The Personal is Political

For decades now, feminists have been telling us that what goes on in the private sphere affects the public sphere. The rallying cry of “The personal is political!” was heard by many. Some, such as Susan Okin, even predicted the problem this would cause for men. In order for women to enter the public sphere, men would have to enter the private sphere. If women were paid less and given less respect because their commitment to their jobs was diluted somewhat by family obligations, employers were likely to be even more harsh with fathers who wanted to be part of family life.

Though the warnings were unheeded, they were not unjustified. Katherine Reynolds Lewis has just published an article describing the struggles modern fathers face. It was assumed in the past that fathers would rather not take responsibility for changing diapers, taking sick kids to the doctor, and going to meet with teachers. This assumption turned out to be false. Fathers in the past were afraid that if they were more involved in the private sphere of home and family, they would be punished by their employers. Their fears have been realized. Fathers have been passed over for promotions and even fired after insisting on taking leave to be with their children.

Liberating women for equal pay will require liberating men as well. As society we should assume that all parents love their children and want to be with them to ensure their healthy development. Some fathers and mothers are not good parents to be sure, but rewarding rather than punishing those who are will benefit us all.

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