Archive for the 'Gender Stereotyping' Category

Noble Husband on fatherhood and work

NS November 5th, 2010

I read this article in the Guardian today about how fathers are supposedly happier if a) they have two children, b) their partners work and c) they share the household chores.

More cynical women than me might think it a load of hogwash, but, personally, I found it heartening and heartfelt. If 82 percent of working fathers would like to spend more time with their families, as this survey found, then that is a fantastic thing.

But.

How much of this professed desire to be more domestically involved is all talk and how willing are men to put some action into making it happen? I really want to know!

So, under strict instructions not to be afraid that I would use his answers against him in a personal capacity, I asked the Noble Husband what his thoughts are on this subject. Here’s the result of our ‘interview’, which took place over email and IM. Note: I tried not to refer to myself in the first person because I wanted him to think objectively, though I slipped up a couple times in the IM conversations.

1) Do you believe that childcare is primarily a mother’s responsibility or are both parents equally responsible?

It isn’t necessarily any one parent’s responsibility, but in a relationship where one partner earns the bulk of the family’s income it is likely that the other partner will predominantly take on this role, certainly during the weekdays. At the weekend, it should be much more of even split, perhaps even swinging more to the breadwinner.

2) If you believe that it is both parents’ responsibility, how is the childcare divided between you and your partner? Are you happy with the current arrangement?

I try to spend time with the children when I get home from work, even if it is just half an hour. They like to play before bed, cook, watch a bit of a movie or read stories with me. At the weekend I try to take the kids out of the house, usually on my own, to give my wife a little time to herself or with friends. Alternatively she may carry out a few tasks that are hard to do when looking after the children during the week.

I wouldn’t say I’m entirely happy with it as I tend to only spend a couple of hours with the children during the week but this is unavoidable when commuting to a job in London. At least I catch up with the kids at the weekend.

3) Current research suggests that men with two children whose partners works full-time and childcare is shared are happiest and least stressed. Why do you think this might be? Are you happier when your partner works?

Spending time with my children is a great way of winding down from a stressful day or week at work. When I’m with them, any thoughts about work instantly evaporate. Thats not to say the thoughts don’t return after they have gone to bed, but children put me in a better mood the moment I walk through door.

[After submitting this answer via email, I asked NH on IM if he could talk about how he feels about my work, which is part-time and done from home]

I’m happy that you make a contribution to the household income and that you’re “using your mind” a little too. I remember how just dealing with kids day in day out almost drove you mad.

Me: So you think I’m happier for working [at a paid job] a bit?

No doubt

4) In an ideal world, and if work/financial constraints were not an issue, how would you balance your professional, personal and family commitments? Would you like to spend more or less time at work and with family?

Ideally, I would work at home 2/3 days a week and be more active in taking/collecting them from school and spending more time with them afterwards e.g. playtime and homework. However, I would still feel part of “the team” at work though, by being there on other days.

5) We all know that women have had (and still have) numerous struggles within the workplace and balancing their careers with their families. Do you see men having the same struggles within the home, trying to spend time with their children and be accepted as adequate parents?

If I did work at home, I too would worry that colleagues without children would be favoured for career opportunities.

6) In your view, are fathers genuinely interested in having greater flexibility between work and home?

I’m not sure. I think most men would like the idea of being more active at home during the week but may shy away from it a little if it actually became a reality. I can imagine how hard it would be to carry out some of my work from home with the distraction of children – its the old joke that men can’t multi-task. Also, detaching oneself from office interaction and culture would be quickly missed by most men as well.

[I asked NH to expound upon this by IM]

Me: Do you think women are less inclined to find working at home difficult and miss office life, or just that they’ve had to get used to it?

They are better at juggling work and kids. A stereotype perhaps..or maybe they do learn to deal with it.

Me: Yes, that’s what I was going to ask, if you think ‘juggling’ work and children is something women do naturally or only do because they have to? Of course, I think it’s the latter but am fine if you disagree. Be honest!

I don’t really know. I suppose it depends on the person rather than the gender but on the whole, I’d imagine that women would be better. I’m certain that you would be better than me. I know I get easily distracted and would really struggle to work on a complex report if I had the “Daddy, Daddy” treatment from the kids.

At this point he had to get back to work, as did I, so our conversation ended. I would have liked to explore a couple points more in-depth, particularly how he imagines I get my work done while looking after the children if he believes it would be a struggle for him. I guess he doesn’t realise a) how much I shout and b) how much the TV is on when I’m working. Hey ho, another day, another interview. Until then…

Your intrepid gender relations investigator,

NS (with special thanks and love to NH)

Hair issues, I’ve got a few

NS August 16th, 2010

I’ve been meaning to do a review of The Idle Parent because I liked it so much.

Alas, as  I was ignoring the children this morning while attempting to finish something I was doing on the computer, Noble Boy scribbled all over its pages with a brown pencil.

If ever there was a good reason not to be able to review a book (at least if it requires re-quoting passages), that one should suffice for this book’s author.

Anyway, that’s not the reason I’m writing. In a subsequent not-really-ignoring-but-not-really-paying-that-much-attention-either episode later in the day, just after lunch, my strongly-held opposition to culturally-ingrained gender stereotypes was tested.

As I worked at the dining room table and the children played outside, drawing (on paper this time) and cutting out pictures from an old magazine, I became absorbed in my news-gathering (part and parcel of the ol’ editing job) and didn’t notice when Noble Girl disappeared from the table and strolled over to the shed, scissors clutched in her hand. It wasn’t until Noble Boy came to me crying, pulling at my hand to get up and see what had happened, that I realised with a growing sense of dread that something was very amiss.

My 4-year-old daughter — the one with long, beautiful, blond hair — stared at me with a mixture of confusion, fear and sadness in her eyes.  My jaw dropped when I saw the choppy mane hanging in ragged layers around her face and the piles of hair around her feet. I looked down at Noble Boy, who was still crying, and saw that she’d worked her scissor magic on his (already sparse) hair too. Where there had previously been fine wisps of white-blond hair, there were buzz-cut patches of intermittent baldness. I looked from daughter to son, son to daughter.

Readers, I am ashamed to say: my first reaction, in my head, was, “She looks like a boy! All that beautiful hair is gone! And my son, he looks like a regular thug. Whatever will we do?!”

I pulled myself together, gave myself a few internal slaps and worked rapidly to calm and reassure both children. A few hours later a pixie haircut at the barber shop and a stop by the drugstore for hair wax to make it stand up a bit and instead of a Poor Little Girl Who Looks Like a Boy With a Bad Haircut, we had a Super-Cool Rock Chick! All is fine, she loves her new do (mostly) and the crisis has been solved. We have to decide whether to leave Noble Boy’s hair alone and hope it grows out somewhat evenly or just complete the buzz cut Noble Girl started.

I’m still struggling with my initial reaction though. Obviously I haven’t managed to completely escape the GIRL = LONG HAIR trope. Oy vey.

Raising children: it’s not rocket science, y’all!

NS July 13th, 2010

After writing about the devaluation of roles traditionally performed by women today over at Fertile Feminism and then reading Potty Mummy’s post about her attitude towards parents before she was one herself, I couldn’t help but smirk when I read this Daily Mail article (I know, I know but @boudledidge linked to it on Twitter) about women choosing housewifery and at-home motherhood over ‘high-flying’ (read: frivolous and/or selfish) careers. Commenter Zoe’s analysis of the differences in difficulty (or lack thereof) of caring for children as compared to office work stunned me with its utter failure to see the numerous similarities between the two. I’m guessing Zoe hasn’t raised any children herself so I’ll break it down for her.

Lets face it looking after a small child isn’t rocket science. It may be trying at times, even a tad monotonous but it’s hardly a stretch for the average graduate [and sitting in a cubicle or office performing monotonous, sometimes-trying tasks IS rocket science?]. Contrast that to the workplace where your performance, commitment and attitude is constantly monitored, measured and managed [you mean the same way that parents, especially mothers, are constantly monitored, criticised and managed by societal expectations, pressures and constraints?]. Tasks and targets are deliberately set to be barely achievable [much like being expected to keep every inch of flesh covered while breastfeeding in public and every toddler tantrum immediately controlled and silenced?], unpaid overtime is expected [both, simultaneously, are a given for at-home parents], salaries are frozen or even cut [divorce and benefits reductions, anyone?] and there is the omnipresent prospect of summary redundancy [30,000 women in the UK lose their jobs every year as a result of their pregnancies; many more lose the potential for pay rises and promotions due to their family commitments, not to mention those who must find a job after the children are in school or have left home]. Not only this but there is the endless efficiency initiatives, budget cuts, head count freezes and vicious office politics [we get parenting advice, studies telling us we're doing x, y and z wrong/not often enough/too much, budget cuts and vicious relationship politics in which we struggle to retain a shred of equality with our partners while performing a traditional role]. Compare this to sitting out the recession looking after little Johnny, who will be at school from the age of four anyway , while somebody else takes the flack and bank-roles your lifestyle [or, you could look at it as the at-home parent bank-rolling her partner by allowing them to avoid paying anyone to care for their children]. Personally I wouldn’t want to be reliant on one person ( call it experience ) so I’ll take my chances in the front line [oh Zoe, Zoe, Zoe; call it experience, but if you think working for The Man night and day puts you on the 'front line' of progressiveness and the cutting edge of modernity, I'm afraid nothing I say will make any difference to you -- you do read and comment on Daily Mail articles, after all].

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some bon bons to eat while I watch daytime television and my children sit silently and obediently at my feet.

Photo credit

Don’t come around here no more

NS March 10th, 2010

Hey, PR people! Yes, you over there, and there; the ones who email me every day, multiple times a day, with varying ‘offers’ or ‘opportunities’ for me to help you peddle your crap, for nothing in return but a warm, fuzzy, virtual hug from you — the middleman, the pusher, as it were — of said crap.

If you cannot be bothered to read through my blog (and by read, I mean past my last two posts) and discover that I, a raging feminist, socialist-verging-on-communist and mother who subscribes to the benign neglect mode of parenting, would probably NOT be interested in helping you sell ‘sexy’ lingerie, or formula made by a notorious WHO code violator, or what I believe to be [added so as to protect myself from libel] a ridiculous, unnecessary, wasteful and overpriced item like this one, aimed at pregnant women and with marketing designed to prey on new parents’ insecurities, I reserve my right to roll my eyes and delete your email, at best. If you catch me on a bad day, you may get a civil but curt reply instead of a deletion.

If you ask me to put a promotional link on my website and I send back my (tongue-in-cheek) fee schedule and an outline of my terms and conditions, I won’t expect to hear from you again, if previous experience is anything to go by. If you then forget you emailed me about it already and re- send the original ask again, with the same form letter, I reserve the right to not only reply a little rudely but also to request that you remove me from your list of potential suckers bloggers who will promote your item or company for little to nothing in return.

And if you send me something which, if you’d actually taken the time to have  a nose through my archives, even just from the past week, you’d know that there’s no way in HELL I would help you promote a blog for a site that has to ‘dumb it down’ for the ladies by making the new blog, like, all fabulous and pink and written only by women in the company (plus one dude, of course, because women can’t operate without at least ONE man in charge somewhere). Here is the press release they thought would win me over (bolding mine):

F-Secure, the leading Internet security company, is launching a new blog geared towards everyday computer users called ‘Safe and Savvy’. This blog is for anyone interested in staying safe online, practicing smarter social networking and protecting irreplaceable content. The bloggers are ladies who play crucial roles throughout the company.

Since its launch in the beginning of 2004, F-Secure’s first blog, ‘News from the Lab’ has garnered a loyal following of information security experts. It is now the go-to source for news and analysis from the world of cyber crime and security.

The new ‘Safe and Savvy’ blog aims to be less technical, more practical and conversational, offering computer users easy-to-digest information on how to stay safe while surfing the web. The posts will include useful tips and advice for social media, shopping or banking online, and protecting valuable content such as digital photos.

Therese Cedercreutz, director of direct business and marketing explains: “Cyber security is often discussed in very technical terms. At F-Secure we have a number of savvy ladies who are well versed in how to keep your content, yourself and your loved ones safe in the online world, and who can talk about it in an easy-to-understand, non-technical way. On Safe and Savvy we hope to give helpful tips and have discussions with our readers so they can steer clear of the pitfalls and enjoy their time on the web.”

The bloggers on Safe and Savvy are F-Secure employees from all parts of the company. Each blogger has a different skill set and expertise, ranging from detailed technical knowledge through to a solid understanding of security issues. However, all are passionate to share their knowledge on online safety, based on both personal and professional experience. And all of the bloggers are women (except for Jason).

K, Imma break it down for you, F-Secure. Let me tell you, since you obviously have no idea (or do you?), of how insultingly this reads, to this woman at least.

If this blog is for ‘anyone’ then why all the constant references to the “ladies?” Can you honestly tell me that with your approach to the mummy blogger market, your pretty pink website and constant references to the all-female staff making everything simpler for us that you were also targeting men (who are presumed to be less likely in need of ‘explaining’ and more able to keep up with the ‘other’ blog which is all techy)? If you can say yes with a straight face then more power to you, ’cause I couldn’t. In fact, I think both my eye and my lip twitched.

I find it incredibly telling that you chose an all-female staff to be responsible for writing this ‘easier to understand, simpler’ blog. If you truly wanted to create a more consumer-friendly site, for all of your users, why go to all the trouble of assembling “the ladies” from your company? If the other, techy blog is (presumably) written by all men, or a mixture of men and women, then why not just have the same people write the simpler blog too? Is it because they are too busy and important to waste time explaining things to the thick-o clients who don’t know all the latest online security lingo and technology? Or is it just that women are better ‘communicators’ and so you thought leaving them to soothe the idiots’ fears would be best? It’s an insult to not only your customers but your employees as well. Cherry-picking a bunch of vaginas (no pun intended — well, maybe a little) from around the office, regardless of their expertise, to run the There Is No Simpler Way To Explain This Shit To You blog is not really making me all warm and fuzzy inside. I don’t inherently trust or understand something more just because it was written by a woman and looks like a flamingo threw up on it.

This disparity was perfectly illustrated when I clicked through to Safe and Savvy (much to my chagrin) and saw this gem:

“Even though we work for some very serious security experts [with a link here to a picture of an office full of what appear to be men at computers], we promise not to get too techy on you.”

Um, excuse me but

Don’t even get me started on the need for ‘Jason’ to be trotted out as the lone male, the one reassurance for those doubtful that a collection of ovaries could talk about technology shit without getting it all wrong. And the thing is, I bet he’s chided and congratulated at the office for being ‘brave’ enough to work with all that oestrogen, oohed and aahed over for his authoritative presence on the boobie blog. Odds are 5-1 that he is a mansplainer of the highest degree, or at least his boss is.

So, PR agency for F-Secure, you wanted to know if I’d mention Safe and Savvy on my blog? I just did.

Photo credit

Wordless Wednesday: Gendered clothing for the toddler set

NS September 16th, 2009

Clothing from Trendy Remedy, Zazzle and Mothercare.