Tom Burns is happily married to a woman, but he thinks Suzanne Venker’s assertion that women need husbands is complete BS.
Earlier this week, FoxNews.com published an “opinion” article by self-appointed pundit Suzanne Venker titled “Why Women Still Need Husbands,” a piece that chides the female sex for embracing baby boomer values and not accepting the fact that women clearly were not built to have children or careers without a dutiful man standing by their side.
And, after reading Venker’s article, I think that one can clearly see that women do not, in fact, need husbands. They don’t. And I’m saying this as a husband.
Don’t get me wrong – As a husband of thirteen-plus years, I want to feel needed and wanted and valued. I do.
But Venker’s article is so ass-backwards and wrongheaded about why husbands are truly valuable that, even though I’m always eager to accept a compliment, her praise for men comes across as patronizing and dismissive to both genders. I feel like I’ve been handed a participation ribbon and given a pat on the back for something I didn’t really deserve and that’s not a great feeling.
So, let’s get to work debunking Venker’s article and see about giving men some praise for things they really do deserve.
For starters, the title “Why Women Still Need Husbands”…. Um, who has actually suggested otherwise? Is this a veiled jab at gay marriage, an institution which, if anything, actually, promotes the importance of spouses? Or is it just a weird, out-dated piece of fear-mongering that suggests women might one day become asexual and have no need for men at all? (Which is lame even by sci-fi standards.) Anyway you look at it – the title makes no sense.
Next, Venker points an accusatory finger at Jennifer Aniston (of all people) for claiming, in 2010, that “women needn’t ‘fiddle with a man’ to have a child.” While, yes, I’m sure Aniston actually said those words, has Venker actually looked at the context of Aniston’s remarks? Because, if you do, you’ll see that Aniston made the off-handed comment while promoting The Switch, a comedy about artificial insemination, a movie where she does, in fact, end up with the sperm donor in the end. So, perhaps with five seconds of research, one could see that the “fiddle” comment was an innocuous, makes-sense-in-context press conference aside and not some militant feminist screed.
After that, Venker throws out a lot of soundbite nonsense that lambasts so-called “empowered” women from the past forty years. Comments like “Fortunately, most women come to the realization that they do, in fact, need a man—at least if they want a family.” (Actually, they don’t “need” men. They just need sperm. When have women ever argued that male sperm wasn’t a requirement for reproduction?) Or “there’s nothing empowering about being beholden to an employer when what you really want is to have a baby.” (Because women only exist to reproduce? Because no woman is complete without a baby? Because no woman with a job has ever been able to happy balance her work life with her home life?)
Venker then gets to the heart of her article – her assertion that what women really want are balanced lives and, the way to do that is to, and I quote:
“Lean on your husband. … why not let husbands bring home the bulk of the bacon so women can have the balanced lives they seek? There’s no way to be a wife, a mother and a full-time employee and still create balance. But you can have balance by depending on a husband who works full-time and year-round.”
As a husband, I’m here to tell you – that’s a piece of insulting, moronic, half-thought-through garbage.
First, who doesn’t want a balanced life? Who doesn’t want it all? Family, a successful career, free time. I’m a man and I want all of that. Who ever said that they didn’t want a balanced life? That’s like turning down free money.
Venker tries to hide behind “research,” i.e., a small handful of surveys that make broad generalizations about career-women valuing flexibility over salary. In Venker’s mind, that “research” (air quotes emphasized) PROVES that all women want to work part-time, all men want to work full-time, so just let’s just have the men bring home the bacon while the ladies make a few extra bucks selling candles while they’re waiting for the kids to come home from school.
What an inane reading of a few innocuous pieces of social data. In a survey, women said they value flexibility at higher levels than men did. So what? I’m a man with a career and a kid and I value both. I didn’t walk into my marriage, expecting that my wife would let me pursue my “linear career” (Venker’s term) with blinders on while she did whatever she needed to do to care for my offspring. That’s ridiculous.
Marriage, above anything else, is about partnership. It’s about two people, regardless of gender, coming together and saying, “We are in this together forever.” And “together” is the operative word there. Marriage is all about two people working in tandem to make the happiest life possible for each other. Sometimes that partnership focuses heavily on career, other times it focuses on children. Sometimes, it focuses on something completely different because, dear lord, there are other things in life than jobs and kids.
In that partnership, married people take on different roles. One partner might cook the meals, one might pay the bills – there are a million variations on how the marriage roles can be split up amongst two people. But here’s something very important to realize – gender plays a very, very small role in deciding who does what in a marriage.
Yes, if you have kids, the woman has to carry and deliver the baby and, if you’re breast-feeding, they have to do that too. But that’s about it when it comes to gender-imperatives in a marriage and those don’t even come into play if you’re adopting or using a surrogate or choosing to have a kid through the million other wonderful ways that two people can decide to have a kid today.
I don’t care what Pew Research says. I personally know amazing career-women who have conquered the world of finance and still come home to read to their kids at night, and I know inspirational stay-at-home dads who have embraced the role of care-giver as well as anyone ever could.
I am a husband and my value doesn’t come from the fact that someone at Fox News tells a woman that I have value.
As a husband, my value is determined solely by my words and my actions and how I function in my partnership with my spouse. It doesn’t matter if I’m the bread-winner or if my wife is. All that matters is that my spouse and I have come up with a partnership that works for us, works for our family, and works for our kids.
So, don’t tell me that women need me because of some bullshit biological imperative or some revisionist take on antiquated gender roles. Acknowledge my value as a man and as a husband based on what I actually do and what my life is actually like. Let’s give the role of a husband some accountability and judge me based on my performance in my partnership and not on some hacky “boys do this, girls do this” standards.
My wife should need me because of the value I bring to our partnership, not just because I have a penis and like making money. Oh, it also helps that she loves me, a concept that never makes an appearance in “Why Women Still Need Husbands.”
Ironically, at bottom of Venker’s original article, she notes that she’s the founder of “a news and opinion website committed to improving gender relations and to providing much-needed support for the American male.”
Ms. Venker – as an American male, if this is the support you’re offering us, please keep it to yourself.
Photo: Flickr/Ryan Somma