America is not so forward thinking as we would hope. Sure, occasionally gay people gain a few rights, and now we can reference those times we elected a half black President. This does not mean that America is any where near reaching the equality mark for any area of discrimination.
People don’t want to hear that we live in a discriminatory patriarchal world anymore, but the numbers don’t lie. Paternal leave is rarely offered in America. Women are in fact still penalized for maternity leave- after her fourth maternity leave, the CEO of Crest White Strips was asked to step down. Instead, she took her case to court.
In Sweden, the men are very much pushed into accepting their equal rights to a leave from work after a child is born. In 1995, Sweden introduced “daddy leave”. It had an immediate impact. No father was forced to stay home, but the family lost one month of subsidies if he did not. Soon more than 80% of men accepted paternal leave. Obviously, men could not as readily validate staying at work whilst losing money.
Money is a great motivator, but pride works even better. The pride that keeps these men at work when they have the paid option at to be at home with their lovely offspring is the same pride that makes them now accept parental leaves. Since the better option has now been normalized, men are capable of accepting their newfound equality.
This is not merely a fight for equal rights for women in the workplace, but also for equal rights for men in the home. The right to stay home with your child is not one afforded to most American men, and we are supposedly a superpower country.
Gender roles are so deeply, socially ingrained from birth that it seems we can do nothing to fight Sweden’s fight. Luckily, other countries are following suit: Germany, Portugal, and Iceland.
I take at this legislation as something that America is not good at: preventative measures. While this law has helped lower the divorce rate, raise women’s pay by seven percent, fight gender inequality, and probably more often raises strongly attached children, America can’t be interested in it because it is not a quick fix.
This isn’t just about parental leave, but gender equality in general. Only twelve of the five hundred CEOS of Fortune 500 companies are women. I know that national pride is important, but it is hard to be proud of my supposed super power homeland when they are not capable of doing so many things that a tiny, peaceful country of Sweden can do.