Last week’s “Black-ish” was about the division of child-raising duties. Specifically, it was about how often there’s not a division. Women are simply expected to do all of it and also have demanding, full-time jobs. The episode starts with Dre wanting kudos for successfully loading the dishwasher, after his wife made dinner and the next day’s lunches, cleaned everything else, and helped with homework while Dre played video games. In disbelief that it could be that hard, Dre decides to take on child-rearing duties for a week.
It’s an argument that plays out, statistically speaking, in almost every household with children. And the show doesn’t shy away from the issue: Dre is lauded for the most minor performances of parenting, while the mothers right next to him are derided for the same. In cutaway scenes, he recognizes the obvious unfairness while still being unable to stop gloating. And then the show goes for the lazy wrap-up, when Dre realizes parenting is hard and Rainbow realizes she actually wants to do all of the work so they go back to the setup they had before.
I think it’s something similar to what happened during the sexual revolution: it became known that women could, in fact, enjoy sex. It took patience and communication, but sex was not something women should be expected to endure. And somehow, that turned into the modern expectation that empowered women enjoy all sex all the time. The patience and communication bit went away, because if a woman’s not a prude, she wants your D. End of discussion. Except, that’s not what the discussion was supposed to be at all.
We started to have a cultural discussion about how women can’t be expected to have full-time jobs and also do all of the housework. And then some women piped up that they LIKED cooking. Which is fine, but somehow that turned into “real women like to cook.” This is “how women show love.” Which, do I need to tell you that’s bullshit? (Actually, I already did.)
“Black-ish” is actually a show entirely about the pressure that this family feels (or specifically doesn’t) to live up to black stereotypes. Applying the same thought to male/female roles in the family is a natural course, and they did it really well… right up until they didn’t. Right up until it’s the “natural order” of things. Right up until they decide to not discuss how the choices are not “you do all the work” or “I do all the work;” that there’s an entire range in between that each couple can work out for themselves.
It’s not what the discussion was supposed to be at all.