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Today's revolution: speech by Pru Goward, at the National Strategic Conference on Fatherhood: Parliament House, Canberra.



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Today's Revolution

Speech by Pru Goward, Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner at the National Strategic Conference on Fatherhood, Parliament House, Canberra.

● Conference Organisers Warwick Marsh and Richard Yiap, Ladies and Gentlemen.

● Congratulations first of all to Warwick and Richard for getting us all together at this National

Strategic Conference on Fatherhood, congratulations on the spirit in which it is being held and congratulations on so many different groups for being here ● It is a day for unlikely alliances.

● Fatherhood is now on the Agenda!

● The promise of the rights of the individual that were born in the French revolution and

confirmed when every man got the vote and, some decades later, every woman, is now part of the fatherhood debate. Fatherhood is a choice, not a cheque book. ● For too long Fatherhood has been ignored, taken for granted, seen as just about earning the

money and laying down the law. ● This National Strategic Conference on Fatherhood says that men want real equality. Real

equality means equality of opportunity and equality of choice in every part of our lives- in our work, in where we live, in who we love and how we choose to care for our children. As the Government reminds us all so often, it also means responsibilities. ● Real equality means, for a start, the end to any suggestion there is a war of the sexes.

● Men and women can't both get what they want if they work against each other. They are after

all, the two faces of the coin of humanity. ● To be in paid work, to pursue a career, to lead a government, defend your country, to work

part time, to run your child's school canteen roster, run a scouts pack or coach a school sports team, to be a home dad or a home mum- these should be choices for men and women. ● It's been thirty years since women won the right to be able to work after marriage and started

demanding equal pay and opportunity. While the statistics show they're not there yet, they've come a long way. ● But they might have got there sooner if they had been able or willing to work with men and

changes to their choices. Women weren't alone in this oversight. Governments and institutions also failed to recognise that every time they changed the rules for women, the rules for men also needed to change- to open up the same choices for them that women had. All of those governments and most of those institutions have been led by men. Strong men, powerful men, who forgot to listen to their fellow man. ● Men too have been disadvantaged by the imposition of traditional gender roles on their lives.

It's up to you now to change that. ● A lesson we could take from the Feminist Movement is that change is least likely when it is

revolutionary and most likely when it is constructive, practical, incremental and minimises further division. For example affirmative action for women in Australia has never legally imposed quotas, whatever the myths, merit has remained the most important criterion. ● And of course, the call for constructive change is why we are all here today.

● A lot of women would like to join in.

● Maybe you find this surprising; there's certainly been a lot of yelling at each other down the

years! Women have challenged men's roles and it hasn't always been pretty. Naturally anger and confusion were likely to result from changes to what were once certainties. ● But in the end, as we see today, changing one inevitably changes the other.

● And now it's the turn of men.

● And your revolution, just like women's, does not need to be a war if it is to succeed.

● This is a message for the women's movement, by the way, as much as for the men's

movement -going to war is a mistake some in the women's movement made as well. ● Yours is a revolution about assumptions lying at the heart of our society.

● Fatherhood, along with motherhood, is that heart. Fatherhood is a central part of a man's

identity. How a man parents goes a long way to how he sees himself as man. Men deal from at least adolescence with the expectation that they should be the breadwinner- and with the pressure of that expectation. Less often that they should be the law maker, the enforcer. ● For men, the onerous task of being the breadwinner - working in an often thankless job,

perhaps ill paid, with long hours and bad conditions, has always been considered the demonstration - the proof - of their love for their family. ● Breadwinning was always seen to discharge the greater proportion of a man's fathering

obligations. ● But as women have entered the realm of work, and are now significant contributors to a

family's standard of living, some of this obligation has been lifted from men's shoulders.

● It should have freed men up to pursue other time consuming aspects of being a dad- like role

modelling, teaching and companionship. Sometimes it has, but often times it has made no difference. Today men in their early parenting years, for example, work more overtime than any other work force age group. ● So shouldn't there now be fathers who are able to do a bit of both, working and parenting, like

many women do? ● We need to acknowledge, as your conference does today, that men, like women, wish to work

and parent. ● The work of British sociologist Dr Catherine Hakim, is often cited by the Prime Minister. Hers is

a useful analysis. ● She proposes that women fall into one of three groups:

1. home centred women; 2. work centred women; and 3. adaptive women whose hopes and aspirations are in the areas of both work and family. The majority of women are believed to fall in this category. ● There are no doubt also three correlating categories of men - although in fact no-one has yet

bothered to ask men. ● Like women, some men will sit at the extremes, but surely the vast majority lie somewhere in

between, adaptives? ● Failing to acknowledge that men are or at least aspire to an adaptive model means that men

are still firmly stuck -by choice or not - in the working world. ● This disadvantages us all. Fathers, children- and mothers.

● We need to enable more men to take advantage of family friendly workplace policies, more

often. After all, men currently have access to a year's unpaid parental leave, just like women. ● The same applies to paid carer's leave when a child is sick.

● We need to encourage fathers to take it and challenge work cultures that frown upon and

discriminate against men who seek flexible working conditions or shorter hours, ● However, there is a price. Those who wish to be a more engaged as parents and still

participate in the world of paid work will find (as men who have done so attest, and as women know) that it may well mean giving up over-time, promotion opportunities, often full time work, a decent amount of superannuation, business travel, most of your leisure and even some of your sleep, for those few years. ● As a result many fathers choose not to do it. I use the word "choose" carefully. Let me explain.

● Over recent weeks a number of men have argued publicly that undertaking the same sort of

parenting load as mothers just isn't practical. ● They've pointed out that men generally earn more and so it makes sense for them to be the

full time earner. ● They've argued that men don't have access to the same degree of family friendly work

practices and men who attempt to be more engaged as parents are viewed less favourably for advancement and employment. ● But these arguments are a ban on fathering.

● By acquiescing in them, we are "choosing". We can choose differently- like we did when we

gave women the right to vote, even though many at the time believed women were not capable of voting and it would be the downfall of good government. Today, we regard those beliefs as ridiculous. Just as we will one day look back on the 20th century in amazement that men ever were allowed and encouraged and often forced to be separated from their families by the grinding wheels of the world of work. To the detriment of their sons, their daughters, their marriages and themselves. ● The personal is the political. It empowers us to change the rules and as we change ourselves.

● And as women join you on your journey, women may have to make some more changes.

Women may need to recognise that there will be women who try to keep the parenting for themselves, acting as the gatekeeper and the arbiter of "good" parenting. ● Just as some men over the last couple of generations have been slow to accept that women

can belong to the workplace, so, no doubt, women will need to be encouraged to abdicate some control of the domestic sphere. When my father looked after us on the Saturdays my mother did night-duty, he got us to eat all our dinner by mixing together the meat, vegetables, custard and stewed fruit all in one dish. It wasn't my mother's way of doing it, but it got the result! And my Dad's been very special to me! ● So down with long notes, prepared dinners and lists for Dads when Mum goes out! Down with

tuts of disapproval when the kids aren't dressed quite right. ● This is a chance for freedom. Not just of choices, but of being.

● This is not to say that you have to stop being blokes. Where would we be without blokes?! But

it gives you the chance to accept and reject and modify aspects of masculinity. ● Many men would say that violence, for example, has been a part of masculinity over the

centuries, even if an unwelcome one. ● But it is unacceptable to all of us and men need to be at the forefront of ridding our society of

its scourge. ● It is important that you put, at the heart of your men's movement, responsibility for eliminating

violence(1)[1]. Sadly, most murders are committed by men- whether it's murders of other men or, less often, of women, and step fathers abusing kids like Jonathon, who told us his story earlier today.

● To be frank, I don't agree with having a twelve point plan- or any plan yet! There are so many

different ideas coming from so many groups and directions now, you might finding having a plan is a distraction from working out what the challenges are and where the answers lie. ● As Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, there are two suggestions I would like to leave

with you today: 1. Lobby for federal family responsibilities discrimination provisions in the Sex Discrimination Act. This is supposed to help parents achieve work and family balance- yet the present arrangements generally only assist women. This continues to

disadvantage working fathers. 2. Why not ask the government for an Equality Commission or inquiry? Such a Commission or inquiry would have responsibility for assessing men's and women's

mutual progress towards equality. It is not about re-cutting a pie to advantage one sex over the other. ● So today's conference is your day and your beginning.

● But it is also a beginning on a common journey towards a common goal.

● Finally, we are on the road together!

Thank you.

1. Of course, women too can be violent. However for the most part, the purpose and effects differ radically - male violence is used to regulate women's behaviour, and men's. Men commit most of the violence that is considered in the criminal system, against women and against other men.

Consider non intimate homicide - According to ABS data 93 per cent of non intimate homicides are committed by males - 77 per cent of these incidents involved a male killing another male, 16 per cent involved a male killing a female.

Initiate homicide statistics add to this picture of male violence as in the majority of these homicides, 77 per cent, a male killed a female. (Source: ABS 4128.0 Women's Safety Australia Canberra 1996.)