Written by Douglas Todd | Published by the Vancouver Sun
Douglas Todd: Is Vancouver Ready for Full Gender Equality?
A high-powered American policy analyst is coming to Vancouver on Wednesday with messages destined to challenge the status quo on gender equality.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, who wrote a famous Atlantic Magazine essay, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” believes many men and women, including feminists, are stuck in out-dated understandings of motherhood, fatherhood and how gender can play out in education, nursing and the trades.
“We routinely still say, ‘There’s nothing like a mother. You can’t replace the mother.’ But what does that say about single fathers? About gay couples? It’s B.S. The idea a man can’t parent a child, while raising children differently, is just crazy,” Slaughter said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.
The former director of policy planning for former U.S. president Barack Obama said society needs to push back against those who act as if males can’t be good caregivers; in much the same way people once denounced as “dinosaurs” those who believed that “bread-winning is a man’s job.”
Slaughter, who will speak at Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m., poured praise on B.C.’s NDP government for last week’s announcement it would inject $1 billion into licensed child care; with low-income families paying little or nothing for care and others receiving subsidies.
“Oh my god, that is far-sighted. That is visionary. It’s an essential foundation for a 21st-century economy. Without it, you are knocking one member of a couple, whether man or woman, out of the workforce,” Slaughter said.
“Now that everybody needs to work for money, somebody has to do the care,” she said. “If you want all your talent in the workforce, and if you want your workforce to reproduce, then you better be providing for care.”
Slaughter believes Nordic countries, and Germany and France, have generally done better than the U.S. and Canada at supporting gender equity. Most have provided universal daycare and, in many cases, mandated that fathers, not just mothers, take parental leave to maximize the family’s taxpayer-supported benefits.
After her Atlantic article helped spark an international debate over outworn expectations about the roles of women and men, Slaughter expanded her views in a 2015 book titled, Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family.