18 March 2012

Men at work: what does the future hold?

The reality of Canadian society today is that there aren't enough decent jobs to go around. What can we expect - riots, sit-ins, Occupiers camping in the park? Another reality, related to the first, is that more men are staying home to take care of the kids while women focus on their careers. Thus gender roles are sometimes becoming blurred, as men and women attempt to put their lives together in ways that accomplish what needs to be done - with a few exceptions of course, mostly among those who have more choices in life.

Imagine a world in which some men stay home to take care of the children, and where women too, can do the caring work, without being made to feel less of a person. Some families are already doing it, in what can be called role reversal, alternative ways of handling the parenting and housework, or the blurring of gender roles. The traditional model of parenting and engaging in paid work no longer suits our society, and hasn't for quite a while. Yet society has had a hard time catching up with reality. The flexibility and cooperation needed to carry this off successfully is the challenge to be met.

The influence of feminism has resulted in many dual-career families, some of whom must be quite well off, as one professional married to another. On the other side, couples and singletons in less well-off curcumstances end up having to manage with less, or even struggling for their survival, as fewer jobs and careers remain open to them.

From news articles and blogs, and comments on these in online newspapers, it is plain to see that not everyone recognizes that there is a problem within society. But it is there for anyone to view, if they are ready to take the blinders off. I have included links to three pieces here from online newpapers, that discuss current dilemmas within the modern family and how that ties in with paid work. The key theme is gender, as men and women seek ways to pursue their own interests and desires, hopefully but not always without subordinating or diminishing the other, or others who have different aims.

Women have always tried to find ways of subverting the traditional female gender role, as they discovered that being a housewife and stay-at-home mother was not as fulfilling or often not as respected a role as working for pay outside the home. In fact, a research essay that I wrote several years ago now, was on this subject. It was about my grandmother, in the early 20th century, complete with gender-bending and containing references to other tactics she used to pass on her views on relationships and work, and to let us know how she felt about it all (see Gertrude McPherson and the Grey Cottage).

In society today, women work at the same kind of careers men have, earning almost as much, so they say. So much is taken for granted, as women now have the right to do these jobs, whereas in the not-so-distant past, they didn't have that right. What these women don't seem to recognize is that many of them are now in privileged positions, just as men used to be, making decisions for the family and sometimes not seeing that just as men used to perceive themselves to be superior to women and some men, they are doing it also - by virtue of the fact they have a good job and are earning a living. Certainly, this buys them respect from others, in a way that caring for home and children often does not. It gives them - career women - the freedom to be independent financially, again, in ways most women of earlier eras could not hope to be.

It's one thing for couples, or members of the middle classes, to help one another attain their goals, but what we need is more recognition of the needs of the younger generation who don't have a secure future to look forward to. As can be seen in the article, 'Graduating into a job market that isn't there,' the plight of young people today is not looking all that secure. In one of the articles listed below, (My hubby does housework), comments covered the spectrum from one extreme to the other, from insulting to acceptance and gratitude for men's accommodating role in the home. 'Women as the breadwinners' provided the opportunity for readers to comment once more on how they saw the situation of women earning more than men, again, through a wide variety of responses.

Could it be possible that the riot and vandalism in London, Ontario just last night ('Hooligans and Idiots'), marking not just St Patrick's Day but the end of March Break and the return to college, was a reflection of the disillusionment of youth. One woman whose home neighboured on the site of the riot said that the vandals were singing O Canada as they watched the CTV news vehicle go up in flames, while others heaped fencing and other materials onto the fire. Was it partly the warm temperatures that led to this event? Was it an accumulative process starting several years ago in this area of the city, always on St Patrick's day? Did the Occupy Movement last summer contribute to social unrest. Could social media have one of the culprits, firing up particpants, as mentioned in reports? Or was it just coincincidence, all these factors contributing to a lesser or greater degree to the riot that ensued. From pictures shown the day after, it appeared to be mainly males - youthful males, in attendance, although the first video offered up by the London Free Press showed the image of a young woman dancing across in front of the flames, her image a shadow figure against the flames (see 'Fleming Drive in flames'). The police, of course, are more concerned with the damage done, the lawbreakers, and the image of London that has been broadcast to the nation (see Chief Duncan's statement).

If it can be recognized and acknowledged that feminism has played a large part in the widening of the gap between rich and poor, there might be the possibility of beneficial changes within society, in personal relationships as well as in the workplace - not to mention in the streets and parks. Putting people down because they are poor or because they don't fit the traditional patriarchal model of work (held in today's world by either a male or a female), or are unemployed, isn't going to improve society for most people, and it may actually lead to more harm done to individuals and to society.

Chief Duncan's statement
By London Chief of Police Brad Duncan
March 18, 2012
London Free Press

Fleming Drive in flames (video)
By Scott Taylor
The London Free Press
March 18, 2012

Gertrude McPherson and the Grey Cottage: an interdisciplinary, biographical approach to life cycle development
By Sue McPherson
S A McPherson website

Graduating into a job market that isn’t there
By Gary Mason, Columnist
Globe and Mail
Mar 15, 2012
Comments: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/gary_mason/graduating-into-a-job-market-that-isnt-there/article2369414/comments/

'Hooligans and idiots'
By Scott Taylor
London Free Press
March 18, 2012

My hubby does housework but only works part-time. Is that fair?
By Zarqa Nawaz
Globe and Mail, Relationships
Mar 15, 2012
Comments: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/relationships/relationship-advice/zarqa-nawaz/my-hubby-does-housework-but-only-works-part-time-is-that-fair/article2370518/comments/

Women as the breadwinners: Turning the traditional model of gender roles in marriage on its head
By Sarah Boesveld
National Post News
Feb 25, 2012


Anonymous said...

I agree that the generally poor future prospects of the students are a contributing factor to the uncontrolled behavior. This thought had crossed my mind prior to reading your post.

However other contributing factors are at work as well. Most predominant of these is that the students are spoiled brats who have been coddled in their youth and have never had severe consequences put on them for bad behavior. They think they can get away with this type of behavior. Add in alcohol and group bravado and bring on the the riot.

This type of thing would not happen if society empowered law enforcement to use SIGNIFICANT force to curtail and contain the thugs involved. If they knew that the law would break out the tear gas, water cannons, pepper spray, tasers, mounted police and the dogs straight away and SERIOUSLY CRACK SOME HEADS I don't think that these types of events would be occurring.

Anonymous said...

March Break doesn't apply to college students. Reading week is the equivalent which was held the last week of February.