Gender equity, as I pointed out rather incoherently in my last post, does not occur in a vacuum. The conditioning of boys and men as caregivers and as domestic engineers is an integral part of this endeavor. But the domestic sphere is seamlessly connected with the workplace and with public policy. The conditioning of men and women occurs within the context of legal, political and cultural climates.
If men can’t get paternity leave, for instance, women who are mothers will rarely make it to the corridors of power. In that case, a man’s willingness to care for his baby full-time is moot. So if the possibilities of domesticity and full(er)-time parenting are closed to men, or are accompanied by financial risks and a workplace inhospitable to men more involved in parenting, then bringing women within sight of the boardroom, or tenure, or a sports career, or even the Kroger checkout counter, is pointless.
While men and women bear responsibility for the construction of egalitarian and whole lives, te responsibility is shared by politicians, the designers and implementers of public policy, intellectual workers, social analysts and critics, cultural agents such as people in the media, and by those who wield the power of Big Money.
But gender equity is also an integral part of human wholeness and integrity. We seek equity that human beings may be whole, that they may not feel like they are being drawn and quartered to fit the demands of their lives.
This also means that the freezing up of professional roles must give way to a fluidity that permits shifts, so that individuals may respond to life-changes and seek wholeness in their intellectual and work lives, without risking their livelihood and the integrity of work profiles. A professor or physician should be able to work in the Congo without losing currency; she should be able to care for aging parents without losing her livelihood; she should be able to bear and raise children while she is of child-bearing age without appearing to be “not competitive.” None of this is new. Yet this remains a dream, and in our worsening economic climate, it seems more out of reach than it has been recently.