Modern Village Founder Lisa Duggan responds to Janna Karvundis’s self-confessed angry rant about Stay-at-Home Dads.
Dear Mr. Greenfield,
I write to you in regards to the February 2 article in the Chicago Tribune, Do-it-yourself Dads, by Dawn Turner Trice, and the response to it written by Jenna Karvundis of High Gloss and Sauce blog, on the ChicagoNow blogsite, which has since been taken down.
Last night my husband was in town with our ten year-old daughter who, tired and cranky due to a recent sprained ankle and a long day at school, was begging her father for ice cream. He stood next to the open passenger side door as she cried and made her case. A woman pulled in beside them and witnessing the scene mouthed to my daughter, “Are you alright?” My daughter mouthed back “Yes, I’m okay,” at which point my husband became aware of the exchange taking place behind his back.
I can presume that the woman was a well-meaning mother who was worried for my daughter’s safety, and I should be grateful for her concern. But I know that had I been the frustrated parent standing by the car she would have been mouthing her question to me, instead of my daughter. By virtue of my sex alone, absent any other evidence, she would have presumed me simply a frustrated mom deserving of sympathy and not incompetent, or worse, a predator or an abusive parent.
In our culture there is a persistent bias against men that says that they are both not hardwired for nurturing or empathy and worse, that they are predisposed to violence and indifference.
Unfortunately, each article published by the Tribune supports some of these biases.
The article by Ms. Turner Trice manages to reinforce stereotypes about men as naturally more physically inclined, less concerned about cleanliness and more proficient at using technology (math and science) to solve problems, than women. It does not acknowledge that these behaviors are acculturated, not genetically predetermined by sex, and that as many dads are reserved, mechanically inept and spotless in their parenting.
Despite this, I found the article about stay-at-home fathers mostly benign or informative, which also included quotes from appreciative working wives and facts about the difficulty dads share with stay-at-home mothers when returning to the paid workforce.
For these reasons I found it odd that Ms. Karvundis’ response to the article was a self-confessed angry rant. Yes, men are now being applauded for doing a job that women have done historically without compensation or praise. But this is not unlike the early days of the women’s movement, when women were featured and highlighted in articles about their successes in the workplace. The drastic cultural change was news back then, as this cultural change is now. Her rage is unsupported by the article and my guess is that her anger was really informed by a specific and personal argument with one of the dads featured, which she mentions at the very end of her post, as well as the belief she holds that parenting is not gender-neutral — it’s “momming”.
If it’s true that, “Boys don’t grow up playing with dolls or baby-sitting as much as girls,” as stated by University of Oregon sociologist Scott Coltrane in Turner Trice’ article, then surely it’s because moms and dads who share Karvundis’ belief that caregiving is a women’s job do not encourage their boys to do so. Responding with rage to a mostly neutral piece about caregiving dads will only discourage men to give it a try and it does nothing to bridge the communication gap between moms and dads who have elected to do the same, thankless job of parenting.
These stay-at-home Dads are our colleagues and peers. It is the media that portrays men and women’s contributions unevenly who deserve our outrage. In the future, please consider publishing more positive and encouraging voices on this issue.
Founder and CEO, The Modern Village