Masculinity standards eat another victim
From Jeff, I have to point out that this story by Jonathan Rabinovitz is a sad story, all right, but I’m not sure it’s for the reasons Rabinovitz thinks. Basically, it’s a story of his marriage falling apart tied to an alarming story of how he and his wife’s second child was delivered in the bathtub by his wife. She really did reach down there and grab the baby. This is not recommended for you to try at home, but if it happens, it happens. What’s strange about the story is that Rabinovitz seems to think his reaction was not only terrible, but some grand statement on his manhood. And what’s that? Well, he called 911 and tried to get emergency workers there before his wife delivered. Yep, that’s it. He seems to find this act of common sense to be some mortifying evidence of some drawback in his character. It’s partially that he didn’t do something more, even though summoning help is usually the smartest thing to do, and also that he was afraid, which strikes me as the only rational reaction when someone you love is in danger.
It’s clear the incident is supposed to represent the larger issues in his marriage, but as Sadie at Jezebel notes, it doesn’t quite make sense. He describes the marriage as falling apart due to increased aggravation, fighting, and griping. Okay, it happens. But what does that have to do with his wife delivering her own baby? Nothing. The lesson he draws from the incident is disturbing.
I hate [the police tape of his 911 call]. And I know it’s amazing. It reminds me of how I failed to display any heroism, how I did the best I could in a tight situation — and how Leslie didn’t need any such help.
“The mother did it all by herself,” the dispatcher says toward the end of the tape.
Well, I’m not as puzzled as Sadie. It seems pretty clear to me that he’s blaming the end of his marriage on his wife’s independence and lack of neediness. I’m pretty sure Rabinovitz isn’t pushing an agenda, but I’m still disturbed. This reactionary model of marriage that makes female dependence and silly shows of male “heroism” and chivalry necessary for marriage to work is not only unfair, it makes people unhappy. You’re left wondering if Rabinovitz would be happier with his behavior that day if he took genuine pride in his wife’s independence and resourcefulness and didn’t feel this need to be some conquering hero. Classic example of how sexism hurts men, too.