"The Week the Women Went": Who is to Blame If the Men Can't Cope?

The dads try to deal while the moms are away in Lifetime TV's reality show, The Week the Women Went.Last summer, BBC television producers sent all of the women in Yemassee, South Carolina, away for a vacation along the Florida Coast. While the 100 or so wives and mothers relaxed at a resort, completely cut off from their families, the men and children stayed home to fend for themselves -- with a film crew capturing their efforts for a reality TV show, "The Week the Women Went."

"I knew it was going to be a nightmare," Darnell Wilson, 35, told the Los Angeles Times. "I didn't fool myself for one minute."

Why a small town in the American south? The producers were looking for a place where traditional gender roles are the norm, executive producer Jon Kroll explained.

"It's fish out of water, it's gender politics, it's seeing how the other half lives," Kroll told the Los Angeles Times. "It's a conceit with so much potential."

The show, which airs on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on the Lifetime channel, is based on a BBC program that ran in Canada in 2007 and 2008. It bills itself as part social experiment, part "unscripted television," but while watching the drama unfold one can't help but feel like the men have been set up for failure -- both by the producers of the show and by the women who encouraged the men of Yemassee not to do much of anything for themselves.

"I get that it is supposed to be a fish out of water story, as the British version was, but if you have a 9-year-old daughter and you cannot brush her hair, you aren't a fish out of water. You are a bad father," Suzanne Richard, who grew up in South Carolina and now teaches writing at Northeastern University, told Yahoo! Shine after watching the first episode.

Ironically, some of the show's female cast members seem just as frustrated with their husbands' inability to handle simple, every day chores -- even as they acknowledged that the wives and mothers have always catered to the guys.

"Doug could not find anything in the house if I were not there. He is clueless when it comes to where things are located in the house," complained Stephanie Carroll in a Q&A with Lifetime. "His mom did everything for him, and he assumes that I will do the same for him."

Timmy Clifton was so upset about his wife, Misty, being gone -- dishes piling up, laundry wasn't getting done -- that he asked her to come home after just two days away. She agreed.

"Misty's my wife, and I can't live without her," he says in the second episode. "Misty, I want all for myself. I don't want her off with all these other people. I'm going to tell Misty when she gets here that she ain't never leaving here again, that's for sure."

Tammy Lane told Yahoo! Shine in an interview that when she went away for the week, her 17-year-old daughter, Courtney, had to help her 21-year-old son, Justin, get ready for work in the morning. (He's not disabled; he's the town's fire chief.)

"I want him to be perfect and have everything just right," she says, explaining why she does everything for her son. "Some people may call me a control freak, but I think it's just about comfort."

While she was gone, her daughter "actually helped take care of Justin, she took over that role for me, helping him get ready for work in the morning, doing the things that I usually do," she says. "That was very comforting for me to be able to go on the trip, to know that Courtney was able to step into my shoes."

Justin says that he had no qualms about accepting his little sister's help. "I'm a strong believer in the less I have to do, the better," he told Yahoo! Shine. Even though his mom is still furious and bitter about his engagement -- "Monster-in-law is definitely a good name for me," she says. "I was so upset with Justin for doing that, because he has never to my knowledge made a decision without talking to me." -- Justin confesses that while he missed going out with his fiancee, he missed his mom more.

"Once was enough for me," he said when asked if he'd ever repeat the social experiment. "I had to spend a whole week without my mom, and that means I had to do everything. That was terrible."

It's as if these strong, capable women are raising a generation of other strong capable women -- 13-year-old Bug and 14-year-old Schyler run their moms' businesses while the women are away -- along with a generation of guys who freak out at the prospect of having wash their own underwear or make their own breakfasts.

Richards, who grew up in South Carolina, is quick to point out that such utter dependency isn't necessarily the norm in small southern towns. "I do not think that this is representative of men in South Carolina," she says. "I know plenty a man down there who can cook a meal well and dress themselves every single day."

So if the men in Yemmasee have a hard time while the women are away for one week, who is to blame? The guys, for not knowing how to cope? Or the ladies, for not giving them a chance to learn?

Copyright © 2012 Yahoo Inc.

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