gender, USA

Gender equity isn’t vacuum-sealed

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.

2 thoughts on “Gender equity isn’t vacuum-sealed”

  1. Salam.

    Do you think your concluding remarks on a woman being able to care for her parents without losing currency/employability etc has less to do with discourses on gender equality and perhaps more to do with global capitalism and the extent to which it dehumanizes work culture in the name of bottom line efficiency? It seems many of the concerns you bring up (non work related “work,” specifically domesticity and the reduction in its importance) can possibly be linked to a dehumanizing culture of global capitalism.

  2. The conditioning of men and women being what it is, wouldn’t it be easier, and maybe more ‘biology-compliant’, to get society to treat parenting as a professional career. Since good parenting is first and foremost a benefit to, or rather a survival need of, society at large, the state should foot the bill. Child benefits (in Canada, belgium etc) payouts could be augmented and converted to parenting pay (taxable like any other), the career ladder could consist of the number of children and their achievements, certifications/workshops/ conferences could be mandated, and once one’s own children have flown the nest the SAHM could move on to become teachers, social workers, trainers.

    All the discussion groups/fora/support groups that are now voluntary and spontaneous but serve a real need where people teach and learn from experience could be workshops/training programs for specific issues within parenting. Once these attain a ‘corporate’ structure and aspect, involve a certain procedure for entry, and proffer pieces of paper at the end of a certain time, the same behaviour will be seen less like a silly SAHM acting helpless and more like professional achievement. I’m sure there’s more specialization to be identified within parenting than most other fields of work/study, given the different stages of growth and all that can go wrong. Developed properly, any of them could be stimulating, intellectually challenging and emotionally fulfilling, instead of being frustratingly dull and exhausting as it is now.

    I seriously believe that society needs to change the way it looks at a SAHM and the way it treats her in not financially recompensing her. I don’t see that men’s jobs are always intellectually enriching, or socially gratifying. I don’t see that men’s careers are always scintillating. I don’t see that all men always earn even enough. But I do see that a woman looking after kids or sick parents or helpless old neighbours is an essential part of a society that obstinately refuses to give her her due.

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