Feminism, fathers and valuing parenthood
Cross posted on PhD in Parenting.
On May 17, I participated in the Fem 2.0 chat on twitter. The topic of discussion was mommies and feminism. We talked about a lot of things, but one thing I said towards the end of the chat seemed to resonate with a lot of people. I also think it is an important point, so I thought I’d turn it into a post and explain more than I could in the 140 character limit. Here is what I said:
I think we need a society that values parenthood, not just motherhood. Otherwise it will always be about making concessions for women.
I find that a lot of the focus in the feminist mothering movement is on ensuring the rights of mothers and furthering the position of mothers in society. But what is the role for the men in that equation?
The problem with feminist mothering is that it either pushes for women to be freed from the shackles of motherhood (by making it easier for them to put their kids into day care) or it pushes for concessions in the workplace for women (more maternity leave, more sick leave, breaks and accommodations to pump breastmilk at work, etc.).
While I don’t think there is anything wrong with pushing for those things, I think we need to push for something more, something different.
We need to push for a society that values family and parenthood. One that recognizes that role that parents play in raising the next generation. One that recognizes that fathers, like mothers, may need to strike a balance between their career and their family life. One where women don’t feel that they have to be an equally uninvolved parent in order to reach their goals, but where they can ask their partner to step up too.
This isn’t happening right now:
- In a lot of jurisdictions (like Canada), men have the opportunity to share parental leave with their partners, but not many of them do and when they do share that leave it is often frowned upon in their workplace. Quebec has probably had one of the greatest success rates in this area, with 1 out of 2 men taking advantage of some of the parental leave available to them.
- When a child is sick, it is almost always the mother that takes time off of work.
- If the baby sitter flakes out, it is the mom that is left scrambling.
- Men seem to have a harder time saying “I’m sorry, I can’t stay late, I need to be home for dinner with my kids” than their wives would.
- I sometimes hear men saying that they can’t do XYZ because they have to babysit their kids. Since when are fathers babysitters?
I think we need to fight for men and society to recognize the importance of equally shared parenting in realizing feminist goals. Women cannot achieve equality until men take on their share of the responsibility for raising a family. Women will continue to be discriminated against in the workplace when they need to care for their families until men start taking on their share of that burden.
Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at PhD in Parenting, including discipline, gender issues, attachment parenting and more.