Monday, April 16, 2007

Double standards

I remember once seeing a newsmagazine show about how teachers favor boys over girls in school, usually without even realizing it. They filmed a fifth grade teacher for a few days and then showed her the tape. She was appalled to discover that she called on the boys far more often than the girls, and that, while she would usually give girls only cursory comments like, “Good work,” she tended to spend a few minutes helping boys with their work.

I also remember thinking, “That never happened to me.” Not once in my long academic career did I feel like the boys got more attention. I never even noticed favored male status during my many years as a engineering student. This could be because all of my teachers treated everyone equally, or it could be because I was a pushy student who asked millions of questions and constantly raised her hand. I pretty much demanded attention. I WON’T BE IGNORED.

So I never noticed a boy/girl double standard as a student, but as a mom? It’s hard to miss. Every Sunday, The Husband takes care of Jack during Mass while I sing with the choir. And because he usually sits in the same pew, he and Jack have developed a small fan club. On several occasions, some of Jack’s friends have told me what a fantastic job The Husband does with Jack every Sunday.

The Husband also told me about a recent errand he ran on his day with Jack. He had an appointment at the bank, so he popped Jack in the sling. A little girl in the bank spotted Jack and pointed him out to her mom. “Yes, dear,” said her mom, “that’s a baby! And that’s a great daddy!”

Now, I don’t mean to dismiss The Husband’s parenting skills in any way. He actually is a fantastic father. But do you think that if The Husband were in the choir and I were holding Jack during Mass that anyone would be particularly impressed?


Arwen said...

I know what you mean! I take Milla everywhere with me and while people comment on how cute she is, they never say anything about me, personally. Whereas Bryan, who occasionally takes Milla on a walk in her stroller so that I can have an hour to myself, consistently gets stopped and congratulated on being such a good dad. What is with that?

(Not that he's not a good dad, but... you know.)

Anonymous said...

Too true!
My grandmother never failed to comment EVERY time she saw my husband change a diaper! "You're so lucky", she'd tell me. "He's a wonderful husband. He's such a loving father." Well, yes he is but's just a diaper.

I guess things were different "back then". I am thankful to have an actual partner--not just a breadwinner--for a husband :)

PiesBonitos said...

You are *SO* right. I have talked with my girlfriends about this in the past.

Even my own parents are constantly commenting on how lucky I am to have such a wonderful dad for my children, and how active he is in their care, and what not.

People comment when we are out and he has the kids. It's crazy.

One day when my dad said that to me, I got brave and said "Do you not think I am a good mother??". He just sputtered a bit and said "Of course! But I always knew you would be." So it is expected of us. Why in the name of everything good is it not expected of them to be active and nurturing and in love with their babes to?

Definitely double standard!

editor galaxy said...

I think the answer is this:

Women are expected to take good care of their children.

Men are not.

So when a man shows interest in his child, shows some capacity to change a diaper, is spotted pushing the stroller, etc., it is seen as extraordinary.

This is double-edged: it's nice to be fawned over and praised, but it implies that men are usually incompetant and so need pat-on-the-head encouragement for every simple little childcare accomplishment.

Brian said...

Apparently, I am an in competent boob. Elijah and I have a decent amount of together time, and I don't notice any extra praise.