There is so much bubbling up in the media about men these days, from the “Death of Macho” back in the day to the Atlantic’s “End of Men” cover story, and now to the Newsweek piece published recently, “Men’s Lib.” The authors are surprisingly smart about the transition facing men:
Suggesting that men should stick to some musty script of masculinity only perpetuates the problem. For starters, it encourages them to confront new challenges the same way they dealt with earlier upheavals: by blaming women, retreating into the woods, or burying their anxieties beneath machismo. And it does nothing to help them succeed in school, secure sustainable jobs, or be better fathers in an economy that’s rapidly outgrowing Marlboro Manliness. The truth is, it’s not how men style themselves that will make them whole again—it’s what they do with their days.
Some highlights, focused on work/life issues, from the story (as passed on to me by the amazing Deborah Siegel):
- Recent polls show that majorities of Republicans (62 percent), Democrats (92 percent), and independents (71 percent) now support the idea of paid paternity leave. Next year’s federal budget includes a $10 million State Paid Leave Fund to help states launch their own programs.
- In California, the first U.S. state to fund leave (six weeks of it) for both parents, only 26 percent of men seize the opportunity, compared with 73 percent of women.
- The motivation is certainly there; over the last 35 years, the number of employed fathers in dual-earner families who say they suffer work-family conflict has risen from 35 percent to 59 percent, according to Joan Williams.
- Despite apparent progress—young couples believe in coparenting and sharing the household chores—very little has actually changed. The average wife still does roughly double the housework of the average husband: the equivalent of two full workdays of additional chores each week. Even when the man is unemployed, the woman handles a majority of the domestic workload, and it’s the same story with child care. If both parents are working, women spend 400 percent more time with the kids. Meanwhile, the number of fatherless kids in America has nearly tripled since 1960, and the percentage of men who call themselves stay-at-home dads has stalled below 3 percent.
Regardless, it’s heartening that the conversation about how to involve men in feminist analysis and activism is moving forward. One of the key places to be part of that conversation (away from the dumbing down forces of mainstream media) is at the Paving a Rocky Round Conference this month (Oct. 14-16) at Pacific Lutheran University. The organizers explain:
While men alone are certainly not the solution, this change cannot come without large numbers of men and women working together. We can “pave to the way” to gaining the support of larger numbers by removing barriers that traditionally keep men from engaging in a topic which touches us all.
I went to last year gathering–the first of male-allies and feminist men from all over the country’s college campuses–and found it totally fascinating and inspiring. I can’t go this year because of scheduling conflicts, but encourage anyone and everyone interested in these issues to get to Tacoma, Washington–come hell or high water.