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And you've picked up on one of the key things that has bugged me about this debate - in that where I've discussed outcomes in terms of proportions of men and women (and other groups) affected by certain issues, I'm not actually assuming homogenity within the groups in terms of characteristics and preferences. Therefore I'm not willing to accept 'old wisdom' without verifying and evidencing it. Where I pointed out previously that reference was being made to socially constructed gender roles - they may not have been referred to as that - but numerous examples given have indeed alluded to it.
So the way that that big ambiguous 'society' I talk about has developed over hundreds of years, gender roles based on old wisdom ie mothers are the best ones to care for their children and women shouldn't go out to work or it should be 'gentle' and not too complex if they do, and men should be the main breadwinners and men fix the cars and do the DIY and women cook and clean and do the laundry - these socially constructed gender roles are still deeply ingrained in society and as Linca has pointed out, they constrain the choices available to people.
Let's take work and childcare. The men wants to be at home to raise his kids and the woman wants to work. Are they really that free to choose to do that? Who earns more, or has the greater career prospects and is less likely to find a glass ceiling bashing their head as they try to get a promotion or move to a better job?
Usually (in a middle class household) - the man. In a working class household where nothing is well paid or secure then the likelihood is both will still need to carry on working.
So when you need a secure income to raise your family and you know that 'women of child bearing age' are more likely to face discrimination at work and less likely to advance (there are stats for that and attitude surveys), and the man already earns slightly more and is more likely to increase that over the next 3 years - what choice is there really?
And when a woman wants to come back to work on a part time basis, and she ends up doing low paid admin even if she has a degree, that is because employers are inflexible about considering job shares at higher level or reduced hours for higher level and better paid jobs. A case that went through tribunal a few years ago that was backed by significant research showed that there are very few jobs that cannot realistically be turned into a job share (ie 2 people working part time to fill a full time role).
And things like lack of free childcare and direct discrimination from employers who don't want to hire young women and the more subtle prejudices against women as being less capable, less assertive with clients and just generally not as good as the man standing next to her who is pushing for the same promotion (we go back to our old wisdom and socially constructed gender roles that people still take as the truth)... these are the things that need to be tackled in order to give everybody more choice to do and be whatever they want to be.
Yes, people need to be educated but where, how? At school certainly, in unionised workplaces reps can help to educate but many workplaces are not unionised. Employers won't change their attitudes for no good reason. So a programme to educate needs to be backed up by legislation that either encourages or forces employers to give all staff diversity training, or to have fair employment practices.
Equality is about fairness (and yes the legislation is flawed) but frequently the things that get put in place to minimise discrimination for women, such as flexible working, can be extended to the whole workforce and provides benefits for everybody. Better access for disabled people means better access for everyone else too.
So how that translates to me not being for freedom for people, I really don't know.
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