Things That Make You Go…What?

So I’m reading “The World in 2009” special annual edition published by The Economist. Lots of thought-provoking stuff about what might come in the wake of the various issues and conflicts in the world today.

But the really fun stuff is the ads. Where else could you learn about the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority or the web site investinmacedonia.com?

OK, I can hear you thinking, “Anthromama, you think that stuff is fun?”

Well, maybe not so much fun as where the heck else are you going to see ads for Cargill, Airbus, Hermès, Credit Suisse, and Qatar Airways all in one place?

Anyhoo, the reason I am bring all this up is because of one particular ad.

First Republic Bank’s ad on page 38 depicts a married couple and includes their testimonial about the bank’s service. Below this are their names and occupations. The man is a “telecom executive” while the woman is an “attorney at law, wife and mother”.

Hmmmm. How come he’s not a “telecom executive, husband and father”? I wonder if she chose that description of herself?

So I checked out the bank’s web site, and sure enough, there is a frame showing a slideshow of testimonials including this one. Lots of single men and women, as well as couples and families. Lots and lots of CEOs, CFOs, doctors, and entrepreneurs. Only one other person that I saw was identified as “wife, grandmother, and community volunteer” and not one man identified himself as anything but his job title.

I’m really curious about this — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi consistently framed herself as a mother and grandmother during the 2006 elections and was criticized for it. Is it a yoke of patriarchy to identify women based on their reproductive histories, or is it a sign of true freedom that women can embrace and promote all of their capacities?

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “Things That Make You Go…What?

  1. Personally, I feel that it is a sign of freedom that some women can embrace all of their attributes rather than a symbol of the yoke of the patriarchy. The fact that not all women felt compelled to do that in the testimonials shows it to be true freedom.

    I do think it is rather sad that there are not more men who feel proud to identify themselves as fathers. Note that our new president is very aware of his position as a parent and spouse and has mentioned how important he feels his role is in raising his children.

    The world is changing.

  2. Mon

    Firstly, I think you need to get out more…. LOL

    Seriously though, good question. We constantly see blogger’s stating they are x, y, z, mother, wife. But how often do you see a male blogger do that? Only if they are specifically blogging about being a dad.

    I guess our society is still such that we expect women to take the brunt of housekeeping and parenting. So when a woman is an accountant and also a mother, we know that means she works extra hard. We know she’s doing a 9-5 and then gets home and cooks dinner and reads to the kids and gives them a bath…..

    A father who has a job outside of the home is nothing out of the ordinary. And I think that even if the man states that he is a father, we wouldn’t think much about it other than, aw, that’s nice.

  3. Tammy

    I think it’s a sign of freedom, too. I think men in *general* still think of themselves mainly as breadwinners and don’t yet value all of their roles. Women however have come so far and have made so many roles valid in the eyes of those who surround them.

    Things are changing though, maybe more men will see their importance in being fathers as they watch President Obama embrace all of his roles. And I hope women too will continue to see their value in the coming years.

  4. I wonder why he’s not a Husband, father, and telecom executive? I think the situation for men is more complex than it may appear.

    While there is no doubt, many men would have no idea of how to function in the world without identifying themselves by their profession. But many of these same guys are lonely, and seek second rate comfort in work, addictions, and affairs.

    I suspect many of them would love to feel more connected to their spouses and children. However to do so, would mean everyone in the family would have to reprioritize the family values. So, what is the family willing to do to have dad play a more active role in the family?

    Can the family live in a smaller home? drive second hand cars? go out to dinner less? Can the kids have fewer lessons? Can mom share the parenting choices with dad? Does she want to?

    So until the parents are willing to rethink what does being a family mean to us, and what are we willing to change or do to make it happen…it will be the same as its been.

  5. HMH: I think the patriarchy thing would apply only if reproductive status were the only definition given. Kind of like how married women used to be known as “Mrs. John Smith” as if they didn’t even have their own name any more.

    Mon: I think you have indeed identified something important, that women are still doing dual duty, so to speak. Only now perhaps they are stating it thus as a badge of honor.

    Tammy: It seems like a long process for us to disentangle ourselves from being defined by strict roles in order to be able to self-define with pride. Hopefully some day we can simply look at the aspects of our lives and say proudly that we are parents, paid workers, artists, etc., without having those definitions loaded with preconceived value structures. Then maybe the “Mr. Moms” of the world won’t be perceived that way at all, and will simply be thought of as parents.

  6. 4wrdthnkndad: Welcome and thanks for commenting. Something to note about the people included in this ad campaign: they are all either leaders or self-employed entrepreneurs. So they have a different work milieu than the average person. I read an NY Times article the other day about bankers on the Upper West Side: as executives, they are “expected” to maintain a certain lifestyle that is now being threatened by financial uncertainty. Part of that is simply BS; an executive doesn’t do a better job because he or she has a second home or takes several expensive vacations a year. But another part is valid, in that social structures create expectations that very few are able to challenge.

    So these men (and women) are expected to often work long hours away from their homes and families. Even without extravagances, their costs of living are extremely high, simply by living in Manhattan. A New York banking executive is expected to dress in a certain way, be a member of certain clubs, and have a car and driver. Maybe that should all change, but I guess I’m just saying that at least in the case of the men in the article, I have some sympathy for their probably feelings of isolation from their families and their self-identification with their job titles.

    But…for most people I think your suggestions are quite doable. If their workplaces can make changes as well, like flexible work hours, working remotely, etc.

    I can speak for my family. Anthropapa has a white-collar job. At his job in New York, he could come home (by walking about 50 yards!) every day for lunch. Here he can’t do that, but on the other hand his work hours are much more firm and so he doesn’t work odd hours or weekends any more. My (paying) work has been all done at home since my children were born, so I take on the burden more often than not of accommodating the needs of the kids’ schedules. So many aspects of one’s job can affect home life!

  7. I have been reading a series of books about how humans were in the dawn of historical times as they migrated across the Bering Land Bridge before the big glaciers melted.

    What I flashed on as I was reading all the comments is that we are still stuck in the roles we had in those ancient tribal systems. Women nurtured the young, men hunted. Very practically, everyone knew that a man could tend an infant but his breasts were not very satisfying for its hunger. There were some barren or not willing to mate women who were hunters and warriors. There were men who had talents at herbs or knapping flint that didn’t hunt much. Usually there was a support system of sisters, aunts, mothers and grandmothers that would look after young mother’s kids while they went out digging roots, picking berries or hauling nuts home.

  8. When I think of being one of these men you describe, I think ; they are leaders to others and prisoners to themselves. For all the appearances of freedom they have because of money, power, and prestige, they seem pretty trapped.

  9. Alida

    I love all the comments here. Sergio is constantly asking me if I want to go to work so he can stay home with the kids 🙂 That would be a no! We do keep working towards being able to both stay home, although that seems far off yet.

    I think women who are married or have children, can’t help but identify them as wives or mothers because it’s such a big part of what we do, like men who invest a lot of time in their careers.

    Back to the question, I think it’s a sign of freedom and liberation. I love that motherhood (as is fatherhood) seems to be considered important once again. I love that we have a choice and that we can be many things during our lifetime.

    I love my role now as a stay at home mom, but I also look forward to the next stage when my kids are grown and I can go back to work and have a career, just like I enjoyed the freedom of my 20’s.

    Even career mothers who work outside the home are still usually the “primary” care-givers. From many blogs I’ve read, it’s usually the women who organize the carpools, make the doctors appts, stay home or make the arrangements when kids are sick.

  10. Alida

    Sorry, I don’t know what happened but the paragraphs are all mixed up and don’t seem to make sense. That last paragraph should have been the 3rd paragraph…that is so weird!

  11. Tammy

    LOL, I know I already commented, but I wanted to say how much this post has made me THINK. Also that I’ve really enjoyed reading all the comments that have been left!

  12. HMH: I have to admit I’m always a bit skeptical about assertions about ancient peoples for whom we have no real data. The science gets a little sketchy there, in my opinion. There are trends and paradigms in that branch of science just like any other — for example, Marija Gimbutas changed the face of archaeology and anthropology in favor of feminist interpretations of ancient cultures, with a rather mythological look at actual artifacts. She might be right, but in my opinion it’s hard to say if those double-bladed axes were really feminine symbols or just weapons. (And this is not to say that I don’t wish her assertions were true — I just think she leaped to conclusions.)

    4wrdthkndad: Oh, yes, it’s a trap just like homemaking has been in the past. That’s why I’m hoping we can get past those traps to true freedom, even if we then decide to perpetuate gender divisions.

    Alida: I have known families where both parents try to be home as much as possible. Unfortunately that usually means cobbling together several part-time jobs, which then means that social supports are lacking (health insurance, paid time off, etc.) I look to other countries for models of what could be, like fathers receiving extended paid time off after the birth of a child.

    Tammy: Feel free to comment as often as you like! I’m glad this post has been thought-provoking as well as entertaining 🙂

  13. Great post and interesting comments. I think modern dads, as opposed to the ones of my father’s generation, are tending to identify themselves as fathers and husbands as well as whatever their job description may be. I think there’s been a big shift in how men are allowed to see themselves, just as there’s been a big shift in how women take part in the world outside the house. I still think there’s a long way to go to achieve TRUE equality, especially in things like housework and childcare, but at least there is movement in that direction.

  14. Charloteotter-you made me think about the “shift” in traditional gender roles. It seems to me women made took a dramatic step by pursuing education and careers that had historically only been available for men. In doing so, they altered the landscape in the workforce. By doing so, it created an option within relationships for women to be the primary bread winner and men to stay at home.

    To me, this is where many men and women got overwhelmed and retreated to familiar roles. I think the shift from women to the work force proved to be an easier step to take, than for woman to stay in the work force and give up the role of primary parent. I’ve wondered if surrogacy may play a role in the “shift”- for women who don’t want to get off the career track.

    Why not pay someone to carry the child and continue to either pay someone to care for the child or have the husband do so? Especially for women who have succeeded in the work force and wish to continue to do so?

  15. Nana

    I think it’s great when women include wife & mother along with their paying job titles. It demonstrates a greater ability to successfully multi-task. On the other hand I abhor seeing singer-actress-model-producer-dancer. 🙂

  16. Good points. I get praised by people for being an ‘active father,’ sharing homework and caring for the children. My wife is seen by some as “lucky” to have someone who does so much. But, of course, she does as much as I do. She is not praised as being active, but considered lucky. I am not considered lucky to have a wife who does so much (and works full time) but am praised as active. That’s absurd. I am as lucky as she is, she is as active and praiseworthy as I am. Yet our culture seems to want to praise my efforts and shrug off hers. Sexism lives. (I wrote about this in my blog awhile back.)

    Buona Notte!

  17. Nana: It’s all about multitasking, isn’t it?

    Scott: Good point. I’ll have to observe whether I ever use the word “lucky” to describe what Anthropapa does at home. I hope that I say that I am “grateful” instead! I don’t see that there’s anything truly passive about a woman sharing the work of a home with a man, unless you want to talk about the biological determinism of childbirth and breastfeeding! I see that you talk about that in your linked blog post, so I’ll comment further there. (The link in your comment wasn’t working so I edited it.)

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