Slate has a provocative article about “To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing Your Inner Housewife,” by Caitlin Flanagan, and “Manliness,” by Harvey Mansfield up here. Below is an excerpt:
… Flanagan and Mansfield are united in nostalgia for a kind of Douglas Sirk version of the ’50s, without the irony, in which men provided, led, fought, and defended, and women cultivated, nurtured, healed, and willingly acquiesced to men’s desires.
Like many of my peers born in the late ’60s and ’70s, in the heyday of what was once called women’s liberation, I’ve grown somewhat inured to hearing that feminism is dead, that tradition is back, that equality is a fantasy, that career women and their partners can’t, as the phrase goes, have it all. Hearing it, and ignoring it, because in my own life:brought up listening to Free To Be … You And Me by a mother who worked long hours as a hospital executive, and a father who quit his job at 50 to work at home and support her career:self-determination for women was never exactly an idea up for debate. I’m a husband who shops, cooks, cleans, does laundry, and has a full-time job, so hearing Flanagan and Mansfield prattle on about how only women are hard-wired to do housework makes me want to laugh.
What’s most distressing about these books, however, isn’t that they play on ancient prejudices and dredge up empty stereotypes, but that they aren’t being met by a fusillade of other, better books:books that examine contemporary relationships and gender roles without panic, dread, or shame. This is particularly true, of course, when it comes to books about men. We’ve recently seen much debate about the hazards of boyhood (exemplified by Michael Thompson’s book Raising Cain) but little reflection on what happens afterward: that is, on what it means to grow up. …