Newsweek to American Guys: We Can Learn Some Lessons from Europe on How to Be a Man

"To survive in a hostile world, guys need to embrace girly jobs and dirty diapers," argued the Newsweek writers Andrew Romano and Tony Dokoupil in the subheadline of their September 20 article "Men's Lib."

The writers set out to explain "[w]hy it’s time to reimagine masculinity at work and at home."

If American men want to be competitive in a global economy, they argued, they need to suck it up and get comfortable with the idea of working traditionally "girly jobs" and/or being stay at home dads:

It’s possible to imagine protectionist trade and immigration policies boosting blue-collar employment at the margins. But the U.S. can’t stop globalization. If male morale—and the American economy—are ever going to recover, the truth is that the next generation of Homer Simpsons will have to stop searching for outsourced manufacturing jobs and start working toward teaching, nursing, or social-service positions instead.

Fair enough. But Romano and Dokoupil also cast their gaze across the Atlantic, arguing America needs public policies that emulate European countries on paid parental leave, particularly paid paternal leave (emphasis mine):

In 1995, Sweden passed a simple but revolutionary law: couples would lose one month of leave unless the father was the one who took it. A second use-it-or-lose-it month was added in 2002, and now more than 80 percent of Swedish fathers take four months off for the birth of a new child, up from 4 percent a decade ago. And a full 41 percent of companies now formally encourage fathers to go on parental leave, up from only 2 percent in 1993. Simply put, men are expected to work less and father more.

By altering the roles of the Swedish father and the Swedish worker, Sweden’s paternity-leave legislation has, in turn, rewritten the rules for Swedish men (and, by extension, women). “Swedish dads of my generation and younger have been raised to feel competent at child-rearing,” writes Slate’s Nathan Hegedus, an American who experienced the system firsthand. “They simply expect to do it, just as their wives and partners expect it of them.” If a man refuses time at home with the kids, he faces questions from friends, family, and, yes, other guys. Policy changes produced personal changes—and then, slowly but surely, society changed as well.

The implication is clear: American society must be engineered to catch up with the needs of a rapidly-changing global economy, and what better mechanism to make that progress than government.

In fairness to Romano and Dokoupli, they do make a case for personal, spousal, and parental responsibility by American men at the close of their article:

Ultimately, the New Macho boils down to a simple principle: in a changing world, men should do whatever it takes to contribute their fair share at home and at work, and schools, policymakers, and employers should do whatever they can to help them. After all, what’s more masculine: being a strong, silent, unemployed absentee father, or actually fulfilling your half of the bargain as a breadwinner and a dad?

But the fact that this duo of  writers feel the need to preach this message is a window into the condescending view many liberal journalists take on the great unwashed masses who aren't reading their pontifications.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters