Men who have daughters are slightly less likely to have outdated views on gender, according to a new LSE study. Fathers of girls were less likely than those without to agree with the statement: “A husband’s job is to earn money; a wife’s job is to look after the home and family” – 8% less likely when their daughters were of primary school age, and 11% less likely by the time they were in secondary school.
As a net result, it’s a gain – slightly less sexism in the world. But if you think about what it means, and what the process was in the minds of those men, it’s pretty bleak. Like, well done, dude, all it took to make you rethink your “traditional” attitudes towards gender stereotypes was going through the single most dramatic life event you’ll ever go through.
Isn’t something broken there? If the only thing stopping you bellowing “Get back in the kitchen!” at every woman in your office is the thought that your wee girl is special and can do anything, don’t you kind of suck?
Agreeing wholeheartedly with that statement: “A husband’s job is to earn money; a wife’s job is to look after the home and family” – especially in this era, is basically unconscionable. Disagreeing with it isn’t some radical statement, some anarcho-primitivist, eat-the-rich call to arms. It’s just an acknowledgement that there’s something to this “equality” idea. And if getting to that point, that bare-minimum point, requires the creation of a human life, then holy s***.
Would we accept that for any other thing? It’s pretty much: “I didn’t care about women until one had my nose.” Only caring now that it directly affects someone you love is, at best, deeply strange, and not really anything to be celebrated. If someone said :“I just got robbed, and it sucked, so I’ve stopped robbing people,” we wouldn’t give them a big cuddle and an award, we’d ask why they were goddamn robbing people in the first place. If it takes making a friend of another race to make you realise racism is bad, what the hell is wrong with you.
Shouldn’t fundamental human decency just be that bit more attainable? Like, whenever there’s a high-profile man accused of sexual assault, someone always pipes up commenting with “As the father of daughters…” Dude, if you’re only against sexual assault because you have daughters, you’re a d***
None of this is to say that going through something as emotional, as overwhelming and life-changing as having a child, won’t strengthen your views. NBA player Stephen Curry wrote an essay earlier this year about how, as his daughters get older, his feelings about equality get stronger and stronger. “I’d like to think that these ideas have been on my mind for a while… [but] I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the idea of women’s equality has become a little more personal for me, lately, and a little more real,” he wrote.
I can dig that. I have a daughter, and am probably slightly louder about various beliefs than I was before she was born. But if she had been born male, would I be shaking my head in contempt at feminists? Would I have seen the Women’s March on telly and said: “Make my son and I some sandwiches, you daft wenches! I wish you couldn’t vote!” No, surely.
I’m far from perfect in my attitudes, as so few men are – occasionally I’ll make assumptions that, if really looked at, aren’t great, and there are things in my life I’m perfectly content being crap at, confident in the knowledge that my wife will pick up the shortfall. That’s pretty s***. But, hopefully, I’m getting better. I’m a better man now than I was ten years ago, not because I’m a father but because I’ve made an effort. Can’t one just try to be a better person because it’s good to be a better person? Can’t we just change and improve because that’s sort of the whole fucking point of life, rather than requiring a specific related thing to happen?
In an ideal world, it wouldn’t be having a daughter that made these dudes less sexist (well, in an actual ideal world, they wouldn’t be all sexist in the first place, obviously). It would just be the passage of time, the living of life. Like, can’t our opinions improve over time because of bettering ourselves and learning to see things from others’ perspectives, listening to voices different to ours and generally hoping to improve things for everyone, rather than needing a horse in every race? Can’t something matter to you if even if it doesn’t personally apply to you? Can’t you care about homelessness even if you have a home? Can’t you hope for cures for diseases you know you’ll never get? Isn’t it possible to care about women and equality even if – shock horror – you don’t have a daughter? Humans are capable of a lot of things, and it would be nice to think one of them might be, uh, not needing an issue to personally affect you to not be a prick about it.