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Reflecting on International Womens’ Day

Latest Social Justice News from the Assistant Director of Mission (Senior), Geraldine Cullen

Gender role-models

I had interesting discussions about gender roles with students when I visited Religious Education classes last week. While some of the comments were quite uplifting, some were straight out of the 1950’s. I was reminded about an article I read in The Atlantic magazine called “Why Women still can’t have it all.” Author, Ann-Marie Slaughter makes the point that whilst we encourage our daughters to strive to have successful careers, we often do not prepare our sons to be care-givers in the family: in failing to do so, we under-value the traditional female role. The result is that women often work outside the home while still doing the bulk of the unpaid household jobs.

Slaughter’s new book Unfinished Business – Women Men Work Family, outlines the need for a seismic shift in how we raise boys. Women’s equality is linked to changing the mindset about traditional gender roles. Giving men permission to tap into their ‘feminine’ is as liberating as giving women permission to gain a degree. This may mean that women relinquish control and allow men to child-rear, cook and clean house their own way. That may be hard for some women to do. One thing was clear from class discussions, boys appear to be very much influenced by their role-models at home.