What Impact Do Campaigns to Introduce Fathers’ Leave Have on Gender and Generational Equality? a Case Study from the UK.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Katherine TWAMLEY, University College London, United Kingdom
Over the last twenty years, there has been a steady increase in the number of countries and organisations that endorse and provide fathers’ access to extended leave after the birth of a child. Feminist and gender scholars and activists have argue that such leave will denaturalise the mother/woman as primary carer; will lead to less discrimination in the workplace since both men and women would be potential carers/leave takers; and, if leading to increased care from men, could bring about a more equitable and less repressive society. Childhood scholars have had less to say about fathers’ leave, though some campaign enthusiastically against extended daycare with individual parent care favoured. Reactions to the introduction of men’s access to extended leave in the UK have, however, been mixed, with feminists and conservative groups alike, concerned with displacing women’s mothering roles. In examining these issues, I draw on a longitudinal mixed methods qualitative research project with first-time heterosexual parents in the UK who choose to have the mother take all the leave available to parents, and those who choose to share leave between parents. I argue that the focus on men’s access to parental leave may be to the detriment of the relations between women and children, with little capacity to enable more equal gender and generational relations.