"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another Layer

Remember that PSA I posted about a while back? The one with the Dad practicing cheerleading with his daughter? I wrote about how much I loved it, and so did Melissa at Shakesville, but lisa at Sociological Images posted about it today, and she provided some valid insight about how the types of expectations about parental involvement differ for men and women:
Research on women’s disproportionate responsibility for housework and childcare has found that that, when men “help” women, they are more likely to do childcare than housework and, when they do childcare, they are more likely to do the fun parts: playing instead of bathing, feeding, cleaning, etc. I guess The National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse is just being realistic, but I’d like to see some diaper changes and dishwashing, too.

When the commercial I originally posted about is coupled with the other one lisa found, I can totally see her point. While moms are expected to take care of kids in countless ways (housework, cooking, picking them up from soccer practice, caring for them when they're sick, etc.), dads actually get to act like kids in order to be good dads.

It makes me think about how things were in my house when I was growing up. When Dad was involved (meaning not at work like he usually was), he was always playing with us and generally being fun and cool, making him the favorite parent by a landslide. Mom, on the other hand, was always the one enforcing the rules. She was the only one who was there to make us do our homework and chores and the only one around to yell at us when we were being bad, and she just seemed so boring when compared with super-fun Dad.

I've read work by many feminist writers who say that when they were young, they identified so much more with their fathers than their mothers, because their fathers seemed so much freer and more independent and generally so much more interesting than their mothers, who were always too saddled with household drudgery to be doing anything inspiring. Do these commercials, despite their positive message about involvement, actually reinforce gender roles for parents as much as they seem to challenge them?


plumpdumpling said...

Very good and very true. While my mom spent EVERY MOMENT OF HER LIFE with us while my dad was off earnin' the moneez, a lot of my fondest memories involve my dad, because when he was with us, it was always to do something incredibly fun and not to tell me to do my homework.

You're sort of the same way, I know. What makes you a daddy's girl?

Tracey said...

Yeah, I think it's that the time I spent with him always involved something fun, and it was so much rarer that it seemed more special than time with my mom. Plus, I always had to see Mom worried about things, and Dad always seemed so much more put together and laid back. I realize now that it was because he was busy being stressed out at work, and when he came home, he liked to relax, whereas Mom's work never ended, and I was always around her when she was stressed.

Jha said...

I guess I'm coming from a different place. Growing up my family employed a maid to take care of house and home (and yell at us to do homework), so both my parents worked. My mum was the one who rarely took time off to have fun with us, preferring to relax on weekends. She rarely interacted with us except to yell at us about our marks or general irresponsibility.

My dad somehow managed to work, discipline us, teach us how to take care of ourselves and still take me out to piano class, philharmonic concerts and the like.

Maybe my family's just weird =/

Jemima Aslana said...

Wow... I never realised this, but it rings so true. Not only for me personally but I can also recognise much of what you've written in how my friends speak of their parents.

I suppose it wasn't completely unbalanced in my childhood home, my dad often cooked, and my brother and I often helped either of our parents out in the kitchen and had fun with it. Chores could be fun when done together.

But mom always handled most of the housework, so we did more house-y stuff with her than with dad, and we played more with dad than with her.

Tracey said...

It's interesting to learn how the work is split up in different homes -- how it can be so egalitarian in individual households, and yet we still have these overarching societal notions of which parent should do what around the house. My students are always surprised to hear about how other parents didn't split the work the exact same way in their homes.