From “Man as Provider” to “Man as Nurturer”
A New Politics of Intimacy
One of the big discussions in the media these days is how to move our society from maternity leave to family leave. The advantages of family leave are numerous, and I won’t describe them here. Suffice it to say, that they’re generally unequivocally good for mothers and children. For fathers, however, family leave is a mixed bag. The upside is that you get to spend time with your kids — watching them grow and develop; the downside is that you may get fired from the very job you need to support your kids in the first place. Even if a father keeps his job, his career may suffer. Yes, women’s jobs suffer too, but society is far more accepting of maternity leave than it is of men taking time off to help raise children.
So how do we get from maternity to family leave? The problem is that North American culture still values women as mothers (the nurturers) and men as providers. To shift this view will require a revolution in our view of masculinity and what it means to be a man. Feminism, with its “I already do enough for men, time to put myself first” is one of the key barriers to achieving family leave policies because it refuses to acknowledge that women’s choices affect how men behave. A genuine feminism would be at the forefront of encouraging women to choose nurturing men instead of men who are primarily providers.
Women: The Men You Choose
It should be fairly obvious that the current ideal model of masculinity is heavily influenced by the man-as-provider model. Most stories, novels, plays and movies present an idealized version of the man as a figure of wealth or power or both. Rarely or never do you see high status women pursuing low status men. While that may be understandable from a strictly emotional point of view, it is neither rational nor morally correct.
Lots of low status men aren’t really low status. Many men who work in caring professions, the retail industry, hospitality, and so on, are just the sort of men likely to be happy spending extra time burping a newborn. The problem is that men in low paid professions are perceived to be low status as well. If you are a woman and you subscribe to this idea, or if you even feel influenced by it, you are your own worst enemy when it comes to family leave. You may want a high-status (e.g. well-paid) man because everything from housing to daycares is so amazingly expensive; I get it. But don’t fool yourself. If you choose the choice of marrying at your status level or above you are at the same time voting for the continuation of maternity over family leave.
While admittedly there may be some men who are both providers and nurturers, these men are rare. Perhaps you have found one. If you have, consider yourself lucky. If you haven’t, well, welcome to reality.
Contemporary feminism has sold women the Jane Austen fantasy: he will be rich, powerful, fiercely loyal to you and nice to everyone else. These men are about as frequent as beautiful busty blonde billionaires, and equally reprehensible to those of us of the same sex.