Recently, there’s been quite a stir in Spain regarding work-life balance. We all know the drill: the idea that working should be compatible with taking care of children. Banishing the idea that the mother is the one who should take care of the children, while the father works. Outrage because maternity leave is longer (or more frequently taken) than paternity leave, or because companies ask women if they intend to get pregnant, taking for granted that, if that were the case, she would be the one who would be missing work.
We could express it in a few words: stop taking for granted that the woman is the main caregiver of children. And that is great, in principle, until you begin examining what is underneath. Because, of course, if we are to defend this idea, we have to defend it IN ALL SPHERES.
There are times when being considered the main caregiver is a disadvantage to you, like not being hired in a company. But on other occasions, that consideration is an obvious advantage: being granted the children’s custody in a divorce and, therefore, a tidy sum of money each month, coming straight from the father’s wallet, who becomes the supporter of his children without actually enjoying them. Shared parental custody would be a fantastic example of this commitment to stop mothers from being considered the main caregivers. And who is fiercely resisting shared custody? Feminism, the same people who advocate for work-life balance.
The same thing happens with abortion: I, like a great part of Spanish society, agree that a woman should not be bear the responsibility of a child if she doesn’t wish to have it, and that she can do whatever she wants with her body. Of course. But, just as naturally, we deny men the same right: to decide not to take responsibility for a child if he doesn’t want to. This is what we could call “male abortion”, or male reproductive rights. When this idea is put forth, the man’s lack of responsibility is berated, and he is compelled to “suck it up”, that he “should have thought about it beforehand”. All of this could be told to the woman, just as easily, if she were considered responsible for her own actions. The truth is that, when it’s suitable, sex is still assumed to be “something bad that men do to women”. And this backward idea is defended by the very same feminists (“all heterosexual sex is rape, remember that?).
It doesn’t make sense that, as soon as a man gets a woman pregnant, that man must take responsibility for the baby, if that’s her wish. The woman has the authority in all stages of pregnancy and birth, to decide if she wants to have that child, and what will be the responsibility of the father in his/her upbringing. If the father wishes to have the child, but the woman doesn’t, he can’t force her to have it (obviously). But in the opposite case (if the father doesn’t want to have a child but the mother does), the mother can force the father, without any legal trouble whatsoever, to take responsibility for the child, or at least to pay her child support monthly.
This legal reality is telling us, plain and simple, that the child BELONGS to the mother, and that the father can be pushed out or brought in the family circle, according to the mother’s wishes. Therefore, this goes absolutely against our initial thesis: stop taking for granted that the woman is the main caregiver of children. If she is not, if the child belongs to BOTH parents, then BOTH parents should have authority and decision-making capacity.
Across the world, we find cases of men who have been deceived or straightaway drugged and raped by a woman, with the sole purpose of getting pregnant and having the right to alimony. This has even happened with boys and teenagers, whose parents are forced to pay their son’s rapist for abusing him. The opposite case would be unthinkable: the man would be considered a child abuser and he would be prosecuted. In this case, however, not only the rapist goes free; the victim is held accountable for the crime committed against him. There are also multiple cases of men who have safe sex with a woman, and she then uses the condom to get pregnant.
The bottom line is that this subject has a lot more layers than it seems. If feminists really want the financial independence and empowerment of women, and erase the assumption of women’s role as mothers, then they can’t keep avoiding the cases where women get benefits from that idea of dependence and maternity, often at the expense of men. If they keep doing so, they will prove that they are actually pursuing a selective equality, and that their goal is to benefit women no matter what, never looking at what is happening on the “other side”.
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