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I didn’t understand male privilege until I became a stay-at-home dad

When my wife returned to work after parental leave, I took my first trip to the grocery with two kids.

Little did I know I would return home feeling like a hero.

On a Monday morning, I pushed the green cart with flame decals through the second set of sliding doors and toward the deli. My 3-year-old son was strapped in the seat and my 3-month-old son was wrapped against my chest.


As a stay-a-home father strolling through the grocery, I felt conflicting emotions — love for caring for my sons and frustration with being an unemployed 37-year-old man.

At the deli, I exchanged pleasantries with a young woman behind the counter and ordered a pound of sliced turkey breast. I was immediately surrounded by a group of female employees. They leaned close to admire my infant son as he raised his bald head from the green cloth wrap.

“I never could get mine to like the wrap," one said.

“I bet y'all have so much fun together," another said.

“You are the best dad ever," another said.

I swelled with pride. Maybe they're right! Maybe I am the best dad ever.

I soaked in the praise before tossing my sliced turkey into the cart and heading toward the produce.

As I strolled, more comments came from fellow shoppers, and I absorbed them, giving little thought to the reason why I merited heightened attention.

“Nice baby wearing," a young woman said.

“That is one way to keep 'em warm," an elderly woman said.

“Man, you are taking this dad thing to the next level," a bag boy at checkout said.

The series of verbal high-fives inflated my ego and, after receiving the receipt from the cashier, I smiled and pushed our flaming green cart through the sliding doors like a rock star walking offstage.

I had no clue I was benefiting from male privilege.

I enjoy the attention I receive as a stay-at-home dad; it's nice to have impressed eyes turned on me.

My rationale for basking in the compliments is that I spend most of my time wading through dirty diapers, spit-up, and spilled Cheerios. I deserve some praise, right?

I thought so, until one Sunday morning I sipped coffee and read an article (a rare kids-free moment in the kitchen) about faux male feminists. The article included comments from Tal Peretz, a sociology professor at Auburn University, who described a concept called “the pedestal effect."

As I read, my male privilege became uncomfortably visible. The pedestal effect refers to when men receive undeserved praise, attention, and rewards for performing work traditionally done by women, like carrying a baby in a wrap.

At the grocery store, I willingly stepped on the pedestal and used my privilege to gain attention for basic child care.

And as I reflected on Peretz's words, other pedestal moments flashed in my mind. This realization was not something I could ignore.

If you believe in gender equality, it is not hard to understand why it is problematic to place one gender on a pedestal for doing the bare minimum, while another bears the bulk of the child care. Not only is it unfair, but it's also not in the best interests of families and can place stress on them when parenting roles are unbalanced.

For men who value gender equality and healthy families, assisting in lowering the pedestal is imperative.

After reading Peretz's comments, I wrestled with how to respond and, hopefully, how to help other dads become more aware of this privilege. I reached out to him to discuss the pedestal effect, and he offered practical ways to counter male privilege.

He reminded me of the complexity of privilege and how it operates on different levels — individual, interpersonal, institutional and structural.

We cannot dismantle institutions and structures by ourselves, but we can start with naming our privilege and giving credit to women wherever it is due.

Naming our privilege through raising awareness is a good place to begin, because men have been socialized to interact with women in particular ways, and it can be difficult for us to see how we are perpetuating gender inequality.

Peretz recommends using resources such as privilege checklists to identify your advantages. These resources can help us move unconscious thoughts and behaviors into the light of awareness. Ideally, this work will lead to interpersonal change.

Men can make the effort to closely listen to women to understand how they perceive male privilege. And, most importantly, we need to believe women.

Maybe you remain skeptical that a pedestal effect exists for fathers. Ask a mother whether she believes fathers benefit from undeserved praise. Her answer might surprise you. Men get attention and praise for doing work women do every day.

Raising awareness and listening are important steps, but I also wanted to know how to best respond when given undeserved attention.

Peretz recommends reacting “with humility and a sense of humor," while bringing attention and awareness back to the work women have been doing for a long time.

For example, at the deli, I could have redirected the conversation. I could've used one of these playful responses suggested by Peretz: “Yeah, I'm really glad that my wife did all the heavy lifting of pregnancy and childbirth so I'd get to enjoy this little monster," or “I really appreciate that, but it's nothing my mom didn't have to do for me!"

I want to do a better job of stepping off the pedestal and challenging sexist beliefs about parenting.

I want to better align myself with the women who have been doing this work for generations and assist them in creating more balanced roles within families. And I want to share the most important lesson I've learned while reflecting on this issue, which is that not only should I do this work because it is the right thing to do, but also because I need it.

Men need to be liberated from the rigid forms of masculinity that create a pedestal in the first place. Only when we step off them can we hope to be free.

This story originally appeared in the On Parenting section of The Washington Post and is reprinted here with permission.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Hold on, Frankie! Mama's coming!

How do you explain motherhood in a nutshell? Thanks to Cait Oakley, who stopped a preying bald eagle from capturing her pet goose as she breastfed her daughter, we have it summed up in one gloriously hilarious TikTok.

The now viral video shows the family’s pet goose, Frankie, frantically squawking as it gets dragged off the porch by a bald eagle—likely another mom taking care of her own kiddos.

Wearing nothing but her husband’s boxers while holding on to her newborn, Willow, Oakley dashes out of the house and successfully comes to Frankie's rescue while yelling “hey, hey hey!”

The video’s caption revealed that the Oakleys had already lost three chickens due to hungry birds of prey, so nothing was going to stop “Mama bear” from protecting “sweet Frankie.” Not even a breastfeeding session.

Oakley told TODAY Parents, “It was just a split second reaction ...There was nowhere to put Willow down at that point.” Sometimes being a mom means feeding your child and saving your pet all at the same time.

As for how she feels about running around topless in her underwear on camera, Oakley declared, “I could have been naked and I’m like, ‘whatever, I’m feeding my baby.’”

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