Friday, 18 September 2009

Dog eat dog and can men really look after children?

One of the pleasures of being on holiday is listening to the radio, however there were bits of this morning's woman's hour that rather made my hackles rise. One of the men interviewed said that men were much better suited to "bringing home the bacon and dealing with the dog eat dog workplace environment" than to looking after children. So we heard that men were good at playing with children and introducing them to risks while women we better at worrying about them. Total tosh, based on phoney, spurious research and bare-faced prejudice. Meanwhile of course there are many ordinary men who spend alot of time caring for their children - and far more women doing the same of course. Relegating women to the "drudgery" aspects of childcare, nappies, laundry, broken nights actually doesn't speak to most modern parents' experience of bringing up children. It also deems "caring" work to be lesser work - according to the speaker men get "bored" by it - the idea being of course that women can cope better with such boredom because of our "hard-wiring". The work of caring is highly skilled, complex and often lonely. Perhaps the dog eat dog men who can't cope with those sorts of demands prefer to escape to the adrenaline of the workplace.
More seriously though the workplace itself is these days often much more about developing cooperation skills and team work than about dog eat dog. Women and men need liberation from the dictatorship of set gender roles in the workplace and in the home. Hard wiring for caring, for thinking, for ambition, or other qualities and vitues, is not dependent on gender.


callie said...

We watched a fascinating debate on our local public broadcaster last night on "the death of macho", based on an article by the same name by Reihan Salam in Foreign Policy. Interesting, because the author was very taken aback at the fact that the two women on the panel thought that his article in a way said exactly what you write about (the implied 'soft' vs 'hard' aspects of gender.) He said that he had not intended to imply judgement. Here's the link to Salam's article:

Jane said...

Thanks Callie I'll have a look at it. Karin Achtelstetter has been doing some interesting work on how women's issues no longer being on the agenda of churches and church organisations has a real impact in the number of women employed and the positions they occupy.