The Week the Women Went: More male image stereotype?

The Week the Women Went is a new reality show in which all the women in a town go away for a week leaving it to the guys and dads. It could reinforce a negative male image stereotype, or the men could prove their potential with the women around – even if a 4-year-old has a cup of coffee.

The Week the Women Went, a new Lifetime reality show, premiered on Aug. 14, 2012. The show chronicles how men handle things when all the women leave a small town for one week. Negative male image stereotypes are on display, but there may be redemption if they live up to their potential.

Now that the thrill of watching the Olympic Games is over, my 17-year-old son and I sat down to witness the predictable mayhem inherent in the premier of the Lifetime TV series "The Week the Women Went," where it seems natural to root for the men to fail and provide entertainment after all the women of the town have gone on a seven-day mass vacation. However, as the parent of four boys, I have to root for these hapless men left holding the kids and family businesses to rally and show us men can parent, albeit in their own spray-paint-the-pageant-dress and feed them Ramen noodles fashion.

I know this series has all the hallmarks of playing to the cheap seats as a feel-good marathon for the Lifetime female audience, but I think men are much more capable and resilient when put to the test. If they fail, it will be more attributable to the one-week “experiment,” which was previously produced for TV in England, Canada, and Morocco.

Because if you give the men much longer than a week, they will find a work-around and then the whole feel-good format is gone along with the women. I tell you this as a mom who went away for a week last year and came home to controlled hysteria, but after having to leave again the next week, returned to the male version of Martha Stewart and felt superfluous. Week one was a train wreck, but the second time my husband found his feet and reinvented himself, our family structure, and my workload in a meaningful and lasting way.

So it’s possible that we could see shades of that in the unscripted Lifetime series narrated by comedian Jeff Foxworthy and billed as a “social experiment of Biblical proportions.”

The show opened with two fiery sermons: one delivered by a man and the other by a woman in the town of Yamassee, S.C., population 1,000.

“Women! Can’t live with ‘em and can’t live without 'em," the male preacher quipped to his congregation.

While the female pastor cried out, “It was God’s idea that every man needs a woman. Woman was not created as an afterthought, He had something in mind!” My suspicion is that this plan was not a reality TV show, but who am I to say I know the mind of the Lord?

So the men are left holding the kids and the bag on everything from a coffee-drinking toddler to a beauty pageant. In two cases, young girls are left to run their mothers’ businesses, which should be a whole series in itself.

My son’s favorite quote came from an unidentified man who moaned, “A washing machine is an intimidating machine!” To which my son Ian shouted at the TV, “Amen!”

I looked at him and said, “You just used the washing machine to wash your jiu-jitsu gi. What are you talking about?”

He had the decency to look embarrassed when he said, “Well, come on, men are expected to be idiots when it comes to that stuff. It’s funny when they are.”

It’s funny in a movie or Bill Cosby routine, but not in a real life “documentary.”

Everybody loves the Bill Cosby comedic moment when he, “Dad,” is asked by the kids to give them chocolate cake for breakfast when Mom sleeps in. His brain looks up the recipe for chocolate cake and returns with: eggs and milk and flour. “You want chocolate cake?” he asks the children. “You got it!” All’s well, the children are singing songs of praise to him, until the mother comes stalking down the stairs and demands to know who gave them the cake, and they all rat on Dad.

Yes, in the first episode of "The Week the Women Went," kids ate corn dogs, Ramen noodles, and lollipops. Some dads actually formed alliances like on the show "Survivor" as a means of coping.

It’s painful when life repeatedly imitates sitcoms and a grown man can’t buy proper food, cook the meal he worked to provide for his children, or cope with the common use of a machine he can probably take apart and rebuild, but not operate to wash a load of laundry.

I don’t want to raise my boys to be unable to live without me. As Tammy Lane, the domineering mother of a 21-year-old son still living at home, told the camera, “I still do everything for him except wash him, and if he asked me to, it might be a different story.” She said that last bit implying that she would consider it if asked.

The man, Justin Lane is the town’s fire chief, the guy responsible for many other lives in that town, yet his mother is still working hard to make him incapable because she needs to feel indispensable.

We expect our men to lead the world, care for their children, their wives, and others. And to do that, we need to teach them to use the washer, buy more than peanut butter, bread, and beer and know more about the washing machine than how to rewire it.

Yet it is because they can take the machine apart that I believe these men can rebuild our image of them and their potential. Whether Lifetime takes us there remains to be seen. I, for one, will be watching.

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