A Letter to Slate Double XX Podcast – Feminism begins at home, not on Twitter #heforshe

Grocery shopping by bike with Dad in Amsterdam.

Grocery shopping by bike with Dad in Amsterdam.

Me on #heforshe and the role of men in feminism:

. . . the problem is people pronouncing themselves as feminists and not understanding the hard work that it takes to uphold that ideal.  Tweet all you want, that doesn’t make you a feminist that has made a damn bit of difference until you’ve stood up for a woman who needs a place to use her breast pump in private, or a man who wants to take time off to care for a sick child . . .

Suggested Tweets for Dads:  #iknowwheremykidsvaccinationrecordsare #dadsweektoshopplanandcookdinner

Dear Amanda, Noreen, Hanna and June

I’ve tried.  I’ve really, really tried.  I started mainlining your podcast about 6 months ago.  Then I got lured over to the Alison and Dan at Mom and Dad are Fighting.  But I kept you gals in my playlist and stayed tuned.  A lot of your discussions were unrelatable for me.  I don’t know much about Taylor Swift and have never watched the Kardashians.  No, I’m not a Quaker or anything, I’m just busy and sporty and for whatever reason not in tune with these elements of pop culture.  Oh, and I have 2 small kids + demanding job + studying for another degree + just uprooted my family and moved to Europe (Amsterdam).  It’s been a bit chaotic lately.

About the time you covered the domestic violence cases in the NFL I realized something was terribly wrong.  I don’t know why it was mentioned that Roger Goodall seemed ok in handling the situation.  He was widely panned for his crappy, disingenuous response.  But you guys sort of gleamed over that.  And, honestly, the Eastern/urban elitist perspective on football was shocking.  Maybe I’m naive.  I am a midwesterner (a Jayhawk) and football was the backbone of our sports.  I’ve lived on the East Coast since high school and never felt that football was a lower class sport.  Sure, lacrosse is upper crust.  Golf is too.  But football was never something lower than soccer or basketball or baseball on the socio-economic sport food chain.  But I never really lived in a city (unitl now).  And I suppose that’s where your views come from.

Thanks, Noreen, for standing up for football a bit.  But my concern is not football, my concern is that your podcast and articles seem to only make sense for urbanite Americans.  Ok, so that’s probably most of us and I’m not making a claim for some right-wing “real America” is in the small towns crap.  But I’m beginning to think there is a great divide between those living in cities and everyone in small towns.  And that includes small towners who read the Huff Post and Slate, like me.  I know those articles aren’t really written for people like me.  They appeal to my politics and I could spend an entire day (and have) cheering on everyone at MSNBC until I can settle into an evening with Jon and Colbert.  But very little that is discussed really reflects the daily circumstances of my life.

But I digress . . .  What I really want to talk about is the Collection of Body Parts Edition of your podcast.  And Amanda’s article on He for She (and the Gist interview that followed).  It was at this point I wanted to express my anger.  I wanted to slam a door on you, but all I had was the power to click “unsubscribe.”  Not so satisfying compared to a good, old fashioned, angry door slam.  Your suggestion for male feminists:  Tweet about it.  Are you kidding me???  Ok, I’ll try to remain calm.  Yes, Twitter is clearly a powerful tool when executed wisely.  Yes, raising awareness is important.  But, really, please can’t you understand?  Can’t you understand that people are out there facing real problems every day.  And families are hurting.  And you want us to Tweet?  Maybe the fundamental problem isn’t where we live.  Maybe my point is being derailed by the football discussion.  Maybe the real difference is that most people can’t spend their days reading and writing and Tweeting about these issues.  Maybe journalists, including my all my faves, are out of touch because it’s their jobs to see writing and Tweeting as an “action item.”  But for the rest of us, writing and Tweeting are just another goddamn thing to do.  Just another thing to eat away at the day, already overwhelmed by work and did we run out of paper towels again? and when is gymnastics class? and how is your mother-in-law handling the diagnosis?  Twitter is a luxury.  A luxury of time we don’t have  And, really, what’s the ROI on Twitter?  Because in our household my time, focus and energy is a highly-demanded commodity in low supply. And so is my husband’s.  Don’t get me wrong.  We’re very, very fortunate people.  We’ve got work that pays (most of) the bills.  Our two daughters are healthy and happy.  The future looks bright.  But let me get to my meandering point.

My husband is the ultimate feminst.  He is the icon of He for She (amongst child-bearing, heterosexuals.  That’s really the only group I can adequately speak for).  But nobody outside of our circle of friends and family knows because he’s too busy, we’re too busy, living out these feminist concepts rather than writing or Tweeting about them.  He runs our house.  He readies the kids for school, packs lunches, drops off and picks up (by bicycle, See This Dutch Life for details), teaches piano lessons with them after school until Mommy comes home from work.  He handles the bills and does the grocery shopping.  He taught preschool and now volunteers in our daughters’ classrooms.  And he fixes all broken things in the house, including plumbing and (yikes) electrical.  He lifts weights, a lot of weights.  Prompting his little preschool students to say things like “Mr. Zipp has muscles like tanks!”  He meditates with the kids.  Yeah, he’s pretty fucking awesome.  Me, I’m the breadwinner.  I do my best to do the Mommy things we want in our lives.  But my role is mostly in the professional world.  At least right now it is.  It’s not entirely by choice, but these are the choices we have.  And we’re certainly not the only ones.

It hasn’t always been this way.  I spent 5 straight years pregnant and breastfeeding.  He travelled abroad for work and I stayed home (whilst working) with babies.  But that is the nature of life that is so often overlooked in these discussions.  Things change.  And biology plays a role.  I’ve read a few articles recently (on Slate?) about how marriage should be viewed as a dynamic process.  So too, are the roles we play in this thing called feminism.  Sometimes Dad’s role is breadwinner, sometimes he must be domestic Prince.  It changes.  Why doesn’t anyone on your show discuss the difference between how feminism and gender roles evolve?  Parenting nursing babies and fidgetty toddlers is an entirely different world than parenting school-aged kiddos.  This seems like a universal phenomena, yet we tend to read about parenting as if the roles were fixed.  And no where in any stage of parenting does Twitter seem to play a significant part.

On to another point, the definition of feminism.  Even if we accept the fundamental definition – equality of genders.  What does it mean?  What does equality mean?  Is equity something different?  Better?  How do we perform equality?  How do we account for biological differences and demands?  The problem is not the definition, the problem is people pronouncing themselves as feminists and not understanding the hard work that it takes to uphold that ideal.  Tweet all you want, that doesn’t make you a feminist that has made a damn bit of difference until you’ve stood up for a woman who needs a place to use her breast pump in private, or a man who wants to take time off to care for a sick child (or, if you are a super-advanced feminist guy, to take time off to care for an elderly parent/grandparent) or fought for work-place policies that promote the well-being of employees over the bottom line. Because those are the action items of feminism. Those are the feminists we need, male or female.  Fellas – put down your god dammed iPhones and pick up the slack at home.  Because as long as women bear the overwhelming burden of running a household more than men, there will be no equality.  Remember the definition of feminism?  Equality.  What is equality at home?  Sure, we can’t get everything to 50/50, but how do the efforts put into the domestic sphere balance out with those put forth in the professional sphere?  And if Tweet you must, then let it be about the feminist actions you take, not the feministy thoughts in your head.  #foughtforonsitechildcareatwork, #nomorelatenightboardmeetings, #iknowwheremykidsvaccinationrecordsare, #dadsweektoshopplanandcookdinner.  If I ever do get back on Twitter, I’d like to see those trending.