Friday, September 02, 2005

Setting the Example

Here is some hope, delivered courtesy of MSN.

I have taken the liberty of pasting some sections. Later, I provide some personal commentary.

Question #1: Is a man at home a miserable man?

Some people ask whether or not men are cut-out for the job of parenting. Some say they are unable. Some say they will be depressed if they eschew the role of breadwinner for the role of bread-baker. According to the MSN article:

"Nowadays, as gender-based preconceptions about male and female roles fade, many so-called trailing husbands are far from depressed; in fact, they're having a great time, enjoying their wives' triumphs and the adventure of their transfers or promotions. The happiest men in this situation, found, had made a conscious decision to scale back or leave a career, were comfortable with what they had already achieved, and were in a relationship they considered a true partnership. When these factors were in place, they and their wives could redesign their relationships to suit themselves."

Question #2: Do housedads help advance their wives careers?

According to the article:

"Carly Fiorina, 49, chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, calls her husband her "rock." At about the time she took the helm at the technology giant, he retired from AT&T to support her efforts. She's not alone; at Fortune's Most Powerful Women in Business Summit of 2001, 30 percent of the 187 participants had househusbands."

Question #3: Just how many Dads are passing the buck in favor of taking the kids?

"According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 31 percent of women now boast plumper paychecks than their husbands. Some of the women have spouses who gave up earnings to care for the couple's kids, and a recent U.S. Census analysis found that 105,000 full-time stay-at-home dads watched over 189,000 children last year. That number may be under-reported, because some men don't want to admit to bucking social expectations, says psychology professor Robert Frank, an authority on parenting trends and coauthor of Parenting Partners: How to Encourage Dads to Participate in the Daily Lives of Their Children (Golden Books Adult Publishing, 2000). And let's not disregard the transformation of men's restrooms, where diaper-changing stations are becoming common."

"Couples who challenge expectations may have courage and resources that others don't. However, their examples suggest that conventional gender roles -- and men themselves -- are becoming increasingly pliable. True, there is still a consensus that most households can accommodate only one alpha earner. But if the wife and husband find the formula that works for them, it doesn't seem to matter who earns the dough in the workplace and who kneads the dough in the kitchen.

I think the results displayed in the article are fairly encouraging. In many ways, I see the feminist movement as a part of a larger human rights movement. Like any human rights movement, arbitrary barriers to the advancement of groups or individuals is the culprit of such injustice.

Consciousness-raising was so integral a part of the feminist movement because it enabled women to bond together and share their stories, to empower one another. The results of the article I cite are really about stories: families making compromises and supporting one another. These stories are a part of the tidal wave of this movement; they are a part of the force that crushes the gender roles that teach women their contribution to society is limited only to the home.

The beauty of this movement, like those that came before it and those that will proceed it, is the power of human story in affecting change. Those opposed to the goals of feminism try to depict it as on the fringe: anti-family, anti-man, anti-values. These people are not dealing with reality; they are trying to use smoke and mirrors to divert attention from the movement. When they paint such pictures, they are attempting to capture the status quo in a snapshot. They hope that the injustices of the past will pervade into the future.

But their picture is fake. Unreal.

Feminism is alive. It cannot be captured in the disdainful pictures taken by Phyllis Schlafly or Rick Santorum. They are the pictures of the past: women confined to the home, women without power, women without choices.

The pictures of the present include women in Congress working for change; men learning, too, that devoting their lives to their children is an incredibly worthy pursuit; and women making active choices about the direction of their lives and this world. After all, it is a woman's world just as much as it is a man's. And this is coming from a man.

In the end, the pictures only capture fragments of the story of the battle for gender equality. It is a story which is built with every egalitarian relationship, every woman who uses her talents to better society, and every man who knows when it is time to lead and time to follow. The story can never be re-written. But it is continued every day. Let's just hope that someday we can regard it as we regard all good stories: a rocky beginning, a conflict-laden struggle, and a powerful resolution that reminds us of the strength of the human spirit and the beauty of human growth.