I found THIS ARTICLE yesterday in the New York Times and it’s a great article. It’s a little long, but I encourage everyone to read the whole thing. It talks about the increasing number of men taking parental leave in Sweden (it has reached up to 85%).
In Swedan the law gives a 13-month paid parental leave and 2 months of that is given exclusively for fathers. The article talks more about the law and describes other countries with similar types of parental laws.
What’s great about this is that it is a huge step forward in gender equality. “The only way to achieve equality in society is to achieve equality in the home. Getting fathers to share the parental leave is an essential part of that.” Often times feminists are fighting for women to have the same rights as men. A perfect example of this is in the workplace. People have been fighting for women to have the same chances and rights to jobs and having equal pay. Now this is very important and this fight is certainly not over but we all have to admit that this issue has made huge strides and is better.
I believe the next step is making sure men have the same rights as women without being looked down upon. In this instance I’m talking about men being able to stay home and take care of their children. This, is not having to fight for men being able to stay home. Men can do that without any fighting (with the exception that paternal leave is not as generous in America). The issue is, men are looked down upon when they take the role of the “woman”. (OR you will have the other problem: Men are seen as heroes and are praised when they help around the house and women are given no such recognition.)
I started thinking about this issue when I was in undergrad and we did a production of Bertolt Brecht’s, “Galileo”. Our director wanted to do a gender neutral production of it. However, it seemed that “gender neutral” meant women being able to play the male roles. (Of course part of the issue with that play is that there is only one female role and that school has a 3 to 1, female to male ratio). BUT…as I think about it, I have never seen a gender neutral play where men play women…it’s always just women playing men. The reason is because being a women is still considered to be lesser and men are not comfortable with it. When men play women it is humorous.
I believe it is men who need to be at the fore front of this issue. Men need to be asking for the same rights to stay at home and that nobody looks down upon them when they do that. It is already expected for mothers to stay at home when they have a newborn…that same expectation should be of the fathers. We should be striving for a parental leave…not the maternal/paternal leave. How does this happen? Men need to want it as much as women do.
We’ve already proven that women can do what men do. What needs to happen now is that we prove men can do what women do. AND we won’t have true gender equality until I am unable write sentences like that. People should be able to do what people do.