The Sexual Paradox: Men, Women, and the Real Gender Gap. Why We Should Reconsider Gender Neutral Family Leave Policies
The Sexual Paradox: Men, Women, and the Real Gender Gap by Susan Pinker
Myth – "Equality under the law" means that men and women are the same in all ways.
Fact: – "Equality" under the law means that WHEN men and women are the same in all ways, the law will treat them that way, and that when they are not,
the law will not default to what is characteristic of "man" as the standard.
Thus, "equality under the law" means more than merely consideration of each person as an individual. It also means that that "consideration" will not be cast in terms of standards and rights that can attain only to non-gestating human beings. The law will not determine what is "reasonable" with reference solely to what would be "reasonable for a man;" the law will not determine what is "just" by reference solely to what could be "achievable by someone who cannot gestate;" and the law will not ignore reproductive differences between mothers and fathers where they do indeed exist and have effect.
Why We Should Reconsider Gender Neutral Family Leave Policies
"…One might expect that men married to female university professors would be more likely to have egalitarian views and share child care
equally, but this is another myth. Steven Rhoads, a professor of public policy at the University of Virginia, had similar assumptions. He ran a nationwide study and found that 75 percent of female faculty believed their husbands should take on equal amounts of child care, housework, and
paid work. Just over half of their husbands agreed. Yet the women spent much more time with their children than their husbands did, and in
universities where they were offered paid parental leave, 67 percent of the eligible women took advantage of it, only 12 percent of male faculty
took that time off, and when they did, they didn’t use the time the same way. ‘We heard stories of male academics who took paid post-birth leave in
order to advance their publishing agendas,’ wrote Rhoads, commenting that he’d heard of one school that changed its rules as a result. Upon
returning from her maternity leave, one female colleague recalled being asked by a male colleague how the leave had gone. She replied, ‘I used the
time well.’ Then the man said, ‘So you got a lot of work done.’ But that’s not what she meant.
"If more academic mothers use a leave to spend time with their baby and more new fathers use the time to publish, then a system based on men and
women being identical ends up punishing women. When these family-friendly policies are applied equally to both sexes, academic women experience more discrimination, not less. One unofficial study at an Ivy league college found that parental leave benefits available to both sexes had that
paradoxical effect: no woman who had taken a family leave in the previous fifteen years had subsequently received tenure. Most if not all of the
small number of men who had taken family leave did. This was never published or even tallied up as a real study, but it became commonly cited
during the tenure discussion, summarized as ‘a woman takes family leave and comes back with a backlog, a man takes family leave and comes back
with a book’… Realizing what was happening, a committee at the college tweaked the policy to allow additional leave for those who give birth
(obviously, fathers wouldn’t be eligible). This helped… [N]o one wanted to discuss the issue openly, allow the college to be named, or be
identified in any way. The topic was taboo…"
Mothers and Fathers are Different
"…given the choice, 60 to 80 percent of American and European women choose part-time work over full-time schedules or staying home full-time
– even if they had initially intended to work full-time and even if the decision will cost them in job security and earnings. ‘The vast majority of women who claim to be career-oriented discover that their priorities change after they have children.’ writes [British sociologist Catherine] Hakim. Eroding the idea of a united sisterhood, Hakim has amassed data from European and American census and national surveys that clearly show that women in modern societies are hardly homogeneous. Instead, they separate fairly cleanly into three groups. There are those who want to stay home full-time, whom she calls ‘home-centered’ (approximately 20 percent). There are those whose careers take precedence, whom she calls ‘work-centered’ (approximately 20 percent). These career-oriented women experience few disadvantages to being female; if they have the same credentials and put in the same hours, they achieve the same rewards as men.
"The majority, the remaining 60 percent, are women who try to combine children and career, drifting between various work schedules and
positions, looking for the perfect arrangement. There ‘adaptive’ women adjust their careers to accommodate their families’ needs and their own values, a trend as powerful in socially progressive Sweden and Norway as it is in the United States…
"Calling it ‘Preference Theory,’ Hakim nailed two realities. Not all women want the same thing. And when women have choices, only about 20 percent
will choose what men choose… exclusively career-oriented women are a minority, Hakim says…"
"If you had asked me before my first child was born to choose from Hakim’s three groups, I wouldn’t have hesitated before placing myself with career
oriented women. I didn’t expect to feel any differently after my baby was born than I did before — or much differently than her father would. But
my plans for a swift return were shot to hell when a wrinkly, underweight, and squalling baby appeared instead of the placid, pink-cheeked, robust infant I’d imagined cheerily handing off to a babysitter… Work demands seemed remote… I was shocked by my protective feelings. I needed to be
with her. I needed her to be healthy….
"In the early eighties I was not alone in thinking that men and women had nearly identical brains, but that we had been socialized to take on
different roles. If my husband, a doting father, could leave his scrawny newborn after two weeks at home and go to work for ten hours a day without
a backward glance or a blip in his concentration, the script dictated that this was because he had learned that his role was to be the provider. And
if I felt physical distress about tearing myself away from a six-week-old baby — notwithstanding the monotony and isolation of new motherhood — I
had internalized mine as a maternal caregiver. Never mind that my mother and both grandmothers worked outside the home, as well as in it. Many of
us thought that if only women could tame their outdated sentimentality, if only men were present and willing to offer their babies more bottles, then
our parental roles could be reversed… At the time we assumed that men and women were equals — not just in rights and opportunities, as they should be, but also in underlying psychology and behavior. Any differences, including physical differences, could be fixed via technology, policy, or force of will…
"This is the vanilla gender assumption: that female is just a variation of male. But more than two decades after my daughter was born, brain imaging
and neuroendocrinology have unveiled many of the biological networks underlying mothers’ specific longing for their infants and their drive to nurture them… "
"[Harvard professor Robert] Trivers’s theory suggests that competitive risk-taking is wired into males. Due to her own unique wiring, a female invests greatly in her future offspring, feeding them nurturing them, and raising them to maturity, all at significant cost to herself… once pregnant, that’s it. She’s committed. No matter how many one-night stands she has, a female will only have a given number of offspring during her lifetime — which she’s programmed to guard with her life — while a successful, competitive male striver can father… even a hundred…
"The math was demonstrated by Lucky Moulay Ismail the Bloodthirsty of Morocco (1646-1727), who fathered 888 children with multiple wives. Meanwhile, the female record holder, Madalena Carnauba of Brazil, married at 13 and gave birth to 32 children. The evolutionary anthropologist Sarah Hrdy points out that the context is missing. We don’t know how many children from each family survived, or how many of their rivals’ offspring were done in by Moulay’s more competitive wives. But the difference in output between Lucky and Madalena is still 856 children. More recent accounts… Rahman, who has fathered seventy-eight children and set a target of one hundred children by 2015… Jogi… who became the world’s oldest dad when he fathered his twenty-first child with his fourth wife…"According to Trivers, the parent who invests more in their offspring is the one who ultimately limits how many there are — namely mothers…"
Feminist Fear and Political Correctness
"[T]There’s a fear that if we recognize the existence of sex differences we’ll become part of a conservative backlash that will send women back to the kitchen. I’d argue that a more nuanced understanding of the average differences between men and women can lead to progress instead. In fact,
several problems arise from NOT acknowledging that sex differences exist. Workplaces and career schedules designed for a single, standard male approach to competition and success now discourage many women, notwithstanding their native smarts, their educational opportunities, and
their impressive accomplishments…
"Exhorting women to make ‘male’ choices is more pernicious than simply encouraging them to earn more. Educated women who forgo the highest paying or high-status jobs are usually aware of their options and have weighed the pros and cons. The finger-wagging about being influenced by the media,
not knowing the consequences of their actions, or giving license to employers to discriminate against women… follows in a long tradition of assuming that women don’t know their own minds… the prevailing message is that these women are either patsies or victims. The idea that women don’t know what they want, or don’t have the power, interest, or inclination to determine their own fate lends a feeling of deja vu to the debate about men, women, and work. Telling women that they’d prefer computer science to a degree in English or history if only they weren’t blindered by cultural norms, or that putting in fourteen-hour days when their children are toddlers is really what’s in their best interests, is a form of infantilization. It’s also a form of homogenization. The problem is not that some women choose to opt out, others to work part-time, or that other women prefer to keep working as long and as hard as they can. The problem is that only one choice is seen as the right one…"
Subheadings on the excerpts above are by thelizlibrary.org
The URL for this webpage is http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/sexual-paradox.html