I was recently asked what I, as a feminist, thought of the web comic, "You should've asked." My answer is that there was a lot I liked, and a little I didn't. My favorite takeaway is that men aren't perfect and have a lot to learn -- but neither are women, and so do they!
In other words, people are flawed. We can all do better.
The obvious disclaimer, here, is that I'm not a mom, as were many of the women in the comic. So I can only speculate on that experience. But here goes:
It's a wakeup call for men, because it brings issues like gender roles and the challenges of being the “project manager,” and shows how men could do better. The “mental load” is, indeed, largely invisible. Hopefully the comic will continue increasing awareness and visibility.
I especially liked this point:
But it’s also a wakeup call for women. Several parts of this comic were weird and unrelatable to me.
For example, if this is what you’re like when you’re hanging out with your friends (I think that’s what’s going on here — though they might be grocery shopping…):
You might benefit from developing organizational skills or learning how to control intrusive thoughts. Or, perhaps, you could work on becoming more present and mindful. Not only does it help make every day a new adventure... but it will also make you happier and less stressed. As I wrote in It's Not About Dishes: What the New York Times Doesn’t Understand About Mindfulness:
Mindfulness stops you from ruminating.
Rumination, in psychology, refers to recurring, even intrusive negative thoughts. One of the biggest predictors of depression is rumination, and one of the biggest predictors of getting out of depression is learning to recognize and stop rumination.
That’s probably why mindfulness has proven so powerful for the last 3,500 years or so: it’s basically DIY cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. Read more >
By developing a better system of organization and task management, maybe the women in the picture wouldn’t carry such a busy mental load all the time — and by developing mindfulness, they could savor moments and connect more deeply with those around them instead of ruminating about grocery lists and vaccinations.
Recommended reading to solve this problem: One Year to an Organized Life: From Your Closets to Your Finances, the Week-by-Week Guide to Getting Completely Organized for Good, by Regina Leeds.
You might also like How to Organize Your Life, Mind and Home: 9 Organizing Principles To Help You Simplify Your Life, Increase Efficiency And Maximize Productivity, by Paul Morrisey.
And, of course, one of my personal favorites, Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, by Jeff Sutherland.
Or, if you're into slightly gimmicky stuff that actually kind of works, there's always The 4-Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferris.
Then there was this part:
This legit bothered me.
Like, really? You’re going to sit around and bitch about your husband to your friends? Have you tried, you know, COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR PARTNER?
If I found out that I was doing something my boyfriend didn’t like, and instead of telling me like a big boy, he just bitched about it to his friends, I’d be pissed. It makes me look like an asshole... for something I didn't even know I was doing wrong. And that's not fair.
Moreover, as I wrote in Quick! Before You Publicly Shame People Who Annoy You, TRY THIS!
If someone does something that bothers me, I don’t assume that they can magically read my mind and adjust their behavior – I tell them, so they know.
(I mean, let’s be real: they’re probably not doing what they’re doing to bother you. They probably just don’t know it bothers you – and would be apologetic, even mortified, if you just told them.) Read more >
The post continues:
Anonymous posters everywhere have taken to posting photos of men taking up too much room on buses and trains on Tumblr blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels. And yes, it sucks that men often take up waaaay more than their share of room on public transportation.
But public shaming isn't the only -- or even best option. There are tons of ways to respond to this situation. For example:
Is there any good reason not to pick 1 or 2? Even if he’s got headphones on or seems to be asleep… you're not the one who's being rude in this situation. He is! And chances are, he doesn't even realize it. Read more >
So here's what I think: if I can muster up the courage to tell a stranger on public transportation to move over, you can muster up the courage to tell your husband, whom you married, because he's your best friend and you love each other, that you expect him to change the sheets every other week or cook meals for the baby on alternating days.
(If he's bad at remembering, put a recurring reminder on his calendar. It takes two minutes.)
This is advice that will help you in all your relationships -- whether with friends or family or doctors or coworkers. If you have some standard or expectation people in your life aren't meeting, TELL THEM.
And not by doing some passive aggressive shit like leaving the cabinet door in front of the trash can slightly ajar, so they might hopefully maybe get the hint that you want them to take out the trash.
JUST TELL THEM.
Otherwise, you're not a victim. You're a volunteer.
Next, there was this part:
My boyfriend used to be the same way. He was horribly ineffective at completing household chores, because rather than finishing one task, he would start several and finish none.
This kind of pattern usually results in a bigger mess than the original one, and it should be fairly obvious that this is a ridiculous and inefficient way to do any task (refer back to some of my reading recommendations -- especially How to Organize Your Life, Mind and Home and Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time.)
Here’s how I would have spent my afternoon:
I tried to put this into web comic form, but it basically just looked like this:
Another panel that looked more like "bad communication" than "sexism" was this one:
Okay, so, technically, J is the one who messed up here -- according to Grice's maxims. Why would she say "take the baby's bottle out of the dishwasher when it's done" instead of "empty the dishwasher"?
Not only is the former more syllables... but it's also not what she wants her husband to do...
Hopefully, J has learned that her husband takes what she says literally. That way, she can do better next time.
Real quick, let's think about this situation another way. A project manager tells an employee, "Do X." Employee does X. Project manager gets mad. Sure, the employee could have been more proactive. But did he do anything wrong?
Finally, panels like this:
made me sad.
My first reaction was, Why did she marry that guy?
But my second thought was, if the man was on board with having a child, presumably he wanted it and cares about it. If the woman is truly doing all of the childcare, she might have a communication problem with her husband.
Since a lot of what's going on here seems to be communication issues, one solution would be making an active effort to communicate more clearly. If you need help, I recommend Gary Chapman's Now You're Speaking My Language: Honest Communication for Deeper Intimacy and a Stronger Marriage.
Gary Chapman is the guy who wrote the multimillion bestselling, The Five Love Languages: The Secrets to Love That Lasts. I also highly recommend this book -- it was highly informative and accurate and actionable, unlike about 90% of couple therapy books out there.
Other books that have gotten good reviews (which I haven't personally read) are Communication Miracles for Couples: Easy and Effective Tools to Create More Love and Less Conflict, by Jonathan Robinson, and Communication in Marriage: A Complete Guide for Better Communicating With Your Spouse, by Matt Hayden.
I truly hope I don't sound too critical of the comic -- because, like I said, it raises some very real issues. I think it can serve as a great first step for many couples. And, no. It's not a "man hating" comic. In fact, Emma makes it a point to explicitly say:
Not only does she give actionable advice to women... but she also gives some life advice.
I was all like, YESSS.
It wouldn’t hurt anyone, man or woman, to be a little less neurotic. Especially if you’ve got kids -- in which case, the house is going to be a mess and you're not going to always be on time for everything. So what?
Work on acceptance.
Remember that done is better than perfect.
It’s okay for there to be a towel on the floor.
Manage your expectations.
Work on being more playful -- as a mom, as a person, and as a wife.
Women aren’t perfect. Men aren’t, either. This comic shows how both can do better.
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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