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The double standards of the gender equality meme

Updated on March 15, 2016

How equal and fair is our society and in what ways are one group benefiting while another is disbenefiting from state subsidized parenting?

Double standards of working life

Depending on if you belong to the group called women or the group
called men your life will look substantially different.

As a man, statistically speaking, you will work longer, harder and live shorter. As a woman, you will work less and live longer. Living in a time where gender equality, justice and rights for a better life are are words used incessantly left and right, its important to explore the current socioeconomic situation of men and women living in the western hemisphere to form a better understanding. Equality means sharing equally, with economics being a large part of family life, but is that really happening today? Are men and women equally participating in providing and covering the economic costs of child rearing? The answer to both questions are unsurprisingly no.
Men have and are working more hours, more uninterruptedly, for longer periods of time, resulting in absent fathering. The effects of absentee fathering are devastating but why are we not addressing it more seriously? Why is it OK for men to work harder than women?

The Case of Sweden

Scandinavia is well known for its welfare system where the government, through the collection of tax, subsidies certain aspects of societal life such as family benefits, preschool and school benefits and health benefits. Diving into the Swedish model, lets break down some numbers:

  • 3,4% of the GDP in 2011 are spent on family benefits, such as maternal leave and paternal leave.
  • Once a child is born the parents are entitled to 80% of paid leave for 240 days each, making it a total of 480 days per child.
  • Of the 480 days 90 days are specifically assigned to fathers, an attempt to raise the amount of days men stay at home with their children.
  • 75% of women cash in on maternal leave
  • 25% of men cash in on father leave
  • 20% of men do not take out any parental leave in the first 5 years of the child life

As seen above there are certain economic benefits that follow in having children in Sweden. This is incorporated mainly due to the fact that fertility rates are needed to reach 2.1% minimum for the welfare model to be able to continue. Government encourages couples to have kids and distributes funds accordingly but are the financial benefits shared equally? And a question more pressing, why are stay at home fathers so much lower than stay at home mothers?

Many would argue that its a strictly economic decision. Men work more hours, longer periods uninterruptedly and earn more money, therefor the family unit benefits economically by the father continuing to work and the mother taking off work. But is the child benefiting?
Others claim that the mother is more suited for care taking due to the breast milk factor. But in a time where formula is being introduced earlier and more and more children are not relying on breast milk as their source of diet,that argument falls short. Besides, there are options such as milk pump. If there's a will there's a way.

Its not breaking news that fathers overall spend more time away from their children engaged in wage-labor. It is also nothing new that the effects of absent fathers on children are longstanding and a negative factor in a child development. Even in countries where fathers are paid to stay home from work like Sweden, one out of five do not cash in. Simply because it will bring home less money.
Another aspect that is hard to find hard data on but that we all know to exist as a social norm is the acceptance of women taking off work and not men. Somehow men are seen as less of providers, less attractive, less able, less accepted if they choose to be stay at home fathers.

In a recent study featured in the Daily mail the case for the necessity of present fathers in was made clearly. Researcher Professor Ronald Rohner said that fatherly love is key to development and hopes his findings will motivate more men to become involved in caring for their offspring.‘In the US, Great Britain and Europe, we have assumed for the past 300 years that all children need for normal healthy development is a loving relationship with their mother,’ he said.‘And that dads are there as support for the mother and to support the family financially but are not required for the healthy development of the children.‘But that belief is fundamentally wrong. We have to start getting away from that idea and realize that dad’s influence is as great, and sometimes greater, than the mother’s.’ Needless to say both parts of a whole contribute to the positive development of children. Time and availability for the child to bond with the paternal figure as well as the maternal is quintessential.

One of Swedens biggest forums for parenthood named conducted a survey with 9000 participants in which women were asked what they would prefer, a working life or being a housewife. 45% voted for being a housewife. In another survey conducted by Aftonbladet, Swedens biggest online newspaper, out of 19,327 participants, 55% voted on wanting to be housewives.
Quite contradictory for a country where women's right to equal pay and access to employment is highly prioritized in state policies.

Now the term housewife can entail two intentions, one is to be able to spend the majority of the daytime with ones children, investing time and energy into raising them to be wholesome, healthy and good citizens or it can also entail the crude fact of simply taking a break from wage labor. Sometimes it can be a combination of both. The double standard takes place when men cannot make the same choices and if they do they are culturally sanctioned. Why is that?

Equal sharing of financial responsibilites

Who hasn't thought about getting a break from the employed life? For some people the work days are filled with drudgery, monotony and meaningless, mechanical tasks. For most its a lifestyle that consists of 40+ hours away from the family, loved ones and the possibility of doing something they enjoy or are passionate about. But bills gotta be paid and for the majority of the labor force that is accomplished by going to work for someone else, whether they like it or not.
Its a harsh reality but why is the burden not equally shared?

In a time where women have just as much possibility to retain and maintain a job as men do, why are more men than women pulling the weight in income earning for the household?

Its a paradoxical meme we live in. Never before have women in the western hemisphere had this much access to employment and the ability to equally share the financial responsibility of child rearing, yet we have not seen women rise to the task completely.

Gender equality must apply across the board. Parental equality equally so. Both in benefits as in duties. If we are truly aspiring to become a culture where both women and men can thrive and enjoy equal rights to a healthy and long life we need to look at the whole picture. As long as the scale is tipped there can be no balance. And as far as child rearing goes, its very clear that both parents are equally important and necessary for a child's healthy development.

As a woman I am happy to be able to share the economic burden with my husband and should we be so fortunate to have children, both will carry the weight equally, both financially and socially. After all, I do wish to be considered an equal.

A question for the fathers

If stay at home fathering was more socially accepted, the financial pressure was taken off and your partner supported you, would you choose to take more time off work to spend with your child? Do let us know what your choice would be if money wasn't the issue.

I would like to take more time off to be with my child

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