- Michael Kimmel from MARC

Why Men Should Support Gender Equality

In my last column, I looked at some of the obstacles to men’s embracing gender equality in their public and private lives. These obstacles, both in our attitudes and in our institutions, are significant.

This month, though, I promised I’d discuss the motivational side, the question of why men shouldsupport gender equality. It’s here, I think, that the myth of the battle of the sexes, the interplanetary conflict between Martians and Venusians is most readily exposed. Contrary to what many people argue, gender equality is not a zero-sum game in which women win only at the expense of men losing. Gender equality is a win-win. When women win, so too will men.

Nowhere is this clearer than in our personal lives. For those of us who are married and have children, the evidence is pretty convincing that the greater men’s share of housework and childcare the happier is the marriage.

The evidence for this aspect of gender equality is actually quite overwhelming. Research by sociologists Scott Coltrane and Michele Adams looked at national survey data and found that when men increase their share of housework and child care, their children are happier, healthier and do better in school. They are less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, less likely to be put on prescription medication, and less likely to see a child psychologist for behavioral problems. They have lower rates of absenteeism and higher school achievement scores.

“When men perform domestic service for others, it teaches children cooperation and democratic family values,” said Coltrane. “It used to be that men assumed that their wives would do all the housework and parenting, but now that women are nearly equal participants in the labor force, men are assuming more of the tasks that it takes to run a home and raise children.”

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