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The amputated equality

Karita Bekkemellem's political ambitions for the role of man are not impressive.


[chronicle] Nordic male scientists have made empirical findings that reveal that being a man in the Nordic countries today can be directly dangerous to health. Men become losers in both family and working life. The findings scream after political action. But a closer examination of the documents that underpin Norway's gender equality initiative, in particular the Soria Moria Declaration, the state budget for 2007 and the parties' program declarations in the field, reveal modest visions.

The lack of integration of the work with the male role is striking. The Nordic action plan for men and gender equality was adopted for the period 1997-2005. During the collaboration period there were many pioneering cross-fertilizations between male scientists and experiences between the Nordic countries. The working group was closed down last year and is today replaced by a so-called "mainstreaming strategy" of the male gender perspective in the work on gender equality.

We are responding to the notified parliamentary report on men. But none of the government parties' work programs or the Soria Moria Declaration states that the role of men and the struggle for a more gender-equitable society must be seen in context, or that a change in the role of men is a necessary premise for equality progress. As long as the political founding documents are lacking this, we can't go for mainstreaming yet.

Rumination of the paternity quota.

When Norway hosted the Nordic conference on men's research in February, "Men – equality and welfare", the Minister for Children and Equality, Karita Bekkemellem, opened with an engaging word about the importance of men taking an active part in gender equality.

We couldn't agree more. But here too the visions ended, and the right embarrassment became when the minister could tell how Japanese colleagues look to Norway. Japan is not difficult to overcome with its disparate labor market and conservative attitude towards gender. Comparing oneself with Japan in a world context sets an embarrassingly low standard for shaping Norwegian gender equality policy.

The prime minister would also praise the government and tell the success story of the paternity quota. Since it was introduced in 1993, Norwegian fathers taking part of the maternity leave have increased from four per cent to 85 per cent. The success is a sign that government intervention and gender equality is absolutely necessary. We welcome the promises that fathers should receive independent earning of leave rights, as well as plans to extend the paternity quota from six to ten weeks. But is there really so little new in the equality policy that the government finds reason to chew on the success of the paternity quota?

Greedy working life.

SV, the only government party with a distinctly feminist profile, in its work program advocates discrimination against women in working life and proposes that work and family life be reconciled, but the program is devoid of analyzes of how the same working life eats men in managerial positions.

It is, as gender scientist Øystein G. Holter said at the conference, not long ago that a family father and senior leader in the oil industry killed his wife, children and himself after long-standing work on a budget crackdown. Was this incident just a so-called family tragedy, or an extreme symptom of what greedy working life can drive people to? The top tier of working life not only leads to time cramps and double-working women, but poses a danger to men's lives and health. The chief role is characterized by great responsibility around the clock, where it presents challenges to find time to care for children and family – and themselves.

Despite increased commitment to an inclusive work life, many managers still face barriers to reducing work pressure. It is difficult to create attitudes towards employers who have so far not realized that there is money to be made in taking human considerations, including in the corporate leadership. Today's working life, with emphasis on efficiency, competitiveness, demands for constant renewal and adaptability is not only bad health policy, but also bad economy for companies, in the long term.

Healthy men's role.

Even though Norway is far ahead when it comes to attitudes to gender equality, the man is still considered the main breadwinner in the family, says Holter. It is not enough to work against discrimination against women in working life and an increase in the father quota, if one does not at the same time work to strike a chord under the foundations of working life – the destructive male role that draws content from traditional, patriarchal values.

In sociologist Ulla-Britt Lilleaas' research project on men with heart attacks, she interviewed a man whose five-year-old daughter got cancer. Two years later his wife died, and at the age of forty he had a heart attack. Still, he could assure you that he had never experienced a crisis. Crises are such that only women are affected. Men die on average five years before women, and are twice as often exposed to sudden death. But when the disease strikes, the one who does not kill them, then there is a tendency that it is the wife in the families who does the emotional work in the family.

No one notices that behind the silent man hides someone who is scared, who has anxiety, who cannot sleep at night. The silent man manages himself. By taking on the emotional work, the woman maintains the traditional male role by taking an invisible responsibility to confirm the man's masculinity.

Anemia low.

There are indications that the political analyzes of the parties have suppressed the values ​​of patriarchy as having a dangerous impact which is increasingly affecting men. However, which men this applies is not given, and unfolds in the prism between class, ethnicity and geography. Political analysis must embrace this complexity. The solution models cannot be limited to white middle-class men and toddler fathers, but must also take into account the challenges marginalized masculinities that homosexuals, immigrants and working-class men face.

"Equality is one of the most important export items we have," Bekkemelem said at the conference. It should provide increased funding for male research, whose findings should be included in the design of a more nuanced gender equality policy. Tomorrow's men and women are not served with amputated analyzes and piecemeal plans for equality. Unless the red-green can deliver a comprehensive policy, no one can. We hope Bekkemelem and her government at the celebration of March 8 take the opportunity to equip themselves with an equality policy in line with research in the field.

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