The XX Factor

Fox News Implores Women to Become Financially Dependent on Men

Gloria Steinem (well, actually Irina Dunn) uttered the phrase “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” more than 40 years ago, but the wound is still fresh to the folks at Fox News. Phyllis Schlafly’s niece Suzanne Venker published a piece on Fox’s website arguing that the only way for women to be happy is to forsake full-time work, which she portrays as fundamentally incompatible with having a husband. The folks at Fox were so impressed with this argument that they interrupted Venker’s heavy schedule of husbandcare to bring her on air.

“There’s more to life outside of work,” Venker implored, as if this was a profound insight instead of banal and universal observation. She added, “And I think that’s something that we don’t hear enough about, because women especially are geared towards career career career work work work, and they spend years preparing for this one part of their lives.” As opposed to men who, wait, no.

After her male co-hosts Tucker Carlson and Clayton Morris fawned over Venker’s truly exceptional argument, host Anna Kooiman, who described herself as a single, career-oriented woman, asked Venker for her advice. Venker darkly warned her to give up her dreams, telling her that, once married, “time will be your greatest enemy” and “there’s not enough time in the day to do everything.” The only solution is to make your peace with that hard truth, quit your job, and “let your husband bring home that full-time income so you can have more of a balanced life.” 

How it is that men have enough time in the day to work full time but women do not is a mystery left unexamined in this segment. Venker does say, “Biology matters. Men and women are different,” but fails to elaborate on what those differences are and how they make it so men have all the time they need to work full time, but women can’t pull it off. Men make 23 percent more money than women for full-time work, but do they also have 23 percent more minutes in the day to get it all done? I hadn’t heard that!

(Just kidding. We all know women have less time because women do more housework on top of their paid work, something that Venker fails to mention because it’s really quite difficult trying to argue that men are biologically incapable of picking up a broom.) 

The best parts of the segment were actually the captions. The caption writer seemed to think the debate was over marriage itself, running headlines like “A Pro-Man Message,” “Listen Up Single Ladies!” and “You Do Need A Husband! Writer makes the case for marriage.” Tucker Carlson woke up for a second and whined about the imaginary pressure on women to say their male partners mean nothing to them. “I would never be happy or balanced or grounded or even successful if I weren’t married to my wife,” Carlson said, adding that people congratulate him for appreciating his wife. “But if a woman gets up and says that about her husband, somehow she’s weak?”

Tell that to Sheryl Sandberg, a villain in Venker’s original piece who is well-known for offering exactly this kind of praise for her husband, SurveyMonkey CEO David Goldberg. There’s plenty of ways that women look to men for support without financial dependence. Men can and do provide emotional support and advice, and yes, they can even kick in more around the house. Both this segment and Venker’s piece portray having a husband as a massive, time-sucking burden that women must take on lest they die alone. It’s a grim and small-minded view of what men are capable of. Fox News might want to label that attitude as “pro-man,” but it honestly seems like the opposite.