Saturday, January 5, 2013

Guest Post by Sheldon Cooper: Marriage, Family, and Societal Norms in the US

Here is another guest post by Sheldon, the writer of The Ramblings of Sheldon. He has decided to step into the octogon (the cage where martial artists fight, for all of you non-MMA fans) of gender identity, gender roles, pay discrimination, and child custody issues. It's a lot to chew on, and I think this piece adds to the ongoing societal discussion.

I'm not going to blather anymore. This post is his forum. I'll add my thoughts in the comments concerning where we agree and where we disagree.

I hope you share what you think about these matters also.


Libby Anne from the Patheos blog Love Joy Feminism, truly is one of my favorite bloggers. Her personal perspectives on what life was like on the inside of fundamentalism are much better than anything I could ever write, I really enjoy the way she breaks down the mindset of fundamentalism. I've talked about some of her posts both on the blog, and even in some of my guest posts.

A post she wrote recently called Why My Son Bobby Needs Feminism Too, though, I both agree and disagree with. In this post, she talks about gender norms and expectations in the US. In recent posts, she makes the point that patriarchal societies can harm men as well (and she has personally experienced what patriarchal societal/ sub cultures are like, having grown up in the Christian extremist group known as Quiverfull).

She says that the expectation on men in US culture to be tough guys, can limit men's choices in life. One aspect she talks about is how it's considered unusual for a man to want to stay home and raise a child, but not for a woman to do the same. I wonder why this often happens. She also says that ending this social norm can benefit women as well, that the gender pay gap that many feminists rally against could be eliminated if this societal expectation were removed.

Think about it. I think practically all of the cause of the gender pay gap is the fact that women often leave the workforce to spend time with their young children for a while, sometimes for up to 4-5 years until their child goes into the school systems. This gap in work history often means that she misses out on valuable time in the workforce, years she could have gained more work history, and more time in her job (which often means pay raises). If the societal norms changed, and it became more acceptable for men to raise children, then this problem could be greatly reduced.

There are other factors involved in the gender pay gap, obviously, and gender discrimination played a major role in the pay gap in the past. To what extent deliberate gender discrimination affects the pay gap today, I am not sure. Since gender and racial discrimination has been overwhelmingly rejected by US society, (and comes with severe legal consequences), open/public expressions of gender hatred have died down, and been driven underground. Because of this, it can be hard to tell the intent behind pay inequality at a specific company, in society at large, or if there is malicious intent behind it. What other factors are behind this? 

In a follow up post to the original article, Libby Anne talks more about gender and labor, and responds to reader comments. I really enjoy this article as well. She states that in the past, professions that were commonly dominated by women were seen as less important, and received lower wages (that is true, and some of this feeling that these jobs aren't as important may be lingering around today), and that childcare/domestic work wasn't valued as much as working outside the home (again, another attitude that lingers to this day, I've seen many times where people look down upon someone, whether they be a woman or a man, for staying home and taking care of children, some people don't see it as being real work, or equal to work outside the home).

She says that we need to end the illusion that someone's wages equals the value as a person. This is something I truly agree with, and we also need to consider that someone's choice to stay home and raise a child, is something that we should consider just as important, and just as much of a job, as staying in the corporate world.

She makes some great points in the this article, but I think she's missing a major elephant in the room here, when it comes to one of the major problems caused by the social expectation that child raising is only for women: 

Divorce courts.

She talks about patriarchy being causing problems for men, but I notice this problem has been overlooked (whether intentionally or unintentionally, I don't know).

The divorce/family court system in the US very rarely gives full custody to men, or at the very least a decent shared custody agreement, very likely because of this perception that it is not "normal" for men to raise children. (Some courts are trying to promote decent shared custody agreements that are good for the children, and fair to both parents, but these open minded judges/courts are hard to find). This creates major problems.

Not only is the child deprived of a proper relationship with one parent, but where the children go, the family's income and financial assets go as well. Always giving the children to the mother (except for extreme cases where the mother can be considered a danger to herself, such as addiction or server mental instability/violent behavior, or abuse), leaves fathers without their children, and financially broke.
I am not against child support payments by any means, if someone has a child, they should be emotionally involved in their child's life, as well as provide for them financially. The objection I have is the extreme the court systems in the US have in their gender bias. It don't feel it is right for fathers to be treated the way they are by the current court system, it needs to change.

Side note: Another big frustration of mine when I see families going through a divorce is parents using their children as pawns for their vindictive games against each other. It's not right, your children are not pawns, they are not your property, they are human beings who don't much appreciate you playing with their emotions like that, and using them as a weapons against your ex-spouse. Stop it already!
I notice the way Libby Anne uses the word "feminism" on her blog, from reading the article I referenced earlier, and previous posts by her, it's clear she feels that feminism should mean gender equality, and she does seem to genuinely want gender equality. I congratulate her for supporting gender equality (though I feel she doesn't often go far enough in support of it), and I agree with her on gender issues quite often. However, when it comes to problems such as the divorce court system, I rarely hear anything from feminists on this issue.

Why not? If feminism is supposed to be about gender equality, where is the outrage about this issue? Is it not gender discrimination?

If attitudes toward child raising change, like Libby Anne supports, and the attitudes toward child raising do need to change, it would benefit everyone. It would go a long way towards reducing the gender pay gap, and it would go a long way towards promoting gender equality.


  1. What? No comments? lol

    I thought this post would be more controversial. My post announcing this did get 50 views though.

    1. The internet is a strange place, my friend. I like to wait to see what others commenters write first, then offer my own thoughts. In my own family I would say (as my wife would) that our son is more sensitive than our daughter. He shows an emotional depth and awareness that his sister doesn't have as much. However, that sensitive doesn't come out as playing with dolls, while our daughter loves to play with her American Girl Doll. The trait is expressed differently, and I don't think it's completely environmental influences effecting the influence of that trait. Regardless, there is no doubt in my mind that the degradation of coercive gender roles is a good things for both men and women.

    2. I agree. My oldest niece is the tough one, and my nephew can be the sensitive one to some degree (and also moodier).

  2. Yeah, my understanding is that divorce is pretty stacked against men in other ways, alimony is often worked out in a pretty unfair way as well. Don't get me wrong, if the woman stayed home and raised the kids while the man was able to work without worrying about that stuff, then the system seems fine. But that is not always the situation. If they were only together for a short time and he was rich before they met, why would it be ruled in a similar fashion as a couple where the wife stayed home for years raising the kids allowing the husband to work?

  3. You said:

    "I notice the way Libby Anne uses the word "feminism" on her blog, from reading the article I referenced earlier, and previous posts by her, it's clear she feels that feminism should mean gender equality, and she does seem to genuinely want gender equality. I congratulate her for supporting gender equality (though I feel she doesn't often go far enough in support of it), and I agree with her on gender issues quite often."

    If I may ask, where do you feel that I don't go far enough in supporting gender equality?


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