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Friday, October 15, 2010

gender equality, France, & the US

A recent article in the New York Times, "Where Having it All Doesn't Mean Equality," describes how family and housework is still largely the provenance of French women, not French men.  The article comes on the heels of the publication of the Global Gender Gap Report-2010 where the US came in at 19 (up from 31 last year) and France fell to 46 (from 18 last year).  I found the article particularly interesting because my own research focuses on France and the United States and gender norms/roles has quietly emerged as a central difference between the two countries.

We often characterize immigrants' adoption of host country gender norms as part and parcel of the assimilation process.  We also usually paint the process as liberatory; it goes something like this: "As new immigrants become increasingly assimilated into their host countries, they begin to leave behind their anachronistic views and adopt the "modern," "democratic" norms of their new countries, including our norm of the equality between the sexes."

Aside from the patent illusion of that phrase "equality between the sexes," I think we often forget that gender norms, even amongst different western democracies, can vary quite widely!  The consequence, for my own research, is that gender becomes a remarkably poignant example of both assimilation and the extant cultural differences between two countries.

Now go read the article and we can debate the merits of the French state's funding at another time-- seriously, you have to read what they fund (and usually I'm a huge fan of France and the role of the state, but I must admit I was a bit ambivalent here....).

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