Tag Archives: Bennhold

What is family?

As we move toward a more tolerant society, variation in the structure of the nuclear family is becoming more and more common. While the traditional family is still the most widely adopted model, we’re seeing important shifts away from this longstanding norm to include families with gay, and queer parents, and families with nontraditional relationship structures- single parents, or others. Articles like the Belkin reading make it tempting to say that family models that share parenting roles evenly ought to be the new norm. But I believe we ought to move away from normalizing particular models altogether. Instead, we ought to focus on creating accessible avenues for people of all family structures. Our reading on the Swedish parental leave policy is a brilliant example because it provides space for new dads to be a part of their children’s early lives if they choose. The policy does not force dad’s to stay at home, but they have the option to (and 85% take advantage of it). Family ought to be determined by whatever structures and roles make its members most happy. Maria Bello’s Coming Out as a Modern Family is an excellent example of such an alternate structure. As long as we encourage and make space for alternative models of family, we’ll hopefully see greater numbers of fulfilled families, that foster acceptance both within and without the family unit.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share it All.” New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/15/magazine/15parenting-t.html (accessed December 15, 2013).

Bello, Maria . “Coming Out as a Modern Family.” New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/01/fashion/coming-out-as-a-modern-family-modern-love.html(accessed December 15, 2013).

Bennhold, Katrin . “In Sweden, Men Can Have It All .” New York Times . http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/world/europe/10iht-sweden.html (accessed December 15, 2013).


What is privilege?

Different parenting styles call attention to the vast differences in lifestyles between people of different socioeconomic classes. The historical precedent of women serving a “childbearing and childrearing role” (Firestone 233) has persisted to the modern day, as mothers are more involved than fathers with the childrearing process in the majority of families. While it is simple to acknowledge the need for mothers and fathers to share in the responsibilities of childrearing, this is simply not possible for all families. Equally shared parenting, in which both partners “spend equal time with their children, take equal responsibility for their home” (Belkin 1), is a privilege that most parents do not have.

Equally shared parenting requires a high amount of resources and stability. For example, the Taussig parents described in the New York Times article was only able to make the arrangements necessary to spend time at home because they had stable jobs that permitted them to take time off. Additionally, time spent at home displaces time spent at work, resulting in a loss of income. Even though “equality in parenting should be every couple’s goal” (Belkin 6), it may simply be impossible for lower SES families to practice equally shared parenting, due to time and money constraints.

While I agree that we should be wary of stereotypical gender roles within families, I also think that equally shared parenting is an ideal that most parents do not have the means to actualize. We should not be too critical of families that do not practice equally shared parenting, since it is a privilege based on socioeconomic status. How can we create conditions that are more conducive to equally shared parenting? It may be necessary to restructure the economic system, as Sweden began to do through implementing and normalizing paternity leave (Bennhold).

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 15 June 2008. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

Bennhold, Katrin. “In Sweden, Men Can Have It All.” NYTimes. The New York Times, 9 June 2010. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

Firestone, Shulamith. “Conclusion: The Ultimate Revolution.” The Dialectic of Sex ; the Case for Feminist Revolution. New York: Morrow, 1970. 233. Print.

What is Free Choice? How Can We Obtain It?

Free choice is traditionally construed as unrestricted liberty – the ability to do what one wants without limitation. Interestingly enough, though, in our highly gendered society, free choice is not quite so simple. In contemporary American society, whether a man wants to have leave to care for his children is irrelevant – societal standards dictate that such a liberty is denied to him, for fear of societal condemnation and significant earning penalties. Free choice here, then, is not reached through absolute, unrestrained liberty.


Things are not quite so in Sweden, though, with “eight in 10 men [taking] leave [from work to care for their children,” (Bennhold). This drastic rise in the trend is a result of Sweden’s law “reserving at least two months of the generously paid, 13-month parental leave exclusively for father,” (Bennhold), with refusal to adapt resulting in a loss of a month’s worth of subsidies. Men in Sweden now feel they have the ability to take off from work to care for their children if they want. In a very ironic way, the infringement of liberty helped to expand it.


Free choice is an interesting concept: while one would think the best way to attain liberty would be to instantiate total liberty, this is not the case – indeed, it seems true liberty can only be achieved through its initial curtailment. Giving people the excuse of necessity to allow them to make decisions that go against the norms seems to be the only way to allow society to finally have a really, truly free choice.


Bennhold, Katrin. “In Sweden, Men Can Have It All.” The New York Times. June 9, 2010. Accessed December 3, 2013. Web.


After the 2011 fiasco of “Dad-Mom”, Tide seems to be turning over a new leaf. Their latest advertisement, released in January of this year, addresses a growing population of men who share the housework. Unlike Tide’s earlier overcompensating attempt, this dad doesn’t feel the need to “use brute-strength” or go do push-ups after folding his daughter’s frilliest dress. Rather, he behaves like a normal person, a parent taking care of their normal (neither ultra-feminine nor ultra-boyish) child, and in essence, like how a dad should behave. He plays with his daughter, launders her clothes, and in general just takes care of her. He doesn’t feel the need to posture his masculinity or reaffirm his manliness despite helping out around the house. In fact, this ad completely removes the idea of having to reaffirm masculinity. Unlike “Dad-Mom”, this ad doesn’t gender housework. This dad isn’t doing “women’s work” and compensating by being overly manly. No, he is doing “parent work”, un-gendered work, necessary for keeping up the house and taking care of his daughter.

Tide’s advertisement is representative of the new direction media should be taking. Bucking gender roles is far more complicated that merely placing a man in a stereotypical women’s role. First, the concept that there are “women’s roles” must be done away with. This is particularly difficult as evidenced in Tide’s unfortunate (but well-meaning) “Dad-Mom” and even in Katrin Bennhold’s In Sweden, Men Can Have It All article. Bennhold starts off her article by describing Mikael Karlsson, snowmobile driver, hunting dog owner, and a true man’s man as an ideality of what a dad, who still helps take care of his daughter, should be.  Her insistence on using such stereotypically masculine men in her article implies a gendering of child-care. While she argues that men should play a part in childcare, she is still defining it in terms of “women’s work” in the sense that she is trying to say “Look, here are manly men, with undiminished masculinity despite having the ability to change a diaper”. Even her title – “Men Can Have It All” – implies some kind of exclusivity of childcare between the sexes. In contrast, Tide’s quiet “ordinary dad” advertisement refuses to gender childcare and housework, consequently going a lot farther in establishing equality between the sexes than Bennhold’s article. While Bennhold’s intentions are good, pointing out that housework and childcare should be shared, her attempt is eerily reminiscent of “Dad-Mom” and could have done without the gendering of different kinds of work.


Bennhold, Katrin. “In Sweden, Men Can Have It All.” NYTimes. The New York Times, 9 June 2010. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.