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December 6, 2012

The Only Kind of Man Worth Marrying?

In the December 2012 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, there is a really problematic article in the "Love" section called "The Only Kind of Man Worth Marrying". We're pretty sure that its author Jessica Knoll and the Cosmo editorial team are all patting themselves on the back right now about what an empowering, feminist piece of writing they've got here... but we're sorry, it's just not true. There are so many things wrong with this (probably well-meaning) article.

First of all, let's just start with the title. The only kind of man worth marrying - the implication is that all women (or at least all heterosexual women, seeing as Cosmo rarely admits the existence of lesbians) are looking for a man to marry. Because aren't all women just looking for "the one" so they can settle down?

Anyway, the article begins like this:
There's a new breed of guy out there -- a lean, mean, dish-doing, and diaper-changing machine. And continuing to excel in your career even after you have a few mini-yous may be contingent on making him your husband.
Just the fact that they're referring to this type of guy as a "new breed" is kind of annoying. Men have always been capable of doing dishes and changing diapers. If they weren't actually doing so, that's a whole other issue, but they were capable of doing so. Even if men were expected to work outside the home and women to raise the children, still, are we supposed to believe that fathers never changed a diaper or washed a dish ever? The truly good men were always doing the little stuff, even if they weren't in a truly "equal" relationship.
An exciting career, a beautiful home, a second half as sexy as Ryan Reynolds, and eventually some rug rats. This is the modern definition of having it all, and unlike our grandmothers, or even our moms, we've been promised it's doable.
Eventually some rug rats? What about the women who choose to have children before marriage (or outside of marriage altogether)... are they not capable of "having it all"?

And I'm sorry but no one promised me that I could have it all. If anything, society still tells us that we can't. Women who work because they want to (not have to) are judged as putting their careers before their children. Families that hire nannies to help care for their kids are shamed for not being present. Working mothers are still pitted against stay-at-home moms in the battle of "who's a better parent?" And at the end of it all, we're told that we can't succeed. There are too many problems with our society that don't truly let women "have it all". Having a supportive partner helps, of course, but it's not a magical secret solution that Cosmo has finally discovered for all of us.

Then the article goes and takes on a whole other level of crazy when they start quoting Hugo Schwyzer as an expert.

Not familiar with Schwyzer? He teaches at Pasadena City College and speaks nationally on gender and masculinity. In some circles, he's considered to be a passionate male advocate of women's rights. But in other circles, he's considered to be sexual predator and attempted murderer. And just to be clear, I say "considered" but not "alleged" -- he has admitted to sleeping with his students and trying to kill his ex-girlfriend, both during a period of his life where he struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. (Not to mention the time he described helping to organize SlutWalk L.A. as "herding sluts", or his desire to jizz on the face of feminism.) So obviously, Schwyzer is an interesting choice to quote in an article that's about female empowerment and respectful male partners. I'm not saying that he's not capable of being a feminist, despite his checkered past, but I think it's problematic for him to be the public face of male feminism when there are plenty of other more worthy people out there to take that role. It seems very odd for them to seek out a quote from someone like him for an article about men "worth marrying".

The article goes on to talk about this amazingly insane concept of men who you know, don't expect their women to wait on them hand and foot and actually want to be involved with the home and their own children. I know - crazy right? On the surface, this isn't a terrible piece. Yeah, we should all hold out for a guy (or girl) like that - one who respects our choices and our right to have our own lives, one who chooses to be involved with their own children, one who cares about our needs as well as their own. But this isn't some brand new concept.

Frankly, Knoll and Schwyzer's description of how to identify this kind of man is almost as offensive as it is obvious:
First, they can handle disappointments and inconveniences well. If something comes up at work and you have to cancel on him, his response is, "It's not important, I understand." Not "Aw, come on. Can't you just do it later?" The former is a sign he respects that you have a meaningful life outside of him. Second, these guys express interest in your career. "He should be curious even when it doesn't connect to him in any way," says Schwyzer. When a man truly values all your extra stuff, he won't assume you'll be the one to attend every parent-teacher meeting. Yeah, you'll put out family-related fires half the time, but so will he.
How about instead of using this criteria to determine whether or not he'll be a 50-50 parent, use this criteria to determine whether or not he's a douchebag. If a guy you're dating doesn't behave in this way, you shouldn't be dating him and you definitely shouldn't be marrying him or having kids with him. It's common sense, no? It's also annoying that in the past Cosmo has run several snide little comments about men who aren't "manly" enough... like getting facials, carrying a "man purse", or gasp!shopping! So they want men to be sensitive and nurturing and enlightened enough to do dishes or change diapers or play with their own kids, but they don't want them to cross that line and be too "girly"! I mean, carry around your baby, that's fine, but god forbid they carry around a small dog or something.

What really really irked me the most about the article was the accompanying photos of celebrity dads who - gasp - actually spend time with their own children! "Orlando [Bloom] takes over while mom models" ... "With Mariah's Idol gig, Nick [Cannon]'s on double duty" ... "When Posh is away, David [Beckham] and Cruz play" ... "Mark [Wahlberg] picks up where wife-y leaves off." Noticing a theme? These dads are spending time with their kids when their wives are busy, because you know, that's the only reason why a man might spend time with their kids. And it's just because their wives can't be with the kids, so the implication is that otherwise they would be the mom's responsibility.

By the way - we happened to come across photos from the same batch of pics as their shot of Nick Cannon. He wasn't even on "double duty" while Mariah was working at her "Idol gig" - they just cropped her out of the photo during their trip to Aspen, CO.



(And then just for symmetry, they included a pic of  John Hamm with the caption "Don Draper... so not a 50-50 guy". Also not a real guy, seeing as he's a fictional character and not even of this century.)

Look Cosmo, we appreciate that you're trying to be less old fashioned and more feminist, but... it's kind of hard to take you seriously when your version of feminism is simply "don't marry a guy who is an asshole, only have kids with guys who are willing to raise their own kids" common sense. And any female empowerment you managed to squeeze out of this article is then completely contradicted by the rest of the magazine, which is specifically formulated to make the "fun fearless females" reading it feel insecure and neurotic.

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