However, I want equal status in society. Period. I want equal pay, equal rights, I don’t want my daughter to feel she has to give up being smart at 15, because her only viable option is marriage, I want paid pregnancy leave, I don’t want to fear walking down the street or being alone in an elevator with a strange man, I am tired of women’s naked bodies being used to sell everything from cars to liquor, I am tired of every woman being sexualized…it is a long list. I am tired of men viewing women as property and treating them as such. But what goes on in my home and in my bedroom is my business, what goes on in the world is all of ours.
I totally agree with you in wanting total equality in society, but you need to be careful what you wish for – some of these things, do NOT bring equality, but rather reinforce the gender stereotypes. I’ll try to explain. I live in France… some people may know that France has one of the best maternity packages in Europe, if n the world. (not as good as Sweden – now they have got it going on!) I got 20 weeks fully paid maternity leave fr my kids, plus another 4 weeks full pay because I breastfed. My husband got 8 days paid paternity leave, which he could take WHENEVER he wanted. (employers are legally obliged to say yes, with 24 hours notice I believe) Sounds peachy, right? I get most of my childcare paid for, and the rest is a tax break. School starts age 3, so there’s only 3 years they need full time care, and even then, you get a base amount of about 600 euros a month if you do decide to stay at home. Some people even manage to wangle a home help paid for by the State (never did manage that one!)
Personally, I have found that these perks have reinforced the stereotypes – because it is so cheap and easy to stay at home; it’s expected of you. I cannot count the number of people who treated me like a crazy person for going back to work after 3 or 4 months at home! Despite the parental leave being available to both parents ( you choose whether Mum or dad take it) only 2 or maybe 4 % of those are men. Why? By celebrating “family” and motherhood ( 4 r 5 kids? Hey, here, have a medal from the President – seriously, I’m not joking) And so people do follow the beaten path. Paternity leave (8 days) is often used for a cheap holiday, or to get the DIY done, rather than helping Mum with the baby (+ siblings)
Indeed, this crazy person went back to work very early – to be fair, brilliant laws about that! You must go back to your exact previous position, with all perks, and they have to let you “off” for one hour a day to breastfeed (can be seperated into 3 x 20 mins for example) AND they have to provide you with somewhere to pump! – but, now reading this post, I realize I’ve gone back to a seriously gender -stereotyped job: teaching. Ever noticed how many teachers are female? Especially primary/junior (grade school US I believe)? And why is that? A heated discussion with a friend over after school club, gave me an indication. If you’re a teacher, then yeah, you go to work, but you can look after the kids and have dinner on the table, just like if you DIDN’T work… It got heated, because I work in junior high, an the school times/ out of hours care doesn’t work for me. Her response was to tell me to change jobs to look after my children. Seriously. It may be specific to the area in which I live (v. traditional, right-wing kind of place), but I fear it is an attitude inherent to our society. Women must be in caring roles, they must be available for their family. How many of you actually bother to ask the question “who’s staying home?” when one the kids is ill?
Whilst I love my hubby, I hate that the model my kids will see, is not as idealistic as I would have wished – or rather it’s a pretty traditional set up ( at the moment very much so because of work) – but I think the only way we are really going to change these perceptions/restrictions etc. is by starting off at home. If there is equality in your home, then your children will expect equality everywhere; and hopefully , they’ll get it.
And so the ramble stops xx