The Next Chapter

Stephen Marche and Sarah Fulford dissect 21st-century gender politics

Stephen Marche's new book — which features commentary by his wife, Sarah Fulford — discusses how the changing dynamics between men and women translate into everyday life.
Marche's new book, The Unmade Bed, dives deep into the modern definition of male identity and masculinity. (HarperCollins Canada/Dave Gillespie)

In his latest book, The Unmade Bed: The Messy Truth about Men and Women in the 21st Century, cultural commentator Stephen Marche explores the ever-shifting, controversial gender roles in modern North American society. He examines how feminism and complex male-female relations have made a profound impact on his personal life, particularly with regards to his relationship with his wife and how he raises his children.

Marche's wife Sarah Fulford, who is the editor-in-chief of Toronto Life magazine, offers her perspective in footnotes to provide balance to Marche's commentary, covering topics ranging from household chores to pornography.

Splitting the domestic burden

Fulford: One of the things about being a busy 21st-century professional woman is you're constantly caught between domestic responsibilities and professional responsibilities. The most revolutionary thing I've noticed around me is that that feeling of being pulled in two different directions is now true for the men I work with as well as the women. They take parental leave and are bearing the burdens of the domestic sphere — maybe not equally, but in a significant way.

The hollow patriarchy

Marche: The hollow patriarchy is the idea that if you look at the economic data and the sociological data, women are rising in the middle class very rapidly. They are 40 per cent of breadwinners in America. They have more university degrees than men. More female lawyers graduate than male lawyers. Men are losing this position of breadwinner in the middle-American society. But women are still being denied these positions of power. Women are 16 per cent of equity partners in law firms, which is really absurd. Only about three per cent of Hollywood directors in the major seven studios are women. This actually translates into virtually every industry. So the hollow patriarchy is that you have this masculinity as an icon of power, but it's rotten at the centre. In the middle of it, men are becoming less and less the providers they once were and this tension creates all this kind of cultural and domestic turbulence.

Stephen Marche's and Sarah Fulford's comments have been edited and condensed.