Thursday, March 04, 2010

Who's Your Daddy?

The Vancouver Sun has a story by Peter Birnie on playwright Kevin Loring, whose play is running in town. In the opening sentences, we find this:
When the award-winning playwright telephones to talk about a remount of Where the Blood Mixes, opening tonight at the Firehall Arts Centre, he's busy babysitting 13-month-old daughter Jade Winter.

 Maybe, as a househusband/writer, I'm oversensitive to this sort of thing, but riddle me this: if Birnie was talking to a female playwright who happened to be home with her daughter, would he say she was "babysitting?"

On a recent neighborhood excursion with my 6-year-old daughter and 16-month-old son, I collected no less than three examples of this form of subtle sexism--interestingly enough, all from women.

"Mommy has the day off today, eh?" says the kindly old fossil we pass on the street, as I yell at Abby to stop at the curb while picking up Sam's jettisoned sippy cup from the sidewalk.

"Got stuck babysitting today, I see," says the cashier at the Safeway, as I pull unauthorized chocolate bars out of Abby's grip while wiping Sam's nose with his sleeve.

"Is Daddy taking care of you guys today? Where's Mommy?" enquires the hairstylist who trims Abby's locks, while I spin Sam around in an adjacent chair until his eyeballs roll independently.

"Actually, their mother is dead--rodeo accident," I say.

I didn't really say that. But come on, people! Is it really that unusual for a dad to tend to his kids? I suppose I could look at it another way and be gratified that the bar is set so low for fathers that even the most banal (and marginally successful) acts of solo parental supervision are cause for comment. But I can't help feeling rankled at the condescension. I'm not a babysitter, dammit. This is just another example of the oppression and discrimination that the middle-aged white man has had to deal with throughout history.