About a year ago I wrote about the drama surrounding a male teacher at my local daycare. While this teacher was loved by all the kids, some parents had reservations about the idea of a man taking care of children.
You know, because he’s a man. Do I need to spell it out? It’s because he might be gay or a pedophile or both! You know because those things are totally linked.
And let’s be honest, any man that displays an interest in caring for children is clearly someone to fear.
Recently, we learned that this teacher, who my daughter absolutely adores, would be leaving the daycare. My wife and I were heartbroken at the thought of having to tell our daughter that one of her favourite teachers would no longer be around. Turnover is high in early childhood education, so we are used to having teachers some and go. This one was different.
As a father, it never once bothered me that she would give him a hug at the end of the day. I never got jealous when she spoke about him at home. It never occurred to me for a second that having another positive male role model in her life was a bad thing.
The sad thing is, some of you are probably reading this right now and thinking what a great, progressive guy I am. For what exactly? For having an open mind? For not judging other people based on the actions of a tiny minority?
The fact is, as much as most of us hope that one day our society will be free of gender bias, this will never happen when a man can’t be a daycare provider without raising fears.
The only way we achieve gender parity is by ensuring that not only do women have the same opportunities that men do—but also that the reverse is true.
Every male nurse that has his sexuality questioned, every male teacher that gets suspicious glances makes it harder for my daughters to get equal pay and pursue any career they want.
The struggle for gender equality is about more than just providing women with access to male-dominated fields, it is about taking the gender out of every career.
But Spencer, men don’t suffer from gender bias in the workplace nearly as much as women so STFU right? But here’s the thing, if your goal is to smash the patriarchy, you should be just as concerned with the ways it controls men, and shuts them off from certain ways of thinking, as you should be about how it limits women because they are connected. The man who thinks caring for children is a job for women is likely the same one who thinks his female colleagues aren’t tough enough for the boardroom. The father who admonishes his son for “crying like a girl” will probably not encourage him to live his dream of being a kindergarten teacher.
So when this amazing educator, caregiver, and mentor for my daughter left on his last day, he gave her a big hug and I could tell it was breaking his heart a little. Even a few weeks later, my daughter will talk about how sad she is that he’s gone. Despite the fact that it crushes me to hear her say it, I’m glad she had the opportunity to experience that kind of relationship so early in her life. The only thing wrong with this situation are the people who still cast a suspicious look when they see a father watching his kids at the park or a young man teaching preschoolers to read. Clearing the way for our daughters to succeed also requires breaking down the barriers that prevent our sons from being themselves.