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Fathers use of parental right to work part-time in Sweden.

Conference contribution
Authors Sofia Björk
Published in In realtion to What? - Critical gender studies on Masculinities and Relationality, Uppsala , Sweden January 18th-20th
Publication year 2012
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Language en
Subject categories Gender Studies, Sociology

Abstract

Gender equality in family life and in working life are explicit goals in Swedish policy. For families with small children an important condition for equality in both these areas is an equal sharing of responsibility for child care. In policies these goals are implemented mainly through equal rights to paid parental leave and equal rights to parental part-time work. These rights are however very unevenly utilized by mothers and fathers, especially so in the case of parental part-time. Only 2 % of the fathers with small children work parental part time while 30 % of the mothers do so. This paper examines how the doing of gender and masculinity can help us understand fathers’ much lesser use of their right to work parental part-time. How do a group of white, Swedish, middleclass fathers present and practice fatherhood in relation to discourses of gender equality, fatherhood ideals and full-time work norms? The focus is on those few fathers who work parental part-time and therefore the analysis is based on semi-structured interviews with 19 fathers, of whom 14 were working parental part-time. This paper shows that although parental part-time work is as practically feasible for fathers as for mothers, it does not appear as an attractive and possible alternative for most fathers. When working and caring for children, men and women also do gender. In so doing, masculinity is more easily accomplished through work and femininity through responsibility for care. There are male full-time work norms and female care responsibility norms. Therefore fathers’ part-time work involves reformulations of gender both at work and in the family. To make this reformulation possible, fathers can draw upon available popular discourses of involved fatherhood and gender equality, while at the same time distancing themselves from conflicting discourses of career, breadwinning and consumption.

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