Sunday, October 18, 2015

Role of fathers in transforming families

Let me return to my blogs one more academic year with a topic that is far from my research on Latin America. In recent feminist discussions on how to transform society in a women-friendly way, men are mentioned but occupy a background role. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg , highlights the need to have supporting partners... but nothing else. This is rather disappointing because without more men actively demanding change, things are going to move slower than many of us would love. Now we have an interesting contribution from Andrew Moravcsik, Anne-Marie Slaughter's husband, in the Atlantic. He rightly highlights the need to have committed fathers if women are going to be successful in the labor force. Implicitly, he also shows the need to recognise the value of fatherhood and praise it. Many of the problems he discusses and the need to have a "lead parent" can resonate with many others in different circumstances. Nevertheless, like Sandberg and like Slaughter, his class-bias is obvious and limits the usefulness of the analysis. How many husbands have a wife who is Dean or NGO president? How many are full professors but still playing the role of lead father? Of course, having really successful women of the type Moravcsik is discussing is important. Yet most other families are in a different situation: some will have parents struggling to make ends meet. Others will be made of professionals with busy but workable lives. Do we need a lead parent in all those cases? Or is the big question there how do you negotiate so that both parents can lead? And is the real challenge to increase the number of Deans or to simply shift the distribution of effort in the household in all cases?

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