Thursday, March 16, 2017

Reflections on Anne Hathaway's Speech on Paid Parental Leave

Guest post by TaraElla

Much has been said about Anne Hathaway's speech about paid parental leave, delivered this past International Women's Day.

Paid parental leave is an important issue, and I'm glad at least someone is giving it a high profile. But the thing I was genuinely, and pleasantly, surprised by was that Anne Hathaway actually gets the point that real gender equality and liberation can only come if it includes everyone. As she said, "in order to liberate women, we need to liberate men" too.

Parental leave is a good example of this dynamic in play. In her speech, Anne pointed out that paid paternity leave is needed just as much, as we need to avoid situations that "undervalue fathers and overburden mothers", as well as situations that leave minorities like gay parents behind. This really contains a lot more understanding of the real world situation than many self-professed feminists can claim.

But parental leave is not the only area where real liberation must include everyone. For example, in the past few decades, feminists have been fighting for the right of women to wear masculine attire and adopt masculine behaviour, without doing anything about the inability of men to break free from gender norms. As a result, masculinity is now valued by everyone, and femininity is seen as weak and unprofessional.

Perhaps, one day, every feminist will understand that just supporting policies that allow women to 'do the things that men do', or even to only care about women's (and nobody else's) liberty and equality, will not bring us anywhere close to real empowerment.