Posts Tagged ‘family’

My Vision for the Future

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

It’s easy to point out what is wrong with the current gender roles, or to point out how feminism is incomplete and sometimes plain wrong. What’s harder though, is to be able to state a positive vision for the future, without pointing out all the negatives that can be identified in the gender debate.

So what I would like to do in this post is to simply list my vision for the future, i.e. how I would like men, women and gender roles to evolve. In the not too distant future, I would like the following bullet points to become a lived reality around the world:

  • Gender stereotypes have been completely transcended, and each individual is free to pursue the life path that he or she wants. No boy, girl, woman or man is shamed for having a certain interest, or for wanting to pursue a certain career or be a homemaker. Transcending stereotypes does not necessarily mean that men and women will make the same choices on a group level, since biological differences will still remain in the brain and in bodily makeup.
  • Biological differences between the brains of men and women will no longer be ignored, since scientific research clearly shows that such differences exist. However, biological differences aren’t overemphasized either, since everyone recognizes that each individual is biologically unique, and may not have a brain that corresponds to biological sex.
  • Feminism has been replaced by a gender liberation movement that cares equally about the well-being of both sexes.
  • It has become common knowledge that traditional gender roles arose as a reaction to historical circumstances, and that it made perfect sense at one point to have those gender roles, since they were a functional fit to the current conditions. This understanding enables women and men alike to relax, and to refrain from blaming the other sex for the negative baggage that each gender role has.
  • All legislation is gender neutral, including laws concerning military service and the draft. Gays and lesbians are allowed to get married and adopt children, just like anyone else, since there is no logical reason to uphold such discrimination.
  • Men and women recognize that a marriage is not only about love, it is also something that has a huge impact on your life as a whole. Because of this, men and women form agreements when getting married about what will happen to any children if they are divorced, and how each person will survive financially in case of divorce. Financial and social capital are both valued highly when forming such agreements.
  • Biological paternity and maternity are established on all newborns using DNA testing, and legal paternity and maternity correspond to the results of such testing, unless the child is put up for adoption.
  • Discrimination is frowned upon, as are people who try to blame their own shortcomings on discrimination.
  • Schools teach children relationship skills and emotional awareness, so that the children can grow up to use these skills in the workplace and in personal relationships. This decreases the violence that both sexes instigate in the home, and the violence that men perpetrate outside the home. It also lessens the emotional manipulation of girls and women.

What is your vision for the future?

Abortion Contradictions

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Abortion is a procedure with a dark past. For a very long time, secret abortions performed without the necessary medical competence was the norm, and as a consequence women died or were maimed for life. An absence of safe, legal abortions is still the case in many countries around the world, which is something I vehemently oppose.

I believe that every country that hasn’t already done so should have their abortion laws reformed, so that abortions can be done legally and with complete medical support. I fully support legislation that allows for free abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, with a possibility of granting an extension as long as the fetus isn’t old enough to be able to survive outside the womb.

However, I do not support the view that once free and legal abortion is in place we have reached the goal of reproductive freedom. It’s true that free and legal abortion bestows reproductive freedom, but only upon half the population. We’ve liberated women by making available abortions that are safe, legal and in many cases included in medical insurances or government funded health care. Men however, have no rights and no freedoms  whatsoever vis-à-vis abortions.

Men and Abortions

If a woman becomes pregnant, then the woman can choose to have an abortion, even if she and her partner had agreed beforehand to have the baby. Similarly, if a couple has agreed to get an abortion in case of an accidental pregnancy, the woman can decide to keep the child and make the man pay child support for the next 18 years! No method of contraception is 100 percent safe, so accidental pregnancies do happen regularly.

These facts lead to a scenario where the woman has all the power, all the rights and all of the freedom. The woman’s decisions are the reproductive destiny of the man, in a very real sense. Every man is expected to trust a woman 100 percent, whether they are carefully planning to have a child, or if the couple is instead trying to avoid a pregnancy. 

How can we motivate men to be responsible fathers under these circumstances?

Here’s a breakdown of what pregnancy means for a man nowadays:

  1. Prenatally, the mother has all the rights. She can keep the child or have an abortion, even if that goes against what the couple had decided beforehand.
  2. Once the child is born, fathers are expected to take on 50% of the responsibility, and even if the man never wanted the child he will be forced to pay child support.
  3. In case of divorce, the woman is usually favored by the courts and women win the majority of custody battles.

This is a very confusing situation for men, to say the least. Rights and responsibilities go hand in hand; you cannot expect men to be responsible if men are not awarded any rights, yet this is exactly what we expect of men in relation to pregnancy.

What’s the Solution?

In my mind abortion is actually one of the “hard” problems of the gender field, i.e. a problem where there is no obvious solution and no obvious way to improve the current situation. I don’t believe in removing the woman’s legal right to decide when and if to get an abortion, since I cannot conceive of how that could be done in a satisfactory way.

Instead, I think we need to focus on cultural values, and how we discuss abortion in society. Instead of saying things like “my body, my choice”, I think we need to propagate the idea that men and women should make conscious agreements on how to handle accidental pregnancies, and then respect those agreements. If no agreement has been made, the potential mother and the potential father should sit down and discuss what needs to be done, from the perspective of all the affected parties.

Abortion is not about the woman having rights and simply doing whatever she feels like doing, even if she’s legally entitled to do so. It’s about taking all the affected parties into account, which include the fetus, the potential mother and the potential father.

Financial and Social Capital

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

In the current gender debate, feminism often highlights how men tend to work more in the public sphere, and thereby earn more money. Men are said to be powerful since men are usually the primary or only breadwinner of the household, and therefore in control of the financial capital of the family.

While there is certainly some truth in this way of looking at things, feminism completely ignores the corresponding power that women have. Men may be in control of the financial capital, but women are completely dominant when it comes to social capital. So what do I mean by social capital?

Social Capital

In your average human family, the woman is the adult who forms close and loving relationships with the children, since she is the primary caretaker. The man’s relationship to the children very often goes through the mother, since he spends a lot of time away from home and also does not have the skills necessary to form these kinds of connections.

Women are also much more likely to have a circle of close friends; friendships that aren’t dependent on having the same hobby or the same job. All in all women are better at forming and maintaining nurturing relationships, as well as having the emotional self-awareness and ability to express emotions that are necessary within close relationships.

Women get to learn and practice these relationship skills within the traditional female gender role, while men do not get this practice within their gender role, so we need to acknowledge that women very often wield significant power through these close bonds to children and friends. Feminism often emphasizes how the female gender role disempowers women in various ways, while conveniently forgetting all the examples of how women are empowered by their role – and social capital is indeed one way that women are empowered.

What Happens After a Divorce?

In a traditional couple, the man thus has better access to financial capital, whereas the woman has better access to social capital. As long as the couple stays married, the man will share his financial resources with the woman, and she will share her social resources with him. This way a reasonable balance is achieved that benefits both partners.

But what happens after a divorce? Does each partner take his or her resources and leave, or are they obligated to share some of their resources with their partner?

In all modern countries that I know of, the financial resources are split evenly in case of divorce, and in some countries the man is also obligated to pay monthly alimony to support his previous wife. It’s safe to say that there is a real transfer of financial capital from the man to the woman, though the exact amount will depend on the laws of a certain country.

However, in no country that I know of is the woman obligated to share any of her social capital with the man! One could of course argue that it’s impossible to legislate anything about human relationships, but even culturally speaking, outside the legal arena, there is no moral agreement that financial resources should be matched by social capital.

If children are part of the equation, the scenario usually becomes even more unfair from the perspective of the man. Whenever there is a custody dispute, courts tend to favor the mother, since she is the primary caregiver. This leads to yet another example of the man having to pay money without getting any social capital back.

A man who pays child support without having regular access to his children, is giving up part of his income but not getting any social capital in return. The woman, on the other hand, gets to keep all of her social capital (her connections to her children), while still getting financial capital from her former husband.

What Happens When We Help Only Women?

As we just saw, most modern countries have laws that protect women after a divorce, whereas men have no safety net. What are the consequences of only caring for women?

The message that is sent to men is that men are only valued according to how they perform in the public sphere, i.e. how much money they can earn for themselves and their (ex-)family. When there are no legal or cultural codes that defend men’s rights to have access to the social capital created by the family before the divorce, we tell men that their role as father and loving parent is not valued or important.

During the past few decades women have been taught how to make a living in the public sphere, and cultural and legal changes have been made to accommodate this transition. If we want men to not only be silent providers without an emotional connection to their children and spouse, then we need to teach men how to form and maintain close, nurturing bonds. Furthermore, on a societal level we need to make the cultural – and perhaps legal – changes necessary to support men in navigating this transition.

For example, one legal change that would be perfectly plausible is to always connect child support to shared custody rights, unless it is demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that the father is unsuitable to be a parent.

I’m not saying that men will necessarily choose to stay home with their children to the extent that women do, or that women will choose to work as much outside the home as men do, since those choices rest with the individual. But what is clear to me is that overly polarized gender roles have become outdated, and when we transcend these outdated gender roles, we need to help both sexes, and understand where each sex is coming from.