Breadwinners and losers
Last week, this post, about the U.S. stimulus plan billions were not all poured into the ground for male-oriented shovel-ready projects generated some heat. But then, the piece which it was all based on was a dishonest rant blaming feminists for just about every economic woe "burly'' American men face right now.
Here, also on the economy, is quite a different piece. Instead of setting men and women against each other, author Courtney Martin proposes ways that everybody can pull together and pull out of this financial mess.
But first, some men need to rethink their roles -- specifically, what it means to be a man. Too often, they think it would be emasculating to promote equal rights.
For example, until men advocate for and take paternity leave in America's workplaces, women will always be viewed as "special" -- and not in a good way -- for taking time off after giving birth. The more men who "come out" at work as dedicated fathers, the more comfortable the next generation will be in advocating for family-friendly work policy. As Jeremy Adam Smith argues in his new book, The Daddy Shift, we need a "gradual movement away from a definition of fatherhood as pure breadwinning to one that encompasses capacity for both breadwinning and caretaking. … It is time for twenty-first century dads to go on the offensive." This overdue "daddy shift" will normalize the notion that all caregivers -- women and men -- have to juggle work demands and family responsibilities.
Another area in which men must and generally haven't stepped up to the plate is in advocating for less sexism in the media. When Bill O'Reilly called veteran White House Press Corps journalist Helen Thomas "the wicked witch of the east," where were her male peers to defend her right to be judged based on the quality of her work rather than the wrinkles on her face? And when David Letterman recently made an inappropriate joke about Sarah Palin's 14-year-old daughter Willow, Sean Hannity and a few other conservative pundits took it seriously, in order to claim that "Obama's surrogates" on the left only care about sexism against liberals. It wasn't a genuine stand against sexist commentary in the media; it was an attempt to score political points.
Why should men invest in this fight? Because until women are judged based on the quality of their work, not their conformity to gender stereotypes, men have no hope of being judged based on the full range of their humanity.
Ultimately, so much of this comes down to framing. As long we use the language of "women's issues," we will be separate and unequal. But when we talk about worker's rights, health care, media integrity, and freedom from violence as quality-of-life issues, we will all become less endangered and more enlightened.
Which the point I was trying to make in that other post.
Handing a guy a shovel and a paycheque will not make this world a better place. Blaming feminists divides us instead of uniting us. If men and women have equal footing in the workplace, the home and the mediasphere, all our boats will float.
Incidentally, as recently-published research indicates, men with daughters understand that much more readily than do most others.
And why is that? Because they come to recognize -- perhaps even resent -- how their daughters have fewer opportunities than their sons.