probably the finest summary of all of the gains that fathers have made over the past 30 years. Bookmark it.

But the "other perspectives" that are listed below the paper have the more interesting perspectives, particularly Paula England of Stanford University's take. She makes the dead-on point that it's too early to congratulate ourselves and says that the forces pushing women into the workforce have been way stronger than the forces pushing dads back into the home. Key quote: "For every hundred parents encouraging daughters to play soccer, perhaps one encourages a son to play with dolls. Until we change how much culture, government, and employers reward the activities and jobs women historically did, it will be hard to get men to do them."

That's only the first are a number of other responses that offer some critical context on how far we have to go to get to equality, all making the fundamental point that whatever incremental improvement we've seen in marriage, housework and childrearing is still going against the grain of just about all the forces in American life.

Of course, most of the attention has been put on Joshua Coleman's contention that more housework (by men) equals more sex, with plenty of outlets essentially suggesting that there is some sort of causal relationship between single acts of housework and nookie. This is, of course, ridiculous. Strong, equal relationships happen to have a fair breakdown of household tasks and good sex, but the two have a lot more to do with the equality than with each other. (It's possible, too, that I have an anti-Joshua Coleman bias, given that his claim to fame is penning a book called "The Lazy Husband," which appears to be a tome of largely thoughtful advice marred by the idiotic title.)


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