Althouse | category: marriage



a blog by Ann Althouse

"Strict gender roles have governed domestic life in Japan for generations. Men often retire without ever having held a paring knife..."

"... or washed a dish. Those who lose a spouse often find themselves unable to do the most rudimentary chores. An old Japanese saying — 'Danshi-chubo-ni-hairazu,' or 'men should be ashamed to be found in the kitchen' — has spooked husbands from most any housework. Even those who wanted to help typically lacked the know-how.... Simmering resentments frequently come to a head once a man’s career ends and his wife starts to question the arrangement, Tokukura said. 'The power dynamic changes. The wife asks, "Why do I have to do all the housework if you are no longer bringing in the money?"'"

From "Older Japanese men, lost in the kitchen, turn to housework school" (WaPo).

At housework school, old men meet other other old men:

Five of them were fixing a meal recently, Kaneko standing tall in front of the stove and helming the frying pan as the others took turns placing mounds of minced chicken in oil.

“Don’t overdo it,” he warned 80-year-old Kikuo Yano, laughing as he rounded out the nuggets with a spoon. Yano has been taking classes this fall to surprise his wife of 43 years.

“All this time my wife has done everything,” the retired architect acknowledged. “I haven’t done anything around the house. If I don’t know how to, I guess there’s nothing I can do. But if I learn how to do it, then it’s time I help.”

He now wakes up early to press his clothes. Ten times he has practiced a curry dish he plans on serving his family on New Year’s Day. “You see this shirt?” he says, running his hands up and down the sleeve, a smile stretching across his face. “I ironed it myself."

Out with the old — "men should be ashamed" — and in with the new —  "I ironed it myself."

I like the idea of taking distinct pride in doing the humble, simple, concrete things in life. It's a shame to imbue these things with shame (especially if that is part of system of subordinating others).

"[T]hat the book contains only four songs performed by women... is both grim and astounding...."

Writes Amanda Petrusich in"A Response to Bob Dylan’s 'Philosophy of Modern Song' There was something missing from the bard’s recent book"(The New Yorker).

Is it? Grim and astounding? Is it astounding because you'd think, in this day and age, that any informed writer would know you have to gender-balance your lists of favored works of art? That Bob Dylan didn't is a little astounding, but why is it grim? I think it's kind of encouraging that Bob didn't think he had to do that, and it can be a little grim to see other people's lists and suspect that's what they did.

In the book, Bob talks about women a lot, because the songs written about men tend to be about women — from the man's point of view. Why shouldn't Bob take the man's point of view? You want him appropriating what women think? He does that in his songs — "She's got everything she needs..." — but he's being the man who's imagining — maybe wrongly — what the woman is thinking.

Petrusich writes:

Even if it were possible to hotfoot around the lack of women (and it is hard to find a way to understand the void as satirical), his essay on Johnnie Taylor’s “Cheaper to Keep Her” is peppered with odd, doddering declarations: a married couple with no children is “not a family. . . . They are just two friends; friends with benefits and insurance coverage but just friends nonetheless.”

He goes on to argue for polygamy, and wonders if a “downtrodden woman with no future, battered around by the whims of a cruel society” would be “better off as one of a rich man’s wives—taken care of properly, rather than friendless on the street depending on government stamps?” Is this a joke? Does it matter?

Petrusich goes on to make a list of songs by women which theoretically could have been written about. But she doesn't write them up in any way, so her list doesn't balance Dylan's book. It's just a list of songs she thinks might have been good to write about instead of the one's Dylan chose.

I've been watching the new season of "The Crown," and I read recaps of the episodes at a blog where they often criticize the show for depicting some historical events but not others — e.g., the tampon conversation but not the attempted kidnapping of Princess Anne. But "The Crown" is a work of art and the artists chose what they chose. If you were writing your own show... well, who cares? You don't have your own show. You're naming things that could have been chosen, but without the task of actually making the work of art. 

To paraphrase Bob: You're not an artist.

"You describe growing up under Soviet occupation, being trained to revere the Soviets, rat out your neighbors, to obey."

"It was indoctrinated into you to obey and revere an occupier. And this, you say in the essay’s conclusion, familiarized you with being controlled, with being with someone controlling. 'My marriage was a sort of occupation,' you write. Looking at what’s happening in our country and around the world, do you think about the connection between shame and defensiveness and occupation and politics?"

That's a question the NYT interviewer, Rhonda Garelick, asks Paulina Porizkova in "Paulina Porizkova Doesn’t Call Her Book a Memoir/The model and author spoke about writing 'No Filter: The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful.'"

Porizkova's husband was the rock star Ric Ocasek.

That question was absurdly difficult! And Porizkova doesn't really try to answer it. 

Garelick persists: "But you made that political connection in your essay — between the occupying army and Ric."

Fair enough. Porizkova blows it all off. She was jet lagged and under time pressure when she wrote that — "My marriage was a sort of occupation."

Either say it and defend it or don't speak. The dead Ocasek cannot speak. Or do beautiful women have a special privilege to make aggressive analogies?

"I rent out my husband to do odd jobs for women — the business is booming."

From The NY Post. 

Laura Young’s spouse James has skills in general DIY, painting, decorating, tiling and carpet laying, so they’ve created a lucrative handyman business called “Rent My Handy Husband.”

James, 42, is currently booked up for the month of November on jobs, for which he charges $44 per hour and about $280 for a day rate.

Their business has become so popular, they said, that they even had to turn down jobs. “I never expected it to take off as much as it has,” Laura told Southwest News Service.

She can't hire more handymen because they wouldn't be her husband.

Business can only boom so much. But is 5 Guys stuck being only 5 guys and is 3 Men and a Truck limited to 3 Men and a Truck? Doesn't matter, you might think: Marriage means something. 

But now I'm seeing this, and it puts everything in a different light. James had been "a full-time dad to their three children, two of which have autism." And James himself "was diagnosed with autism four years ago." Laura said he "has always enjoyed building and constructing" and "thought this would be something he could do."

Interestingly: "He’s really good at building things and doesn’t bother with the instructions.... He’s got a very methodical mind and can think outside the box. He sees things differently."

We're taking the TikToks up to 11 tonight. Some people love them.

 1. In Japan, they don't say "See? I told you!"

2. Stop saying "This photograph looks like a Renaissance painting."

3. In what world would he eat 20 tortillas?

4. She made a pact with herself to have higher standards.

5. When your partner makes a bid for your attention.

6. Do you want to go to a haunted house?

7. Do you want... a what?

8. Here, take this harmonica.

9. Hey, a tambourine man.

10. And, here, just in case you need a dancer to interpret "Like a Rolling Stone."

11. The heterosexual man who wants a husband... why?

I've got 10 TikToks for you on this profound evening.

1. Close out Yom Kippur with Mandy Patinkin.

2. Gordon Lightfoot, an icon of old age.

3. The handsome dog.

4. Man in shorts.

5. Survival.

6. Shopping at Erewhon is the essence of anxiety.

7. Husband loves separate bedrooms.

8. Rethink "I'm only human."

9. An especially crazy Rube Goldberg Machine.

10. The holiday film written by bots.

"What do you do when neither spouse is happy with the working and income-generating grind?"

"My husband and I had an agreement that when each of our children were born, I would take my maternity leave and then he would take a leave of similar length when I returned to work. We are finding now, after the arrival of our second baby, that neither of us wants to go back. I earn more money, and thus I have to return to work, but I am equally unhappy with the weekly grind...."

From a letter to the WaPo advice columnist.

This shows that the perverse privilege inherent in systematically paying women less. It preserves the traditional structure of man out in the world, woman in the home.

What can you say to this woman except welcome to reality? Well, I'd say that it doesn't have to be the higher earner who goes to work. Who has the more satisfying job? Who has the job that makes a greater contribution to the world? Maybe at some point, you'll hit upon the factors that let the wife have her wish of avoiding the difficulties of work.

Also, consider that you might also not be happy with the childcare "grind." It's all grind when you have a bad attitude, isn't it?

"Traditionalists argue that the feminist revolution has gone too far, and we need to get more women back into the home. But I think..."

"... it makes more sense to take the opposite perspective: that the feminist revolution is only half finished. We’ve done a lot to encourage women to pursue careers in traditionally male professions. But we still don’t do enough to encourage men to do traditionally female work in our homes and communities. That’s important not only because it enables their partners to succeed at work, but also because this kind of work is important in its own right."

Lee — one of five Washington Post writers who followed Ezra Klein to Vox Media to help start in 2014 — writes from personal experience:
On paper, Vox’s policies were very family-friendly. As a new father, I was offered 12 weeks of paternity leave. I had unlimited vacation time and no one ever gave me a hard time about leaving early for daycare pickups. Still, Vox had a workaholic culture. 
Almost everyone—including me pre-baby—worked a lot more than 40 hours per week. Back then I’d spend the workday writing short pieces about breaking news and interviewing sources for longer pieces. Then I’d spend evenings and weekends writing those longer stories. Our baby’s arrival changed everything. 
My wife is a doctor who frequently works nights and weekends, so my nights and weekends were usually devoted to child care. I managed to keep up with the piece-a-day pace Vox expected of all its writers, but I could no longer spend my off hours doing in-depth research and writing. The quality of my work suffered as a result. 
In the five years since I left Vox, I’ve increasingly “leaned out” of my career.... In recent years, I’ve done the bulk of the child care, laundry, dishes, and other domestic chores. This has enabled my wife to work 50 to 60 hours per week and make three to four times as much as me.... 
[M]ost of the time it’s the mom who steps back from her career when a baby arrives. Because of that, some feminists seem skeptical of the very concept of an unequal division of labor within households. But I think that’s a mistake....

This is a position I've taken for a long time. My old posts are collected under the tag "single-earner household," but that's a little inaccurate, because the home-focused spouse can have some kind of income-producing work, just something more leaned-out. I think a lot of people are afraid they'll run into trouble with an arrangement like this, but there's potential trouble on all paths, even the ultra-risk-averse path of never coupling and never having children.

In her 2021 book Career and Family, the Harvard economist Claudia Goldin introduces a concept that’s crucial for thinking about tradeoffs between work and child care: the greedy job. A greedy job is a job where workers who work long and irregular hours earn significantly more per hour than workers with less demanding schedules.... She writes that when greedy jobs lead to a substantial gap in earnings potential, “the average couple will opt for higher family income and, often to their mutual frustration and sorrow, will thereby be forced to throw gender equality and couple equity under the bus.” I don’t feel “frustration and sorrow” about the unequal division of labor within my own household. Quite the contrary!

"The number of people currently enslaved in the world has grown by 10 million in the last five years..."

"... researchers from Geneva reported Monday. The U.N.'s International Organization for Migration partnered with the International Labor Organization and the Walk Free Foundation, a human rights group, to produce the latest estimates of modern slavery. That term refers to a spectrum of exploitative practices like forced labor, forced marriage and human trafficking. As of 2021, 50 million people were estimated to endure such conditions.... The report also estimated roughly 22 million people were living in forced marriages in 2021. The number of people involuntarily wedded grew by 6.6 million compared to 2016. Nearly two-thirds of all forced marriages were found to be in Asia and the Pacific, followed by Africa, the survey found. One of the drivers of forced and child marriages is poverty — oftentimes financially desperate families see marriage as a means to secure a stable future for their children, according to the report...."

"Explanations for the lack of interest in sex include the poor quality of sex education and the decline of traditional matchmakers..."

"... who used to arrange unions between young people of marriageable age. Others attribute it to the habit among young Japanese of socialising in groups, making it harder for men and women to break off as couples, and the rise of hikikomori, or social recluses, who live at home and never go out. Some research suggests that much of the problem comes down to money. While salaries among male workers have declined since the 'Bubble Economy' of the 1980s, research shows that women’s expectations of income in a potential mate remain unrealistically high."
"[T]hat the book contains only four songs performed by women... is both grim and astounding...."

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