Last week, The New York Times published a fairly straight forward news piece on the bountiful array of studies conducted here and in other parts of the world that suggest that offering paternity leave to new fathers could actually help stimulate the U.S. economy while also supporting women in their quest for work/life balance. The piece starts off with a brief anecdote from writer Catherine Rampell’s personal experience, about having two relationships come to an end because the men she was dating expressed a desire to see her eventually put aside her career, at least temporarily, should their relationship become so serious that they get married and have children. She writes:
I don’t pretend to know how common this situation is, and how many other young women have found themselves in it. But it clarified not only the choices that future mothers must make about their careers, but also how early in their careers they must begin to think about them. And while fairness and feminism may urge us to find better ways for women to balance work and life — Sheryl Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter have certainly made impassioned cries — the most convincing argument seems to be an economic one.
The rest Rampell’s piece focuses on how women who hope to have children someday have a better shot at being successful at “leaning in” at work if their male partners are “leaning in” more at home, and are being given the support to do so via things like paternity leave. And, more importantly, should the United States follow in the footsteps of countries like Sweden and Norway and offer paternity leave, it would not only benefit those straight couples who chose to partake in more balanced work-life accommodations, but the economy as a whole. Men would be given the flexibility to spend those precious early weeks with their children, women wouldn’t find putting their careers on the backburner the more financially feasible option, and, by keeping more women in the workforce, the economy would grow. Rampell offers a whole bunch of supporting evidence and, all in all, it is one of the least objectionable pieces I’ve read on the benefits of our society striving towards equality for men and women at work and in the home.
But lo and behold, one person managed to be deeply offended by Rampell’s article: Tom Matlack, the founding editor of The Good Men Project, who published a response called “What’s A Guy To Do?”, which, among other things, calls Rampell’s piece an “attack on dads-at-large.” Say what?
Declaring that “major media has done it again,” Matlack first belittles Rampell as “young-sounding” and characterizes her brief anecdotal intro as her “bemoaning” the end of her two romantic relationships. Calling her piece a “stereotyped attack on dads at-large,” he continues:
From those two questionable relationships, the “greatest” newspaper in the world jumps to the generalization that the problem for all of us isn’t really about women leaning in at all, as argued by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. It’s about men doing their part at home. If only we had paternal leave and men would change more diapers the world would be a better and safer place for women.
I hope you don’t mind if I take a moment to puke.
No, no, Tom, ladies first. Retch.
The funny thing is that Matlack both seemingly only read Rampell’s opening anecdote and not her full piece, but also completely missed the anecdote’s intent. Since reading comprehension is clearly not his forte, allow me to explain: Rampell actually only uses her personal anecdote to illustrate that figuring out a work/life balance is something women start thinking about well before they even have kids. But the thesis of her article is that a society that helps both women and men find equality at home and at work actually benefits the economy. While I’m sure there will be those who question that thesis, Matlack is concerned with other things.
Matlack has concluded, from his “limited data set,” that “as women strive … to finally reach the top of the power food chain and also struggle to wrestle work/family balance to the ground for all time,” men are screwed. He doesn’t explain how, or why, or what that conclusion has to do with anything Rampell wrote, mind you. Instead, Matlack goes off on a tangent about “thought leadership.”
Not that we aren’t still the leaders of the free world and dominate in the positions of economic power. But in terms of the thought leadership on gender, which is what I have spent the last three years thinking and writing about, we are getting a raw deal.
As evidence of his belief that men are getting a “raw deal” when it comes to discussing gender, Matlack spends the rest of his piece, dare I say, bemoaning a series of recent criticisms lobbed at himself and articles on the Good Men Project, over which he is still seriously butthurt. He revisits Yoga Pants-gate and says the writer was made to feel “like a leper” for simply “being honest” that he got “horny” looking at women in yoga pants. Actually, my criticism was with the writer’s claim that women can’t possibly wear yoga pants for comfort and must be donning them to turn men on. (The fact that some men actually do get horny for women in yoga pants doesn’t bother me in the slightest.)
Matlack also cites the critical response to his dopey New York Times piece on finding his wife “most beautiful” without makeup and, of all things, Seth MacFarlane’s Oscar host performance as evidence that men are being fucked over as feminism has a “resurgence.” Did Matlack ever stop to think that maybe it’s not men in general who aren’t being taken seriously, but just self-absorbed, laughably inane, misogynists like himself? I certainly don’t value the opinions of men who write off valid criticisms as “attacks” and are incapable of engaging with critics without trying to martyr themselves. And I definitely can’t take someone seriously as a “thought leader” when that person, say, deletes their Twitter account in a huff when a debate with men and women (some of whom happen to be, um, his own employees — awkward) doesn’t go his way. In short, I value the opinions and experiences of many, many, many men. But at this point, Tom, I don’t value yours.
So, anyyyyyyyyway. What does this have to do with Catherine Rampell’s piece on paternity leave in The New York Times? You know, the article that inspired Matlack’s screed?
Absolutely nothing. Did I mention it’s hard to take Matlack seriously as a “thought leader,” when his thoughts don’t actually go anywhere at all?