Monday, October 05, 2009

You've probably never noticed this, but fathers are treated differently than mothers.

Facebook post from a guy I knew in college: “[Name] is beat from picking apples and carrying children all day.” His mother posted: “Dads like you are rare!” I was tempted to write something snarky about how fathers who spend time with their children aren’t rare in my world, where most of my friends wouldn’t consider having kids with someone who wasn’t willing to be a co-parent, and that men shouldn’t be given pats on the back for doing what ought to be expected. I managed to refrain (it’s his mother, after all, and I can give her the benefit of the doubt and pretend that she just wanted to tell her son that she’s proud of him and wasn’t thinking about her word choice) but it was difficult. When I see women posting similar things they get comments like “isn’t fall fun?” or “but aren’t kids worth it!”

It’s most noticeable to me when Facebook-ers are expecting children. Women can’t post anything without people mentioning the baby. “I had an avocado for lunch” will get comments about how they should eat more, or the unsaturated fats are so good for their fetus, or they’d better be careful so they don’t gain too much weight, or to enjoy it while they still got to eat with two hands. Men’s impending parenthood is generally ignored. A friend of mine who posted about his baby for two trimesters was kind of ignored; he’d put up a status like “Finished sewing curtains for the baby’s room!” and people would comment about his art, his house, anything but fatherhood. It’s so frustrating to see people who quite clearly are not choosing a stereotypical gender-based division of labor to remain externally defined by it. What could a pregnant woman possibly be thinking about other than gestating, after all, and her husband must certainly be more interested in other things, right?

(Incidentally, the research potential of Facebook comments is pretty much untapped; if I were in grad school I’d be figuring out how to use Facebook data for my dissertation.)

1 comment:

Collette said...

Yet another reason that I'm still seriously considering remaining child-free.