Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Europe is better than us

Both Elizabeth and Laura have posts about the Newsweek article (which I haven't read) on the European system of offering parents lots of time off and part-time job opportunities. I actually went to a talk (links, discussion) a while back by one of our faculty who just wrote a book on the pitfalls of the social policies in Norway and Sweden. His thesis is that these policies actually create the opposite effect of what they're intended to achieve. So these policies are intended to create more gender equity by making it easier for women to return to work. The real effect, however, is that gender roles have become even further proscribed. Women are, by and large, staying home and not returning to work or only working part time while men are not taking time off at all, even though they have the same benefits as the women do.

The thing that I'm sort of struck by in all these discussions is the continued value placed on work vs. staying at home (as if that wasn't work). And, further, for women who do choose to return to the workforce, the horrid conditions they face at times. I'm not sure we can do much about the first, since it's cultural. Ironic, really, given the right's constant call for women to stay at home. Of course, for them, it's not about choice, it's about silencing women and keeping them away from "important" stuff. Funny how their own value that they place on at-home moms is really a way of devaluing women altoghether. The other problem of workplace discrimination against women is something we can likely do something about.

I really care about this issue (obviously) and I'm trying to think it through objectively. I think what happens to a lot of us is that we get emotionally caught up in the choices we've made. We fear that someone will chastise us for it. Because that's the way the media has played this whole issue. And also, unfortunately, it's mostly women who are talking about this, and frankly, we still have less politcal capital than men. Can you believe that? In 2006?