Wednesday, 28 September 2016

My talk at the first Canadian National Conference on Men's Issues

So I was invited to Ottawa for the September 17th conference and had the honor of being keynote speaker for an event that turned out to be a great success.

Steve Brule of Studio Brule recorded most of the talks, and they can be found on his channel here. The Canadian Association for Equality has uploaded livestreams of I think the entire day on their own channel, here.

But I thought I'd post the basic script I was working from here, along with a link to the slide-show. Slides that I remembered to make a note of are in block brackets. Please keep in mind this script was a work in progress and may not match the presentation exactly.




Ogres, Onions and Men’s Issues Activism: Barriers to effective advocacy


[alice in wonderland]

I’m certain most of you are familiar with the phrase “down the rabbit hole”. From the children’s story Alice in Wonderland, the rabbit hole represents the exploration of ideas and phenomena that, to any rational observer, are nonsensical and insane. 

Unsurprisingly, this is one of the most common analogies used by people when they become aware of men’s issues and try to do something about them. And sadly, a lot of those people did not come across a rabbit in a waistcoat and, motivated by curiosity, follow it down the warren—many of them were forcibly driven down the rabbit hole without warning and against their will.

[red pill]

Another popular analogy in the men’s movement originates in the movie The Matrix. When one takes the “red pill” one is awakened to the true, and terrible, nature of reality that has been concealed by a facade of normalcy—the life you believed you were living is a mere illusion imposed on you by powerful external forces, and the reality is something entirely different.

Both of these analogies are, in my opinion, off the mark. Why?

[alice in wonderland]

Life down the rabbit hole is nonsensical, random, and arbitrary. None of the suffering of men in modern society (or in the past), nor the barriers faced by men’s issues advocates, can be described as such. 

[the matrix]

On the other hand, life in The Matrix is portrayed as an illusion, where powerful external forces have utterly concealed the true nature of reality from those existing within it. But the nature of our reality, in terms of gender, lies in plain view. It’s not hidden from us, and has never been hidden from us. Our reality is ubiquitous and obvious. More importantly, it has not been imposed on us by our alien overlords, but is ultimately a monster of human invention. 

So I’d like to use a different analogy:

[ogres are like onions] 

Yes, I get all my best material from children’s stories…

[misandry… misandry everywhere…]

According to our buddy Shrek, Ogres are like onions. Not because they stink or because they make you cry, but because they have “layers”. 

So, what is an ogre? It is a fictional beast of human invention, powerful, dangerous and difficult to get along with. Without us, ogres cannot exist, not even in the realm of imagination. 

And what is an onion? It is a thing of nature, with many layers. It’s often delicious, and it can make you cry. 

Gordon Smith, a man from Delaware who I have had the pleasure of meeting in person, was caught up in a series of false allegations made by his wife during a divorce and custody battle several years ago. I believe he was arrested 8 times relating to 13 different false allegations, and only saw an end to his ordeal when the ankle bracelet he’d been ordered to wear despite never so much as being charged, let alone convicted of any of the alleged assaults, placed him miles away from his wife when she claimed to police in a hospital ER that he’d beaten her up in an alley just an hour earlier—an allegation so fresh she could not explain her lie away by saying she’d misremembered the time or date. 

He described the experience of her abuse of process as going to bed one night in America and waking up the next morning in Pyongyang, stripped of what he had always believed were constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms.

Gordon didn’t wake up in Pyongyang, though. He woke up in America—the exact same America he’d gone to bed in the night before. That he had never realized how America would one day persecute him doesn’t mean the US was some kind of giant Potemkin Village, nor that the laws and policies that nearly destroyed him were constructed without his awareness or even his consent.  

In fact, I’d be willing to bet that before all of this hit him, he supported the Violence Against Women Act, the primary instrument of his own undoing. He, like everyone else, would have heard that this Act would protect women from physical and sexual violence, and who wouldn’t want that? And the due process protections guaranteed in the constitution undermined or sidelined by VAWA? Even if he’d thought to ask about them, I’ll hazard a guess he’d have thought them a small price to pay if it meant women would be protected from abusive and violent men.

The ogre didn’t sneak up on him, or on any of us. We just didn’t realize it was an ogre until it was too late. 

[list of structural challenges]

And that’s why I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about the tough outer layers of the onion that form the legal, structural and institutional barriers to effective men’s issues advocacy. These systems didn’t construct themselves, after all. Humans made them, however difficult it might be now to deal with or dismantle them, and in any case, others here will, I’m sure, be in a better position to discuss them. 

But I will give you one example of how a well-intentioned legal construct can become a brick wall to advocates fighting for men.

I’m going by memory here, from the many long conversations I had with the late Earl Silverman while he prepared his second attempt at a hearing before the Canadian Human Rights Commission. 

He’d told me that his first attempt at a hearing was denied on multiple grounds. The Commission felt that Earl had not made a valid case that the government’s discrimination against men put men at a disadvantage. Statistics on the existence of a significant population of male victims of domestic violence did not necessarily demonstrate a need for shelters for men, therefore the lack of shelters and services does not necessarily represent a meaningful harm. 

More than this, men are, in the view of the law and the government, structurally advantaged. Because of this, it is perfectly within the bounds of the law to discriminate against them and in favor of women. One cannot reasonably sue an institution for being in violation of the Charter when it is acting well within the bounds of the Charter.

So what part of the Charter are we dealing with?

[15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.]

Okay, that section says you can’t discriminate on the basis of sex. It’s gender neutral. What’s the problem? Well, it’s this bit that comes right after:

[(2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. (84)]

But wait, you say. It’s still gender neutral. It doesn’t say anything specifically about women there. 

Well, you know what DOES mention women? Over 30 years of case law. 

And the case law is ironic. Every judicial decision that included a finding of structural female disadvantage made it easier to demonstrate that same disadvantage in the next case, and the next case, and the next case. There is now a veritable mountain of decisions in sex discrimination cases, all saying the same thing: women are disadvantaged. 

And ironically, the less structurally disadvantaged women become with every single legal victory, the easier it is to demonstrate to a court that they’re structurally disadvantaged. I mean, look at all the case law that confirms it!

The very system designed to help make women equal cannot countenance the idea that women are equal, or perhaps “more equal than others”. How could they be, when there’s all this case law saying they’re not equal? And as long as feminist legal foundations and advocacy groups are bringing cases, and winning them, and adding to that body of case law, the Commission will be inclined to view women as structurally disadvantaged.

This first decision by HRC spurred Earl to a different course of action. He opened a shelter so that the next time he went before the Commission, he could demonstrate a need that was not being fulfilled. He continued to wrestle with the provincial department of health and human services and the federal minister responsible for the status of women, and continued to be given the run-around.

He also constructed an argument to use on his next run at the HRC. Society is not static. It is organic. It grows and changes, and the law needs to reflect that growth and change. Efforts to ameliorate women’s disadvantage have been so successful that now it is men who are at a disadvantage in some areas.

HRC acknowledged the validity of that argument. And denied him a hearing. The argument was valid, but HRC was not convinced it was applicable in this case. 

I mean, just look at all that case law!

But what was really going on there?

If the argument was valid, shouldn’t a hearing be the place for HRC to decide if it is applicable in this case? 

And here’s where we come to the real problem. The real problem is us. 



“Ogres are like onions.”





1) Structural Challenges:


politics
money
media bias
law
policy





2) Human Challenges:

sexual dimorphism
gynocentrism
the WAW effect
tribalism
sacred objects
sunken costs
men themselves





Sexual dimorphism is much more than a function of physical size. It affects our behaviors, our attitudes, our approaches to the opposite sex, and our personalities. 

It’s also reflected in our physical appearance in terms of something called “neoteny”, which is the retention of juvenile or infantile characteristics of an ancestor species in the adults of the descendant species. 

[tough man/adult gorilla]

Individuals low in neoteny are perceived as intimidating. 

[cute woman/puppy]


Individuals high in neoteny are perceived as more sociable—in other words, they’re perceived as friendly, affiliative and… well, *nice*.

More than this, our sympathies are triggered by neoteny. The cuteness of babies, for instance, makes you want to be kind to them, or at least not be mean to them. 

[baby]

It’s their superpower, and one of the most important psychological mechanisms that helps ensure they make it through their most vulnerable phase of life. And I’m sure you’ll all be able to see the value in using images of baby seals when fundraising for wildlife preservation efforts. 

Both men and women are extremely neotenous compared to, say, chimpanzees or gorillas, but in terms of physical neoteny, women have men beat, hands down. 


But it’s worse than than that. Women’s higher average neoteny is not only a cause of unequal treatment—it’s also a symptom. 

[gynocentrism]


If women evolved to be cuter than men, it’s because being cute is of greater benefit to women than it is to men. To become an adaptation, a trait must do one very simple thing: help you and your descendants reproduce. 

It can do this by making you more sexually attractive to others, or by helping you survive long enough to pass on your genes. 

For women, neoteny does both. According to one cross cultural survey of men, women high in neoteny were not only perceived as more sociable, but they were rated as more sexually attractive. 

Neoteny works so well for women because 

Gynocentrism is exactly what it sounds like. Women form the center of human societies, and because of women’s role in preproduction, human societies altered this at their peril. The society that treated female life as inherently expendable simply did not survive.

I’m sure I need explain to no one here how every uterus counts, while sperm are cheap and plentiful. In terms of group success, this is a fundamental calculation. 

But in terms of sex differences in reproductive strategies, it also plays a role. In a tournament mating system—the system used by the other great apes—all females have access to sex and reproductive opportunities. The difference between a successful female and one that is less successful is the difference between having 4 kids and having 6. 

For males, the difference looks more like this:

[chimps]

Both males and females of all social species compete with their same-sex peers for social dominance. In mammals, male intrasexual competition is a competition for mating opportunities. Female intrasexual competition is a competition for resources. These competitions result in intrasexual dominance hierarchies.

We humans are unique among primate species, however. Unlike with, say, chimpanzees, male dominance hierarchies aren’t just about who’s biggest, toughest and most willing to throw down when challenged. They’re also about the acquisition of resources, and the transfer of those resources to females. 

They’re also about leadership, rather than merely being a thug. The realities of getting food in a nutrient poor environment where most of the food walked on legs, and a lot of it was capable of killing you… that required males to work cooperatively just to eat, and it also required the dominant males to reward their voluntary helpers with a fair share of the kill. If you weren’t fair, your guys would go to someone who was. 

It also meant that if males weren’t sharing food with females, the females were simply not going to eat. Dominant males had to share with subordinates to ensure their continued cooperation, and once they’d done so, there just wasn’t enough left to maintain a harem. Subordinate males were offered a unique opportunity to capitalize on their ability to benefit from provisioning a single, favored female. 

This environment also selected for intelligence. It takes a lot more brain to stalk a gazelle than to stalk a mango, and it takes much more brain to coordinate the efforts of several individuals of relatively small stature, without a whole lot in the way of claws or fangs, in bringing down a large animal, or dealing with a large predator when you’re in a grassland rather than in the trees. 





When human women compete with each other for men, they ARE competing for resources, because unlike with other great apes, our reproductive model involves men providing women and children with resources, rather than women fending for themselves. 

This way of doing things, men acquiring the resources and sharing them with women and children in return for reproductive opportunities, is one of the primary reasons we humans have been so incredibly successful. 

And our way of doing it is an unprecedented social innovation. We are what you could call, “egalitarian maters”. Among other primates that practice monogamy and male provisioning of offspring, only the socially dominant pair has mating rights—and they will aggressively police the other members of the group to prevent them from mating. 

But we humans, we’re the only primates who couple monogamously and have no hard and fast rules preventing individuals from pairing up. If you can manage to attract a mate, well, you get to have one. And for men, one way to attract a partner is to show her he can help provide for her and any children they have. 



This is at least the framework for my hypotheses as to how we found ourselves using such a unique system, and there’s just no way I’m going to be able to relay it all here today, but it’s my belief that the challenges that caused this form of sociosexual organization also led to another uniquely human characteristic:


[ultra-sociality]


For other animals, group cooperation is limited by kinship. Let’s consider our chimpanzee cousins, who live in multi-male, multi-female groups of up to 120 individuals. The males tolerate each other because they’re all genetically related—it’s the females, not the males, who leave the group at maturity. Not only that, males will often form coalitions to deal with out-of-group matters, like border patrols and warfare. 

But the community can only get so large before the genetic bonds between the males begin to get watered down. 

Animals living in massive, highly organized and coordinated colonies—colonies as big as human ones can become—place extreme limits on reproduction. You have one queen who produces all of the offspring who are all closely related to one another—essentially brothers and sisters—performing roles dictated by their biological caste. Worker, soldier, drone, queen. 

But not us. According to Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist who studies morality, one of the reasons we’ve been able to become the only ultra-social species that doesn’t employ a reproductive caste system is our ability to form massive, cooperative group bonds around sacred objects.

[mecca]


Now a sacred object doesn’t necessarily have to be a god or a religion. It can be a principle or ideal, a cause or a worldview. It can be right or wrongheaded, in your opinion or mine. The important thing to remember is that it involves the sacralizing of the object in such a way as to create a shared group identity. 

You can even see kinship bonds evoked in much of the language around such objects. For religion, it might be: “We are all god’s children.” Feminism and its “sisterhood.” We have “Motherland” and “Fatherland” to evoke feelings of kinship between citizens of a country. Organizations such as the military, which depend heavily on group loyalty, have historically used the rhetoric of “brotherhood” and the sacralizing of codes of honor to augment their strict formal hierarchies. 

Because these objects create a sense of shared in-group identity and common purpose, they are a source of group belonging, and they’re necessary for cooperation and coordination on such a massive scale. 

The sacred objects that facilitate human ultra-sociality—our unique ability to coordinate our efforts at this scale—is a necessary component of what has brought us here. It’s what gave us civilization and all of its trappings, from modern medicine to the internet.

At the same time, these sacred objects and the group identities they evoke in us erect tribalistic boundaries around the group and cause deep feelings of enmity regarding outsiders who might question the sacred object or reject membership in the group. Kind of like this.

[if you’re not a feminist, then you’re a bigot]


And the downside of this type of sense of group belonging is that it seems to require the existence of an out-group, challenge or adversary. Three of the four basic conflicts in literary fiction are man against man, man against nature and man against society. Those literary tropes appeal to us for a reason—conflict drives us as humans. 

How better to define the “us” than in opposition to the “them”. Liberals vs conservatives. Republicans vs democrats. Atheists vs creationists. The religious vs the devil, or human evil, or the infidel. 


[anita]


Feminists vs the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.


Which brings us to this:

[sunken costs]

Imagine you have a hypothesis. Imagine you turned that hypothesis into a career. During the course of that career, you managed to acquire a great deal of status. People think you’re brilliant. They admire you. They pay you to speak. They see you as someone who should be listened to. It becomes your life’s work, something you’re famous for. 

Now imagine someone showing you a piece of evidence that undermines the foundational premise of your hypothesis. What do you do? You’ve invested so much of your life, your time, your energy, your heart, your soul in this one set of ideas, all of it supported by something you always considered a given, but that has now fallen under scrutiny and challenge. 

[quitters]

There’s a reason this phrase appeals to people. But it’s a lie. The sunken cost fallacy is about our reluctance to cut our losses once we’ve invested heavily in a given cause or action, even when there’s substantial evidence that we’ve put our money in a junk bond. 

“I’ve already paid so much in, I can’t abandon this idea now!”

In the late 1800s, a revolutionary named Ignaz Semmelweis discovered that implementing a program of doctors washing their hands in chlorinated lime could reduce childbed death rates by up to 80%. When he had documented proof of correlation, he went to his superiors with his findings. And what became of Ignaz? 

He was fired. The “nervous excitation” and “four humours” theories of disease were the prevailing wisdom. Germs had yet to be discovered, but Ignaz’s findings didn’t just demand a departure from common practices—it required a complete rethinking, based on circumstantial evidence alone, of the foundational premise by which the medical establishment of the day conceptualized disease. 

Semmelweis died friendless and impoverished in a mental institution, after he made a lifelong nuisance of himself pushing his new-fangled idea of hand washing. 

Why such resistance to his idea? Because it struck at the heart of how the medical establishment thought about disease. It cast into question their most foundational assumptions, and that meant throwing everything they knew about disease away.

The foundational belief of mainstream feminism rests on the historic oppression of women by a system of male dominance that confers unjust and unearned privilege on men. Its entire body of theory rests on this one presupposition. 

The reality is that in every single metric which we would use to demonstrate that blacks are disadvantaged compared to whites in the US, men fare more poorly than women. In many of these metrics, the gap between men and women is significantly larger than the gap between blacks and whites. 

And in many of these metrics, men have ALWAYS fared more poorly than women. 

Yet what do we hear from feminists regarding all of these inconvenient truths?

They’re byproducts of male privilege. That men have all the real power within the system, therefore men could easily fix all of these problems, and if they don’t it’s on them. And that the root cause of all of these problems is the hatred or devaluing of women.

Suicide is caused by the expectation of male stoicism, you see. “Boys don’t cry,” and all that. And why don’t boys cry? Because crying is a woman thing, and women are hated and devalued in patriarchal societies. See? It’s really all about misogyny.

It couldn’t possibly be because societies have always valued stoicism in men because men who are stoic can better protect and provide for women and children or anything. Because if that were the case, it would be very difficult to argue that women are hated, or not valued by society. 

Male suicide couldn’t possibly have anything to do with men routinely losing access to their children after divorce. I mean, they do lose access, but that’s misogyny, too, dontcha know. It’s based on the assumption that women are only good for making babies. Even though feminist organizations fight every organized effort to change the situation. See? 

Couldn’t have anything to do with negative assumptions about men as potential abusers or anything. Even though those assumptions are entrenched in our laws and policies surrounding family violence. And if those assumptions exist, it’s because of patriarchy, even though feminist lobby groups have exploited those assumptions in their opposition to shared parenting legislation.

The aforementioned are very simple examples, but the mental gymnastics involved can be absolutely astounding, and the only reason to engage in this kind of pretzelizing of reality wherein suffering is defined as privilege is to defend the basic premise: 

Patriarchies privilege men and oppress women. 

Even without the psychological phenomenon of belief perseverance, the sunken costs involved in the feminist endeavor make it next to impossible to shift the momentum. There is too much money and status to lose, too many careers and reputations at stake, and too much potential for embarrassment for the feminist establishment to even so much as consider that maybe they got it fundamentally wrong.

They’re in a position to maintain and promote the Patriarchy narrative through media, education, social work, academia, government and the law. Given the vagaries of human psychology and what’s at stake, they’ll continue to do so for as long as the public is willing to buy it. And the public is willing to buy it because humans are naturally gynocentric. 



Which brings us to men themselves, and how they act as their own worst enemies. 

I want you to compare these two images.

[sea lions]

[obama]

Now bear with me here, because I’m not suggesting that all of these women are Obama’s personal harem, or that he signed this bill into law in order to get laid. 

But our particular brand of egalitarian monogamy, the model that facilitated an unprecedented degree of cooperation and tolerance between unrelated males, as well as being unique, is a relatively recent innovation. And evolution is not an inventor—it’s a tinkerer. Humans didn’t get a total redesign when we transitioned from the tournament system to what we have now. All that older stuff is still there, under the new bits that have been bubble-gummed and duct taped onto the old. 

The form of social organization we employed before the paths of humans and chimpanzees diverged looks more like this:

We don’t do things like that anymore, at least not in the western world. But we did them that way for a lot longer than we’ve been engaging in this grand experiment in social evolution we call humanity. 

The assumption that men in positions of power, “alpha males”, would privilege all men at the cost of women’s oppression defies everything I have ever learned about human history, and about the origins of our species. 

Obama, an “alpha male” signed into law the mostly redundant lilly ledbetter fair pay act to resounding public approval. And yet somehow this powerful male, arguably the most powerful patriarch in the world, seems to have permanently tabled the proposal, presented to him years ago, for the creation of a much needed White House Council for Men and Boys. 

That, my friends, is part of who we are as a species, as much as we might wish it otherwise. That is what puts the lie to the entire feminist model of “Patriarchy”. 

We’re not on the African Savannah anymore. The immediate and difficult environmental challenges that necessitated the *voluntary* investment and cooperation of all males in the success of everyone are gone. 

The flow of resources is still one-way—from men to women and their children, but because it’s no longer voluntary, it needs no reward. 

If government takes resources from men by force, in the form of taxes, child support and alimony, and hands those resources to women, there’s no pressing need for a woman to negotiate an equitable deal with any individual man.

And while I might understand how what I’ve said here, if it all turns out to be the case because really, I could be wrong and I would love nothing more than to be wrong… I really get how daunting this tangle of challenges is and how it might bum everyone out. 

But right now, our approach to equality, or even basic fairness, is the equivalent of the bloodletting of Ignaz Semmelweis’s era. 

How can we begin to solve the problems of men or women if we are unwilling or unable to understand or acknowledge what is causing them? 

Feminism’s “patriarchy theory” is the four humours understanding of disease. They have systematically bled society in the name of an unproven, unfalsifiable hypothesis that feels very comfortable to a lot of people. 

And while I’m sure you all would be much happier if I could give you easy solutions to simple problems, I can’t. The problems aren’t simple and the solutions won’t be easy. They’re as complicated and difficult as ogres. 

And perhaps the most difficult challenge of all is that the ogre is us.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Fan art... of a sort

After listening to the Honey Badgers' critique of a men's rights episode of Fox's prime time drama "Bones", in which the leaders of a prominent men's rights organization "just happened" to be named Karen and Paul, an ardent fan created this:



That is all.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Mother's Day bullshit

So some idiot website I've never heard of published a Mother's Day article that pissed me off, so I'm going to respond to it here.


This Sunday, as we all pause to honor the mothers in our lives, 

Just FYI, my youngest came with me to Costco today. On a Sunday. Yes, Costco on a Sunday. It was a nightmare. And he carried $400 worth of groceries from the car to the house. My oldest brought me a bowl of my favorite soup from Subway last night so I could have a nice breakfast today. My daughter sent me double rent. This all, despite me having forgotten that it was Mother's Day today.

I have words of advice for men observing the day with the mother of their children: Do more. 

Why? You're not his mother. 
Okay, that was a bit flip, but if your husband isn't putting in an equal effort, then one day a year of going above and beyond isn't going to make you happy. 

If you’re debating between a spa gift certificate and flowers, get both. If you were planning to take the kids out in the morning so she could rest, take them out for the afternoon, too.

I feel like I must be some kind of alien. I was happy with warmed over Subway tomato basil soup for breakfast, some help carrying in a metric fuck ton of groceries, and some cash. What would I do with a spa certificate? How long would a bouquet of flowers sit dropping dead petals before I felt compelled to toss it in the trash? And why would I want to avoid my kids on Mother's Day? 

Isn't celebrating my relationship with my kids the whole point of the day? 

Mother’s Day should be the biggest holiday of the year, and it’s time moms said so.

You'll have to forgive me if I don't agree. Being a mother isn't easy. But it doesn't deserve anything special. You chose to become a mother. Presumably, you chose to become a mother because it was what you wanted to be. That being a mother isn't always easy doesn't mean it wasn't your choice. 

Basically, you're demanding that your decision to do what you wanted to do be celebrated by everyone above any other celebration, simply because that decision involves some degree of work, inconvenience and sacrifice.

That being a mother is and should be respected and acknowledged as a job at least as important as any other, is one thing. Demanding that it be respected and acknowledged above and beyond any other endeavor--like, you know, risking one's life in war (Veteran's Day) or giving one's life in war (Memorial Day)--is beyond silly. 

Think about the great dads you know. Easy, right? 

Yes. Yes it is. Part of why it's easy for me is because many of the great dads I know did not change diapers, did not burp babies, did not play catch with the kids in the backyard, did not give baths or jiggle colicky infants on their knees. 

Do you know what my dad was doing when I walked across the stage at my Grade 9 "junior high leaving ceremony"? He was en route to Swan Hills, 250km from where we lived. While I was attending the dance, and my mother was worrying whether I'd be home by curfew, he was on his back on the shoulder of a highway in the rain and the dark, with a flashlight in his teeth, underneath a Peterbilt, trying to figure out what was wrong with it. He'd bought a ticket, and I know he'd have loved to be there with me, to watch me walk across the stage in the dress my mom made for me, but work called him away. 

And since his work paid the lion's share of everything, including the taffeta for the dress my mother made for me, and the shoes, and the everything else, he missed my leaving ceremony. I got home that night before he did, and I waited up for him. He staggered to bed around 2AM, and was up again at 6 to be at work at 7:30, because that's what he did.

This is the difference between the way mothers like you and fathers like mine view things. 

You complain about how many of those moments you "have" to spend with your kids. Their fathers don't complain about how few of those moments they "get" to spend with their kids. They just do what it takes to make sure you're able to have those moments, as many of them as you want, so many of them that you take them for granted and even resent them.

You probably could come up with some right away. The ones who stand out because they do drop-off at school or cheer at Little League games. 
Whatever happened to kids walking to school? Whatever happened to unstructured free play in nature--you know, boot the kid out the door and tell him to be home when the streetlights come on?

The ones who give baths or read books. 

Is it TMI to say I used to have baths with my dad, up until I was about 4 or 5? It was a way to spend time together. To fit some time together into his schedule, when his schedule more often than not meant that he was gone more than 12 hours of every day. And no, he was never much for reading me books, but he did teach me the ins and outs of swearing under the hood of a car in the garage, and how to properly butter floor tiles and frame a basement.

Now think of the great moms. Harder, right? 

Nope. My mom was absolutely a match for my dad. She was more hands-on than my dad, because she was home. But together they were a force to be reckoned with. There was no playing both ends against the middle. There was no bullshit bickering over who was contributing more or less. She baked bread from scratch, and planted a vegetable garden every year, and did roof repairs herself to make it possible for her to stay home with me and my sisters. She babysat, and took in a little extra money feeding the neighbors' kids lunch every day. 

Watching them together was like watching a well-oiled machine. Every Friday night they'd sit in front of the TV and go through receipts and balance their check-book. Between the two of them, they'd taught me what a credit rating was before I set foot in junior high school. 

It’s not because there are so few great moms

Wiping bottoms and filling sippy cups full of juice on demand doesn't make a great mom. Doing what your instincts dictate and consoling a crying infant doesn't make you a great mom. It just makes you a primary caregiver. 

Sometimes being a great mom involves making your kids walk to school, rather than driving them. Sometimes being a great mom involves booting them outside and telling them to be home by dark, rather than enrolling them in an endless array of structured activities they have to be chauffeured to and from. Sometimes it's about being hands-off, rather than hands-on. And not hands-off the way my best friend's mom was, either--you know, the mom who is too tired or apathetic to make an effort to be hands-on. And there are LOTS of them.

it’s because, barring a few bad apples, 

A few? 

most moms are pretty great. 

No, they're not. Most moms are competent. Few would qualify for the Nobel Mom Prize. 

Most moms do drop-off AND cheer at the games AND give baths AND read books and do about a million other tiny things that dads get so congratulated for doing. 

And my dad was lying on his back in the rain under a Peterbilt full of toxic waste when he would 100% have rather been attending my Grade 9 leaving ceremony. Imagine that. Imagine not being ABLE to be there for your kid's first steps, first words, first anything. Imagine instead being the person on whom the financial burden of the household rests. Imagine giving up all those moments to make it possible for your wife to stay home, and then imagine her writing a cunty, resentful article about how you're hardly ever there, and when you are it's treated as special. 

I've got news for you, lady. For way more fathers than mothers, being there to cheer at the game, watch your daughter walk across a stage, read a bedtime story or watch those first steps IS a special occasion. 

My dad worked 70 hour weeks so my mom could stay home when we were small. And he STILL managed to find the time and energy to make a thousand memories with me that were worth remembering. And my mom, instead of playing some toxic game of "who's sacrificing the most" did everything she could to encourage us to spend time together, and make his life at home more comfortable and welcoming than hard pavement under his back in the rain.

The bar is set so high for moms that a “great dad” is a dad who is somewhat involved in their kid’s life, but a “great mom” would have to go far beyond that to get her accolades.

Depends on your definition of a "great dad". What if being a "great mom" was working 40-70 hours a week paying the lion's share of the bills, being the only thing standing between the family and a cardboard box, and still managing to spend quality time with the kids on a regular basis? 

When was the last time you thanked your husband for work he does and the sacrifices he makes, including the bathtimes and bedtime stories, so you can have the opportunity to be just a regular mom? Not a great one, but just an ordinary one? 

As a mom, I worry about so many things. 

And fathers never worry.

What if my kids get sick? 

Yeah, my dad NEVER worried about us kids getting sick. He never worried about us getting hurt. He never worried about us getting sick or hurt while he was off in the field somewhere, 5 hours' drive away, either. Not even once.

What if I get sick? 

Yeah, my dad never worried about getting sick. He certainly never worried about getting injured on the job. Never ever worried about how his family would manage if he wasn't able to work for a week, or a month, or a year, or ever again. Not even once. It's not like he ever went to work the day after breaking his hand, or taking a shard of metal in his eye. It's not like he knew we were depending on him to bring in a steady paycheck.

Do I focus too much on my first-born daughter at the expense of my two younger sons? 

Yes, you did. Call it intuition, but I'm calling it like I see it.

Do I spend enough time with all of them individually? 

Ironically, you're worried over nothing. Individual quality time with each kid is much less important than them seeing you and your husband modelling a cooperative, loving, caring, supportive relationship with each other. 

Are they happy? 

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Stop worrying so much.

Can my too-sweet daughter stand up for herself? 

Not effectively if her mother is any example. Instead, I predict she'll rely on passive aggression and proxy bullying.

Am I on the phone too much around them? 

I don't know. 

When is picture day? 

Who cares? Take your own pictures.

When is our day to bring in snack? 

Tell the school you're not interested, and hand them some cash instead to make up for it, if it's such a problem.

Who’s that mom waving at me? 

Some bitch who thinks she's better than you, I bet.

Oh she’s not waving at me, phew. 

Oh, thank god. 

Are they making friends? 

They would make more friends if you gave them some freedom.

Are they kind? 

They'd be more kind if you allowed them unstructured, unsupervised play time with other kids. 

Are they challenged in school? 

If they're being challenged in school, it's almost certainly not in a good way. This has been true for a LONG time.

Oh no, I’m wearing denim on denim! 

Canadian tuxedo alert! Instead of "oh no!"ing all over the place, just own it and make it work.

How did I leave the house like this? 

Unshowered, legs unshaved, covered in baby vomit, with your shirt inside out? Join the club. We've all been there. Maybe not in denim on denim, but that's more a matter of luck than design.

Is it because I only sleep two hours at a time? 

Probably. But you know, you don't have to worry about it. Eventually, you'll get more sleep. Eventually, you'll either remember to look in the mirror before you leave the house, or you'll stop caring. And that's fine, because none of the people whose judgments you are worried about are able to really hurt you. It's not like showing up at some school event dressed the wrong way, or with sleep goongas in the corners of your eyes or your hair unbrushed is going to cost you your job. 

Telling the school you could give two fucks about snack day, and handing them 20 bucks and telling them to deal with it is not going to cost you your job. When some busybody cunt corners you to demand why you haven't volunteered for this or that school fundraiser, you can tell her to fly a kite and it won't cost you your job. As a mom whose income is primarily brought in by the father of your children (as I assume you are, not that there's anything wrong with that), he's the one person whose opinion you should care about. 

Who gives a fuck what those other moms think? Are you doing right by your kids, who you chose to bring into the world? And since when does that deserve a medal?

And so on.

Thank you for not elaborating further. 

As a dad, my husband worries that raising them in Brooklyn might lead to them becoming Nets fans instead of his preferred Knicks. The end.

I highly doubt that this is the only worry your husband has. Unlike you, he chooses not to burden others with his worries. He jokes about the trivial worries because the real ones are so awful that he chooses to spare you hearing them. 

He worries that he'll die on the job, or on his commute, and how you'd be able to get by. He worries about how you'd be able to manage if he were crippled or got seriously ill. He worries that if that happened, you'd dump him like dead wood and find someone else who can be more useful. He worries about whether he'll be able to juggle your demand for his money with your demand for his time. He's seen friends of his get served with divorce papers because their wives required a lifestyle that necessitated them working long hours, and who then felt neglected. "I want a cabin on the lake! I want a boat! WHY ARE YOU NEVER HOME???!!" I guarantee it. I've seen it. He's worried that while he's at work, some douchebag is hitting on you and might be just convincing enough to lure you away. He worries that his kids are healthy and happy. He worries.

HE JUST DOESN'T VOMIT ALL OF THESE WORRIES ONTO YOU.

I don’t begrudge his lack of worry, 

You don't understand or care about his worry. Fixed that for you.

and if I didn’t exist I’m sure he’d have the burden of thinking about most of the things with which I concern myself. 

You assume he doesn't think about them, but he does. He assumes you have it covered, because you guys are supposed to be team players. 

And if he didn't exist, I'm sure you'd have the burden of thinking about how many hours you have to work this week to make the mortgage payment and the car payment and the utilities and everything else, and you'd be calculating how many hours extra you have to work to pay for that video game the kids want that's only $60, and that's just an hour and a half of work, except it's not because after all the necessities are spoken for you're really only earning $8 an hour. You'd have the burden of knowing that if you decided to flake out and show up in denim on denim with unwashed hair for a week, your boss would put you on notice. That if you decided to be lazy for a few days and phone it in, someone else would be gunning for your job. 

I know this, because I did this, for three years with three kids. It's horrible. Even given that my kids were old enough to get themselves to and from school, and be at home unsupervised, and help with chores and the rest. Even given that I had help from my parents and sister, and that no one was going to come home and bitch me out because the house was a disaster (and it was, holy shit). Just the understanding that I was solely responsible for the financial wellbeing of four people, and if I failed we would all go down the tubes... 

You have no idea how lucky you have it if your husband makes it possible for you to be there every day with your kids, and worry about bullshit things like whether some mom at the school is waving at you, and GET AWAY with wearing denim on denim and not have it impact anything but your ego.

But that means that yes, once a year I expect my husband to bring it and celebrate me as the mother of his children. 

He owes you a "happy mother's day" and a kiss. They're your kids too. And he's obviously doing his part. And while I know it feels like your part is unpaid work, it really isn't. Imagine for one moment what your life would be like without him. Take a moment to understand his role, and appreciate that it is only because of him and what he gives you and your kids that you can indulge in these petty worries and trivial complaints. 

Take a moment to understand that while your work doesn't come with a tax bill and a pay stub, it is being paid for with another human being's sweat and effort. Being the primary breadwinner for a bunch of other people sucks. You should try it some time. But what sucks even worse than being the primary breadwinner is doing it and then having someone demand you give them extra special thanks for the work you're already paying them to do. If he earns substantially more than you do, he's paying you. Not because he has to, but because he values what you do enough to WANT to. And that's not enough for you.

That means he can’t just wake up on the day of and pick a restaurant, it has to be somewhere special, and while I don’t expect a gift (though, it doesn’t hurt), I do expect a nice card with words of appreciation for all I do. 

I am really, really hoping that you guys celebrate Steak and a Blowjob day. Because if you don't, I pity your husband.

It’s not about spending money on me. I’d be just as happy with a nice dinner at home, or other free gestures, but I better see real effort.

Unlike him going to some shitty, soul crushing job every day, then coming home and throwing all the money in a joint account for the two of you to share?

Being a mom has changed me completely. 

Lucky you. 

It’s not just the corny “I’ve never felt this kind of love” thing which, obviously, is true. It changed the way I am in the world. 

It turned you into a neurotic, entitled bitch who cares more about other soccer moms than her own husband?

I have a gravitational pull toward home that precludes me from going too far or staying away too long. 

And your husband valiantly and diligently strives to provide you with the freedom and wherewithal to choose that.

I’m more interested in what my son drew at school than I am in world affairs. I think more about my daughter’s social calendar than my own. And that’s not even getting into the physical changes that motherhood has wrought.
My husband gets to stay mostly the same man he was, and that’s in large part because of me. 

Sure. He gets to continue working. He gets to work longer hours, or at a more burdensome job, in order to provide for more people than just himself. He gets to do all the same difficult, stressful crap he did before you guys had kids, only more of it. What a lucky guy! 

Here you are, saying that when you had kids, it changed you. It changed how you felt, and because of that, you changed how you live. You CHOSE to stay close to home. It's what you claim you want. 

In order for you to be able to do that, your husband has to choose to spend more time or effort at work. If this fulfills him, more power to you both. Lord knows, I know men who are monomaniacal when it comes to work, for whom work exerts that same gravitational pull that you feel toward home. 

But ask yourself. Even if your husband was one of these guys, these monomaniacal workaholics who thrive on work, the way you claim you are regarding being a stay at home mom, would he demand that you "bring it" on Father's Day? Would he demand that you show your appreciation?

You have literally said that you are doing exactly what you want to do with your life right now, and that your husband makes it possible for you to do it. And you're demanding a reward from him for doing what you want to do? Seriously? 

And have you ever, for even a moment, considered that in being the primary breadwinner so you can stay at home, he's doing not what fulfills him, but what fulfills YOU? 

You are literally demanding he appreciate you for taking advantage of his sacrifices so you need not make any of your own. You are getting everything you want from him, and you're requiring he thank you for it.

He’s an amazing dad, what with his cheering and bath-giving, but fatherhood is just not as involved as motherhood. 

I bet you'd be singing a different tune if the money ran out. Because it's awfully hard to be a parent when you're searching the couch cushions for change, and then deciding whether to buy milk or bread. 

My dad wasn't lying on his back on the pavement thinking, "I'm so glad I got out of going to that boring school thing..." He was lying on his back on the pavement thinking, "this is what I have to do for my family." There's very little in life that is more "involved" than risking having your legs run over by cars while fucking with a truck in the rain at 11PM. 

If there’s an issue with the kids, he hears about it — but the details of our kids’ lives get filtered through me.

Like he did when you told him about their first steps, and their first words, and how they went down for a nap on the floor spooning the dog, and how fun it was when you went to the park today. 

All of the worries and concerns are filtered through you, but so are all of the milestones and moments that will never be repeated.

Of course there are dads out there who are full-time parents in the way that has long been the mom’s role. 

Yes, there are.

And they should absolutely be commended for it. 

Yes, they should.

But for most men, Father’s Day isn’t so much a celebration of what they do as an encouragement to keep doing it. 

Yes, stay on that treadmill. Keep performing and not resenting the time and milestones missed. Just keep working so she doesn't have to, and if you're lucky, she won't write some fucked up screed about how you owe her more than you've already given her, because she wiped more bums than you and angsted about how she was dressed in a social situation while you were at work struggling to pay the bills. She sacrifices so much to do exactly what she claims to want to be doing! And the very fact that you make it possible for her to do that means that you don't care enough. Better get on that whole spa day thing. It'll only cost you three hours of time with your kids, right?

Mother’s Day is different, and it’s ok to say so. 

Mother's Day is the day of the year when the largest volume of long distance calls are made. Father's Day is the day of the year when the largest volume of long distance COLLECT calls are made. 

You tell me who's appreciated and who's not.

It’s not crazy that one day of the year the extreme sacrifices mothers make are noted with serious celebration.

You literally said that becoming a mother changed you so that you WANTED to be close to home. Now you're calling doing what you wanted to do a sacrifice? And you're demanding the person who makes it possible for you to do that thank you for it, and thank you above and beyond the thanks you would give him? Seriously?

It’s really the least everyone could do.

I don't know. I was happy with help carrying groceries in, getting a bowl of my favorite soup and an extra bit of money from my adult daughter who lives with me. None of it was expected. It was nice, but frankly, I'd forgotten it was Mother's Day. I'm just not that obsessed with external validation. 

Maybe this is why I have such well-adjusted kids...