The Grapes of Marital Wrath

The Grapes of Marital Wrath


shutterstock_15512620ROBIN KLEIN, a senior vice president at Chase Manhattan Bank, is loath to let her husband go grocery shopping. ”I’ve tried, but even when I make a detailed list he’ll bring home the wrong brand, or the cottage cheese that’s salt-free and you can’t eat,” she said. One memorable night he came home with two pounds of grapes that were turning brown. ”I went ballistic,” she remembered. ”I was ranting like a lunatic over $3 worth of grapes.”

It is easy to look at this scene through a ”men don’t get it and women are left doing everything” lens. But Naomi Cahn, a professor of family law at George Washington University, suggests looking with a mirror, instead. Professor Cahn was immersed in her research on workplace obstacles to gender equality recently when she was struck by the fact that she so often interrupted her own work to, say, make play dates for her preschool daughters. Her husband, though, would simply go to work and do his work.

That realization led to an article, soon to be published in The Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, in which she argues that true equality in the workplace is impossible without equality at home. And among the obstacles to equality at home — deep breath, here comes the tricky part — are women themselves. ”Workplace change,” she writes, ”will be hampered until women relinquish some of the power that they have at home.”

Now, before you write the professor an outraged letter (on the back of your own endless grocery list perhaps?), wait one minute. She is not suggesting that this is all women’s fault, or that society in general is blameless, or that men are not a large chunk of the problem. (To the contrary, she believes that some men — you know who you are — deliberately bungle chores so no one asks them a second time.) But she does believe that one ingredient in the social stew is the difficulty that so many women have in giving up certain kinds of control. READ MORE