Turnabout is fair play(?) (updated 2/21)

I got this via e-mail from one of my girlfriends last week:




Classes begin Febuary 2, 2008

Class 1 – How To Fill Up The Ice Cube Trays — Step by Step, with Slide Presentation.
Meets 4 weeks, Monday and Wednesday for 2 hours beginning at 7:00 PM.

Class 2 – The Toilet Paper Roll — Does It Change Itself?
Round Table Discussion. Meets 2 weeks, Saturday 12:00 for 2 hours.

Class 3 – Is It Possible To Urinate Using The Technique Of Lifting The Seat and Avoiding The Floor, Walls and Nearby Bathtub?
Group Practice. Meets 4 weeks, Saturday 10:00 PM for 2 hours.

Class 4 – Fundamental Differences Between The Laundry Hamper and The Floor
Pictures and Explanatory Graphics. Meets Saturday at 2:00 PM for 3 weeks.

Class 5 – After Dinner Dishes — Can They Levitate and Fly Into The Kitchen Sink?
Examples on Video. Meets 4 weeks, Tuesday and Thursday for 2 hours beginning at 7:00 PM.

Class 6 – Loss Of Identity — Losing The Remote To Your Significant Other.
Help Line Support and Support Groups. Meets 4 Weeks, Friday and Sunday 7:00 PM.

Class 7 – Learning How To Find Things — Starting With Looking In The Right Places And Not Turning The House Upside Down While Screaming.
Open Forum. Monday at 8:00 PM, 2 hours.

Class 8 – Health Watch — Bringing Her Flowers Is Not Harmful To Your Health
Graphics and Audio Tapes. Three nights; Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 7: 0 0 PM for 2 hours.

Class 9 – Real Men Ask For Directions When Lost — Real Life Testimonials.
Tuesday at 6:00 PM Location to be determined.

Class 10 – Is It Genetically Impossible To Sit Quietly While She Parallel Parks?
Driving Simulations. 4 weeks, Saturday noon, 2 hours.

Class 11 – Learning to Live — Basic Differences Between Mother and Wife.
Online Classes and role-playing. Tuesday at 7:00 PM, location to be determined.

Class 12 – How to be the Ideal Shopping Companion
Relaxation Exercises, Meditation and Breathing Techniques. Meets 4 weeks, Tuesday and Thursday for 2 hours, beginning at 7:00 PM.

Class 13 – How to Fight Cerebral Atrophy — Remembering Birthdays, Anniversaries and Other Important Dates and Calling When You’re Going To Be Late.

Cerebral Shock Therapy Sessions and Full Lobotomies Offered. Three nights; Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 7:00 PM for 2 hours.

Class 14 – The Stove/Oven — What It Is and How It Is Used.
Live Demonstration. Tuesday at 6:00 PM, location to be determined.

Upon completion of any of the above courses, diplomas will be issued to the survivors.

I’ve seen variations on this before. Most women will chuckle at the list. Many – myself included – will roll their eyes along with the chuckle, and express gratitude that their men don’t need these classes (well, maybe they could use one or two…no, honey, I’m not saying you do!). Some women will be nodding fervently in agreement and looking for the registration forms, which is a sad thing if you ask me. Plenty of men would ignore this completely. Others – and my guess is that they’re the ones whose women don’t think they need these classes – will understand that it’s a joke, but be somewhat offended by it anyway. And women who would be offended if this “joke” were going in the opposite direction should have some empathy about it. I don’t think it’s a question of political correctness, just consideration and simple courtesy.

I’m involved in several women-centric groups, mostly online, and my husband and I have periodic debates about the exclusion of men from them. He makes the point that if it went the other way, sexism would be charged all over the place. My answer is that it does go the other way, and it has for a long, long time, so women respond in kind. But should we? People aren’t nearly as fixed into traditional gender roles anymore, unless they choose to be – but even as women and men have made inroads into each other’s spheres, some things remain sex-segregated.

Lindsay Ferrier of the Suburban Turmoil blog has a column of the same title on Nashville Scene, and recently wrote there about excluding a stay-at-home dad and his child from her playgroup, which is attended by three-year-olds and their moms. Her reasons had more to do with the possible effect on female camaraderie among the moms than anything against the dad, but the negative response she got from the online-dads community – some of whom are at-home dads, many of whom aren’t – prompted a follow-up column.

(UPDATED 2/21 to add a link to a related post and follow-up discussion at On Balance.)

I’ve only been a stay-at-home mom for brief periods between jobs, and obviously I’ve never been a dad of any kind, so I’m merely an observer on this one, and these are a few of my observations:

  • On a private, social level, there really is a level of camaraderie and commonality among the members of single-sex groups that’s different from that in mixed ones. Even in a mixed group, the men and women frequently drift off to associate with their own kind, for that very reason. While the laws of physics dictate that opposites attract, it’s usually more “like attracts like” on a social level.
  • On a private, social level, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t legally qualify as discrimination…but I’m not a lawyer and if you really need to know about that, check into it for yourself. (I’d love for anyone with knowledge on this to weigh in with a comment, by the way.)
  • One can cite all sorts of reasons for it – biological wiring, social conditioning, some combination of elements from both categories (and staying far away from the “Mars and Venus” thing) – but women and men do tend to interact differently with people. Granted, that applies to everyone at an individual level, but some traits are more associated with one sex than the other. Along those lines, women and men may want and need different things from the groups they belong to; dads may need more practical help and less general “support” than moms seek from their groups, it’s suggested here.
  • The practices of exclusion for exclusion’s sake start back in the playground days, and sometimes it seems like they never do end. Sometimes there’s a reason for the exclusion, and it may even be a good and justifiable one – but sometimes it’s just plain mean.

It’s a variation on the old Groucho Marx quote on not wanting to belong to any club that would have him as a member, but why would one want to belong to a club that clearly doesn’t want her or him as a member? That’s my question. The desire for group acceptance starts back in the playground days too, but if we already have, or can find, groups where we are accepted, why do we get hung up on the ones where we’re not?

And if one tries to live by the Golden Rule of treating others as you’d like to be treated yourself, it’s hard to see exactly how turnabout is fair play. Again, it’s consideration and simple courtesy – a couple of the other things we should have been learning in the playground days, and better ones to hold on to.

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  1. I have one question: as for the online women-centric groups, how do you really know that the participants are all women?

  2. Kiva – GOOD question! In some cases, I know they’re not all women, but the male members of the group are vastly outnumbered. Not too many men have joined Work It, Mom! at this point, for example – I don’t think it’s an exclusionary policy there, but the “mom” part of the name probably doesn’t draw the guys in very much.

    Otherwise, I guess I must think people aren’t misrepresenting themselves online, for the most part. I never hung out in chat rooms, and I’ve gotten to know most people I’ve met online via blogging, so I’m taking them at face value, so to speak. Probably a bit naive, do you think?