all you lovely bitches and hoes should know I’m trying to correct this

My latest theory in gender studies is this: male privilege is largely latent until you get married and have children. That is, there are quite a number of assumptions, protections, and social constructions that I, as a man, benefit from every day (here’s a well-known list). But I can’t really do anything about most of them. I can’t reduce the amount of rape in the world or make clothing manufacturers play fair with women.

What I can do, of course, is strive for fairness and decency in my relationships with the women in my life and with women in the public sphere. And this I have always done. It’s not hard for me to treat the women I know as potential equals, because I genuinely think of them that way. Similarly, it’s not hard for me to purge my discourse of sexist rhetoric, because I am not a dick. I listen to my female colleagues, I don’t think I’m entitled to sex, I was on Anita Hill’s side, I’m not offended by women-only gyms, I dig Xena and Buffy and C.J. Cregg and have mixed feelings about Ally McBeal, and I’m comfortable enough with my own feminism to use the word and, also, to open a door for a lady.

But oh, man… it turns out all that is the easy part. That shit is, like, the bare minimum, the thin classificatory cusp separating man from douchebag. Things get so much harder when you move in together and agree to assume responsibility for one completely unprogrammed tiny human. Christ.


We own one car. This is by design — not having a second car is saving us money, and the bear and I can easily walk to a grocery store, a cafe, and a lovely, green canyon. (Now that he’s older, we are also thinking about getting him a bike helmet and a seat, which would expand our range even further.) But a curious side effect of our only having one car is that I drive much less — sometimes a week or more will go by — while Elana still drives every day. I think I may even have lost some of my driving acumen (everything atrophies when not in use), and L.A. traffic is Olympic-class, not for the weak or hesitant.

Anyway, Elana has of course noticed that I don’t really care for driving in the city, and a few months ago something odd happened: I stopped driving entirely. I didn’t do this voluntarily, exactly; driving just ceased being necessary. Elana would just… volunteer. At first explicitly (“Shall I drive?”), and then, you know, it kind of became our habit, and no one said anything about it. I just sort of settled into the Miss Daisy role.

For a while. I did eventually start asking Elana if she wanted me to drive. She assured me she didn’t. I asked what this was all about. She said, well, you don’t like to drive. That was inarguable, but I asked if I oughtn’t drive sometimes, just, you know, for equitable distribution of family responsibilities. She insisted this was unnecessary, and repeated her observation that I don’t like to drive.

We more-or-less let it go at that, but the conversation gnawed at me. It felt wrong. The whole situation felt like I was somehow taking advantage of my wife, getting away with something, putting an unfair burden on her. I determined to start volunteering to drive — storming the driver’s side door by force, if necessary.

But.

Here is the key point: I still don’t drive.

Well. It would be untrue to say that I never drive. For instance, there was that one time that Elana had been shot in the gut, and I had to drive her to the safe house, and then that crazy Mr. Blond showed up and started torturing a cop he’d managed to drag along with him…. No, wait. That’s not right. None of that happened.

I never fucking drive.

But why not? It’s true that I don’t like driving, but I don’t have a phobia of it or anything. I’m perfectly capable of driving. I’d just prefer not to. It’s certainly not the case that I ever asked Elana to drive on my behalf, or to become our default driver. But she, picking up on my mild dislike of the task, took it on, without having to be asked or, indeed, asking my opinion in the matter.

And now we arrive at something like the heart of the difference between men and women. I think it’s something like the well-known distinction between Ask Culture and Guess Culture:

In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it’s OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an answer. This is Ask Culture.

In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you’re pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won’t even have to make the request directly; you’ll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.

This is painting with a broad-ass brush, obviously, but I think women tend to be socialized more often as Guessers, while men are overtly trained to be Askers (and, occasionally, Demanders — but those guys are assholes). Unfortunately, I think when those two styles clash, the Guessers tend to get brutalized. For example, as an Asker, I assume that if Elana wanted me to drive more often, she’d come out and ask me to do so. And even if I come out and ask her, it may not be enough — she may give me a “pro forma” demurral, on the assumption that if I’m sincere I’ll simply do the thing and not talk about it.


The driving thing is pretty minor, though, and at least I’m aware of it. After all, everybody drives; I have no particular reason to think Elana is for some reason in love with driving.

Where it really gets sticky is in dividing up child care responsibilities. Because here it takes an almost Herculean effort to overcome the tendency to slide into weird, Leave It To Beaver gender roles.

Partly, biology conspires against your good intentions. Breastfeeding is the right and proper way to feed a baby unless you’re physically unable, but it also makes the mother a kind of constant footservant to the child. My wife has put our son to bed since he was born and is also responsible for comforting him at night on those occasions when he wakes up and wants to nurse. This has made many things much easier for us — nobody was ever up at two in the morning heating a bottle — but it also means that I don’t even look up now when he cries at night. They have this certain nighttime relationship that just has nothing to do with me. It’s healthy, it’s nutritious… but it also lets Dad off the hook, man.

Which is nature’s fault, not mine, and I don’t feel bad about it, but the ease with which a dad can get out of dealing with nighttime feeding tends to bleed over into other areas.

Our son, as we’ve mentioned before, has iron-deficiency anemia. It’s not terrible — he’s certainly not lethargic or anything — but it’s a problem we’ve been trying to solve for a while. Common iron supplements cause him to puke, and no matter what anyone tells you, there’s no way to cure this level of anemia through diet. I know there are people all over the internet who claim they’ve done it, but trust me — your kid wasn’t really iron-deficient. Your kid had a dip in his hemoglobin levels, and then he went back up. It happens. I don’t care if you made him molasses-and-liver cookies. If he got better from diet alone, there was never really a problem to begin with.

(If you don’t believe me, check the math. A kid Henry’s size — about 21 lbs. — needs over 30 mg of iron per day to rebuild his iron stores and recover from anemia. To get that much iron from beef liver, you’d have to eat about 14-16 oz. per day. I’m a full-sized adult and I love liver, and I wouldn’t eat a pound of the stuff every day.)

So a few weeks back, after we went to the doctor again and his iron count had actually dropped, despite our best efforts to feed him iron-fortified cereals, we started to get really worried, and the creative parts of our brains finally won out over the denial circuits. First, I came up with the idea of a chewable vitamin, and then Elana got the idea of mixing a couple of different crushed up supplements into a nice fruit smoothie. It works very well — he likes it, because it tastes like blueberries, and so far he hasn’t puked at all.

But because Elana invented the smoothies, I’ve been letting her make them for him every morning. No reason, really. Just — it’s a new thing, and she seems to have it under control. So it wasn’t until today — more than a week after the initial test smoothie — that I finally realized I should jump in and make his morning smoothie.

“I can do that!” Elana called out immediately from the living room.

“Do you want to do it, or are you saying that to be polite?” I asked.

Pause. “Being polite.”

“Okay. Because I thought maybe it was your thing, you know….”

“No. Just being polite. You can do it.”

“All right. I’ll do it.”

I started grinding up pills. But then we realized we had to get going, or we’d miss his baby swim class at the Y. So I sat the cup of ground-up medicine on the counter, and ten hours later, when she got home from work, my wife made the smoothie.


It’s great being a dude. Mysteriously, your wife enjoys working all day and then coming home and cutting the grass on the riding mower and also loading the dishwasher. If you had to do all that, you’d probably be tired as fuck, and certainly you’d want some recognition. But she does it all without complaining, or even asking you to notice. These things must be like hobbies for her!


Here’s Louis C.K. talking about how much he enjoys being white:

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8 responses to “all you lovely bitches and hoes should know I’m trying to correct this

  1. You crack me up. Mostly because you’re right.

  2. Whether she intends to or not, Elana is clearly making you feel guilty about all of this. I think she needs to do something nice for you to take the sting out of that.

  3. Well I always drive and always have, so what did you learn growing up?

    As for baby care, yep, that falls unevenly on the mom. And really it is soooo hard to learn to put the baby first. Feed the baby. then get around for swimming. But your brain is going, look at that neat thing over there. OMG it is time to GO!
    You sound very normal. And competent. Remember Dad/brother/boys relate differently to babies. Not wrong, just different.

  4. Though I must add, re: driving. You CAN drive and are more than competent.
    Not always the case in our family.

  5. and the title is offensive

  6. Pingback: you don’t respect the process | Fighting Commies For Health Insurance!

  7. Great post! I loved the list of white male privileges. I will have to share it around!

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