Woman who has one thing at a time

I have a new obsession.  Have you met Man who has it all?  Seriously, if you haven’t, you should open a new browser window and follow him on Twitter or Facebook RIGHT NOW.  Man who has it all has a “lifestyle blog for the super busy working dad.”  He is coming out with a book in October as well, which I think will make an excellent Christmas gift.  I have brought him to the attention of many of my friends and acquaintances and, interestingly, the responses have been mixed.  Some find him immediately funny, some aren’t quite sure, and some simply don’t get him at all.  If you look through his Facebook page, you will see clever memes such as this:

I.  Am.  Dying.

So my first reaction was that this guy is so, so funny.  I adore his dry wit.  My second reaction was to reflect on the fact that some of those memes seem so shocking and utterly ridiculous when they are directed toward men in this way.  However, every day in our society, women are bombarded with these very messages about our gender roles, and there is absolutely no shock value.

For instance, a woman would not be surprised at all to read in a headline or parenting book that one of her tasks as a new mother is to encourage the new father to play a full and active role.  And yet, if we turn that the other way around as shown in the meme above, we see how completely insulting it is, and how it sets up one half of the parental dyad to be an accessory, rather than an equal partner.  Likewise, how many times have we all seen a headline in a women’s magazine about how to be taken seriously at work?  Do we ever see such headlines directed toward men?  Nope, afraid not.  Men don’t worry about being taken seriously at work.  Want to know why?  Because they don’t have to worry about being taken seriously at work.  So, I just love how Man who has it all is playing with the issue of gender inequality by turning things around in a humorous way.

Now, lest you think I am just another angry feminist, I am also concerned about how men come out looking in all of this.  I think that Man who has it all is not only speaking about how women are portrayed in society, but also about how men are portrayed.  My husband and I are a little non-traditional in the fact that I work full-time, while he primarily stays home with the children.  We made this transition several years ago because he was very unhappy in his job and needed a change.  He has since started a small business, and it has been a very good thing for our family.  Because his schedule is more flexible than mine and much of his work is seasonal, he does the bulk of the chores, shopping, laundry, cooking, and basically keeps the home fires burning.  He is really good at it too!  I can’t begin to tell you, however, how many people act surprised and raise their eyebrows when they find out about our arrangement.  “So, he does all the home stuff?  REALLY?”  Yes, I nod proudly, he really does.  Then I think, wait, what?  Do men have these conversations about their wives or female partners?

“Dude–so you’re telling me she stays home with your kids, AND she cooks, takes care of the house, and does laundry?  Are you sure you trust her to do as good a job as you would? “

Weird when you turn it around like that, right?

No one is disputing the great progress we have made toward gender equality in the past century.  We have indeed come a long way.  I mean, we have a woman running for president!  Women in the senate!  Women in the military! But I think that the gender inequality that exists today (in the developed world) is more subtle.  It is less of an overt violation of rights and freedoms, and more of a quiet background noise–an undercurrent that runs through the veins of our society and our culture.  It is so prevalent that sometimes we don’t even notice when it is happening.  And this collective mindset affects so much of our societal and personal beliefs– from marital roles, to workplace discrimination, to rape culture.

Allow me to give you an example from my own life.  There is this email I keep getting at work from a third-party company offering a class entitled “Communication Skills for Women:  How to achieve confidence, credibility, and composure in the workplace.”  The email goes on to offer the following description:

Our researchers asked women across the country to describe their toughest communication situations. We analyzed over 800 circumstances and compiled these top 10:

•  Confronting others, delivering criticism
•  Controlling emotions
•  Being more assertive
•  Receiving constructive criticism
•  Using confidence not uncertainty
•  Getting cooperation
•  Dealing with the anger of others
•  Setting limits
•  Improving presentation skills
•  Taking charge
•  With this powerful day of training, you’ll build the skills needed to handle these situations and turn it into the results you deserve… and much more.

Wow.  Are you saying that women can learn to communicate too?  This is great news.  I thought for sure that since I didn’t have a Y chromosome, I was going to have to use smoke signals.  But now I have hope.  I can learn to put aside my pesky emotions and get my point across in a calm, composed manner that is assertive but not too assertive.  I also would hate to learn these valuable new communication skills in mixed company, as I tend to swoon easily when there are men-folk about.

I checked out this company’s website, and there was no special communication course for men, unfortunately.  If there was, I would probably sign up for that one instead, just for fun.  Why learn communication skills for women when you can learn communication skills for men, after all?  I bet Man who has it all is the kind of guy who would sign up for the “Communication for Women” class just to mess with everyone’s heads.

So, I applaud Man who has it all for his unique perspective, and for making us think a little more deeply about the way we perceive our gender roles.  It really has made me think about all the pressure I put on myself to excel at work while being an awesome, super-engaged mom and wife, who is also attractive and makes it look easy.  I don’t think I can do all those things at once.  I think I can maybe do one of those things at a time, on a good day.  Other days I am going to have smudgy mascara after a long day at work, warm up leftovers, collapse on the couch, and then go to bed at 8:30.  I shall call myself “Woman who has one thing at a time”.  I think it has a nice ring to it, don’t you?