Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More Sexism for Christmas-Just What I Always Wanted!

You know, there's a reason that I don't read much chick lit in any of it's forms.  Even when it purports to be breaking stereotypes and questioning the status quo, most of the time it really just dresses both up in newish clothes.  Such was the case with my book club's selection for December, On Strike for Christmas by Shelia Roberts.

The story follows the members of the Stitch 'n Bitch Knitting Club in their crusade to get their husbands to help out and appreciate all of their hard work at the holidays.  The crusade is accidentally started by Joy (and yes, they all have annoyingly cutesy holiday names-the name of the town is Holly, for crying' out loud!), when she tells her scrooge of a husband (affectionately referred to as Bob Humbug) that since all he does is complain about the hubbub at the holidays, he can be in charge of their Christmas this year.  This idea infects the other women, and soon the whole town is choosing sides in this battle of the sexes.

Battle of the sexes, really, Shelia Roberts?  Are we still trotting out that old plot device?  Most of the "conflicts" in the book could have been solved by a polite request or a quiet conversations.  Your husband gets overwhelmed by your large family and needs to get away before you do-DRIVE SEPARATELY!  Your husband invites people over without letting you know ahead of time-TELL HIM HE'S DOING THE COOKING!  Or suggest he go to the nearest pizza joint for pizza and wings.  What is it about our society that insists that men are helpless and can't do anything nurturing without a woman there to guide them?  Really, not one husband in this books has ever wrapped a gift/cooked a meal/decorated a tree/hosted a party?  Maybe it's the Pollyana in me, but I really refuse to believe that we are still raising our boys to be so helpless.

Of course, the other subtext of this story is that the women really love doing it all, they just want their husbands to pay more attention to them.  I seem to remember reading an article from the 50s with a whole list of suggestions about how to do just that-are you really telling me we haven't moved past that yet?  Since all of the women appeared to be intelligent, well-spoken women, perhaps they could have just, I don't know, said how they were feeling in a way that didn't reduce their husbands to caricatures of Fred Flintstone variety.  I realize as a woman I'm supposed to be on their side in this little debate, but really, if you insist on having everything a certain way a la Bree Van De Kamp then you better be ready to do it your dammee.

I should say for fairness sake that several of my book club members really liked this book, and thought that it echoed some of the things in their own marriage.  And these were younger women-not women in their 50s and 60s.  Maybe it's the fact of my not being married to a man, or the fact that my own father never fell into those stereotypes to begin with (he wraps all the presents and makes Christmas dinner with the help of my mom, not the other way around), but this book and it's sexist message of women as long-suffering nurturers and men as bumbling idiots was not the Christmas gift I was hoping for.

2 comments:

  1. I didn't grow up in a traditional, stereotype household. I saw my dad cooking far more than mom. Clean up? Not always left to the women. I realize chick-lit is often fantasy for women, but I'm tired of the overdone themes.

    By the way, this is my inaugural comment on your blog. :)

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  2. Thanks, sister...my comments weren't working for a while, but it's all better now!

    I wonder how many of us really did grow up in that stereotypical world. I have an awful lot of people tell me their lives were not that stereotypical nuclear family, mom-as-nurturer, dad-as-breadwinner one.

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