We at the Berkshire Conference last weekend shared plenty of transhistorical, global bad news about women in history and in the historical profession, so far be it for me to suggest a Whig narrative for Western women’s and gender history. But–does anyone find it a little weird that this story is a stunning newsflash worthy of several pages in the New York Times Sunday Magazine? (Hat tip to Historiann commenter Indyanna.) People, this is 2008. Why aren’t you writing urgent stories about the millions of men who are letting their female partners down by shirking housework and child care? I guess dog bites man isn’t a news story, so we have to go with “man bites dog, then changes diaper.”
Also, while it’s nice that Marc Vachon and a few of the other men in this story help make things work around the house, I wonder if they are really worthy of a 10-page magazine spread? (Talk about evidence of the low expectations that our culture has for heterosexual men! Man Microwaves Dinner for His Own Children–film at 11!) Are decent, thoughtful husbands really like exotic zoo animals? Why are egalitarian heterosexual couples being covered by the New York Times like they’re members of a secretive tribe recently discovered by anthropologists? How do these kinds of media representations of heterosexuality shape young men’s and women’s expectations of partnerships and/or marriage?
More reflections on the conference to follow…but I’m feeling the urge to retreat into the eighteenth century, especially if men like Marc Vachon are Big News in 2008.