The story profiles a married gay father of one. But it's not this fellow's sexual orientation that impedes his best efforts at parenting. It's the plain fact that he's a man.
This young banker, who didn’t want his name used because his employer has a strict no-news-media policy, would hardly seem the sketchy type that a well-meaning private club would bar.
But he and his husband are men. As such, they and their little boy are personae non gratae at the Golden Gate Mothers Group, which since its founding in 1996 has grown to an organization of 4,000. Members must live in San Francisco, have children younger than kindergarten age and be mothers — of the strict-constructionist female variety.
The group, which takes in revenue north of $300,000 annually, mostly from dues, is by far the dominant parenting organization in town. (The latest census data show only about 40,000 young children in the city.) G.G.M.G. offers three core benefits to members. It acts as an information exchange, where pediatrician recommendations, hiring of nannies and admission tips to private preschools are particularly popular topics. It negotiates discounts for members at local retailers and service providers.
So shortly after taking home his new son in February, the banker sought to join the group. “Everyone who knows about it talks about how great it is,” he said in an interview.
He was rebuffed. An e-mail signed by the G.G.M.G. Membership Committee informed him that “to be a member, you must be a woman.”What's most sad about this, is that this man's son -- not the most disadvantaged little boy, it is true -- nonetheless is the one who will miss out on the the benefits of getting to drool and slobber around thousands of other infants and toddlers. His primary caretaker is a guy, so he won't get to hang with these kids. Which demonstrates that this organization is not about kids, it's about their mothers. Exclusively. And that is a problem.
I simply don't buy the premise that first-time mothers have such special needs that they need an organization that makes it a point to keep men -- the fathers of their children -- out. For the first five years of their childrens' lives. In fact, I think it's weird. Resonant of the convent in Cyrano de Bergerac. How many kids will grow up thinking it's normal for their moms to have all this stuff going on for them, without their fathers around? Admittedly there are a fair number of male barbarians in circulation, but I don't think this is the sort of affinity group they would be pressing to crash en masse.
But even if they were, it would probably be good for them. And everybody else, even the moms. Unless living in a heterosexual arrangement as a parent is something analogous to a the schizoid world of a certain Victorian anthropologist, famously amenable to his crew of south sea islanders by day, and disparaging of them in his diary by night. In fact, I'd think more male-female mixture is exactly what we need. Because everything about this group -- and there are smaller versions of it all over the place -- reinforces the idea that 'men just don't get it', that 'men are scary' or that they somehow mess up the vibe of parenting, especially in its early stages. When in reality, all it's really based on is that -- men usually just aren't around.
If men really do cramp your style, Golden Gate Mothers Group, if we all really still live in a world of separate spheres, then I suppose all that earlier bother about letting women into the evening club, or letting Tiger Woods onto the golf course, or gay couples into the courthouse, was really just a waste of time.