The ponytailed center-right finance minister calls himself a feminist, ads for cleaning products rarely feature women as homemakers, and preschools vet books for gender stereotypes in animal characters. For nearly four decades, governments of all political hues have legislated to give women equal rights at work — and men equal rights at home...
“Many men no longer want to be identified just by their jobs,” said Bengt Westerberg, who long opposed quotas but as deputy prime minister phased in a first month of paternity leave in 1995. “Many women now expect their husbands to take at least some time off with the children.”
We're not talking about taking two weeks off here - the vast majority of men in Sweden take their full two months, and many also split some of the combined parental leave (thirteen months between parents) to stay home longer. Can you even imagine this happening in the US? How much would a policy like this change our culture (for the better)?
Many Americans would describe Sweden as "Socialist!!" (a big, bad, scary word these days), and they'd be right. But Swedish policies are also much more pro-family than those of the more free-market Capitalist US. At least if we consider parents spending time with their children to be pro-family (I do!). For all of the political rhetoric around our "traditional family values," US society does not really have a commitment to strengthening the family. Right-wing groups may stand strong against gay marriage and abortions, but where are the rallies for family leave, subsidized childcare, and living wages? The top three results in a Google Search of "Pro Family Advocacy" are homophobic organizations protesting gay marriage. Do Americans just not get it?
I could totally get on board with a pro-family group, if they espoused truly pro-family principles. Where I would start:
- Ensure that all parents have access to the resources to provide more than adequate food, shelter, healthcare, and education to their children.
- Support working parents (fathers and mothers) with paid parental leave, flexible work arrangements, and heavily subsidized childcare.
- Provide support for families affected by sickness or disability, with caregiver leave, access and subsidies for needed services (healthcare, transportation, education, etc.).
For those looking to read more on family advocacy in the US, the following sites are useful: