02:42pm Monday 13 July 2020

Men could become "mothers", UC gender expert says

 Associate Professor Annick Masselot

Associate Professor Annick Masselot is giving a public lecture on the issue on campus next week (13 November) with her talk titled “Could men become ‘mothers’?”

The debate over the struggle for parenthood-related rights highlights the inherent tension between the demands of the career market and the needs of the family, she says.

“Obviously men cannot give birth. However, the biological difference between men and women does not preclude men from providing care for their children. The fact that women give birth does not make them necessarily the best or the only person able to provide care for the baby and children.

“Entrenching women into care giving roles is limiting not only for women, who too often need to reconcile their paid work duties with their unpaid work obligations. It means that women often provide a double shift of work – in the workplace and then at home.

“A world where women are the principle care giver, is also limiting for men who are denied the possibility to explore their nurturing identity or create bound with their new-born babies or later in life with their children.

“Apart from providing birth and breast feeding, which are biological determinants, care giving tasks can be carried out by women or men. It is our conception of society that limits our abilities not our biology. Men can definitely be ‘mothers’ in the sense that they can provide the care that mothers traditionally do. 

“The involvement of men in domestic duties will inevitably lead to more equality in the workplace and in the public arena. Working on achieving gender equality in the workplace therefore also involves looking into sharing more equality unpaid care in the home.

“In practice, it is very unusual for fathers to take parental leave beyond a few weeks because the leave is not very well remunerated and men are still often the main breadwinner of the family,” Professor Masselot says.

The paid Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987 provides 14 weeks government-funded and job-protected paid parental leave under conditions, as well as up to 52 weeks of job-protected unpaid extended leave.

The Act is written in gender neutral terms and claims to ensure gender equity within the labour market and the family.

Professor Masselot says the right to paid parental leave is conditioned by the eligibility of the mother as the act does not provide a specific and independent paid leave for fathers. 

“In reality, it is assumed that mothers will provide the primary care giving of young children. The main limitation of the right to paid parental leave is the level of pay. The payment is set at a maximum of NZ$488.17 per week before tax, and is inferior to the minimum wage which is NZ$550 for a standard 40 hour week.

“Therefore, the leave is more often taken by women who, on average, earn less than men. New Zealand has some of the highest working hours per week and an increasing number of people work long hours, which makes family child care a difficult undertaking for many,” she says.

You can find out more about Professor Masselot’s talk here

For further information please contact:
Kip Brook
Media Consultant
Student Services and Communications
University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 3325
Mobile: 027 5030 168

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