Intro to Women's Studies 2010

etsu: 2011-2014

Women’s Work

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In class the other day, while discussing the topic of women’s work in and out of the domestic sphere, the idea of role reversal of a “traditional” household came up – that is, a heterosexual, two-parent household in which the mother provides financial stability for the family and the father is the primary care-giver or “stay-at-home dad.” This type of family is still quite rare, but is becoming slightly more common in our society today. Yet, the topic still came up that when these fathers reach out to groups and activities for stay-at-home parents, such as “Mommy and Me” events, they are very often excluded. Obviously this must be partially related to the fact that these events are dominated mostly by women (who are more frequently the primary caregivers in a nuclear family) and being the minority in a social situation can make interaction difficult, especially if one is shy. However, it may also be related to the idea that the women are specifically excluding stay-at-home fathers because they do not see them as equals. In our society today, even women are trained from a young age to look down upon men who are doing “women’s work.” A mother can very well know that mothering is possibly the most difficult job out there, but still be taken aback upon seeing a father as the primary caregiver, and might make the snap judgement that there “must be something wrong with him” or that he “can’t find a real job.” It is the constant devaluing of women and what is perceived to be “women’s work” that accounts for the difficulty women face in the workforce, as well as the difficulty of men trying to succeed in a woman-dominated field. The same can even be said of nursing. While we might see a woman nurse and not bat an eye, the idea of a nurse who is a man seems strange, indeed, is even laughable as one can see in popular films such as “Meet the Parents.” If a man is seen as feminine or working in a feminine field, he is devalued and mocked by both men and women. Despite many other men’s outraged cries of “misandry!” at such interactions, it is truly not the case. Indeed, it is the opposite, as it is the feminine or womanly aspect of these men that is being mocked, simply because we value feminine traits and work much less. This is, at its heart, a feminist issue, and once we can recognize that the work of men and women is of equal merit, I believe such devaluing and exclusion of stay-at-home fathers can be resolved.

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