♫I enjoy being a man!♫ Says the author of this piece on academic dads. http://t.co/ZLHhkltDDA
— Karen Kelsky (@ProfessorIsIn) May 19, 2014
What do we, as writers, owe other writers?
I’ve been thinking about this in the context of my “talking while privileged” argument. In general, when making arguments about privilege and power, I try to be gracious when people with less privilege don’t like what I say. I thank them for reading. I listen to their critique. I think about what I might learn from it.
What might I learn from this, other than to be angry that another writer decided to reduce my prose to this little la-la-la insult and send it out to her thousands of twitter followers?
1.Sometimes, it’s ok to be angry. I don’t know where Kelsky and I lie on the spectra of power and privilege. She has a much bigger profile and a big business weighing in on academic matters. On the other hand, when writing about gender, I try to accept criticism from women with grace (much as when writing about academic labor, I try to accept criticism from adjuncts with grace). But this is a mean little dig, it’s not seeking me out with a mention, but I know my article and it’s from a fellow writer for the Chronicle. I get to be angry.
2. I am a man writing about feminism and fatherhood. It’s going to raise hackles, people from both the left and the right are going to have visceral, quick, reactions and it’s important that I don’t get angry.
I actually think Kelsky might like my essay about using my privilege as a father to help dismantle my privilege as a father and yet create a better working environment for both men and women. You cannot make someone read you closely, so I am going to have work on my early sign-posting to derail this gut reaction. When you’ve been dealing with sexism, as I’m sure Kelsky has, when you dwell on the internet with its misogyny and mansplaining, it’s little wonder that readers like her have a gut, negative, reaction to my writing. I believe, though, because I’m an optimist, that I can win some people over by just writing better.
I also know this. This little barb stung. It stung much more than the endless parade of homophobic comments from right-wing trolls, the cries of gender betrayal from MRAs, or the clueless, “everything’s fine for me!” from other straight white dads. It stung because I think we’re on the same side here, but I am coming across as the enemy.
But then you pluck the barb out, put on a bandaid, and get back to writing. It’s going to be a busy day of essay writing, working in the yard, and playing with my son. Enjoy Friday.
4 Replies to “I enjoy being a man! – Thoughts on criticism”
I really enjoyed your "Working Dad" piece. I strongly believe that reducing stigmas surrounding parenting roles being gendered is a large step towards overall equality. This is why I almost always refer to myself as a "stay at home parent" instead of a stay at home mom.
As for her tweet, I say don't be too concerned about it. You'll never be able to please everyone.
That "stay at home parent" language is interesting and not one I've thought about. thank you.
I have always referred to myself as a "parent" for this among other reasons.
I got plenty of experience last year that some people, who seem to otherwise be reasonable, don't like it when you advocate for dads as strong and responsible parents. It is clearly possible for dads to be just as important as parents as moms, and take on just as much work, responsibility and, yes, professional risk, as moms.
Men often have this choice to do so, while in many families men don't offer this choice to the moms. But, it's quite possible for dads to do this.
Some people don't like this message. The only real way to resolve the situation in which women are receiving inequitable treatment because they do more parenting is for men to step up and be parents. I haven't found too many women who are enthusiastic about that message. Instead, I think there is a desire for more accommodation in the workplace, and at home, for working moms, instead of focusing on dads doing just as parenting as moms. But unless the workplace provides accommodating for working parents (and actually people who are doing the parental work, not the guys that phone it in and get credit for parenting when they're just working more), then there won't be a real change in the status quo. In other words, change comes at home when dads become real parents.