What is inequity?

The article on Swedish parental leave shows just how restricted the dialogue on work and family life in the US is.  People are constantly debating how women can “have it all”, if that is even possible.  What is missing from this picture is how men can have it all.  The classic dialogue includes many assumptions about what men and women want.  People assume that women want to and will have kids, and they assume that men will play less of a role in raising a child then women will (and that they are okay with this).  While this dialogue traditionally focuses on the inequity that faces women and how to correct this, it never addresses the inequity leveled on men.  A woman who tries to “have it all” might seem courageous for trying such a challenging feat, but a man who wants to do something similar might be ridiculed as unambitious or feminine.  Sweden’s policies remove gender from the discussion of the work family life balance, although these policies still aren’t perfect (the article mentions that some employers are still unhappy to see male employees take parental leave).  The conversation around work and family life needs to include everyone, so that inequity for both genders can be erased.
This also reminds me of a link that was posted on the blog after the election.  Someone posted an article that described how the family lives of high profile females are picked apart by onlookers in a way that would never happen to a man.  Whenever a successful female is being described, there is always a reference to how she is able to care for her children, or when she will have children.  Many high profile men have families and children too, why is this never discussed with them?
References: “In Sweden, Men Can Have it All” New York Times
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1 Response to What is inequity?

  1. One thing I really appreciate about this post, and about this class in general, is that it sheds light on the fact that gender stereotyping oppresses both sexes, not just women. Switzerland serves as a wonderful case study for all other countries in that it seems to reveal an overlooked truth: the opportunities available to and withheld from certain groups of people reflect how that group is socially perceived, and ultimately mold what types of people those group members can become. Creating a business system that inherently treats men as 2nd class parents or “back up” parents gives them little choice but to assume that role. In the United States, the lack of opportunities for men to take time off to raise newborns is indicative of the fact that men are not expected to serve as active roles in their children’s upbringing as women. To think that being a caregiver to a child has different connotations for men (breadwinner; provider) than for women (emotional support) speaks to the divide that is created when we accept gender stereotypes. These stereotypes are especially debilitating for men who want to be able to actively raise their kids, and women who want to be able to pursue a career. By letting parental responsibilities be determined by sex, couples are forced to assume roles that are not necessarily conducive to the types of parents they want to be. It’s astonishing to think that our family dynamics are, in part, the product of gender stereotypes that have been built into business corporations and time-off policies. Who is to say what types of relationships we would have with our mothers and fathers, or how we would perceive our future responsibilities/goals as parents, if sex were not the determining factor in what roles parents assumed in child rearing.

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