November 13, 2019

Does Parenting Make Us Sexist?

“Men do a lot more than they used to in the home. Their involvement with their children rose as mothers’ labour-force participation increased through the recent decades of the 20th century. But the percentage of child care performed by fathers hit its peak and levelled off around the turn of the millennium without ever reaching parity. Recent time-use studies by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the United States found that employed women shoulder about 65 per cent of child-care responsibilities, and men 35 per cent. Those percentages, all but carbon copies of what family research in other Western democracies turns up, have held steady since 2000. In the past 20 years, that figure has not budged.

I spent a year interviewing women parenting with men, and found many of them remain in what author Jill Filipovic, in her book The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness, referred to as “a strange limbo where men’s actions haven’t totally caught up to women’s expectations.” Or as Berkeley psychologists and pioneering family researchers Carolyn and Phil Cowan put it many years ago, the ideology of the new egalitarian couple is way ahead of its time.

One woman I met, a lawyer in New York who gave birth to her first child two years ago, told me, “I went to a liberal arts school and I took a ton of women’s studies courses. And there was all this conversation about the dynamics of marriage and how things just automatically tended to fall in a certain way and I remember when I was in those classes being like, ‘Well, that’s not going to be me. I don’t know why they do that.’ And then that’s just the way it happened.””

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