You can usually spot a trend piece from many miles away. Trend pieces find a handful of people who are doing something nominally against the grain, maybe something a little interesting. They then blow up the little something and the number of people who are actually doing it and act as though everyone is doing it, as if this “trend” is the next big thing.
“The New York Times” excels at trend pieces. Their trend pieces have even earned them a bit of notoriety, especially when a journalist attempted to follow a number of the “trends” covered the “Times” in his real life. His journey, if you will, was reported on Slate.com and later had a segment on “This American Life.” Among the trends he tried were wearing his hair in a “man bun” and trying to speak as though he was from the UK, much to the confusion of his wife and friends.
Another new trend piece has graced the cover of “New York Magazine” this month. The article, called “The Retro Wife” discusses what it describes as “legions” of women who are giving up their full-time, well-paying jobs to stay at home and raise their kids or take care of the house. And by “legions” of women, the article means one woman, Kelly Akino, who gave up her job as a social worker to stay home with her kids.
Good for her and all, but the rest of the article was pretty sickening, in part because it was just plain wrong. Akino is actually among a pretty rare group of people. Her husband makes in the “low six figures,” which means above $100,000 per year. A family of four can live pretty comfortably, if not luxuriously, on that amount of money. Many women can’t follow in her footsteps, because the average person can’t afford to quit her job and raise her kids at home. Around three quarters of women who have graduate degrees and who have had a child within the past year work outside the home. “Legions” of women are not making like Akino and leaving their jobs behind.
Of course, you can’t criticize Akino for choosing to stay home with her kids. That is her personal business, and her personal choice. You can criticize her for making comments about how she’s better at handling the kid’s stuff, such as making play dates, because she’s a woman, though. She states that she is happy that traditional gender roles have become the norm in her home.
Obviously, there are biological differences between men and women. But, being a woman doesn’t mean you’re going to just naturally be better at raising children or more nurturing with your kids than a man would be. It also doesn’t mean you have the innate ability to wash dishes or do the laundry better than a guy. That’s the real danger in claiming to be a feminist housewife. It’s not that people are choosing to stay home, it’s that they’re cloaking it in gender equality when it’s really quite the opposite.