Home Book trading The surprise protagonists of the film Fair Play by Eve Rodsky, directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom

The surprise protagonists of the film Fair Play by Eve Rodsky, directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom


It’s never just about dishes, is it? Eve Rodsky’s book Fair play sparked a nationwide movement when it was released in 2019, raising awareness about invisible domestic work and encouraging men in heterosexual relationships to share more of the domestic workload. Rodsky’s original concept was to show how “the smallest arguments over dirty dishes are actually linked to systemic issues affecting millions of families around the world.”⁠”

Fair play started as a way to raise awareness of the burden women face in the home, but it also outlined how this issue prevents these women, primarily mothers and primary caregivers, from achieve equality in the workplace. If the purpose of the book was to call on women to demand more equality in household management, the film is, as Rodsky puts it, “a love letter to men.”

Director Jennifer Siebel Newsom picks up where the book left off, elevating the stories of men working against deep-rooted systemic beliefs and striving for a more equitable distribution of household chores and caregiving. One of the most surprising discoveries of Fair play was that it was men who benefited most from this new, fairer division of domestic labour. Michel Kaufman, author of The Time Has Come: Why Men Need to Join the Gender Equality Revolutionhighlights research that states, “If men do 40% of care at home, or 50 minutes more per day, they are less likely to take prescribed medications or antidepressants.

While the film (and book) focuses on the dynamics of heterosexual and cisgender couples, some of the solutions draw inspiration from LGBTQ+ families. For example, as couples go through the adoption process, they need to have thoughtful conversations about household dynamics and who will be doing what before the kids even come on the scene.

The key, Rodsky says, is that families shouldn’t make decisions based on assumptions. When decisions are made with a thoughtful, collaborative and conscious approach, fairness seems within reach.

I spoke to Eve Rodsky and Jennifer Siebel Newsom about what they hope the film will accomplish, how the household chores of each of their own families are divided, and where the Fair Play movement is heading from from here.

Amy Shoenthal: Eve, have you always envisioned Fair Play as a documentary, let alone the giant movement it has become?

Eve Rodsky: I couldn’t even get the book published at first! Every agent said no one would want to read a book about chores and chores. I was told that women have it better than men now. People would say things like, “What are you complaining about, you’re getting more college degrees now than men. You rise in the workplace. Why would you revive the 90s?

But I saw the burnout crisis unfold before my eyes. Women told me they couldn’t live like that anymore. They were literally dying under the weight of the stress.

Fair play was the canary in the coal mine.

Shoenthal: Jennifer, tell me about your journey to fair play. How did you get involved in this project?

Jennifer Siebel Newsom: Eve approached me at the end of February 2020. I read the book and fell in love with her voice and perspective. I knew that if we were going to make a movie, it would have to be different from the book.

Our goal was to deconstruct limiting gender norms and ultimately enable more people to be seen as fully realized human beings. We also wanted to demonstrate how care is an integral part of everyone’s life.

Eve had done a lot of interviews for the book, so we went through a lot of rabbit holes trying to turn some of these people into characters in the movie. There was a lot of resistance, especially from high profile couples. Many husbands refused to join.

Shoenthal: This raises a good point. I’ve always been curious, Eve, how did you get Seth (Rodsky’s husband) to agree to participate?

Rodsky: I first had to get Seth’s agreement to write the book. He truly believed the system had helped him, while acknowledging that he might end up the butt of his friends’ jokes. He will never live blueberries text.

newsom: It was really important for me to spend time with Eve’s family because Eve is hysterical and such a good storyteller. She has done an amazing job raising her sons to the value of care. But I really wanted to interview and understand Seth.

Rodsky: He was getting comments from people who had known him all his life saying, you’re a new person. Now, in his private equity work, he challenges companies when their boards are all white men. So it permeated a large part of his life.

You can’t solve systemic problems with communication, but you can create empathetic leaders. What they learn at home translates to the workplace.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. We still have to check in every day. It’s like teeth without the retainer – if you don’t wear it, they become crooked again. These gender norms are so strong that they supersede everything. They serve as the basis for our belief system. To this day, when I tell people to imagine a white man on his knees, not in porn, but on his knees with a toilet brush, people still laugh. They can’t imagine a white man in a suit on his knees cleaning the toilet.

Shoenthal: Wait, why does he clean the toilets in a suit?

Rodsky: Well, I put him in a costume because I wanted to paint a picture of a knowledge worker cleaning a toilet. We accept immigrant labor, but we also have to show white collar workers that they clean the toilets.

newsom: I wanted to make sure that a variety of perspectives and voices were represented in the film. I was in contact with the two farm workers, Lisbeth and José, through another organization I work with, La Familia, in Sacramento. Their story really exposed all of the structural barriers that plague our society, especially for working women.

Rodsky: This is the only problem privilege can’t get you out of. At some point in her life, every woman will be judged on her role.

In 2015, the UN released a groundbreaking report that claimed gender equity would drive billions of dollars in growth. So we need to look at it not just as a women’s issue, but rather ask the question, what’s in it for everyone?

Honestly, men are the protagonists of the film. When men are involved in childcare, their lives are so much better. When Christian talks about how his relationship with his daughter, Winter, was different because he was more involved in her care, it brings me to tears every time I see his little diaper stub walk up to his dad and raise his hands to ask. he takes her upstairs.

newsom: My official title is First California Partner, so I’m all about the partnership, and the partnership is the real focus of the movie. Research shows that when men do 40% of care at home, they are less likely to take antidepressants. They are happier, they have greater longevity, they have a better sex life. Their children have better cognitive development, fewer behavioral problems and better lifelong relationships.

At one point, Eve said, “I want this movie to be a love letter to men.” It was so perfect – we took that line out of the film because we didn’t want the women to feel unseen or unheard. But it really shows why men are such an integral part of this movement.

Rodsky: Jen actually had the most important line in the movie. She asked Seth why he left the jacket and beer bottle on our lawn for so long. And for him to legitimately say, “Because I thought it was somebody else’s job, it was to pick it up,” that’s how I think all the men I initially interviewed for the book would have answered if they had been honest.

I think things are different now. I think the pandemic helped, fair play helped, Jen’s work helped. Ultimately, if you can just trade off those assumptions for structured decision-making, things will improve.

I’m not telling you it has to be 50/50 in your house. I’m not telling you how to live your life. Make the decisions you want. Just make sure decisions aren’t based on assumptions.

newsom: It’s also about educating our sons to take responsibility at home and socializing our daughters to use their voices, hold themselves in their power and set limits. When my 11-year-old daughter offers to take care of the boys’ chores, Gavin and I have to say, “No Brooklyn, stop taking care of everyone.” You don’t have to do everyone else’s job.

Shoenthal: What do you hope the film will accomplish that the book hasn’t?

newsom: My husband was not going to read the book, but he watched the documentary. I think a lot of women can say the same thing. We made a film to inspire partnership and inspire men to get into home care. If we can help partners recognize the benefits of doing more domestic work at home, we will be better off as a society.

It takes a village. This village includes men.

Rodsky: The film also shows how people are watched when they adopt a child, especially LGBTQIA couples. But you give birth to a child in a straight cisgender relationship and the doctors tell you, “Goodbye, go home, good luck!” We should all have more of these difficult conversations before bringing a child into any home.

newsom: This film should be mandatory for anyone in a relationship.

Shoenthal: What is the next step for the Fair Play movement?

Rodsky: We just met with United Health because of one of Fair Play’s secondary findings. Of the 200 women I interviewed who said they were primarily responsible for household planning while working full-time for pay, each is currently being treated for a stress-related illness: insomnia, hair loss, thyroid problems and cancer. They all get information from their clueless OBGYNs saying it’s early menopause. It’s not menopause, it’s “careopause”.

newsom: We are that generation of Wonder Woman/Title IX who were told we could have it all, be it all, do it all. We’re performing so well and we’ve been told to lean, but I think that’s the count. It’s too much. The pandemic should have made us slow down but nothing changed. But with caregiving all over our faces since the pandemic began, people are paying more attention to it. This is why the time has come. The fight appears. And when we’re all struggling, it’s time for systemic change.