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For Realz?: Jon Minus Kate

makemeasupermodel.jpgI've only watched a couple episodes of Jon and Kate Plus 8, the TLC reality TV show hit with the family raising 8 year old twins and 5 year old sextuplets, and should say upfront that I find it a hard show to watch because matriarch Kate is so mean to her husband Jon -- but is anyone else finding the tabloid coverage of Jon's shady behavior with an 18-year-old a little feministly troubling?

The coverage seems to have divided into two camps: either "Kate drove him to it, the harpy," or "who'd've thought pussywhipped Jon would be man enough to cheat on his wife?" True, Kate could be a little nicer -- but I always kind of respected that Kate does exactly what all the equal-partnership-marriage advice books say, which is to expect that your partner will perform half of the household duties and do so in an acceptable way. And I always respected that Jon, for all his passive-aggressive whining, pretty much was realistic enough to realize that he and Kate were going to have to split up the work in some equitable manner if they were going to survive raising that many kids in that short of a time. So what's with this weird storyline that Jon's somehow more of a man for embarrassing his family on the cover of Us Weekly?

It kind of makes me sad to see everyone being like, what kind of a man actually listens to his wife? What kind of a wife expects her husband to (gasp!) help out around the house? Obviously, that's such an unacceptable position for a male to be in if you're Jon that the only way to reassert your masculinity would be to drive three hours out of your way to drink and play beer pong with a bunch of college coeds, right, Jon? It kind of makes me want to be a little mean to Jon, just like Kate is

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Comments

9 comments have been made. Post a comment.

justifying bad behavior?

So... Kate has a right to be mean to Jon? Because he shirks housework? That's really mature. Instead of being an adult, calmly explaining to her husband how much she values his contribution, thanking him for it, and generally being encouraging, she complains and nags. Not to mention, she insists on having matching outfits for her kids, which must be ironed and folded. She creates vast amounts of completely frivolous housework, and shouldn't complain that she's got too much to do herself. Once dinner is on the table, the house relatively in order, and the clothes washed (which should be worn until they're dirty, not laundered whenever she wants a family-wide outfit change because one kid spilled on his shirt [not to mention that KIDS' clothes shouldn't be so high maintenance in the first place]), in my book, he's off the hook. If she wants to redecorate, style the kids' hair, whatever, that's superfluous and shouldn't be his responsibility.

If she can't be a good, supportive, thankful partner, then she can't complain when she's not with a good, supportive, thankful partner. The road goes both ways, hon. And sometimes, you have to be the bigger person so they can become a better person. That's called being an adult, and when you married and had kids, you agreed to be one. You have to communicate effectively, which takes work, and in your partner's language, which can be tough to decipher. Sometimes you have to give more than you get (and sometimes you'll get more than you give). Marriage is rarely, if ever, effortless, and the work of your marriage seems to have fallen in priority. Your marriage is more important to those kids than if their jeans have wrinkles, and I'd start acting accordingly.

re: justifying bad behavior?

You know what, all the stuff that's built into being a homemaker is hard, thankless shit. And if some dude is asked to carry half the load, why in god's name does he deserve more thanks and praise than the lady who is carrying the other half? It's thankless; you do it because it needs to be done.

No one should be congratulated for the things they're supposed to do. And Jon doesn't appear to be doing what he is supposed to do, regardless of Kate, so what would encourage her to be nice?

Response to Meaghan's comment

I don't think it's fair to over-generalize the idea of what someone is "supposed to do". If Kate thinks that ironing every piece of laundry is what every parent is "supposed to do" and Jon has never viewed that as something that’s important to taking care of a family, that doesn't mean that one of them is right and one is wrong, it just means that they have come from different backgrounds that have shaped their view of what is and isn't necessary. That’s something that should be discussed and settled on between the couple.

As for thanking someone, I would say that when someone is performing a task that they are supposed to do, they should go into the task assuming they won’t be thanked, but I still think they should get thanked. It boosts a person’s morale, builds close relationships, and makes the task more tolerable. My boyfriend knows that we agreed it’s his job to take out the trash, but I thank him for it anyway, because it’s a stupid, boring task that he has to do, and never complains about it. That’s pretty cool in my book, so I thank him for it. And in turn, he feels appreciated. And the same goes for me when I empty the dishwasher. What if you turned this around? Kate feeds the kids, clothes them, watches them, and takes care of them when they are sick or hurt. These are all things that I think fall under the category of things that moms are supposed to do, so should she not get thanked for it? Of course not! It’s a hard job even if it’s necessary. So she should be thanked for doing all her hard work and her contribution to the marriage and to the family, and so should Jon.

I'm a little confused as to

I'm a little confused as to why this topic is here. Yes, their lives are in the public so everyone thinks they're allowed to make a comment on their personal decisions, but what does it have to do with feminism? To say that Jon met a friend for drinks because he can't deal with his wife telling him what to do is wildly speculative. Who knows why people seek others outside of their marriage for companionship. And actually, most of us have seen the show and can deduce from just a few recent episodes that it probably has more to do with Kate's lack of respect for both her husband and her children than Jon's inability to deal with a strong woman as his wife. Please leave this story on the cover of Us Weekly--where it belongs.

Why shouldn't it be discussed?

I think what this has to do with feminism is articulated well by Meaghan above: We live in a society wherein a woman who simply does the work of parenting her children is more or less ignored (unless she does something wildly beyond the pale, in which case she's demonized and pathologized); a man who does that same work is treated like he's a freaking saint. And when a man strays or cheats, the woman is seen to have "driven him to it." Whether Jon cheated or not is really irrelevant; the story speaks to both how we automatically assign blame along stereotypical gender lines, and also how low our expectations are for both men (in parenting, responsibility, and fidelity) and for women (the equation of he cheated = she's to blame). How is that not important to discuss from a feminist standpoint?

Yes! I agree with everything

Yes! I agree with everything you say. But in my opinion it's simply not the case here. Just as it's unfair to blame a woman for "driving her husband away" its also unfair to assume that any man who strays is doing so simply because he didn't get a cookie for emptying the dishwasher. Of course I don't know these people, but I've watched lot of hours of their lives and it just seems to me that his wife is simply not very nice to him and takes every opportunity to make a fool of him in front of the cameras.

I totally agree with the point the author is making and its a very important one, but I was just a little confused about its relevance to Jon and Kate since in my opinion their problems aren't that complex: she's not nice to *anyone!!*

I'm a little more troubled by...

John Edwards, who used his wife's cancer to garner votes and used donation money to pay off a mistress. Oh, and probably fathered mistress's child but won't own up to it.

Probably a little more relevant to feminism since he had so much feminist support yet I've heard no feminists speak out against him.

Anyone gonna say that Elizabeth, with all her annoying needs and demands, plus the pressures of high-profile life, drove him to it?

Didn't think so.

Interesting how my comment

Interesting how my comment was deleted... I'll just hope that was a bug, and not censorship.

The point I was trying to get across was that both of their jobs are thankless, and they are both to blame for that. They take each other's contribution for granted (perhaps because it's only things they are "supposed" to do?), and end up resenting each other because of it. "Please" and "thank-you" are two of the most important phrases in a marriage. I use them with my partner all the time, whether he's bringing me a glass of water, or taking out the trash. It makes him feel appreciated, and doesn't cost me a thing. He does the same for me, telling me how delicious the food is, how much he appreciates me cooking every night. You better believe it gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

I'm pretty sure neither one's day is a picnic in the park. Jon gets to be the breadwinner, with all the stress that comes with it. Then he gets to come home, and help out with enormous amounts of housework. As far as I'm concerned, once the kids are clean, fed, in bed, and the house is relatively in order and clean, he's off the hook (except in cases of house repairs, in which both parents may need to "work" a little extra). If Kate wants all her two-year old kid's clothes ironed, she can do that herself (or delegate it to one of the helpers who comes in every week).

It's sad that Kate may not feel she has any reason to be "nice," because I thought her husband works to financially support the family, and helps out at home. He plays with his kids, helps corral them, helps takes care of them when they're sick. There's a lot to be thankful for. And maybe if he starts feeling good about himself, he'll be motivated to do more around the house, because he knows the love of his life notices and appreciates that.

One of them has to step up and start making a change in the relationship, even if no results are promised. They have to be the bigger person. It's saddening to see Jon get shot down so often by Kate - it's as if she's sabotaging the whole thing for the sake of a pissing contest, "My day is harder than your day." Time to buck up and think of the kids. Be the change you want to see.

At the end of the day, yes, Jon is responsible for his actions. However, switch the genders here, and you might be saying instead, "Of course Kate is looking elsewhere, her needs aren't being met. That husband of hers never lets her up, never thanks her for what she does. No one appreciates her. Who would want to stay in a situation like that?"
The adult thing to do would have been for them to communicate their feelings and make honest effort to change. They still can, but I have a feeling Kate's ego won't admit that she has a role to play in her husband's unhappiness. He wouldn't be looking elsewhere if he was happy where he was, and both partners have a responsibility to maintain their attractiveness to the other, physically and emotionally. Time for both of them to pick it back up.

from the back end of Bitch..

Is your comment the first comment on the thread? "Justifying Bad Behaviour" starting "Kate has a right to be mean to Jon? Because he shirks housework?"? It's showing up on my computer, please respond if there is another issue.

____________
Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?