Monday, July 16, 2012

Her Daughters, or Theirs?

From a review, in Smithsonian magazine, of the book Marie Curie and Her Daughters:
"As Emling [the author of the biography] writes, 'Marie's research always took precedence,' and 'Eve, in particular, came close to neglect when her girls were quite little." Still there seemed to be no shortage of love among the three women, especially once Marie's husband, Pierre, died....
Her sacrifices on behalf of science, Emling seems to say, were worth it; her daughters thrived, after all, and the world, because of Curie's tenacity and ingenuity, became a less mysterious place." 
A couple of things here.

First, the review frames this new book as though it's mostly about how Marie Curie reconciled her family life with her scientific career. I doubt any books have been written that explore how Pierre, also a scientist and the girls' father, reconciled his family life with his scientific career.

Indeed, the onus of Eve's alleged closeness to "neglect" is placed primarily upon Marie and her scientific career. For, rather than referring to Pierre as Eve's father, or a co-parent with Marie who could have assisted in staving off their child's neglect, he is referred to as "Marie's husband." As though he played no role of import in bringing her into the world and raising her.

Opponents of same-sex marriage and supporters of the so-called "traditional family" talk a lot about the importance of every child having a mother and a father but the narrative I cite that burdens solely women with the responsibilities of child-rearing, which is pretty pervasive, says pretty loudly that fathers actually aren't all that important to kids.

What's most important, this narratives likewise suggests, are husbands- breadwinners- as though a man's most important contribution to a family are monetary. At the same time, it's also obvious that the "breadwinner" role can be filled  by someone of any gender. And, putting those two thoughts together seems to cause many men distress these days. (But don't worry, they will blame feminism for this, rather than the purveyors of the narratives telling them that their only value to their families is their paycheck.)

Secondly, going back to the book review, notice how Curie's sacrifices, involving pursuing her professional ambitions, are said to seem "worth it" only because her daughters turned out okay and she won 2 Nobel prizes.

No pressure ladies! LOLZ.

I mean, really. Whether or not a man's child-rearing sacrifices seem "worth it" is just not something I've often seen said about men.

Just file this one away in the Women Can't Win series.

[Cross-posted: Family Scholars Blog]

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