Sunday, July 23, 2006

Mary Poppins, stand aside, biological fluke coming through.

The Washington Post, care of MSNBC, tells us all about Adam Good, a "manny" in Washington. A what? It seems that a manny is the same thing as a nanny but who happens to have a Y chromosone. Yup, a male nanny. Fine and dandy, and newsworthy at least for its unusualness, or in these paranoid, misandrystic days, positive unlikeliness.

The Post feels the need to educate us with a discussion of the evolutionary science of child nurturing. That wouldn't be so bad, but for the sotto voce (undocumented) claims that the evolutionary scientists who don't believe in nurturing fathers are predominantly male and those who do are predominantly female, with a couple of canned examples to prove their point. It's rubbed in with mention of the small numbers of men who teach at preschool. There's precious little discussion of the possibility that social prejudice might have something to do with it, but plenty of nudge-nudge, wink-wink chumming up to those that might hold such prejudice. Article author? Brigid Schulte. I'm guessing female.

Where do she and the Post side? The last line of the article reads: "A biological fluke? An evolved, caring male?" I guess they figure it's all perfectly normal, and needs encouraging, eh? (I feel compelled to point out that her use of the word "evolved" just goes to show that Brigid and her editor know sweet FA about evolution.)

But where did we ever get this idea that men don't care about children? Single, macho young men on the lookout for a fun time, sure, but even then not all of them. Every father I ever knew clearly cares very strongly about the well being of his children. Does that make them "biological flukes"? I'm in my forties and no man I've ever got to know reasonably well has bailed on his kids for his own selfish ends (but I've met multiple women who've dumped hubby and taken his kids from him). A father's love isn't expressed in the same way as a mother's, true, and it might be a little harder to recognize (extra hours at the office to bring in all the more butter for the toast simply don't count), but all too often we don't even try, it's easier to belittle or ignore it, to make it less painful to watch when the children are torn away.

Having just puzzled over people who think that men don't care about kids, I find myself equally puzzled by people who think that men and women are exactly the same. And these are exactly the kinds of people that Louann Brizedine finds herself up against. A psychiatrist who specializes in women, she's encountered the women's studies professor Janet Hyde who is "disgusted by scientists, writers and publishers who exploit trivial differences between the genders." which leads me to wonder if she's disgusted at herself. Another contrarian, Nancy Andreasen thinks "Whatever measurable differences exist in the brain, are used to oppress and suppress women.", but then she would, wouldn't she? She's a woman, after all. (Bad blogger! Naughty blogger! Go and stand in the corner!)

Trivial or not, it's hard, if not ridiculous, to deny that there are gender differences, and, a disgusted Hyde notwithstanding, Dr. Brizedine seems to be doing a fair job of working on them. Even so, I do pause at the idea that a frigid wife having extra-marital affairs is OK because she's just trying to have genetically superior babies and changing brain chemistry in a menopausal woman might excuse calling a divorce lawyer instead of trying marriage counselling. These moral judgements are not actually made by the article, but neither are they denied. I've heard the theories before, along with the reasoning that men are hard wired to spread their seed far and wide, which, of course, society is entirely happy about and all of us men are just positively humping up against everything in sight. Whatever.

And here's an idea to celebrate: "what makes [women] unique will help empower them too", indeed, and there is a neat ripost to the hypocrisy of she who insists she's the same as me, then looks for advantage because she's a woman.

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1 comment:

Paula said...

I agree with you that men and women are not the same, and I know this post is from a while ago, but it seems Brizendine's work is not too accurate. See here:
http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/004370.html