I have always believed that feminism (should) reward men just as much as women. Feminism is (although often misunderstood) as advocacy of equality of sexes. It has traditionally focused on women’s rights – for many good reasons.
However, I do believe that men benefit from the equality just as much. I have recently come across an Economist article called “The man trap“. It explains, very beautifully, that lack of equality not only means lower salaries and worse career opportunities for women, but also:
- Expectation that a man earns more
- Expectation that a man stays longer hours at work, is more flexible when it comes to his schedule and will not stay at home with a sick child
- Expectation that a man will not take any paternity leave and instead their partner will take all the “baby duties”
At the same time at home their partner expects:
- That a man will be engaged and spend more time with children
- That he will take more housework
That is a lot of expectations. I completely agree that both sides and a possible personal wish to combine both family and work is very hard to satisfy.
The sad thing is that I do know many self-proclaimed feminists who strongly believe that parental leave is meant for women (except maybe for 2 weeks or so) without any good arguments to support it. Or an argument that sounds “this is how it fitted us economically”, usually meaning that woman’s salary was lower and therefore she gave up her job or took maternity benefits instead. But that is exactly the reason why women earn less than men!
I also suspect many women I know do expect that their male partner should earn more and provide for the family and feel entitled to take less paying jobs with more flexibility. Yes, that is also an entitlement!
This is an unpopular view, but in my opinion, the only way to solve this is to have dedicated paternity leave for men. Paternity leave, which would be at least 10 weeks with full pay and which cannot instead be used by a woman. Indeed, it is also mentioned in the article that “studies of paternity-leave policies have found that men take the benefit only when it is clearly meant for men and other fathers are using it too. A study in Norway, for example, found that men were far more likely to take leave if their brothers or male co-workers had taken it already.”
Thus, men really care how they are perceived by others, even though it is often thought to (also) be woman’s domain. As long as it will not become a “new normal”, they will not be motivated to take the first step. It was different for women – fighting to get into the men’s world has always been seen as positive, a step up, which trying to get into women’s world for a man is still seen as a bit shameful. Thus, I think we can at least in the short term, only solve it economically, where men could say “well, not that I really wanted to take the leave, but we would have lost that time with the baby and would have had to pay nanny instead, thus I did it”. By no means I say we should FORCE men to take this, just encourage it economically and make sure that they get full compensation for this job.
Perhaps then, both genders can understand each other a little bit better and understand what equality of sexes really means: for both sexes to be brave and take up the roles that are new and scary, but rewarding in the long run.