New review: I don’t know how she does it

// 3 October 2011

This Hollywood blockbuster’s heroine is a high-flying finance executive, but Diane Shipley argues that women across classes and careers share parts of her predicament and can applaud her small victories over a lazy husband and an over-demanding boss

kids.jpg Allison Pearson’s 2002 novel I Don’t Know How She Does It asked the question: “Can women have it all?” and came to the conclusion: “Probably not.”

The recent film adaptation of the book has moved the action from London to Boston, but the question remains. “Having it all” is, of course, the hackneyed phrase summing up marriage, children and a successful career, all of which (it is assumed) is every woman’s destiny.

I found myself flinching with frustration throughout the opening scenes which showed Sarah Jessica Parker (as our heroine, Kate Reddy) getting home after a business trip and going straight to the local deli, where she bought a pie for the bake sale at her daughter’s school, which she then attempted to make look home-made so that none of the teachers or stay-at-home mothers would judge her.

She then lay awake, making lists in her head of all the things she had to take care of: her daughter’s birthday party, year-end reports for work, getting the car serviced… Although “of course”, her voiceover informed us with a jocular tone, the latter should really be her husband’s job. We get the message — she’s busy, and she believes in stereotypical gender roles. But as the camera panned to her husband Richard (Greg Kinnear), sleeping soundly next to her, I wanted to scream: “Why are you taking on all the responsibility for the kids and the chores without question?”

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Comments From You

Jessica Marie // Posted 3 October 2011 at 5:33 pm

I have to say, I really don’t feel this point is made often enough!

Many women in today’s society are expected to: raise and assume almost all of the responsibility that goes along with having children, manage the house completely, and doing these along side the career they wish to pursue.

To top it all off, mothers with careers are discriminated against by society in general. And the husband? While he does work, just as she does, his responsibilities largely end there in the mind of the collective. And yet no one calls him out and asks him to step up!

As a full time grad school student and a business owner (which has to be 60+ hours a week, at least) I couldn’t manage without the help of my partner. He is in med school and he still makes sure he does his share of the household chores, dinner cooking and dog walking. And I can’t tell you how many times some of his relatives call him out as being whipped.

This is an inequality that really, really needs to be highlighted because no woman deserves this kind of stress and un-fair expectation.


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