What’s the matter with this sentence in a recent advice column? “A father leaving the family is a tremendous loss, even if his character didn’t lend itself to being the best husband or father (neither of which I know).”
This is an extraordinarily unthinkingly bigoted piece of writing. To assume that the father’s “character didn’t lend itself to being the best husband or father”–and then acknowledge that “neither or which I know”–bespeaks biases based on easy cliches. While some husbands and father may show poor character and be derelict in their responsibilities toward their children, a mother also can be. Substitute “African American” or “Jew” or “woman” for “father,” and substitute “worker” or “citizen” for “husband or father,” and such statements would be rightly denounced as racist, anti-Semitic, or sexist.
Sadly, such bigoted and disparaging assumptions about men are all too common, and those expressing them rarely realize that what they say is prejudicial. It would be easy to blame this on “feminism,” but a true feminist would believe in gender equality not only in the workplace but also in parenting, and not blithely make the generalization that one gender/sex is more likely to have bad character.