Dear feminists of Jezebel and Daily Life etc. – Let’s straighten a few things out. Beyonce’s tight bodysuits are not responsible for sex trafficking– (‘An Open letter to Michelle Obama: Beyonce is Not a Role Model,’ Rakhi Kumar, HuffingtonPost). Colin ‘God of Sex’ Thistle from Love Actually is not, actually the harbinger of the patriarchal apocalypse– (‘I Rewatched Love Actually and Am Here to Ruin It for All of You,’ Lindy West, Jezebel). That guy at the party who isn’t into you because of your enlightened career in politics is not a spokesperson for all of mankind; he’s probably just not that into politics. It is not any more shallow or sexist to watch porn than it is to read 50 Shades of Grey. Ironic sexism is by definition the opposite of sexism. (‘The Age of Hipster Sexism,’ Alissa Quart, NYMag). And finally, no, sadly for all of us, there are no conspiratorial phalluses drawn into your almond milk latte froth.
Despite the way mainstream feminist journalism glorifies these irrational but impassioned polemics against pop divas, Christmas chick flicks, irony and sexuality, it is pretty evident to me that these things do not explain why women are still not enjoying perfect equality with men.
Furthermore, and despite the same fixation on these (admittedly much less trivial) things, it’s not quotas, it’s not Tony Abbott, its not unpaid maternity leave, and it’s not abortion. All of these are distracting from the real issue.
As far as I’m concerned, almost the only feminist issue really worth taking seriously is shared parenting. There cannot be equality for women in the workplace until men have equality in the home. If men are just as likely to go home early to pick up the kids as their female colleagues, sexism will have nothing left to hide behind and will die a natural death in most other areas of life. More men at home means more women who are both freer and more inclined to pursue the promotions we keep getting told they don’t go for. More women in positions of power makes sexist behaviour even less acceptable.
There are two basic reasons why I think shared parenting is such an important issue:
1. You cannot ‘have it all’
2. It’s emasculating to take paternity leave
We continue to pretend that it’s possible, healthy and admirable for women to ‘have it all’ and persistently encourage industrial reform to reflect this belief. Whoever came up with this clearly didn’t sleep or socialise and probably had a cocaine habit. This notion devalues parenting and, in a deeply ironic twist, creates a massive double standard where women have to do significantly more than men to achieve professional and personal success. In practical terms, under the status quo, encouraging women to have it all will mean woman continue to spend their precious moments not in the office looking after the home, and fatherhood will continue to be treated like a hobby.
Good parenting probably comes somewhere between the unrealistically high standard for good mothering and the pathetically low standard for good fathering. Either way, you cannot effectively parent between the hours of 7pm and 7am. You have to choose between letting you career take a hit but being there in the car on the way home from school to hear your children talking about their day, or staying on the corporate ladder but missing out on a number of wonderful parenting experiences that take place during work hours.
If you and your partner want children, be real about what the costs to both of you. Neither of you can ‘have it all.’
This brings me to my second point. Feminism has not yet satisfactorily addressed the pressures on men to choose work over parenting. Full-time fatherhood and earning less than your wife are seen as emasculating by both genders. Sadly, addressing the social pressures that oppress and shape men’s choices is not a favourite topic of Daily Life. But it’s totally stupid to ignore this pressure. Without addressing it, neither gender is encouraged to invest in the family home. Staying home with the kids will be an invalid choice for everyone and women will simply have to add ‘career’ to the list of things on their list of house chores.
In the same way that women haven’t historically been given the choice to work, men haven’t historically been given the choice to parent. Just as up until recently it was unfeminine to choose work over parenting, the reverse is true for men. Liberate men to choose parenting and you liberate women to choose work.
Much like a rewarding career, parenting is an important and enriching life choice. By judging women for choosing it, we make it even harder for men to.
Daily Life recently panned Susan Sarandon for saying she had decided to ditch the label ‘feminist’ in favour of ‘humanist.’ After years of campaigning for women’s rights, Sarandon claimed that feminism had become ‘a bit of an old-fashioned word’ that can be ‘used more in a way to minimise you.’
Daily Life accused Sarandon of being ‘unenlightened.’ Daily Life should stop calling life-long feminists who have been alienated from their brand of ‘pop’ feminism ‘unenlightened’ and start reflecting on why it is they have lost their appeal to so many intelligent and thoughtful men and women.
We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and emerging. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.