Bigotry Against Men In Childcare

There’s been a bit of a fuss recently about seating of children on airplanes in New Zealand. A man who was seated next to a child travelling alone was asked to change his seat, because the airline has a policy against men sitting next to unaccompanied minors. The man objected, the fuss reached the press, the airline claimed that it was only doing what most airlines do on international flights. (Why not domestic flights?) In the fallout, there have been many cogent objections to the policy:

Clinical psychologist Nigel Latta, from Dunedin, described the policy as “insane”.

Mr Latta agreed studies of sexual offenders showed somewhere between 70 and 90 percent were male but the airlines’ policy would not help protect children.

“In 15 years of working with thousands of sexual offenders I’ve never treated or heard of a man who sexually offended against a child on a plane.”

New Zealand’s Green Party says the airlines policy banning men from sitting next to unaccompanied children is discriminatory and will take the matter to the Human Rights Commissioner.

Green MP Keith Locke said the policy was an example of moral panic about men posing as potential threats to children.

They’re all quite correct: It is a stupid policy, it won’t help children, it’s discrimination, and it’s moral panic.

It’s also an extremely common and widespread bigotry, although not one usually codified in policy.

Reading about the New Zealand flap, I was reminded of a study by anthropologist Susan Murray that was published in the academic journal Gender and Society. The study’s subject was men who work in child care in the U.S.. From Murray’s article:

When men choose child care, their motives for making such a choice are questioned. In child care settings, this questioning occurs most often on those occasions when men get judged negatively for engaging in the same behaviors as their caregiving counterparts whoa re women – when they are suspect just for doing their jobs.

In my study, many workers, both men and women, talked about how the men who are child care workers are subject to different unwritten rules regarding their physical access ot children. Specifically, in many centers, men are more restricted in their freedom to touch, cuddle, nap, and change diapers for children. As one worker who I surveyed stated, “I have worked in centers that employ male caregivers. Parents have on occasion been hesitant to accept them. One parent explicitly asked that a male caregiver not rub her daughter’s back at naptime.” [...]

…My data clearly showed numerous cases in which parents clearly did not want their children taken care of by a man at all. Sometimes parents requested another caregiver for their children; at other times, parents refused to enroll their children or withdrew them once they discovered a man was working at the center.

The article goes on to recount many other examples of male childcare workers being discriminated against in this exact way – men are not supposed to be in physical contact with children. Murray, in a discussion of the implications of this, suggests that the bigotry against male caregivers is rooted in sexism and in bigotry against gay men (even if the caregiver isn’t gay).

Men, both gay and straight, who work in child care challenge our culture’s dichotomous normative conceptions associated with “essential” manly and womanly “natures.” The claim that child care is “women’s work” may appear an oversimplification of reality; yet, when that boundary is crossed, consequences – as I have just demonstrated – are apparent. [...]

In the case of men in child care, just the act of their caring for children calls into question their heterosexuality. The fact of their sexuality, whether gay or straight, need not ever be confirmed. It is their choice to do child care that arouses suspicion and leaves them vulnerable to homophobic reactions. Men’s actions become suspect because they are choosing to do something that women do and, even worse, because child care is undervalued employment for women. Gay is a sexualized identity. When a man admits to being, is discovered to be, or is suspected of being gay, his gay identity may come to define everything else. He is, then, seen as someone who is guided by sexual practices, thoughts, and feelings in all else he undertakes. Within the child care setting, anything having to do with adult sexuality is strictly off-limits. So, when a person’s identity as a gay person is discovered or even suspected (as may be the case with straight men doing “women’s work”), that person’s competence as a teacher/caregiver gets called into question. To the extent that being gay is viewed as a perversion, it is linked with other perversions, such as child sexual abuse.

Murray also discusses the “glass elevator” effect, in which men in childcare professions are promoted to administrative positions more often and more easily – an advantage to men who want to be administrators, but a disadvantage to ambitious women caregivers who’d like to advance, and to men who’d rather stay in direct childcare positions. The overall effect is to turn many child care centers into places where traditional gender roles are enforced.

Restricting men worker’s access to children (by comparison to the access for women workers) implies that men’s desire for access to children is pathological. In these and other ways, the organization of child care… systematically push men away from nurturing responsibilities and bind these responsibilities to women workers.[...]

["Jeff," a male childcare worker Murray interviewed, said:] “You just need to be ultracareful. In San Francisco the men Early Childhood Education teachers can’t have a child on their lap, the women can, but the men can’t. I’m thinking, what kind of a message does this send to the children?”

Murray concludes with the speculation that child care centers may be teaching children traditional gender roles: men as administrators and playmates, women as nurturers. This discrimination is bad for the men being discriminated against, and also bad for the girls and boys who are subjected to gender-discriminatory childcare.

This entry posted in Feminism, sexism, etc, Sexism hurts men. Bookmark the permalink. 

414 Responses to Bigotry Against Men In Childcare

  1. 401
    jaketk says:

    Gwallan, in this entire thread, you’ve never once asserted that you were molested by a strange woman on public transport. This comment of yours strikes me as more of your predictable arrogance: it’s got to be all about you. Well, mostly, it’s not.

    He never mentioned ANY specifics about his rape outside of being eight years old, so why are you attacking him for it? Why not ask him what happened instead of calling him arrogant?

    Here, let’s try this. Gwallan, were you raped while using public tranportation?

    When we have exhausted that to our feminist satisfaction, then we’ll move on.

    Oh no, by all means, please keep doing what you are doing. It’s not like by ignoring male victims and female perps that abuse would actually continue or anything. I would not want you to lower your standards to deal with male victi–excuse me, potential sex offenders. Please leave all male “victims” to groups like Male Survivor.

  2. 402
    jaketk says:

    Jesurgislac, I like you. I really do. But read what you just posted. Simply put, you just said a murder was just committed. You don’t know who the victim was. You don’t have the body.In fact, you can’t even prove the person was murdered. But, you DO know who did it. Does that honestly make sense to you?

    The fact remains, you owe Gwallan an apology for attacking him for speaking about his rape at the hands of a woman. You did not launch into any of the women who mentioned their experiences. Regardless of your opinion about female perps actually exist, whether it is wrong, immoral, really that bad or a real problem, you still owe the man an apology.

  3. 403
    Ampersand says:

    He never mentioned ANY specifics about his rape outside of being eight years old, so why are you attacking him for it?

    Because he accused Jesu of calling him a liar. He attacked Jesu first, on this issue; and since even you admit Jesu had no possible way of knowing the specifics, Jesu quite understandably felt this was unfair.

    For instance, let’s say Joe’s father is a doctor, but Joe hasn’t told anyone this fact. Here’s how the dialog on this thread just went:

    SALLY: I don’t know anyone whose father is a doctor.

    JOE: So you’re calling me a liar.

    SALLY: Joe, in this entire thread, you’ve never once said your father is a doctor. Newsflash: Not everything is about you.

    JAKE: Sally, you owe Joe an apology for attacking him for speaking about his father being a doctor.

    First of all, it’s obvlous that it was unfair for Joe to leap to the conclusion that Sally was calling him a liar, or that Sally was even talking about him at all.

    Secondly, it’s even more unfair for Jake to claim that Sally criticized Joe just because Joe said his dad is a doc. That’s NOT what Sally criticized Joe for. Joe was criticized for unfairly expecting Sally to know what Joe hasn’t said, and for taking something as a personal insult that clearly was no such thing.

    Back to this reality (probably you’ve seen through my cunning code by now anyway).

    Yes, Jesu was a bit rude, but after being unjustly accused by Gwallan that’s understandable.

    So, Jaketk, I think you’re the one who owes Jesu an apology, for claiming that he had criticized Gwallan for mentioning his rape, when Jesu did no such thing. From now on please try harder not to lie about what other posters say.

    And Gwallan, I’d like you to acknowlege that there’s no way we can be fairly be expected to know anything about your life you haven’t actually told us. And that accusing Jesu of calling you a liar wasn’t fair, under the circumstances.

  4. 404
    Ampersand says:

    Jaketk wrote:

    Oh no, by all means, please keep doing what you are doing. It’s not like by ignoring male victims and female perps that abuse would actually continue or anything. I would not want you to lower your standards to deal with male victi”“excuse me, potential sex offenders. Please leave all male “victims” to groups like Male Survivor.

    Why did you put the word victims in scare-quotes? Explain it to me, please. Are you saying that you don’t think a 13 year old boy raped by a 40-something woman (which is where your link led) is a victim?

    Did you even read the moderation policies, Jaketk?

    I’m also appalled by your “logic,” here. Are you saying Jesu, or anyone else, is obligated to focus on male victims? What about people who focus on male victims – are they obligated to focus on female victims? Can you show me a single example of when you’ve criticized someone on SYG for talking about male but not female victims?

    There’s nothing wrong with Jesu deciding to focus his attentions on female victims. Nor is there anything wrong with you deciding to focus your attention on male victims. The world’s a big place with a lot of problems; it is unreasonable to expect everyone to focus on every problem at once. To the contrary, I think there’s an obvious benefit to people choosing to specialize.

    Simply put, you just said a murder was just committed. You don’t know who the victim was. You don’t have the body.In fact, you can’t even prove the person was murdered. But, you DO know who did it. Does that honestly make sense to you?

    The overwhelming majority of social science evidence and criminology data agrees with Jesu: the vast, overwhelming majority of rapists are male. Gwallan has offered nothing except wild speculation to suggest that things might be otherwise.

    Can I absolutely prove that every bit of data on rape that exists isn’t wrong by such a massive scale as to render the single most certain finding wrong? No, I can’t absolutely prove it. I also can’t absolutely prove there aren’t blue elephant gnomes who live in the center of the Earth creating the magnetic field by pedeling on stationary bikes, who use the advanced magic contained in their trunks to remain undetected.

    There is always room for doubt, in theory. But in some cases the doubt is so tiny, and the evidence so overwhelming, that worrying about the doubt seems pointless. The question of if men perpetuate the majority of rapes is such a case.

  5. 405
    Jesurgislac says:

    jaketk Writes: Jesurgislac, I like you. I really do. But read what you just posted. Simply put, you just said a murder was just committed. You don’t know who the victim was. You don’t have the body.In fact, you can’t even prove the person was murdered. But, you DO know who did it. Does that honestly make sense to you?

    Jaketk, that’s such a twisted distortion of what I said that I can’t say I like you at all – nor can I respect you, which to my mind is more important. I pointed out the overwhelming statistics: the vast majority of rapists are men.

    You owe me an apology for attacking me for calling Gwallan on his crap.

  6. 406
    matttbastard says:

    Psst, Amp – jesurgislac is a she, not a he (please ignore if this was simply a typo;-)

    btw, jes – it’s nice to see you let your radfem hair down outside of ObWi (assuming your hair is long enough to ‘let down’, of course. )
    :-)

  7. 407
    Ampersand says:

    Oh, sorry about that, Jesu. I thought you had self-identified as male at some point, but clearly I must have been mixing you up with someone else.

  8. 408
    Jesurgislac says:

    Oh, sorry about that, Jesu.

    No offense taken. See my coming-out post here.

  9. Pingback: Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Pedophilia Fears Contributed to Child’s Death

  10. 409
    Matt says:

    I agree completely with this article. I am a male childcare worker and have been for eleven years. I almost always hear the question, “Why do you do this?”, from different people. I sometimes get strange looks from people when I simply say that it is what I choose to do. Whenever I get a new child I get suspicious looks from the parents. They are usually completely at ease once their child has been with me for a couple of weeks, but I know what they are thinking when they first met me.
    I also agree with the “glass ceiling” concept mentioned. I once worked for a company that promoted me to a management position very quickly even though I didn’t even have the written qualifications for the job!
    Bigotry is very common in the profession, but I stick with because I love working with children and I know that I am the only male role model in the lives of many of them. Children need role models, especially male ones!

  11. 410
    Matt says:

    Sorry, I got the term “glass ceiling”, wrong. It’s really called the “glass elevator.” I’d like to reiterate my last statement, though. I was asked, once again, today why I take care of children for a living by a co-worker. She even stated that it is unusual for a man to have this type of job. I told her that men also have to make a living and this is what I choose to do. She asked, “Yes, but why children?”…
    I responded by asking her the same question. “Why do you work with children?”
    She said, “Because I enjoy taking care of them and seeing their smiling faces every day!”
    “Exactly”, I said.
    Why is it considered wrong for a male to have a positive influence on a child?
    Personally, I can’t think of another profession where I can get twenty hugs each morning just for showing up to work!

    No matter what some people might think, it is totally worth coming to work each day when just one child is happy to see me!!

  12. 411
    Shaundrea says:

    I have looked at some of the comments that people have left on here. And for the most part I agree with it. I am a female working in a child care environment. However initially I did not want this as a potential profession. The truth is that I didn’t consider it because I really didn’t know everything about it. It wasn’t until I met my fiancee about 4 years ago. He told me that he worked with children. I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t think that he was a potential pedophile or anything like that. My first impression of this was that I thought it was very admirable because children need male guidance as well as female guidance. Essentially they need guidance in general. He got me to start working in the field and now I am beginning to like it. He used to tell me some of the problems that he received because he told people that he worked with children. He said that usually they thought that a man is supposed to be a coach or some science teacher. However when he works in a CDC Child Development Center he is actually doing all those things but adding other elements to it. And also he is working with younger children. Often times he will go back and forth between a CDC and evaluating children, which he said he loves better than anything. I guess because it is more on a personal level and he is able to get to the root of the problem instead of just seeing the children in a school like setting. Usually he helps children who either have one parent or none at all. Sometimes he works with children who have really crappy parents and his job is to find a way around that issue in order to come to one final common goal, which is best for the child. And most of the time these children are older. Generally his age stop for working with children is about 16. When he told me these things I thought it a very good thing because now-a-days you don’t usually see that type of care coming from someone. He is generally a good person and he loves to help people. And the funny thing is that he will probably help someone before I will. And this is not because of our sexual differences. It is our personality. Usually, and this really gets under my skin, you have some people who are for women rights and equality but don’t they understand that in order for things to change men have to change with us? It has to be a change for all. Because how can you expect those changes to stick without everyone working together. So when I hear that some parents, especially women, act that way when they hear that a man is watching their children it reallys urks me. Because I like this. Obviously you are working or doing something outside the house, which most likely means that you are not a typical domesticated housewife. And if you have that opportunity to do that then how can you not expect for others to change around you? How can you be so selfish? I live in Washington, DC and if you work with children there are two things that you have to do; get a tb shot and get police clearance. So how can these people not expect for these workers to be suitable for the position? Another thing that gets on my nerves is that my fiancee says that people usually think that because he works with children then he is gay. Obviously he is not gay otherwise he wouldn’t be with a women. Is this the ignorance of society who thinks that the only way a man can work with children is unless they are gay and thus have “feminized characterisitcs”, which include nurturing and caring? I really didn’t think that people were that ignorant. It’s not about you sexuality or gender it is about the best suit for children. It is important that we change our perceptions about men in general and the stereotype that they are all potential sexual abusers because they have a penis. I know that a lot of things happen in society for people to think that way but still this can’t possibly be the way that all people think because I have read the replies but I just hope that it is not most. What about the child in this sense? Are we really protecting the child, or our we protecting our distorted perceptions about men who have “feminized positions”?

  13. Pingback: Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Workplace Deaths Are Overwhelmingly Male

  14. 412
    perditamarie says:

    Thanks, Shuandrea, that really vagued things up with yet more anecdotes and general anti-feminist meandering.

    It’s not about you sexuality or gender it is about the best suit for children. It is important that we change our perceptions about men in general and the stereotype that they are all potential sexual abusers because they have a penis.

    because they have a penis. I know that, as a feminazi, my very first inclination is to identify the penis-owners on my staff.