McGowan: Sexual Equality

February 6, 2020

by Richard McGowan, Ph.D.

Gender issues have been in the news lately.

Illinois, for example, passed a law in 2019 requiring changing stations in all public rest rooms. The law helps fathers, since many restrooms would have fathers change their baby’s diapers on the counter near the sink or on the floor of the bathroom. The New York Times had an article Jan 19 entitled, “Why Mothers’ Choices Often Feel Like No Choice.” The article said “many parents — particularly women — feel their decisions about work and family are made within such constraints that they have little choice at all.” 

However, the Pew Research Center reported in 2019: “Just like mothers, many of today’s fathers find it challenging to balance work and family life. About half of working dads (52 percent) said in 2015 that it is very or somewhat difficult to do so, a slightly smaller share than the 60 percent of working mothers who said the same.” Consigning men to the working world means fathers “have little choice at all.”

The Times had an article about the Equal Rights Amendment after it passed in Virginia. The article rarely used the word ‘men’ but made abundant use of the “women.” Is the ERA about equality or about women?

Child custody decisions favor mothers, yet the Pew Research Center reported in 2018, “17 percent of all stay-at-home parents in 2016 were fathers, up from 10 percent in 1989.”  

That mothers need help, and that fathers don’t, showed up in the last Democratic debate. The Wall Street Journal’s  Peggy Noonan wrote, “The candidates were indignant that women can be held from the workforce by the high cost of childcare.” She added, “No one spoke with compassion . . . for mothers who forgo the earnings and status . . . and relationships . . . of having a job to stay home with kids under age four.”  

An earlier WSJ had an article entitled, “The Challenges That Working Mothers Still Face.” The article listed problems that I faced in raising our children.

The idea that men should work while women take care of children teaches that being a father is a matter of indifference — yet “strong” feminists blame men for not taking care of their children. Go figure.

If the Equal Rights Amendment becomes law, maybe that will change, but I’m not optimistic. How often do media report data unfriendly to men? For example, the Department of Education reported that “In fall 2017, female students made up 56 percent of total undergraduate enrollment (9.4 million students), and male students made up 44 percent (7.3 million students).” Where is the outcry about the inequality?

What about the homeless? Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reported that in 2017, “Just under 61 percent of people experiencing homelessness . . . were men, and 39 percent . . . were women.” HUD added that “Gender varied by sheltered status. People staying in unsheltered locations were more likely to be men (71 percent), while people staying in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs were somewhat more likely to be women (55 percent).” Such data are rarely, if ever, found in media outlets.

The 2019 first-year enrollment in law school was 54 percent female and 46 percent male, according to the American Bar Association. The American Association of Medical Colleges reports that 52.4 percent of people in medical school are women, 46.6 percent are men. Should those imbalances bother us?  

The disproportionate suspension rate in public secondary and elementary schools between whites and blacks is widely reported. The suspension rate between girls and boys? For 2014, out-of-school suspensions: 1,860,002 boys and 775,741 girls; for expulsion: 82,787 boys and 28,428 girls. In 2017, the National Center for Educational Statistics reported in percentages: 7.25 percent of suspensions were boys, 3.20 percent were girls; for expulsion, .32 percent boys, .12 percent girls. Given that data, what can Title IX mean?

And shouldn’t the clear pattern of school discipline be reported? The answer depends not on whose ox is gored but on whether a female ox is gored.

Richard McGowan, Ph.D., an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, has taught philosophy and ethics cores for more than 40 years, most recently at Butler University.


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