Recently, Lifetime Network aired a five-part miniseries called The Week The Women Went, in which all the women over the age of eighteen in a small town in South Carolina left for a week to a Florida resort, leaving the men and teens/children to tend to themselves. Men had to do tasks ranging from taking care of children to running a beauty pageant.
Obviously, this is a blatant appeal to the “LOL men are from Mars women are from Venus” idea: the humor lies in the combined “it is so hilarious when men do feminine things, because feminine things are TERRIBLE!” and “it is so hilarious when men do women’s things, because they are incompetent at it!” Nevertheless, I think there are some interesting sociological implications here.
First, as the linked article points out, it’s disapproved of to make jokes about how women can’t do men’s things because they are terrible at them. Rightly, if you suggest that women can’t play video games or study neuroscience, you will get a bunch of people very angry at you. (You have to use more subtle tactics like ”we’re making fun of fake geeks, they just all happen to be girls!” and “but Successful Lady, how do you balance work and your family?” and “all the smart girls are ugly.”) Unfortunately, this same belief doesn’t apply to men, with two effects: (a) this miniseries was a totally acceptable idea to everyone and (b) these men literally don’t know how to do basic life-skills things because they are Lady Things.
Look, the vast majority of adults should be capable of cooking a basic meal, and nearly all parents should be able to take care of their children by themselves with perhaps a lot of stress but no major crises. That’s not difficult. Just like most women should be able to work a job (with obvious exceptions for reasons ranging from “disability” to “fuck you, I hate working, and I’m privileged enough that I am able to stay at home”), most men should be able to take care of a house (with the same exceptions). There is nothing inherent to maleness that means that cooking or childcare is impossible.
This is a way that the patriarchy hurts men. First, because there is an insulting stereotype that they aren’t able to do basic adult skills and, second, that they never learn how to do the basic adult skills because it is assumed, as a necessary corollary of being referred to as “he,” that they are physically not able to do so. They’re cut off from this huge area of human life and from skills that provide a lot of pleasure to a lot of people and are, in fact, totally necessary in situations such as a reality show (and, more realistically for most men, not having a partner, your partner being ill, your partner going on vacation, etc.).
I would be remiss not to point out that this is a totally fucking Ozy’s Law situation here and that the idea that men are incompetent at all ladythings puts an unreasonable pressure on women, i.e., that they have to do most of the childcare and housework because the men cannot.