The feminists Gary Barker and Michael Kaufman are on a mission to promote “caring masculinities” around the world, particularly in relation to fatherhood. Here we share the top five reasons they say involved fatherhood is good for everyone.
In a recent article for The Daily Beast, Kaufman and Barker said:
“With all the years of women’s empowerment and the push for gender equality, we still have trouble imagining that men can do the care work, that they matter for children, and that they matter for women’s equality.
“In middle and upper income countries—the U.S. and Europe—we have achieved something closer to pay equality and something closer to equality in terms of who does the domestic and care work. In these regions, men are now doing between 30 and 45 percent of the care work.”
Kaufman and Barker argue that helping fathers around the world to be more involved in childcare can have transform the lives of men women and children. Here are five of the reasons they saying involved fatherhood is good for everyone.
1. Involved fatherhood reduces crime
Kaufman and Barker cite a study that followed 1,000 low income young men in high-risk neighbourhoods in Boston over forty-five years from the 1950s which found that one of the biggest factors that kept men out of gangs and away from criminal activity was being a dad. This is evidence, they say, that caregiving transforms men.
2. Reduces violence against women
Kaufman and Barker also claim that “evidence is piling up that as men do more of the caregiving, violence against women falls”.
3. Men’s wellbeing improves (and so does their sex life)
“Caregiving is good for men,” say Kaufman and Barker “we have richer, healthier lives and more meaningful relationships of all kinds. We learn that our job is not everything. The health, happiness and well-being of men, children and women improve [and] couples report better sex lives”.
4. Men get a biological high from fatherhood
There is a growing body of biological research showing that fathers, like mothers, are hard-wired to care for children. When fathers hold and play with their children, the hormones oxytocin and prolactin kick in, priming us for bonding. The more men care for children, the more our bodies respond to the task.
5. Involved fatherhood is good for the economy
A study over 15 years in the U.S. found that men’s salaries increase 6% for every child they have while women’s salaries decrease by 4% for every child they have as men work more hours after having children, while women shift to jobs with more flexibility and fewer hours. If women did as much paid work as men, the U.S. GDP would be 9% higher, say Kaufman and Barker. If men did more caregiving, women would do more breadwinning, they argue.
Three steps to making it happen
Kaufman and Barker suggest three key actions that could help dads all over the world become more involved in caregiving.
1. Paid parental leave
In countries where paid paternity leave is the norm, dads are more involved in caregiving. For this to work, a portion of parental leave must be ring-fenced specifically for fathers, and workplaces must create a culture that supports men in taking leave, say Kaufman and Barker. They cite the example of Norway, where more than 90% of men who are fathers take at least six weeks of paid leave.
2. Intervene early
Kaufman and Barker believe that “we have to promote men’s caregiving early on [to] provide opportunities for boys and girls to question out-dated notions of manhood and womanhood, and provide opportunities for both to practice involved caregiving in the classroom and beyond”. They also suggest intervention with fathers in ante-natal settings to support and promote involved fatherhood.
3. Include fatherhood in international policy debates
According to Kaufman and Barker, fatherhood gets little attention in policy debates, gets scarce mention in UN reports and seldom shows up in the reports of international aid organizations. Supporting fathers all over the world to be involved in parenting is, they say, a key overlooked strategy in reducing poverty.
To find out more see: how good dads can change the world.
To mark the launch of the film Down Dog, insideMAN is running a series of articles about fatherhood throughout February and we'd love you to get involved. You can join the conversation on twitter by using the hashtag #MenBehavingDADly; leave a comment in the section below or email us with your thoughts and ideas for articles to insideMANeditor@gmail.com.
For more information about the film see www.downdogfilm.com