In last Wednesday’s op-ed by Nicholas Kristof, he touched on a question that I have thought about for some time now: Is sex equality in the interest of men? Now you’ll remember Kristof for his co-penning of Half the Sky. His work is largely preoccupied with the plight of Non-western women. But every once in a while he throws US women a bone:
We men want our wives and daughters to encounter opportunity in the workplace, not sexual harassment; women want their husbands and sons to be in the executive suite, not jail. Nearly all of us root for fairness, not for our own sex.
The truth is that we men have typically benefited as women have gained greater equality. Those men who have lost their jobs in the recession are now more likely to have a wife who still has a job and can keep up the mortgage payments. And women have been particularly prominent in the social sector, devising new programs for the mostly male ranks of the jobless or homeless.
It is important to note that these comments are made in reaction to the widely challenged Atlantic piece by Hannah Rosin bemoaning “The End of Men.” Swatting away a lot of the unnecessary panic that piece and recent employment data incites is helpful. But the problem with Kristof’s analysis is the notion that the point of access that men have to gender equality is their association with women. Now I know I got warm all over when I saw this fine-as-hell man with perfect teeth carrying his daughter. I mean, really, how could sex equality not be in your interest when a girl-child with cheeks like those is that close to your heart?
Taking this to an extreme for a moment, just imagine what the world would be like if our only hope for a gender equal society rested on heterosexual marriage licenses and the female birth rate? Should it really take embarking on a family through marriage or birth to recognize that discriminating against women is wrong? If we can’t get a guy like Kristof who is married and politicized on global gender issues to routinely advocate for US women, how do we persuade the childless, unmarried and economically stable men to join the ranks of US feminism?