CNN Sets Right its Own Anti-Father Diatribe

The Daddy Wars continue, this time at CNN.  I mean that literally, or at least almost.

This year, CNN did what we see every year in a number of media outlets; it chose Fathers Day to denigrate dads.  Here’s Jeff Pearlman’s exceptionally disgraceful and fact-free diatribe against fathers (CNN, 6/17/11).  And here’s Josh Levs’s rejoinder (CNN, 7/12/11).

Pearlman, you see is a stay-at-home dad.  He works there too.  And his attitude falls into line with about half of everything said about fathers – they’re bums.  Specifically, according to Pearlman, fathers (except him) want nothing to do with their kids, shift all the childcare and housework onto Mom and slouch through work at the office following the latest sports news and celebrity scandals.

Meanwhile, the ones who really slave are the stay-at-home parents, of which he is coincidentally one.  Funny how that works.

So disdainful of these imaginary fathers is Pearlman that he lays out his ten commandments for them that include things like  don’t play golf on weekends, wash dishes, change diapers, etc.  The commandment to paint your toenails eluded my comprehension, but I guess that makes me a bad dad in Pearlman’s book.  Mea culpa.

In short, Pearlman’s piece is straight out of the anti-dad playbook we’ve all been reading since I don’t know when.  Somehow these people manage to convince themselves that fathers are layabouts, that working 50-hour weeks is a walk in the park and that fathers stop at nothing to avoid their children.

That of course brings me to my one commandment for Jeff Pearlman and all his fellow travelers – learn some facts.

You see, Jeff, it’s really not good enough to deliver insulting, condescending diatribes on subjects you plainly know nothing about.  Oh, I’m sure you’re just too busy to actually do any work beyond what you already do.  After all, being a SAHD is the next thing to indentured servitude.  We know; you told us.  But if that’s the case, don’t write anything at all.  It’s far better than spreading your own ignorance to others.

But in truth, the facts aren’t hard to find.  Probably an hour online would have been enough to show Pearlman that essentially all of his concepts are wrong.  He could start with the Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey that shows that, when paid and unpaid work are added together, men and women do essentially identical amounts.  Men do more paid work, women do more domestic work including childcare.  No one’s the slave, no one’s the master, and no one has his feet up while the other toils.

He would have found that women are far more likely than men to hold no paying job, if they do have one it’s far more likely to be part-time and even when they work full-time, women still work fewer hours than men who do.  What all that means is that it’s men’s paid work that allows mothers to stay home with the kids.  Pearlman disdains that, but someone has to pay the rent.

From there he could have moved to the countless studies (of for example, attorneys, MBA graduates, and women working in science, technology, engineering and mathmatics fields) that show women opting out of careers in order to care for children.  Pearlman of course would claim that fathers force mothers to do that because they refuse to, but, if he’d bother to actually read the studies, he’d learn that the opposite is true.  Amazingly, mothers actually want to be mothers and adjust their schedules accordingly.  Who’d have guessed?

Then Pearlman could have gone to the recent Families and Work Institute survey showing that fathers have far more work-family conflict than mothers do and have for about 30 years.  That’s because they’re toiling to do just what Pearlman fantasizes they aren’t doing – work a more-than-full work week and do a whole job of fathering when they get home. 

Pearlman didn’t get around to any of that; too busy painting his nails, I guess.  But if he can’t be responsible enough to learn an actual fact or two about his subject, you’d hope a CNN editor might intervene.  You’d hope a reputable news organization might demand some minimal level of knowledge or accuracy on the part of writers it publishes.  Apparently not.  Apparently “attitude” is an acceptable substitute for, well, everything else.

Fortunately, someone seems to have had second thoughts about the Pearlman piece, so Josh Levs was given space to answer.  For my money, Levs is far too respectful of Pearlman, but he does know something of his subject and lets us know that Pearlman is off the wall.  CNN too.

The idea that anyone thought this was an appropriate message for Father’s Day is preposterous…

Who are these “millions” he’s imagining? They’re none of the fathers I know, none of the fathers I’ve interviewed in my work covering the changes  in American fatherhood.

Yes, actual knowledge about fathers is a real obstacle to the type of denigration of them Pearlman prefers.  So Levs provides a few facts about fathers and what they do.

• 44% — The percentage of working dads who are sole financial providers, up from 2010, according to a survey. More than one in five work more than 50 hours a week, and one in five bring home work at least three days a week.

• Three hours — The average time working dads spend with their children every workday, according to a survey by the Families and Work Institute.

• 80% — The percentage of dads who report that they change diapers as often as or more often than their wives when they’re home, in an Ipsos poll for Pampers. Pearlman complains about dads who refuse or don’t even know how. (The women polled say they change diapers more often but don’t say their husbands shirk diaper duty altogether.)

• 36% — The percentage of young children who had 15 or more outings with their father in the previous month, according to the census. Another 24% had eight to 14 outings; 37% had one to seven outings. Only a sliver had none, for any number of reasons. (These can be just with dad or with both mom and dad.) Pearlman describes dads who never take their kids out.

From a Pew Research study: “Almost all fathers who live with their children take an active role in their day-to-day lives through activities such as sharing meals, helping with homework and playing.”

And here’s another thing.  Why is it that people like Pearlman believe that earning the money to support the family is something to be ashamed of?  To him “a staggering number of fathers suck at being fathers” because they don’t change as many diapers as mothers do.  But mothers don’t “suck” at being mothers because they willingly leave the earning to Dad.

I’ll make it simple: earning money is parenting irrespective of who does it.  Putting a roof over your child’s head, food on the table and clothes on his back is not ignoring your child.  It’s caring for him.  It’s childcare every bit as much as preparing the meals and changing the diapers.

Face it, dads’ working is what allows moms to stay home with the kids which study after study shows they strongly desire doing. 

But obvious concepts like that, together with simple respect for both sexes always elude the anti-dad crowd.  It’s why their views are at last becoming marginalized.  Too bad CNN didn’t get the message.

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