Rigid gender roles hurt men in the workplace

Surprise surprise.

A report by the Families and Work Institute has clued into the fact that men are still pressured by society’s rigid gender roles to be the primary breadwinner even while being primary caregiver.

Even though many women work and contribute to the family income, the report says that “men have retained the ‘traditional Male Mystique’–the pressure to be the primary financial providers for their families.” At the same time, they don’t want to be the distant dads of the 1950s.

“Men today view the ‘ideal’ man as someone who is not only successful as a financial provider, but is also involved as a father, husband-partner and son. Yet flat earnings, long hours, increasing job demands, blurred boundaries between work and home life and declining job security all contribute to the pressures men face to succeed at work and at home and thus to work-family conflict,” said the report.

You know, all of this is fixable via feminism, wherein feminists attack the rigid gender roles that provide the framework for the many disadvantages of being a man. It seems counterintuitive if you think that gender roles are fine, and somehow it’s just that those damn women aren’t picking up the slack or are intentionally manipulating things so that men do everything and they reap the rewards — e.g., the MRA line of reasoning. Never mind that feminism has been fighting for the ability to do the same jobs and make the same money as men and, despite great strides toward equality, still make far less, are given far fewer raises (despite asking as often), and need more work experience before they’re even hired on to a position than men do, on balance.

That men are making inroads into being considered their children’s caregivers is undoubtedly good, but society as a whole has little actual structure in place to deal with people “dual-classing” with work and child-rearing simultaneously.

Not to mention how work has gotten more and more demanding over time! I can’t remember the last time I actually had significant (e.g. more than 48 hrs) notice before having to do an overnight, or the last time I could simply ignore my work phone when it went off outside of vacation time, or the last week that I only put in 40 hrs without doing *something* extra. Sometimes a lot, in fact. Unpaid of course, because I’m salary.

Work-life balance is eroding, and men often don’t have adequate structures to be able to take over the traditionally-female role of child-rearing. Women likewise have major disincentives against working, with the lack of equal pay. It’s like society’s tilts against women actually also disadvantage men or something! Gee willickers, nobody ever saw that one coming!

Rigid gender roles hurt men in the workplace

16 thoughts on “Rigid gender roles hurt men in the workplace

  1. 1

    // all of this is fixable via feminism // – Yup very true, and I wish “men’s rights” activists would realise that. I think what’s happened is that like most things in our societies, “work” and “career” are themselves male-identified and male-dominated. By “male” here I mean the traditional, limiting “male” gender role. It’s simply assumed that “work” is something you do 40-50 hours a week (if you’re lucky), and that family life and friends is something you just “fit in” somehow, and that there is someone at home (fulfilling the traditional “female” gender role) to take care of all the domestic work and child care. There is nothing sacrosanct about this model – it does not have to be this way. Feminists in literally every country have been arguing for decades that work-life balance is a must for everyone. Yet for some reason men haven’t really come on board. For example, in the IT world in which I work, I have yet to see a senior/powerful man petition his (invariably male) CEO for more parental leave. If I had children, that’s what I would be doing!

  2. 2

    Well, it’s not *all* fixable by feminism. The fact that every penny earned by an increase in productivity gets channeled directly into the pockets of the 1% of 1%, instead of coming back to the more productive workers, isn’t helping.

    But it’s true that the MRAs have let themselves be manipulated– largely by the 1% of 1%– into turning against their natural economic allies, the women who are fighting for better conditions for *all* wage earners.

  3. 3

    In my multiple discussions with feminists, I keep hearing that feminism fights gender roles and therefore benefit men. That gender roles are a problem for both men and women is undoubtable. However…

    Do you not think that it is possible for women to be free from gender roles, while men remain stuck inside of them? (As in, for society to allow women full mobility and deny it to men)

    If so, what benefit would feminism provide? And if not, can you explain how come?

    Furthermore, may I have a look at what work feminists have done in this regard, as in, the ‘male’ side of the spectrum? As in, could I look at some links by feminists on the topic?

    I’m genuinely curious.

  4. Pen

    Do you not think that it is possible for women to be free from gender roles, while men remain stuck inside of them? (As in, for society to allow women full mobility and deny it to men)

    I know my mobility has been heavily restricted by pressures and expectations placed on my kid’s father that discourage him from doing the childcare bit and disrespect or exceptionalise times when he does. Someone’s got to do it and when the whole world acts like the female partner is the default choice it ends up being so all too often.

  5. 6

    @OtherSider: How about parental leave being primarily gender-neutral in its implementation, and even more so, the part of leave designated specifically for fathers/other parents in some jurisdictions, like most of Scandinavia and Quebec? It’s not _only_ feminists who’ve pushed for this,

  6. 7

    Furthermore, may I have a look at what work feminists have done in this regard, as in, the ‘male’ side of the spectrum? As in, could I look at some links by feminists on the topic?

    I don’t know if the issues are archived, but I read a lot of Ms. magazine in the 70s. (Like 100 issues.)

    I can testify that one part of the issue of gender roles that they paid a lot of attention to was raising children with less restrictive gender roles, particulary re: toys. They definitely favored not putting down little boys for playing with dolls or girls for playing with trucks. (The recording Free to be You and Me would have examples of this. I think I remember a song about William’s doll.)

    I also remember an ironic cartoon on the end page of Ms. A little girl in overalls is holding a couple of wrenches in her hand and one wrench is saying to the other “Why, Ken, I would love to go to the prom with you.”

    I have a couple of friends with husbands in tech jobs (even at startups), and I am saddened by the number of hours they are expected to work, even when their kids are young. This is not the utopia I thought we’d be living in in this century. My husband took a few weeks of paternity leave, and cut back overtime to almost nothing when our child was born, but eventually was laid off. Making work/family tradeoffs is often painful.

  7. 8

    In a quick search, I found this from Ms. in September 2011. This is the first (and only article) that I looked at in the Ms. archives. It is not necessarily the best article. It specifies their commitment to having less rigid gender roles for everyone. In terms of workplace improvements, it is pitching to its readers what the benefits for women will be.

    Individuals: Encourage people, including yourself, to be well-rounded, whole individuals, with competencies that exceed masculine and feminine limits. Let go of homophobia and don’t tolerate it in others. Homophobia is the punk little brother of misogyny: they are a team, so confront them both.
    Interactions: Stop policing gender norms. As much as you possibly can, accept gender rule-breaking appearances, action, and identities. In fact, encourage them! Try them yourself! Encourage especially younger people to be gender explorers rather than gender police. Also be on the lookout for unconscious bias, and confront it with counter-measures.
    Institutions: In addition to holding onto the legal gains we’ve made, we must seek new ones. Here are four to start:
    Legalize same-sex marriage. Family duties and roles should not be assigned based on gender. Therefore any pair of people that wants to could make a good family.
    Fight “family responsibilities discrimination.” An offshoot of workplace discrimination against women is discrimination against employees with family responsibilities. Legal victories are accumulating here and helping to redefine employers’ expectations of employees. Instead of the abstract “ideal worker” (read: man with a wife at home to take care of domestic duties), our culture must embrace the notion that every worker also has a life.
    Improve reproductive rights. Gender inequalities will persist as long as restrictions on contraception and abortion hinder women from controlling their childbearing. U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore made a powerful speech portraying how “unplanned parenthood” can affect women and children.
    Implement bias-busting workplace practices. Although the specifics vary, we are all the products of a sexist society to some extent. Research shows the ways in which unconscious bias works in favor of men in the workplace (as well as, of course, white people). Fortunately, research also shows how to cancel out those forces, and those countermeasures should be implemented for the sake of fairness.

    (I appreciate that you asked for info. I’ve heard some “feminists want all women to be queens sitting on pillows while men are chained up in coal mines” (I exaggerate) from people who aren’t reading feminist writing, being passed off to others (on Reddit) who aren’t reading feminist writing. That tactic of describing feminist booeymen without sourcing it, drives me up a tree.)

  8. 9

    A practical example is during union negotiations – the women (most old-school older feminists and me – the young one in the group, who happened to be incredibly pregnant both of the times when I was involved in negotiations) all supported parental leave for men that was just as long as for women and was granted not just with child-birth but with adoption.

    Women could also use their medical leave if they had just given birth (6 weeks).

    That was put in place in our contract and benefited hundreds of families.

  9. 10

    hoary puccoon @ #2: It’s very similar to how neo-Nazi and similar groups sprout up in the wake of economic downturn. The uber-rich can easily convince the unhappily poor that their problems are the fault of those damn immigrants taking their American jobs, etc.

  10. 11

    That tactic of describing feminist boogeymen without sourcing it, drives me up a tree.

    My recollection is that they’ve been doing it since the days of Friedan, Greer and de Beauvoir. I have no expectation that it’ll stop any time soon. Cynical, that’s me.

    Found a reference to this men’s work-life balancing act book from Ms of April 2000 – but the links to the magazine article on Faludi’s and Levine’s books goes nowhere. http://www.amazon.com/Father-Courage-Happens-Family-First/dp/0151003823

    I’m afraid my personal Ms archive went to recycling heaven a long time ago – but I’m pretty sure there were some men-will-benefit type articles back in the 70s.

  11. 13

    In my country, military service is basically mandatory for men. Objectors have to go through alternative service to the government, which begins with a “training-period” before finding the actual place of service.

    This training was at the time quite interesting (not sure what it is these days, this was over 15 years ago). It consists of basically volunteer lectures by all sorts of people, mostly from progressive groups; lawyers, activists etc. I found it very interesting. One of the lectures was sort-of a “men’s rights” lecture. But it was by no means an MRA excuse…it was a criticism of gender roles per se, and how men who didn’t conform to those roles were ostracized; whether by sexual preference, refusal of military service or single male parenthood.

    Gender roles hurt everyone.

    As a random curiosity, since I just watched a youtube video relevant to the subject (it was published just 20 minutes ago), how far do you think we need to come before it’s equally acceptable to ask a woman her age as it is to ask a man? Or should it be taboo in both cases?

  12. 14

    Oh and I didn’t mention the inequality between men and women in requirement for military service in the first place…which has been cited as the reason for refusal by a couple of people I know (including one who went to jail rather than do the alternative).

    Personally, on this issue, I don’t care about the gender issue much, I care about the basic principle.

    I would fight for my country if it were genuinely threatened. I will not make a lifelong agreement to fight for an organization whose future I cannot predict.

  13. 15

    As a random curiosity, since I just watched a youtube video relevant to the subject (it was published just 20 minutes ago), how far do you think we need to come before it’s equally acceptable to ask a woman her age as it is to ask a man? Or should it be taboo in both cases?

    As my socialization failed to inculcate this taboo, we might already be there. Drive change from the bottom up: if someone criticizes you for asking a woman her age, point out that the basis for the customary prohibition is a sexist norm that dehumanizes women by positioning their categorical delineations as more important than their personalities, skills, ideas, accomplishments, etc.

    Maybe we can eventually view age as an interesting but largely unimportant bit of trivia (though potentially one with an impact on lived experience, which is usually the actual relevant factor) about someone instead of a defining characteristic with relevance to a wide range of interactions.

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