As term is coming to an end, I thoroughly realise how exciting Gender studies are. In retrospect, the most entertaining and interesting tasks we were ever given to write during the course of 4 years proved to be  the very last. Ironically, this was also the term somewhat less related to our actual field.

The law as a tool for change?

The duality that is masculinity/femininity is today based on a set of dual associations that portray men as powerful and women as powerless. In addition to productive/reproductive, these include also active/passive, warrior/nurturer and hard/soft etc. and benefit men's access to power. The notion that caretaking and nurturing children at home is a feature of the feminine gender leads to an inequality in the division of these burdens between men and women. Consequently, women generally carry dual burdens which may in turn have effects on their equal opportunities in work life, as this gives men a better starting point in pursuing a personal career and economical, cultural and political power within society.

Gender theorists speak of how the need of reforming men and women's equity of labour in both the productive and reproductive sphere requires not only a individual change but rather a structural change. However, does regulation through the law necessarily constitute the action that needs to be taken?  The law does prove a powerful statement with which people generally conform in order not suffer from the repercussions of disobedience. Given how deeply-rooted these gender roles come across, in the spheres of production and social reproduction, it can be argued that the answer is yes. Provided that merely individual change is not enough; the law with its standing as the highest authoritative legal source in a society is likely the most efficient measure when needing to address the need for change to a larger portion of a population. Merely advocating for equality at grassroot level or through education may not be sufficient in terms of a rapid change.                      

Using legislation to sort out of existing inequalities in terms of for example men's and women's salaries regarding the same work does not undermine an integrity aspect and should therefore not need any further justification. Neither does legislation promoting equal equity in regard to taking part in the reproductive sphere. This is however the case only as long as the legislation only establishes legal possibilities to, for example paternal leave so that employers and men take notice of this notion, and is not obliging the men to do so. In the latter case of obliging, the achievement of greater good in the long-run may still perhaps justify the freedom of individual families to choose for themselves being overruled.

 Photo: Terry Richardson


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