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August 3, 2014 | by  | in Features Homepage | [ssba]

Men’s Debt

Hi! In this, our really modern age, it is very easy for people who want to have a baby to have a baby and keep their job and be successful and be flirty and fun and also very serious during meetings. All you have to do is have your baby in between the hours of 6 pm and 8 am and remember to Lean In at the water cooler the day after your child’s birthing and ask all of the men about the notes you missed. The men are very happy to help you with all of the notes you would have missed. The Government and also the society have actually personally told me that they are both very supportive of the family*, in fact! So if it gets a little hard then maybe you could just try a little harder to make it all work.
*certain, Nice, normal kinds only, please.

Women do the majority of the world’s work. If you’re a cis man who would like to have children one day and you’ve never considered how this is going to fit into your ‘career path’, you should probably eat dirt. If you’ve never considered the role you play in your mixed-gender flat, or the position you hold during a Serious Discussion On The Internet with women and other more marginalised genders, you’ve got a long way to go, baby boy. You are presumably a grown-ish man who has engaged somewhat with a course at this university, and from this we can deduce that you (a) enjoy the capacity to read, and (b) have access to an internet connection. We can also assume that you (c) have some form of acquaintance, family member, or long-suffering classmate who is a woman. The fact that you have arrived this far, to The Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Four-teen, without reflecting upon the necessary sacrifice of labour and time required to create your brightly hued future of domestic bliss is something upon which you should chew. When you’re chewing it should taste a little like gristle and overdue epiphany. Oh baby.

One thing you could do is to stop reading this half-baked piece in a student-run rag, and listen to someone else who isn’t you. The women in your life could tell you far more than I can, but don’t expect them to be bothered. You could ask your grandmother about the joints in her fingers and the meals she has made and the little tiny people she literally prevented from dying for years on end, all by herself. You could also use those comprehension skills and that internet connection of yours to research gender pay inequity or the feminisation of poverty or the totally complex reasons why my friend’s law boss criticised her for being ‘over-confident’. You could then let the male feminist population of Twitter know that Google and JSTOR exist and that they are much more willing to educate you on Women’s Issues than the extremely perfect and otherwise occupied girls of Twitter. Tangentially: I don’t know if you’ve ever met a man who ‘does law’ and wants to one day be a man who reallllly does law, i.e. a wannabe judge, but I feel like ‘overconfidence’ is effectively the currency in that world, you know???

For many people who can and want to have babies, the expectation that they both birth and care for the child, while maintaining the house in which the child lives, is unquestioned. Gender is made in the household. Heteronormative gender roles are strengthened as reproductive bodies are designated to the ‘domestic realm’. and bodies that do not reproduce are sent out to win the bread. Or, the bacon. Much like a game of Sims, there is a lot to do to keep humans alive, and traditionally this work has been divided on the basis of gender, thus further entrenching gendered norms. Some feminist economists, who unlike most economists have dealt with baby vomit at four in the morning, point to asymmetric property rights, social norms, institutional rules, and differences in bargaining power, as barriers to true negotiation between men and women when they’re deciding who is the chief child-raiser. We celebrate mothers for being heroes (they are), but after Mother’s Day is spent, we do not stop to question the immense emotional, physical, and ultimately, political, demands we ask of them. Mothers miss out on career opportunities and swathes of cash due to their caring responsibilities. Further, the rise of the Daddy Daycare is a myth, unsupported by statistics.

The Modern Career, a notably separate category from the Woman’s Job, is based on men’s patterns of work. These patterns are ones of men unencumbered by caring responsibilities, and other Just Girly Things. Women should not need to contort themselves trying to fit into the patriarchal ideal of an always-available worker, a mother, and an intimate partner. Modern Careers must be careers that recognise and accommodate everyone’s private lives. This requires men to budge. Men should not tolerate careers that demand extensive ‘overtime’ and exclusive networking. Free, flexible childcare and long-term paid parental leave is necessary policy for any party concerned with the current state of women in New Zealand.

The pay gap is undeniable; however, for Māori and Pasifika women, it is felt even more severely. In the average week, a Pākehā woman will earn $710, a Māori woman $665 and a Pasifika woman $638. The dollar gap is not the worst, though. Beautifully written books describing the glint of the glass ceiling are useless to women miles beneath it, whose labour is underpaid, insecure and undervalued. The recent Equal Pay Act case brought by caregivers, of the Service and Food Workers Union and the Council of Trade Unions, illustrates that the feminisation of tranches of the labour market harms working women. Respect for feminine forms of labour and capital is wanting.

The foundation of the family is a woman’s invisible management of the home, without pay, which supports the labour of the husband. Marriage is so romantic. Despite the fact that we are all now really modern and have smart phones which we use to communicate with each other using deified pictograms, women are still cleaning up everyone else’s shit. According to Statistics NZ, men spend an average of two hours and 32 minutes each day on unpaid work like childcare, cooking and cleaning. Women spend four hours and 20 minutes on it. Among single people who don’t live with their families, men spend an hour and 26 minutes, women two hours 38. Over the last ten years, that gap has worsened. Some brilliant, now-greying feminists advocated for women to be paid wages for housework in order to demonstrate the invisibility of this work. Yass. Consider that women are not ‘naturally’ more fastidious and simply ‘better’ at cleaning due to the potions streaming through our ‘Womanly Bodies’, but rather, we are socialised this way from birth. I have been at multiple ‘conferences’ (yes, I know) hosting multiple ‘progressive groups’ (yes, I know) where women are the sole food-makers and cleaners. Women dominate the kitchen while the men are sitting on the grass, probably making some edgy, yet totally aware-of-itself joke. A telling indicator of a male feminist ally’s commitment is his relationship with Pine O Cleen.

Recently, the internet has been very excited about Cats Against Feminism, misogynistic motives for mass murder, Marvel comics, and our nation’s embarrassing man opinions. If women are making space for themselves on Twitter and similar platforms then we are all the better for it. However, the intellectual labour demanded of some women, by men, in these spaces is disgusting. For many women, articulating an exact reason as to why what-you-said-was-slightly-offensive-and-not-exactly-okay is exhausting, emotionally draining, and distracting from their REAL LIVES. Which, by the way they have. Independently of you. This work is work, and must not be discounted. It is a gross engagement with like patriarchal notions of ‘the one tru reality’ to expect women to explain their freaky feminist perspective to you in a public forum, simply because you fancy being Devil’s Advocate or can’t be bothered opening a book. For many women and marginalised people, the act of going through their day that day is ‘activism’ enough. Asking for articulation is asking for work. Those who sigh loudly in the form of a think-piece to indicate that sometimes it is up to the women to educate the men, and bemoan that sometimes it is just *too hard* to avoid offending anybody, are missing the point. Your personal brand might take a hit because you said the wrong thing, bub, but you should be grateful that someone expended their energy enough to let you know that your words were damaging to their reality.

Men’s economic power reinforces women’s subordination within the family and the economy. While hours of extra housework and a larger load of emotional labour are not the greatest ills to be met by women, the undervaluing of women’s work is redolent of a culture defined by the desires and perceptions of men’s lives. This kind of myopia feeds a noxious entitlement, which in turn supports and produces abusers and rapists. Efforts to change gendered roles within society should be married with efforts to change all gendered economic positions. Men owe us a lot of debt. While they smile politely, waiting alone on the shore for us to ‘catch ‘em up’ at the fabled Land of Equality, I hope they realise that the only way they can pay us back is by ending the passivity of their wait.


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Comments (3)

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  1. Unimpressed says:

    On the whole, a few serious (though often) made points about divisions of labour and reorganisation of family structures, but unfortunately drowned in generous helpings of ideological babble and self-serving logical fallacies.

    If you want to convince reasonable intelligent people, who are open to having their minds changed and are willing to listen of the merits of your cause, but might be unfamiliar with the discourse underway in the apparent intellectual echo-chamber you inhabit, you would be better served by changing your entitled tone and having empathy with your target audience – not the open hostility on show here. There are important points in this article that ought to be made, but in a free and democratic country such as New Zealand, a higher quality of debate must be produced if we are to undertake some of the major departures in social practice you advocate.

    • Confused says:

      Hi Unimpressed,
      You used a lot of cool words in your reply. But I don’t really know what you are saying. What’s the ‘ideological babble’? What are the ‘self-serving logical fallacies’? What are the ‘important points in this article that need to be made’? You think the author sounds ‘entitled’ – how? Entitled to what? Would be nice to have some examples to back up your statements, so we can understand the points you’re trying to make.
      All For A High Quality Debate

  2. Elle says:

    Hi – 32 yr old cis female, became a mother this year, am married. I do not recognise the stereotype of family and work you have described. “Mothers miss out on career opportunities and swathes of cash due to their caring responsibilities. Further, the rise of the Daddy Daycare is a myth, unsupported by statistics.” Sorry, maybe I’m the minority? I guess the statistics do give that impression. I am married. I work fulltime, husband works part time and looks after baby. I earn more than my husband. We share all domestic duties, while also recognising our strengths (i.e. he’s better at throwing a meal together, I get a psychological boost from making the bathroom taps shine). Most of the people I work with and socialise with who have children run similar operations. It would be nice if your article actually spoke to some of us, we’re actually not that rare (although I agree, the statistics would suggest otherwise), to show that it can be done to further demonstrate that there is no excuse for the stats to be as they are.
    However It is sad that the system (agree, male hegemony) has taken advantage of the additional supply of labour provided since women increased participation in the workforce and now it is nearly impossible for a family to really get by on a single income. This is the crux for me. I don’t mind if it’s me at work or my husband – we agreed that it would be whoever earns more – I would prefer that one of us is at home with the baby. As it is, he is in daycare part time.
    Also, the website “Cats Against Feminism” is a satirical website. The owner runs the website “We Hunted the Mamoth”, which tears apart the false logic the low life mysoginistic scum that does frequent the underbelly of the internet in pick up artist forums and men’s rights groups.

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