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Dear Prudence and men who don’t work

I love to read Dear Prudence on Slate and 80% of the time I agree with her but recently she answered a question from a women who’s husband has been out of work for six years trying to write a screen play. They have been quite poor, and she has been very unhappy at work, so he noticed and suggested they move closer to his parents, try to adopt (fertility issues) and he would get a job. Then she was offered a promotion and she wanted to know if she should take the promotion or make the move to a less stressful job, new area, adopt a child.

Prudie begins with “I think anchor and balloon are too limited a dichotomy to describe your husband. I see him as a pair of cement shoes…” Now lets take a moment to admit that she said she’d thought of leaving him, but she did love him, and finally the question was not about whether to leave him or not it was whether to take the job or not. My biggest problem with this whole thing is that we do not know how much communication there is between this husband and wife. Obviously these people need to be talking about this. She should be asking her husband what he thinks about whether she should take the promotion, but maybe she has and she’s just looking for further views.

Also unclear is how much discussion they have had about their situation. She says she feels used, but has she told him this? His response to her coming home from work crying every day is to change everything about their lives so I’m inclined to believe he wouldn’t want to let her continue to feel that way. But Prudie, who is usually all about talking things out, doesn’t mention having a conversation once. She ends her advice with “You say he makes you feel everything is still ahead of you. If you stay with him, I can promise that what’s ahead is more wasted years like those already behind.” She hates this guy and doesn’t give him the benefit of the doubt for anything. She assumes he purposefully married the girl and quit his job just to hang around doing nothing. We have no idea if he does nothing, maybe he busies himself doing housework. But oh no; no one would believe that of a man would they? A man has to be in paid work, climbing the ladder or building a business or else he is useless and not a “man” at all. Lets not think about if this guy has lost confidence, slipped into depression, or had any psychological issues in his six years of not accomplishing a big goal. Prudie just thinks, hes a leech, get rid of him pronto!

This is the way binary, gendered thinking combined with neoliberalism affects us. Prudie is normally an intelligent, big picture type lady, but even she was unable to get past the expectations that men are supposed to work. I wonder what she would have said about a woman staying home for creative pursuits and very much doubt she’d be called a leech.

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