Intercultural Relations
Spring 2013
Yulia Koval-Molodtsova

“How can you be so tired while staying at home? What have you ...
utterly successful in the professional world, they should act more like men or, in
other words, assimilate. Is equal treat...
The acute question about true principles of equality between men and
women comes out in a different light when viewed in r...
expected to be able to succeed in that, because they were raised differently,
they lack necessary skills, and they are sim...
oneself to a certain level of danger, while staying at home meant a certain level
of safety, but nowadays it is certainly ...
Bibliography	
  
Daly, Mary and Jane Lewis. "The Concept of Social Care and the Analysis of
Contemporary Welfare States." ...
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Men and women: new roles

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The acute question about true principles of equality between men and women comes out in a different light when viewed in regards to stay-at-home fathers or male trailing spouses. As gender roles continue shifting, and women are getting more professional opportunities both within their country and abroad, more men take up a stay-at home parent or/and a trailing-abroad husband roles in order to compensate for the overall work-family balance.

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Men and women: new roles

  1. 1. Intercultural Relations Spring 2013 Yulia Koval-Molodtsova “How can you be so tired while staying at home? What have you been doing all day long?” These are the questions that housewives and stay-at home mothers complain of getting regularly from their husbands. There is a widespread stereotype that housekeeping is not a job, but almost a leisure time compared to the tough world of “real workers”. Staying at home with children, housekeeping, cooking are often described as traditionally female duties, which don’t even qualify for work. Before going further into researching differences between world cultures and intercultural relations on a broader scale, we may as well focus on the essential differences and relations between women and men, or, more precisely, on the cultural attitudes towards traditional female and male roles. In the past decades much has been said and done in regards to empowering women to thrive professionally and be brave in pursuing their goals. Feminist movement, gender equality, equal opportunity, and women empowerment – nowadays, these phrases are central to the social, economic and political discussions all over the world. Many societies, especially in the West, have elaborated these issues on different levels and reached some amazing results. Most of the women empowerment or gender equality trainings and guidelines, however, are still focused on the idea that if women desire to be
  2. 2. utterly successful in the professional world, they should act more like men or, in other words, assimilate. Is equal treatment really about unifying everyone through cloning the dominant type, or should it consider all the peculiarities and differences of each type? Sociolinguist Deborah Tannen, who researched the differences in communication styles of men and women that were not always taken into account in the educational or professional settings, said: “Treating people the same is not equal treatment if they are not the same.”1 More recently, Anne-Marie Slaughter, who was the first woman director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department, published an article “Why women still can’t have it all” that caused a lot of resonance.2 She describes how she left the position of power because of her desire to be a better mother for her teenage boys, and then she brings readers to the discussion on the essence of equal opportunities for women. Slaughter concludes: “If women are ever to achieve real equality as leaders, then we have to stop accepting male behavior and male choices as the default and the ideal. We must insist on changing social policies and bending career tracks to accommodate our choices, too.”3                                                                                                                         1  Deborah  Tannen,  "Teachers'  Classroom  Strategies  Should  Recognize  That  Men  and   Women  Use  Language  Differently,"  The  Chronicle  of  Higher  Education  37,  no.  40   (1991).     2  Anne-­‐Marie  Slaughter,  "Why  Women  Still  Can't  Have  It  All,"  The  Atlantic  Monthly   310,  no.  1  (2012).     3  Ibid.    
  3. 3. The acute question about true principles of equality between men and women comes out in a different light when viewed in regards to stay-at-home fathers or male trailing spouses. As gender roles continue shifting, and women are getting more professional opportunities both within their country and abroad, more men take up a stay-at home parent or/and a trailing-abroad husband roles in order to compensate for the overall work-family balance. Over a decade ago it was noted that a number of female expatriate employees was growing along with the number of male trailing spouses.4 Modern technologies create more opportunities for people to work part-time from home or almost any place on the planet, which often helps men in their transition to a new stay-athome role. For example, when I was offered a professional scholarship abroad, and my husband was deciding whether he is ready to become a stay-at home father and a trailing spouse at the same time, the possibility to keep some of his work going distantly over the Internet was crucial in making the decision in favor of taking up these new roles. At the same time, men often find that gender stereotypes of traditional female and male roles hit them very similarly as they hit women seeking professional development. There is no equal treatment on this side as well. Stay-at home fathers often find themselves receiving endless instructions from women on how to feed, dress, walk, or play with their children. As caregiving and housekeeping have been female duties for ages, men are commonly not                                                                                                                         4  Miriam  Jordan,  "Small  Group  of  Husbands  Crashes  What  Was  Once  Global  Wives'   Club,"  The  Wall  Street  Journal,  February  13  2001.  
  4. 4. expected to be able to succeed in that, because they were raised differently, they lack necessary skills, and they are simply not women. These arguments make sense in regards to stay-at home fathers, but, somehow, they seem lame when applied to contemporary women aiming for equal professional opportunities. Over the years of gender equality movement, women have learned how to gain necessary skills and how to act to achieve success in the world that traditionally belonged to men. Instead of assimilating, many of them found their own ways to cope with professional challenges. Similarly, men can face challenges of the traditionally female roles and find their own approaches to raising children and doing household work. These ways and approaches may be quite unique and different from the traditional female ones, but they lead to similar results. Another important tendency in regards to this gender role shift is the fact that women earn more than men, or, sometimes, even become the only breadwinner in the family in this situation. Again, when viewed from the traditional perspective of gender role division, this is considered to be almost abnormal or at least not much favored or accepted in many cultures. At the same time, it goes well with the gender equality concept: why should it matter who the breadwinner is if there is an even distribution of duties between two partners. One of the possible historical and linguistic explanations is that “winning the bread” or food for the family was traditionally associated with exposing
  5. 5. oneself to a certain level of danger, while staying at home meant a certain level of safety, but nowadays it is certainly not an issue for those families who choose to exchange the traditional gender roles. Perhaps, it is not only about the gender roles. The root of this stereotype might be hidden in the overall cultural attitude to caregiving and housekeeping as to non-work types of activities: “Caring was initially at any rate conceived of in relation to the unpaid domestic and personal services provided through the social relations of marriage and kinship.”5 As more men are starting to get involved in caregiving activities, this cultural attitude might be slowly changing. It might take the same or even longer time for men to overcome the existing cultural stereotypes and acquire necessary skills as it took for women to be successful in their new roles without having to assimilate.                                                                                                                         5  Mary  Daly  and  Jane  Lewis,  "The  Concept  of  Social  Care  and  the  Analysis  of   Contemporary  Welfare  States,"  The  British  Journal  of  Sociology  51,  no.  2  (2000).  
  6. 6. Bibliography   Daly, Mary and Jane Lewis. "The Concept of Social Care and the Analysis of Contemporary Welfare States." The British Journal of Sociology 51, no. 2 (2000): 281-298. Jordan, Miriam. "Small Group of Husbands Crashes What Was Once Global Wives' Club." The Wall Street Journal, February 13 2001. Slaughter, Anne-Marie. "Why Women Still Can't Have It All." The Atlantic Monthly 310, no. 1 (2012): 85. Tannen, Deborah. "Teachers' Classroom Strategies Should Recognize That Men and Women Use Language Differently." The Chronicle of Higher Education 37, no. 40 (1991): B1.  

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