These stories are as regular as a menstrual cycle, you know. And about as exciting. Feminism is dead so often that I wonder what kind of a zombie it must be to be able to die again and again.
Another interesting aspect of these stories is that they always focus on the upper class women, mostly white ones and with lots of education. Yet even such highly blessed women toss their careers into the corner! They did so in the early 2000s, they did so in the 1990s, and now they do it in 2013.
The novel aspect of these newest death throes is that the article mentions a famous evolutionary psychologist, David Buss, who firmly believes in the innateness of sex roles. You see, our prehistoric women suddenly don't seem to have been gatherers, after all, who might have provided most of the calories in that gathering/hunting mix but cavewives:
All those bachelors’ vows of future bathroom cleanings, it turns out, may be no more than a contemporary mating call. “People espouse equality because they conform to the current normative values of our culture,” says University of Texas evolutionary psychologist David Buss. “Any man who did not do so would alienate many women—yes, espousing values is partly a mating tactic, and this is just one example.” At least in one area, there’s scant penalty for this bait and switch. Last year, sociologists at the University of Washington found that the less cooking, cleaning, and laundry a married man does, the more frequently he gets laid.
“My sense,” says Buss, “is that younger women are more open to the idea that there might exist evolved psychological gender differences.” Among my friends, many women behave as though the evolutionary imperative extends not just to birthing and breast-feeding but to administrative household tasks as well, as if only they can properly plan birthday parties, make doctors’ appointments, wrap presents, communicate with the teacher, buy the new school shoes. A number of those I spoke to for this article reminded me of a 2010 British study showing that men lack the same mental bandwidth for multitasking as women.
In other words, women belong in the home because of evolution. That cannot be proved, of course, but it's enough if women believe in it, because then they will stay at home. Or will feel guilt for not doing so.
I am bored with these kinds of stories as is pretty apparent from what I wrote above. The reason is this:
Not all women are ambitious in the job sense. Not all women want those kinds of jobs. But then neither do all men. The society condones the lack of ambition in women but disapproves of it in men. Thus, the number of men who would report a desire to be a stay-at-home-dad will probably be lower than the number of men who really would prefer to be a stay-at-home-dad, and to some extent the reverse is true for women.
The point is that we have different talents and different desires. And the previous paragraph could equally well have been written by saying that not all women are suited to taking care of small children or wish to do that full-time, even if they love their own children more than anything in the world. And the same applies for men. And so on.
But the stories are not written that way. They are written to apply to all women on one side, and all men on the other side. Thus, all men obviously somehow wish to work in the labor force 24/7 and all women obviously get kidnapped by their maternal instincts and toss their jobs overboard if they possibly can.
Thus, the basic setup is this: Men will work in the office or the factory or in the fields 24/7, no matter what. If that is taken as a given, how should women behave?
The other reason I'm utterly bored with these kinds of stories is that the way labor markets are arranged is kept as the invisible elephant in them. Those stresses the article speaks about are arranged stresses, largely caused by impossible expectations about working hours and the absence of good childcare and proper vacation time.
Though I must admit that this story is slightly more interesting than the usual one because it hints at the idea that the ability to organize children's birthdays and the ability to cook and clean is somehow genetically wired in women but not in men. Which is unlikely when you consider that the most famous people in those types of fields tend to be men. Like the most famous chefs. Even the most famous childcare experts of the past are men.
We should also see enormous catastrophies in the families of all single fathers. If men lack the necessary hard-wiring to remember children's physician and dentist appointments, how come the studies I've seen of single-father families suggest that those fathers do a pretty good job, on average?
So I fell for this "controversial" post in the way it was intended: Get a lot of links, create a lot of discussion, and the advertising income will flow in! Bad Echidne. She will get no chocolate mousse today.
Added later: This is a good take on the article.