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“Against the Grain: Couples, Gender, and the Reframing of Parenting” Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Mar 26th, 2019

We live in time when the validity of a number of formerly valid social and cultural conventions is being increasingly undermined by the actual realities of a post-industrial living. The soundness of this suggestion can be explored in regards to Gillian Ranson’s book Against the grain: couples, gender, and the reframing of parenting, concerned with exposing the actual motivations behind the process of parental practices in Canada undergoing a drastic transformation.

According to the author, during the course of a recent decade, more and more Canadians have been growing deviated from what are supposed to be their biologically predetermined roles in parenting. Ranson refers to this transformation in terms of: “Reduction in the gendered allocation of responsi­bility for earning and caring (parental) work” (2010, p. 9).

Whereas, not long ago it was considered the exclusive responsibility of wives to take care of young kids, with providing to the family having been assumed to be the solemn responsibility of husbands, this is being no longer the case nowadays. In her book, Ranson discusses such a ‘parental shift’ as being essentially beneficial to children’s well-being.

I, on the other hand, do not share author’s optimism, in this respect, as there are a number of tangible reasons to think that the earlier mentioned ‘parental shift’ necessarily results in lessening the extent of gender differentiation between parents – hence, making them more susceptible to a divorce. In the next part of this paper, I will aim to substantiate the validity of my suggestion at length.

According to Ranson, the foremost beneficial effect, produced by Canadian ‘progressive’ parents’ willingness to consider executing the parental duties of an opposite sex, is the fact that it allows them to spend more time with their children:

“Instead of one parent mainly focused on the kids and the other one helping out, you have two parents who are really interested and involved. Over time this creates a functional interchangeability of roles between the two parents in the household” (2010, p. 176).

Nevertheless, even a brief glance at this suggestion leaves no doubt as to its conceptual fallaciousness. Contrary to what Ranson wants readers to believe, the phenomenon of a ‘parental shift’ cannot be thought of as the consequence of more and more Canadians beginning to experience an irresistible urge to pay more attention to their kids’ upbringing.

The actual reason why many Canadian parents seem to have grown comfortable with the idea that their affiliation with a particular gender is being irrespective of the essence of their parental duties, is because the realities of post-industrial living create objective preconditions for them to be concerned with making money, as their foremost priority in life. In its turn, this naturally makes them more career-oriented.

When two parents are being equally career-oriented, it leaves them with little choice but consider ‘covering’ for each other, while taking care of their children’s upbringing. However, just as there can be little rationale in expecting firefighters to be able to switch to performing surgeries, for example, there can also be little rationale in expecting fathers to be able to act as effective ‘mothers’ and vice versa.

This, however, is only the part of a problem. As it was implied in the Introduction, the fact that the realities of today’s living force many parents to practice ‘parental interchangeability’ automatically results in lessening the extent of their affiliation with what happened to be their actual gender, which explains why recent years saw a drastic surge to the rate of divorces in Canada.

Apparently, when husbands and wives come to a realization that there is no difference between their social/parental roles in life, it naturally prompts them to wonder about what is the actual point for them to remain married, in the first place.

While elaborating on what causes more and more couples in such ‘feminized’ and politically correct countries as Canada, Sweden and Norway to seek divorce, Yodanis (2005) points out to the fact that in these countries, men and women are being encouraged to proceed with essentially ‘unisex’ existential modes: “These countries… tend to have less traditional gender role ideologies” (p. 653).

It is important to understand that it is namely the particulars of men and women’s physiological constitution, which define the essence of their social functions, and not the specifics of their mental predisposition towards these functions.

To suggest otherwise, is to be consciously striving to violate the objective laws of nature. The price for people’s willingness to violate the objective laws of nature, however, has always been the same – degeneracy and degradation. The fact that in ‘feminized’ countries, only the half of marriages last for longer than 2-3 years, illustrates the full soundness of an earlier suggestion.

Therefore, even though, formally speaking, children in families where both parents are being equally capable of executing fatherly and motherly functions, appear to enjoy a certain advantage, as compared to what it is being the case with their peers from traditional families, such an impression is being largely illusive.

The reason for this is quite apparent – as compared to what it is being the case with children in traditional families, in families where ‘parental shift’ is being actively practiced, children face a significantly higher risk to end up with having their parents divorced.

Moreover, while growing up in such families, children are being simply in no position to learn about what represents the essence of gender-based social roles, which of course hampers their chances to grow into productive members of society.

Therefore, I cannot agree with Ranson when she implies that ‘parental interchangeability’ is something necessarily positive. Apparently, the author simply lacked an analytical insightfulness to consider what may account for such practice’s side effects.

I believe that the earlier provided line of argumentation, in defense of a suggestion that it would be quite irresponsible welcoming ‘parental interchangeability’ as something strongly beneficial to children’s well-being, is being fully consistent with paper’s initial thesis.

Apparently, it is only the individuals that believe in the obscure provisions of political correctness, concerned with lessening the extent of people’s gender-mindedness, who may feel comfortable upon being exposed to the sights of husbands changing diapers or wives building tree-houses for the kids.

This, however, does not imply that both parents should not consider providing each other with much needed assistance, when it comes to rearing young ones.

Therefore, even though I cannot agree with Ranson’s idea that there should be no objections to the process of parents becoming ‘interchangeable’, I do subscribe to her suggestion that the foremost key to ensuring families’ inner integrity is parents’ willingness to be spending as much time with their growing children, as possible.

References

Ranson, G. (2010). Against the grain: couples, gender, and the reframing of parenting. Toronto: University of Toronto Press Inc.

Yodanis, C. (2005). Divorce culture and marital gender equality: A cross-national study. Gender and Society, 19 (5), 644-659.

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