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The Other Glass Ceiling

International Men’s Day 2014 has just been celebrated this week on 19 November. It has been the most successful International Men’s Day ever in regards  to broad media attention. Typically India really takes the lead as far as media commentary goes. It was an Indian man Dr Jerome Teelucksingh, in Trinidad, who started the day but it fell into disrepair.  Thankfully an Indian woman rescued it in 2007. It is because of this Indian woman, an advocate for men whose name is Uma Challa, that the world celebrates International Men’s Day. The world owes a lot to India.

Now major corporations are getting in on the act. The ‘Show Men Some Love’ YouTube clip has just hit over 500,000 and still climbing. It is guaranteed to put a smile on your face if nothing else.

Our new International Men’s Day Facebook site has received almost 12,000 likes and International Men’s Day with the help of leaders in the Men’s Movement like Glen Poole, is really getting out there. Compared with International Women’s Day however, it still has a long way to go as Frankie Goodway in the Mirror points out. Interestingly he shows the digital searches for International Men’s Day 19 November really only started to grow since Dads4Kids built the International Men’s Day website in 2008. Soon after other International Men’s Day websites sprang up and now there are many. Articles like this show that International Men’s Day is truly becoming viral.

One of the six pillars of International Men’s Day is to highlight discrimination against men; in areas of social services, social attitudes and expectations, and law. The book we are reviewing highlights this issue.

The groundbreaking Australian book ‘The Other Glass Ceiling’ offers an insightful male perspective in a debate on the lack of work-family balance in modern day families and the discrimination men experience as fathers. Based on research and full of entertaining anecdotes, this book challenges the predominant gender roles that expect a mother to care for her family and doubt her commitment to a career, while at the same time requiring a father to provide for his family financially and doubting his ability to look after his own children.

Charles Areni and Stephen Holden encourage dads to ‘step up’, to take on a bigger share of the burden of home duties. They encourage mums to ‘let go’, to let dad get involved in child-rearing, and to bring to the task his own skills and approaches. The book is both thoughtful and measured and pulls no punches. The following excerpt gives you an insight into the experience of the writers.

Men in general are assumed to be depraved until proven otherwise. When it comes to gender discrimination, nobody mentions the rather disconcerting stereotype that men are especially likely to be foul in some way or another, and being a good father, demonstrating the ability to love and nurture children, doesn’t allow an escape from this sinister suspicion.

More generally there is the persistent notion that fathers have their place in this world – the office – but when it comes to matters of how their children will be raised, dads are not to intervene. They are incompetent parents at best and potentially dangerous at worst. Mums call the shots, and any deviation from these rules of engagement is punishable in a variety of ways, something I was confronted with one Monday afternoon.

I was shopping in a department store. Given the time and day of the week, the store was relatively lacking in shoppers, and almost all of the ones there, except me, were women. I hadn’t really planned to shop. Indeed, single parents rarely have the luxury of planning anything. Rather, what happens is that some unexpected circumstance affords a sudden opportunity to go shopping. In this case it was the cancelation of a 1.30 meeting that gave me a 2 hour window after lunch.

Another thing about being a single parent is that one rarely shops for a specific thing or even category of things. One chains together multiple shopping trips to take advantage of a precious opportunity. In this case, I knew both my kids needed clothes, but it was also time to do some grocery shopping, which meant I would have to swing by the house on the way back to work to put spoilable foods in the frig or freezer. For this same reason, I would have to buy the clothes first. I decided to start with my 3-year old girl.

Now one of the limitations of this approach to shopping is that one doesn’t always have a list of needed items when the opportunity to shop arises. You have to rely on memory quite a bit. One thing I remembered from the previous week was having to do a load of laundry because my daughter was running low on undies, and I wasn’t sure I would make it through the school week. So girl’s undies seemed like a good place to start shopping.

But no sooner had I started then I became aware of a presence. I was being watched. I looked over my shoulder at an approaching security guard who said. “Excuse me, but what are you doing?” “I’m buying clothes for my daughter,” I answered, somewhat surprised. “Don’t you have a job?” he asked. “Yes, I do!” I responded, this time with some anger in my voice, as I became aware of what was happening and why. “Okay, okay,” he replied and moved away.

What I became aware of was that the security guard simply could not imagine a father shopping for his child’s clothes. He saw a pervert. If a working mum had been doing the same thing for the same reason, I seriously doubt there would have been any intervention at all. When I told some male colleagues with young children about the episode, one responded that he never shops for his daughter’s clothes without a female around for exactly that reason. I was stunned to hear this, and the entire experience triggered a series of questions in my mind.

First, why was I compelled to go shopping for my daughter’s clothes on a Monday afternoon in the first place? Would the same thing have happened on a Saturday afternoon, a more plausible part of the week for dads to shop for their little girls’ clothes? Why do I have to juggle my responsibilities as a parent and an employee, and what does this say about the assumptions society makes about the “proper” roles and responsibilities of mothers and fathers?

Why can’t I buy clothes for my 3-year old girl, or any 3-year old girl for that matter? Why do fathers find it necessary to have women along to make these purchases? Are we incapable of selecting girls’ undies, or are we all assumed to be Humbert Humbert in Nabokov’s Lolita until we can establish otherwise? Sounds like gender discrimination to me.

Lovework

Lets’ all acknowledge the fact that at times women still suffer immense discrimination, but so do men, as can be seen from the above article. Lets’ join together as mothers and fathers and help create a better world for our children. International Men’s Day is one avenue, but together we can create many more.

Yours for breaking the Glass Ceiling for Men and Women
Warwick Marsh

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Loree Rudd November 24, 2014, 1:30 am

    IMD was celebrated in other countries long before 2007, but great that it came to be discussed in the English language through India. God bless all you good men: husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, grandfathers, uncles, cousins.

  • Ken Mac December 30, 2014, 12:17 pm

    Goal making is a good thing to do. I learnt this in 2014. SMART goals. S specific ( the goal has to be exactly what you want to achieve) M measurable ( have a time limit) A achievable (it is silly to make outrageous goals that you will never reach) R realistic and T timed (put a time frame on the goal. If you don’t fully reach the outcome start again) goals should be short term, medium and long term. But always remember that if God is your guide and your focus is on Jesus and you allow the word to be a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path then goals become that little bit easier to achieve. The psalmist tells us that ‘all the paths of The Lord are mercy and truth to those that keep my commandments. 2 paths 1 for each foot. If all your decisions and goals revolve around mercy and truth, a peace that passes all understanding will descend upon your life. Will everything be perfect? Is anything perfect while we are contained in this mortal body. But Jesus tells us that hard times will come BUT take heart for I have overcome the world. God bless and have an amazing and challenging 2015.

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