READER REPORT:

Time for dads to lift their game?

ANDREW STEVENSON
Last updated 13:42 15/03/2017
Working dad
123RF.com

Men go above and beyond for their families, but don’t get newspaper articles written about it.

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“It's International Women's Day, which always brings out lots of depressing statistics”, according to Fairfax journalist, Susan Edmunds.

I couldn’t agree more.

Studies show that women are more educated than men, earn more than men until their late thirties, are generally happier than men, live longer than men, and are treated more leniently by police and judges than men.

Globally, men are also more likely to be victims of violence and are far more likely to die in workplace accidents.

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And, according to a recent BBC article, New Zealand is one of the few countries on the planet where men work longer hours than women; including unpaid labour.

These statistics are indeed depressing; for men.

But we rarely read about this stuff in newspapers because the media generally focuses on problems encountered by women and ignores those faced by men.

They would rather write endless stories about ‘sexist air conditioning’ and ‘manspreading’ than the feminisation of the education system which has resulted in females massively outperforming males at both school and university level.

As US author and academic Christina Hoff Sommers notes, "Women’s groups and the media tend to exaggerate women’s vulnerability and ignore the problems faced by men. If the reverse were true — if hundreds of advocacy groups, scholars, journalists and politicians were routinely repeating false statistics that put women in a bad light, or understated their special vulnerabilities, I would be protesting that."

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Susan Edmunds does this exact thing when she talks about New Zealand’s gender wage gap (which, at 5.6 per cent, is the lowest in the OECD).

One of the statistics that Edmunds refers to is the fact that women generally have less in their KiwiSaver accounts to retire on.

Back up the truck a moment.

When my wife and I retire, chances are that I will indeed have more in my KiwiSaver than her, because I will have earned more than my wife over our lifetimes.

But just who do you think has been paying the mortgage whilst my wife has chosen to take time off to raise our children? Who has been paying for the groceries, the rates, the electricity, the petrol and the insurances? Who pays for the school uniforms, the Netflix subscription and the new tyres on the car?

Feminists seem to think that men get to keep all of the money that we earn and that we spend it all on ourselves. In reality, most men treat their income as household income.

If I have more in my KiwiSaver than my wife when we retire, it isn’t as though I’m going to eat filet mignon whilst she has Weet-Bix.

My wife, a tertiary-qualified professional who has earned more than me at times, chose to be the stay-at-home parent. She says she loves it. And it is up to her as to if and when she decides to go back to full-time employment.

This is why our household has a wage gap. It isn’t ‘sexism’, it isn’t ‘patriarchy’, it is because of the choices that she made.

And, if I’m honest, I didn’t get much of a choice. I was basically told that I was going back to work after my ten days of unpaid paternity leave had expired.

My left shoulder is damp.

If that sentence seems out of place, it is because midway through writing this opinion piece, my sick toddler started crying. Whilst comforting him, he threw up all over my shirt.

So, where was I?

Oh yes, “News flash - raising kids is not just women's work. Men need to chip in more”; because we’re all lazy Neanderthals who need to lift our game. I remember now.

All across New Zealand, men roll out of bed each morning, devour whatever breakfast their wives have made them, and head off to their fun, exciting, highly-paid jobs.

After work, we cruise home, crack open a beer, turn on the television and put our feet up whilst wifey cooks tea. Then we all watch rugby whilst the missus does the dishes and puts the brats to bed.

Do you want to know what I really did today?

I got up, changed my son’s nappy and dressed him. I then made him his porridge with bananas and blueberries, fed him, did the dishes, made my lunch, had a shower and drove to work. I parked my car on a residential street and walked around a kilometre in the pouring rain. I could have paid for parking and stayed dry, but every dollar counts when you’re a single-income household. I would rather sit in soggy trousers all day and spend the money on food for my wife and child.

This is the sort of thing that dads all around the country do for their families, but we don’t get newspaper articles written about it.

In contrast, the media routinely tells us just how awesome women are and how hard they work (which nobody is denying).

Take, for example, the Daily Mail story that felt the need to list the ‘59 tasks that the average woman completes each day’.

At work, I was flat-out for ten hours; only leaving my desk for 10 minutes to go and get a coffee. Then, I drove home and immediately got into a game of hide-and-seek with my son. I only get to play with him for around 20 minutes each day, so every moment is precious. Then, I scoffed down some dinner and did the dishes; before bath-time, story-time and bed-time.

I literally do not remember the last time I went to a pub or watched a television programme. I rarely even find time to exercise thesedays; and even if I had the time, I am constantly exhausted.

But apparently, I need to lift my game and chip in more.

My wife’s day included swimming, baking muffins and having a nap. Of course, that isn’t all it involved.

Being a stay-home parent is damn hard work; I can see that for myself on weekends. That is, when I’m not busy washing the car, mowing the lawn or shopping for groceries.

But, overall, being a full-time parent seems to be more fun and rewarding than most jobs.

Here’s my point. These incessant misandry-laden articles that overstate the problems faced by women, demonise men and ignore any disadvantages encountered by blokes will not win feminists any support. Rather, they make these women seem petty and vindictive, and this drives people away from feminism.

In the UK, less than 8 per cent of women identify as ‘feminists’, according to a leading women’s advocacy group.

What will win you support is balance, fairness, rationality and decency.

If you scroll down to the comments section, chances are that you will find words like ‘mansplaining’ and ‘male privilege’. This only serves to prove my point.

The fact that some people have made up bullying and condescending gendered terms in order to try to silence and ridicule men is evidence of there being a lack of decency, fairness and balance when it comes to discussing gender equality.

If feminists want men to ‘chip in’ and to ‘lift their game’, they might want to stop bullying, shaming and ridiculing them.


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