Men’s Lib

description hereThere 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.

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8 Comments

  1. Posted October 5, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    As a childfree feminist man, I am opposed to paid paternity leave. If a person wants to indulge his most selfish urges and have a child, please don’t make me pay for it.

    • Posted October 5, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

      Is that some kind of joke? Feminism is about the freedom of choice. Those who want to ‘indulge’ in being a part of their newborn baby’s life deserve the realistic choice in being able to. I’m never going to have a child either, but I acknowledge the fact that I’m a minority, most organisms on this earth exist to reproduce and pass on their genes, I don’t see how we’re an exception. I will gladly ‘pay’ for someone else to enjoy and cherish the baby they did choose to bring into the world, since it seems much more productive than punishing someone for ‘polluting our planet’ with humans. If we could make this world a place where every baby comes into this world feeling loved and wanted by both of its parents from the beginning, wouldn’t it be a better place already?

      • Posted October 6, 2010 at 9:17 am | Permalink

        I’m serious as a heart attack. Reproducing is not an imperative nor is it excusable just because everyone’s doing it. In fact, I want a tax credit for not spawning.

    • Posted October 6, 2010 at 12:59 am | Permalink

      indeed antechamber.

      @Ian- I assume you are against most forms of social welfare programs then? Because paternity/maternity leave is not just for the parents…. in their “selfish” desire to take care of their children… the paid leave is *really* for the children.
      Where’s the compassion? If there is anywhere we are putting our money as a society, why shouldn’t it be our children? They are truly the ones who suffer the most already and they are the ones who are taking this country where it will be in the future. They certainly don’t all have the opportunity to go to good schools or have decent healthcare, more of them are impoverished than any other age group in America, can we at least offer them a *little* help, as a society, when they’re freshly born?? Haven’t we let them down enough?

    • Posted October 6, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      Denying parental leave doesn’t discourage people from having kids, it discourages poor people from having kids. Whether or not you think people should have kids, they will, and the practical effects of this policy are unfair.

  2. Posted October 5, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Wow, nice to see that things are changing…slowly. Hopefully someday Mothers and Fathers are seen as responsible for a child’s well-being, equally. Probably we are seeing more of this in our own generation, rather than older ones.

  3. Posted October 5, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    As a childfree not-feminist man, I support paid paternity and maternity leave and will happily pay more taxes for them. Children deserve a shot at a great life, and parents’ time off will help them get that. Paid time off gives the opportunity for better parenting, giving us more well-adjusted children and ultimately a better society.

  4. Posted October 5, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    Courtney, thanks for being so genuinely concerned about the state of male identity. Your posts on this topic are always a breath of fresh air. :-)

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