I regularly call out gender inequality when I see it and as a strong feminist could spend many an hour ranting and raving about all the BS women have to go through as the result of living in a society structured, constructed, managed and maintained by men at the top, but you know what is also a feminst issue?
The devaluation of fathers!
Now don’t get me wrong. I know some of you may be thinking “but the men have it all!” And I totally get that. In pretty much all areas women have absolutely been held back and are having to fight for equal standing as their male counterparts, but in regards to parenting, the inequality towards fathers IS STILL because of inequality of women!
It is still the result of the patriarchy.
As mothers push forward and start to rightly demand their value to be both mothers and women contributing in the workplace as equals to men, the historical patriarchy is now actually affecting the men too.
Because let’s face it. The patriarchy holds everyone back! It keeps us all under control and in boxes. It’s how a capitalist world has been able to be successful and grow.
It worked just fine in past times when men had to fit a certain mould of worker and provider and it was not socially acceptable for them to show their emotions.
The women stayed home, looking after the children and house, not being able to study or hold prevalent roles in society. It kept them in a safe place at the bottom of society, not challenging the status quo and the role and power of the men at the top.
The men went to work, looking after industry and economy, making those men at the top richer and more successful. Keeping them in a safe place, above the women of course, but also trapped in a box and restricted of choice, but keeping the powerful men at the top.
But times have changed and are constantly progressing. Women stuck the finger up to the man and are demanding the choice to also be able to be the worker, the provider and be the mother, if they so chose to. They are saying no to the power at the top being men only.
Men are sticking their finger to the patriarchy and saying “we have feelings too you know”. They don’t want or need to play a pretend role of emotional detachment. They also want to raise their children and have the choice to be at home.
Now it could be argued that the shift in the male position is merely a result of the womens pursuit for equality. And yes, it likely is a lot to do with that. But as women fight for equality in the workplace and society it is actually really very necessary for us to also increase the scope of the male role. It both enables the women to progress by allowing men to share those previously female assigned roles, but it also allows our sons to be raised in a way that challenges the previous toxic masculinity expected of our boys and men, which in turn brings down that patriarchy.
We are at a point where mothers are finally starting to make real progress in terms of their role being able to be more than just housebound, but we as a society haven’t allowed the role of fathers to also progress at the same rate, which keeps us somewhat stuck.
We finally have a choice as parents about sharing some of the maternity/paternity leave in some job roles, enabling some mothers to return to work earlier if they want to, and fathers to take some of that valuable bonding time too. And fathers are now legally entitled to 2 weeks paid paternity leave but is it just me that thinks this is all a bit of an insult?
I personally didn’t want to share my maternity leave, which you could argue was selfish but those first 2 weeks of being a new mum are a complete shock to the system and you’ve barely got your head around the change when those 2 weeks are up. I was lucky. Si was able to tag on a few weeks annual leave so we had 4 weeks but I was an absolute blubbering wreck when he had to return to work. I didn’t know how I would cope.
On a practical level many mothers also have physical complications from having given birth too, whether it be a C-Section, which can become infected and has consequences to how much you can move and lift, or a vaginal birth which is often accompanied by tearing or episiotomies which can also become infected and are painful.
Alongside the emotional and hormonal effects of birthing humans, at 2 weeks most mothers really do need their partners support, both physically and emotionally. It’s unacceptable to place that full burden on a new mother to be the sole caregiver all day, especially if they physically are not mobile.
But it’s not just what the mother’s need, what about the impact on the dads?
We are basically saying that the dad’s don’t matter! That their role is not important and more crucially, that their ability to bond for and care for their baby is irrelevant.
Simon was devastated going back to work. He didn’t want to leave his new baby just like I wouldn’t want to, and he didn’t want to leave me to do it alone either. The difference is, despite all the inequality us mothers and women in general face, we are at least allowed to feel sad at leaving our babies. We are at least expected to have some bonding time. The dads get the measly 2 weeks and then have to pack up their feelings and head back out to work. After all, someone has to keep the cogs of capitalism turning!
Nobody asks the dads how they feel about leaving their babies and returning to work. On returning to their jobs men are often asked about their babies and partners and how it is being a dad, but not about how they feel.
Working hours often mean that many fathers don’t even get to see their babies at all, they may leave before they are up in the morning and return once they are asleep.
This is just unacceptable!
Children need their fathers too. The role of a father in a child’s life is just as important, it’s different from that of the mother and this is why it is crucial.
Over time I’ve come to realise that a lot of the inequalities for women as mothers in society is absolutely consolidated and perpetuated by society’s refusal to counterbalance the role of the father.
When a mum returns to work we call them ‘working mums’, whereas the dads are just dads that work. It’s standard, no need for a title.
When a mother makes a choice to return to work or take a career break to look after the children they are questioned by society. “Won’t you miss your children?” “What will you do all day at home won’t you get bored?” Where are the dads Q and A? Why aren’t they hounded with judgements and have to justify their choices?
Because it’s expected they don’t have a choice, and it’s assumed those fathers that do become the ones at home merely do it because their female partners earn more. And also “ahhhh what a wonderful father at home with his kids, what a modern man”. That’s just patronising to the men and liberties to the women, who are expected to do it as standard.
As much as the men are spared the “working dad” role and therefore the guilt, they are also robbed of the choice and the space. What we are saying again is that the dads don’t matter.
Our patriarchal society is one founded on the scrutiny of females, but also I believe this is just as damaging to the men as it is the women.
As much as it means a woman feels constantly judged and has to battle against her own internal guilt, constructed by a social narrative of the high expectations of motherhood,as well as that of others, for men they aren’t even at the table.
That’s fucked up.
The role of a father is just as important and the narrative that men can work and it has no impact on their children is false and damaging.
It robs our children of that precious time, it robs fathers of value and worth beyond rough and tumble and money earners, and no doubt also contributes to some fathers feeling more able to be absent. It also perpetuates the gender roles within families.
If we really want an equal society and for women to have genuine choice, it’s not just about changing the narrative around motherhood and bringing down the barriers to women in the workplace, it’s also about changing how we see and value fatherhood and holding both parents’ contributions in equal standing.
How can a mum juggle parenting and work if fathers aren’t expected or able to take an equal role in parenting?
How can we really expect to raise a generation of male feminists who also want equality of women, and females who feel equal to their male counterparts, if they see their father’s role as intrinsically different? It automatically keeps child rearing as a female role and working as a males.
All pictures used in this post are free use images taken from pixabay