Feminism Needs A Rebrand. Paternity Leave Shows Us Why

a580e690f13bb4693c246eecc56d5d6e-originaBreak Down This Mental Model
By Eric Arthrell. I am a feminist. When I read articles about the dangers of toxic bro culture, mansplaining, and women’s mental load, I try to embody and apply these learnings as best I can. I’m also a flag-waving Nasty Woman supporter and believe we should make our future more female.
However, I find it limiting that too often to be a male feminist only means to check yourself on a daily basis and support women’s empowerment. I feel this is the lowest bar for the ‘feminist’ label, and perhaps can be a mental barrier for many men wanting to join the movement.
Merriam-Webster has two definitions of feminism: 
  1. The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
  2. Organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests. 
The second definition that refers to “women’s rights” can be limiting because it focuses only on women. There’s a Spotify playlist called ‘Feminist Friday’ that encapsulates this view perfectly: it’s comprised solely of “your favorite boss ladies.” 
Too often I feel this is how feminism is applied: feminism = women’s empowerment. This view is not wrong; without generations of fierce females that fought to achieve basic human rights, and still are fighting, feminism wouldn’t even be on the radar.
But to keep the momentum going, is ‘feminism = women’s empowerment’ necessarily the most useful definition? My opinion is no. I’d like to define my own feminism as something broader that is more in line with the first definition of feminism. I find this much more useful. 
Here’s why:
My wife and I are hoping to start a family soon and we’ve had countless conversations about the time off we’ll take with the baby. If we want to promote gender equality as feminists, what should the split be? Here’s what I found from the OECD and World Economic Forum statistical databases:
When more men take any length of government-sponsored parental leave (sorry my American friends):
  • The gender equality gap decreases (1.00 is equal)

  • More moms stay in the workforce

  • More women end up on Boards

  • The wage gap decreases

Furthermore, amongst Nordic countries (the only region with data), as men take a larger share of the total time off (i.e., if they take more extended leave):
  • The gender gap decreases

  • More women become managers

  • More women stay employed full time

Correlation* does not mean causation, but one potential conclusion here is shocking if we view these findings in reverse:
In societies that empower only women to take a larger share of parental leave, gender equality is worse, fewer moms stay in the workforce, fewer women end up on boards, the wage gap is larger, fewer women end up as managers, and fewer women stay employed full time. 
In other words, a narrow view of feminism—one which excludes men—would actually result in less equality if applied to parental leave. Instead, fighting for, enabling, and encouraging men—mentally, financially, culturally—to take advantage of family leave on par with women would lead to greater equality for everyone, in the workplace and at home.
My brand of feminism isn’t limited to checking myself and empowering women. It also focuses on empowering my fellow men to redefine our roles in society and break down our mental models on masculinity in the pursuit of equality.

* The strength of the graphed correlations (Pearson Product-Moment Correlation) would be considered medium to large (>0.5 to 1.0)
4b1d120bcc657d752f6c7c4e0e38ab0f-originaEric Arthrell is a Manager at Doblin, Deloitte Consulting’s human-centred design innovation practice. When he’s not helping big banks withstand the storm of disruptive fintechs at work, he’s at home writing his thoughts on evolving maleness at matemodern.com. He lives in Toronto with his wife, Erin, and dog, Henry.

Posted by MARC Catalyst on Jun 27, 2017 10:31 AM America/New_York

Blog Post Comments

Log in to post a comment.


Have you taken part in an ERG that wasn't expressly "for you"?

Not yet!

Mention Colleagues

Simply type “@” followed by the user’s name. After three letters, possible matches will appear. Select the desired username from the dropdown to @Mention them!

Questions? Visit our @Mentions tutorial for more.