Earlier this week, the Pew Research Center released a study showing that 40 percent of American households with children have mothers as the primary breadwinners. This led a great deal of analysis of this social shift, as well as of the further Pew finding that 51% of respondents believe that it’s better for children if their mothers don’t work outside the home.
It also caused Fox contributor Erick Erickson, whose scientific background seemingly includes having watched Animal Planet one time, to cry in alarm at this upsetting of the natural order, both in an all-male panel on Fox Business Network, and on his blog:
[T]he left, which tells us all the time we’re just another animal in the animal kingdom, is rather anti-science when it comes to this. In many, many animal species,* the male and female of the species play complementary roles, with the male dominant in strength and protection and the female dominant in nurture. It’s the female who tames the male beast. One notable exception is the lion, where the male lion looks flashy but behaves mostly like a lazy beta-male MSNBC producer.
*Other practices that are common among animal species: child abandonment, eating of one’s young, poop-flinging. The last is common among humans only in certain subcultures, such as cable-news commentary.
Erickson’s red-in-tooth-and-claw screed resulted in a spectacular moment today at Fox News, where, wouldn’t you know it, many of his colleagues are working mothers. (Typical liberal media!) One of them, Megyn Kelly, had on Erickson and Lou Dobbs (who’d hosted the original FBN segment), to point out witheringly that despite Erickson’s armchair biology, his conclusions about working moms (and nurturing dads) were disproven by half a century of scientific study on actual humans. “What makes you dominant and me submissive?” she asked. “And who died and made you scientist-in-chief?”
There were plenty of amazing things in the exchange that followed, including the revelation that Erickson meant his scientific observations about the animal kingdom entirely seriously. (Pro tip: if you’re a prominent partisan commentator, maybe the best platform to win the public to your side is not, “Join me, and live like wild animals in the state of nature!”) There was Kelly’s unloading an artillery barrage of research against Erickson to show that the preponderance of science over decades—from universities, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, for instance—showed that children were harmed neither by having a female rather than male breadwinner nor by having two committed gay rather than straight parents.
And utterly perfect, though not at all surprising, was Erickson’s glib answer to that: “One, I think the experts can be as politically motivated as anyone else when it comes to these particular studies, because it plays into a current notion that it’s OK.” Got that? Science totally backs him up, except when the vast majority of science doesn’t, in which case ignore it because liberal bias.
Also: “Second… when you’ve got three-quarters of the public willing to recognize that the increase in moms as breadwinners makes it harder to raise kids, yeah, I think most people understand moms are typically more nurturing than dads.” Science may say I’m wrong, but this opinion survey says I’m right! It’s the Family Feud approach to social science.
Credit to Fox, though, for allowing this interrogation of its own silverback males on its own air—fittingly by Kelly, who had a similar moment in 2011, smacking down a pundit who had dismissed her recent maternity leave as “a racket.” Later, on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart rolled clips of Kelly dismissing government worker benefits—including the equal-paternity-leave provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act—as evidence that she was hypocritical, or suffering from “post-partum compassion.”
Still, the smoldering crater she left where her sexist guest stood remained, and now you can add Erickson to the list. Whatever Erick Erickson thinks he knows about the animal kingdom, he’s got a lot to learn about dominant females among the species of Fox.