In an NYT article today, researchers say that men and women, in the US at least, are behaving more like one another:
Now experts who shared their latest research at a conference this month say that far from reverting to more traditional sex roles, women and men are becoming more alike in their attitudes toward balancing life at home and at work.
The gender revolution is not over, they say, it has just developed into “gender convergence.”
“The conventional wisdom is that ‘men are from Mars and women are from Venus,’ ” said Molly Monahan Lang, a sociologist at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. “On the contrary, we are from one small world that is getting smaller.”
I suspect my wife would disagree, pointing to my deeply-inscribed, genetically-determined male inability to keep up with the laundry (I'm good at dishes, but laundry - yuk...). But the researchers take account of that:
Of course, most people recognize that mothers are working more and doing less housework, and men are working less and doing more housework and child care than a generation ago — albeit still significantly less than women. But what much of the recent research has tried to tease out is more information on attitudes and desires.
And so far, the evidence points toward men and women having increasingly similar goals. When Teresa Aguayo and Frederick Moehn had their third child, Mr. Moehn took a six-month sabbatical from teaching music at Stony Brook University to care for the baby.
I think child care is the key here. My sense is that it is true that men - at least middle class men - have gradually come to take on more child care duties. I see it in my colleagues here. Some young, male faculty members now take paternity leaves - a reduced teaching load for one semester - in order to help out with a new baby. When I came to Williams, eighteen years ago, that option was not available and the thought was not in the minds of most male workers here. Thinking has changed, and men are taking more time to be with their children.
To the extent that that is true, I think a modern Confucian perspective would approve. I know: Confucianism has traditionally been used to enforce patriarchy and subjugate women. But if you read Confucius and Mencius, you will notice a very strong imperative to fulfill family obligations. Indeed, I have argued elsewhere that this requires men to involve themselves directly into the lives of their children (though they should not be their children's school teachers) and, given that standard, women have tended to be better Confucians than men.
Thus, if "gender convergence" means that men are doing more child care, then they are being better Confucians. Hooray.
Taoists, too, would be happy with "gender convergence." Gender is, after all, a socially constructed set of expectations, something obvious to Taoists. The Tao Te Ching, in fact, can be read as an exhortation to men to let go of their macho posturing and accept the female elements of their nature:
The life-force of the valley never dies -
This is called the dark female.
The gateway of the dark female -
This is called the root of the world.
Wispy and delicate, it only seems to be there,
Yet its productivity is bottomless.
- Passage 6, Ames and Hall translation
And throw in a load of laundry while you're at it!