My daddy always said . . .

that with some things, you could either laugh or cry, so you might as well laugh.

I’m trying, Daddy.

I don’t know which one of them I’m more annoyed at. Mr. Girls-Who-Work-Will-Leave-You-And-Not-Clean-Your-House, or Ms. Nuh-nuh-I-lurv-my-husband-and-that’s-an-adequate-refutation.

Let’s start with both of them, for treating all women who fit their definition of “career” – have had at least university-level education, work more than 35 hours a week, and earn more than $30,000 a year – like they have the same level of income and the same responses to it. Like there’s not a huge difference between the way $300,000 a year influences your decisions and the way $30,000 a year influences them.

And special hate is reserved for this statement, from Ms. Elizabeth Corcoran: “There is, of course, the continual dilemma of who does the work around the house. But if both spouses are working, guess what? They’ve got enough income to hire someone else to fold laundry, mop floors, etc.”

You’ve got to be shitting me, right? If they both just fit the definition, then they both earn about $60,000 a year. That’s enough to hire cleaning staff? In too many parts of this country, that’s not enough to have a house to clean!

I’m not sure if I’m madder about that, or about the way her response is basically, “Well, my marriage is fine, and I’m a career woman, so clearly you’re wrong.” Is it wrong of me to expect better journalism? More thoughtfulness? Less navel-gazing?

No, wait, I’m madder about the ignorant elitism. Especially because the only way to afford house-cleaning services on salaries of $60,000 a year – if you can even afford it on this – is to pay illegal immigrants less than minimum wage to do it.

Then let’s look at this set of gems, from the original article by Mr. Michael Noer.

“If a host of studies are to be believed, marrying these women is asking for trouble. If they quit their jobs and stay home with the kids, they will be unhappy (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2003). They will be unhappy if they make more money than you do (Social Forces, 2006). You will be unhappy if they make more money than you do (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2001). You will be more likely to fall ill (American Journal of Sociology). Even your house will be dirtier (Institute for Social Research). “

Look, those statistics (if true) are important. It’s important to know that, basically, life is this difficult to live, even when you’re making money. But Mr. Noer is not treating this as a question of why these statistics are true, why it’s so damaging to a marriage for a woman to work, when it’s so frequently necessary or at least seriously beneficial. I have to assume that a portion of Forbes’s readership is female, and that those particular females are “career women.” Considering that, shouldn’t this article be aimed, at least in part, at them? Shouldn’t it be, “How can we make career and family more harmonious for everyone?” or “How can we adjust our expectations of marriage to include both partners working, which is likely a trend that will last?” rather than, “Hey, fellas, never make a working woman your wife.”

The “whys” of these statistics are important. Why will career women be unhappy if they quit their jobs to stay home with their kids? Could it be that the household now has less money? Could it be because they went through the trouble of educating themselves and getting themselves good jobs and priding themselves on the work they were doing, and now they don’t do it anymore? Could it be because we live in a society which will not provide easy or affordable ways to raise children without someone – usually the mother – quitting work, but will look down on women who do anyway? (Oh, excuse me, I forgot. Anyone making $30,000 a year has no money worries and could easily afford the services of day care or a nanny to take care of the children.) Could it be because their own husbands don’t appreciate the work they do at home and look down on them for just sitting around the house all day? Could it be because they feel trapped, choiceless about their current situations?

Why will they be unhappy if they make more money than you do? Why will you? Because we still expect men to be breadwinners? Isn’t that unfair? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Feminism is a two-way street. The sexism we fight is a sexism that hurts everyone. If you stop expecting women to not have “careers” and to take care of your home and your children exclusively, we’ll stop expecting you to earn all the money.

Your house will be dirtier? So clean it, you schmuck! I think he’s right that marriages frequently work best when labor is specialized. But the lines of division don’t work really well anymore. Even if a couple was able to support only one partner working, a) it doesn’t have to be the husband, and b) housework is a really heavy load. The working partner should still take care of some of it. And most couples in this country simply can’t operate like that. A single income cannot support a family. So, assuming that the “market” labor will have to be done by two people, the “non-market” labor will have to be done by two people (or more – either help, if you can afford it, or children, if they’re old enough). So husbands may have to clean something occasionally for the house not to be “dirtier.”

I know what my husband would say to that. He’d get very mad. He’d point out that he does do most of the cleaning in our house, so how can I talk as if men as a general category, as if they all violently oppose cleaning?

I guess I’d have to respond, because this guy does. And because, if the statistic about dirt is true, clearly most guys in this country do violently oppose cleaning, since the mere fact of a woman working is enough to make houses statistically dirtier. (I would really prefer to not know how that study was conducted, by the way.)

I have no explanation for the falling ill thing. I guess it’s possible that if both partners work, then that’s germs from two different workplaces entering the house, so you will fall ill more easily. But if you have young children, workplaces are the least of your worries.

What about this? “Women’s work hours consistently increase divorce, whereas increases in men’s work hours often have no statistical effect. “I also find that the incidence in divorce is far higher in couples where both spouses are working than in couples where only one spouse is employed,” Johnson says.” Well, duh. When one spouse isn’t employed, there’s a very good reason for staying married, right? That’s the problem with dividing household labor by “market” and “non-market” activity. The “non-market” partner has to stay with the “market” partner or risk debilitating poverty. It’s always important to keep in mind that “not divorced” and “happily married” are not the same thing.

This kind of thing shows up all the time in arguments about women working, and I wonder if the men writing it even notice the insecurity they’re displaying. The thinking seems to be, “There is nothing attractive about me except my wallet. If women can fill their own wallets, they’ll leave me.” This shows up in a lot of conservative, wealthy, white guy arguments, otherwise notable in the anti-same-sex-marriage movement, whose argument seems to be, “If we give women a choice between us and other women, they’ll leave us.” It’s really frightening. And, knowingly or not, Mr. Noer drives that point home by arguing that women at work can meet co-workers, for whom they’ll probably leave their husbands. It’s so sad. It almost makes me want to give Mr. Noer and his ilk a hug. Then I remember the probably-deeply-steeped-in-reality trope of men leaving their same-age wives for much younger secretaries and I stop feeling bad.

Actually, this reminds me of something in the anti-gay movement, too. Have you ever talked to a guy who absolutely shudders at the mere thought of exposure to a gay man, because he’s so desparately afraid that this man might, well, hit on him? I’ve always laughed at the arrogance of it, and also at Jerry Seinfeld’s bit about how easily men are sold things, but it occured to me not too long ago that these men are the kinds of men girls meet at bars and parties all the time, who grab at them, leer at them, come on to them very aggressively and won’t let up, get sexually inappropriate at the merest provocation, and then, when rejected, get hostile, even violent. And it occurs to me that what they’re really concerned about is gay guys treating them exactly the way they themselves treat women. And that’s what’s occuring to me here. Afraid that if your wife works, she’ll leave you for a handsome co-worker? Then you’re probably the kind of guy who’d leave your wife for a cute secretary. Karma, she’s a bitch.

I’m going to end this post before it gets too alarmingly random.

Because the World Works like this . . .

Three days after my last post, I ran across this through Salon’s Broadsheet.

And before I start anything, Evangeline Lilly? Are they serious? Has there really been such an extreme dearth of actually curvy women that EVANGELINE LILLY counts? Good God, y’all.

Then there are the assertions that, 1) the “curvy” ideal as it applies to Drew Barrymore, et al, and pin-ups from the ’40s and ’50s is less exacting than the super-skinny ideal, and 2) if you are a “curvier” woman, you’re less afraid of carbs (and therefore, ugh, your boyfriend’s “salami”*). Let’s take 1) first. It’s just as exacting. I haven’t done a great deal of research, but I’m sure Bettie Page, et al, received a lot of pressure to look a certain way. It was just a different way from the way Nicole Ritchie and Kate Moss and the other skinny minnies feel pressured. They aren’t being given more “leeway” to celebrate their “cushioning.” Remember when breast implants, rather than super-skinny-making diets, were the big horror in terms of what women were doing to their bodies to fit the ideal?

A lot of this reminds me of the reaction when “Baby Got Back” first came out. Everyone celebrated it as liberating for women because it turned against the skinny trend for women. But it was just as exacting. “36-24-36? Only if she’s 5’3″!” “. . . an itty-bitty waist and a round thing in your face . . .” “My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hon!” Never mind that Sir Mix-a-lot was hardly sporting an ideal body himself, he was playing arbiter of appropriate women’s body shapes. It was just a different shape. (Not that I don’t love that song. Those lyrics were called up from memory, after all.)

It is important to keep in mind that, for the most part, you don’t get to choose which ideal to try to live up to. I’m never going to achieve the super-skinny look. I could fast, I could exercise seven hours a day, it wouldn’t matter. I’ll always be more Winslet than Moss. Likewise, Kate Moss could stuff her face full of pizza daily and she won’t look like Kate Winslet. Or me. Whereas, if I did diet and get in better shape, I could start to look more like Kate Winslet.**

Which brings us to 2). Note, I’d have to diet. So does Kate Winslet. The Kate Winslets of the world typically have to be more careful of their weight, and their carb intakes, than the Kate Mosses of the world, and not just because Kate Moss has cocaine to help her. (Cocaine, by the way, will kill you, and fuck you up in all kinds of fun ways, and is terrible for you, but it is the best weight-loss drug in the world.) Some women are naturally skinny. The women who aren’t have to watch their food intake. Is all I’m saying.

I again assert that this is not a dig at those particular actresses. (Well, I don’t like Evangeline Lilly much, but it’s not her fault. I hate her character on “Lost,” but that doesn’t mean she’s bad at playing her.) It’s articles like this that make me nuts.

* I know I’m married, and much more carb-friendly than even those gargantuans like Drew Barrymore and Catherine Zeta-Jones, so I don’t count, but seriously? Details guys? Referring to your genitals as your salami? So very juvenile and unattractive.

** Another Adventures from Subbing tale. I had a class of all black males one day, and because of whatever we were talking about in the context of their history class, the discussion turned to body shape and image, and the boys asked me why white girls don’t have butts like black girls. Do they just diet them off? What is it? So we had this huge discussion about how sometimes you have the butt, and sometimes you don’t have the butt, and white or black, there’s very little you can do to affect it one way or another, unless you basically do four hours of lunges daily, and even then, the butt will disappear in about ten minutes if you stop.

Body Image

I only bring this up because my Wild Words from Wild Women quotes calendar has this quote today: “God made a very obvious choice when he made me voluptous; why would I go against what he decided for me? My limbs work, so I’m not going to complain about the way my body is shaped.” – Drew Barrymore.

Now, seriously, if you had a body like Drew Barrymore, would your attitude about it be, “Eh, at least my limbs work,” or “Yippee kay-o kay-ay! Let’s go shopping!” Because mine would be the latter. Ditto if I looked like Angelina Jolie, Kate Winslet, or Reese Witherspoon, all of whom have been called very “brave” by VH1 (or possibly E!) for “celebrating” their bodies instead of trying to diet them away. And I’m going, “Reese Witherspoon is now considered Rubenesque? I have definitely fallen down the rabbit hole.”

I mean, I guess considering that Hollywood is what it is . . . but are there really producers running around telling women like Angelina Jolie, et al, to lose weight for roles? I don’t understand. Do these producers have absolutely no sexual chemicals running around in their bodies at all, thus rendering them incapable of responding to or even recognizing sexy female bodies?

And no one is calling Camryn Mannheim or Kathy Bates brave, by the way. They seem to be pretty comfortable with their bodies. But I guess if you’re actually fat and okay with it, that’s not “brave,” it’s just icky.

I don’t mean this as a dig at any of these actresses. In fact, I do admire their attitudes, which are usually less, “Look at me being TOTALLY OKAY with my boobies! Look! Look!” and more “What the fuck are you talking about?” And even though the Drew Barrymore quote seems to put her in the former category, it’s not really her fault that she gets asked these assinine questions. My beef is with the askers and framers of these categories, this gestalt that finds boobs and upper arms wider than the elbow all scary and then patronizingly congratulates the women with these scary features for seeming not to mind.

People are weird, is all I’m getting at, here.

One other minor point which has nothing to do with anything: have you ever noticed that you can’t really say “voluptous”? It always comes out “volumptous,” doesn’t it?