Friday, May 31, 2013

Bread and Bacon

There is trouble brewing in the land over at Fox News where Lou Dobbs led an all-male panel discussion on May 29th focused on a recent study by the Pew Research Center on the increased role of women as the “breadwinners” for their family.[1] In it, the study outlined a number of fascinating statistics including the following:

·         4 out of 10 households with children under the age of 18 include women who are the primary (or sole) breadwinners for their families

·         Approximately 74% of surveyed adults said that working women make it harder to raise their children; and

·         Approximately 50% of surveyed adults said that working women make it harder for their marriage to succeed.
As you can imagine, the all male panel on Fox went to town with this study, linking specifically women’s increasing dominance and earnings power in the workplace to the very unraveling of our social fabric; the undoing of the American family. Thankfully, one of the panelists thought it wise to elaborate on his comments and his interpretation of this important study on his blog, On it, Erick Erickson writes this gem: “Women as primary breadwinners do make raising children harder, increasing the likelihood of harm in the development of children.”[2] He goes on to describe the ideal family setup for ensuring success for children. The recipe? Two loving non-gay parents (weird that he decides to attack gays – that wasn’t in the Pew study) with the mother at home while the father “brings home the bacon.”

Truthfully, there is just so much overwhelming bullshit in here that it is hard to know where to start.
Actually, let me start with Pew. The public opinion piece of the Pew study that the boys at Fox were foaming at the mouth about, touting how it validates that Americans are against the shocking trend of women working (! What’s next! Swimming while on our periods and wearing slacks!) was based on a phone survey conducted with just over 1,000 adults living in the continental US during a 3 day period in April. And by the way if you live in Alaska or Hawaii and feel strongly about this issue, you’re fucked.

But that’s neither here nor there.
1,003 people. That means when they say that 74% of surveyed Americans think that female breadwinners make it harder to raise children, they are talking about 742 people. Literally. That’s it. And not for nothing, Amanda Bynes currently has 1.6 million people following her on Twitter. If I post a picture of a cat smoking a cigar while watching Bravo with Ryan Gosling narrating it, I could easily get 900 people to like that. Making sweeping generalizations on the temperature of Americans on the changing role of women based on these public opinions, seems dicey at best.

But it’s more than that. It is the way that Erickson and the others fail to unpack their statements.  Erickson argues that women as breadwinners make raising kids harder which is weird. Because I can tell you that I am in a nuclear heterosexual two parent household where my bacon bringing husband is the breadwinner and you know what, it’s still fucking hard. Because my husband is smart and ambitious like many of his female breadwinning counterparts and so he travels quite a bit and the strain on him and our entire family is significant. The strain is from the challenge of the work and balancing that with the responsibilities of marriage and family but is not in any way gender specific.
Secondly, he links what is hard to what is harmful, which is also weird and fundamentally un-true. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Recent studies show that in fact what is necessary for ensuring long-term success in children is modeling and instilling in them early the ability to demonstrate grit, determination and resilience. The fact that we as a family persist in the face of challenges, that we openly struggle, communicate the struggle with our children and actively try to figure out that balance between work and family is what I believe to be critical in their future success. If we fall, if it is hard, we get up. That’s life, for men and women regardless of their gender or place at work or at home.

I know single parent families, gay two parent families, female breadwinning families and Erickson’s la la land two parent nuclear straight SAHM families. They are all comprised of amazing parents who are modeling the most important life skills their children will ever need: the passion and persistence to pursue a life loving who they love and doing what they love with the full courage of their convictions. More than ever, particularly in the face of such shoddy “science” and a national discussion so completely devoid of critical thinking, I am eager to see the amazing fruits of their labor both at home and at work.



  1. Good post. When I heard about the study on NPR, I was like, Oh brother, here comes the shit show. I thought about posting on it, but I just get so worked up, and sometimes it's better for me NOT TO GET SO WORKED UP. :) Thanks for picking up my slack!

    1. Totally got worked up - happy to vent for you :)

  2. Oh, I would LOVE to know the specifics on those people they polled. What do you bet they were all men over 60, from Texas?