Just in Time for Australia’s Fathers’ Day: Article Cites Debunked Figures to Denigrate Dads

September 11, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

A reader gets an idea of how bad an article this one is when it quotes this figure (Sydney Morning Herald, 9/5/15):

women today comprise… 50 percent of the world’s food producers.

The figure is false and has been known to be false for many years. It’s part of this multi-part claim made by Oxfam and the United Nations Development Programme.

“Women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, produce 50 percent of the food, but earn only 10 percent of the income and own only one percent of the property.”

But as this Washington Post Fact Checker article demonstrates, every single claim of that sentence is false. Indeed, even the UNDP itself has admitted since 2011 that the figures are false (Washington Post, 3/3/15). The WaPo article, quoting various researchers, uses words like “false,” “zombie facts,” “wrong,” “unattributed,” “actually unsubstantiated,” and the like to describe the claims.

As to the claim that 50% of the world’s food is produced by women, one prominent researcher, Yale University economist Cheryl Doss, remarked,

“Quite frankly, I don’t know what this statistic could mean and how we could actually assign a number to the amount of food produced by women,” Doss said. “How do we figure out who produced the food when men and women both work on the same plots, producing some crops together?”

Yet, Doss noted, “when I presented the paper on how much of the world’s food do women produce at FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations] — they were quite upset with me. They kept saying that they needed this statistic!”

Apparently so does Sydney Morning Herald writer, Julie Power. She’s desperate to denigrate dads with the long-debunked notion that they don’t do their share of housework and childcare, leaving Mom to pull a “Second Shift.” Like the 50% figure, that’s so much nonsense. But, with Australia’s Fathers’ Day on the near horizon, she had to come up with something to make fathers look bad. And since fake figures were all she had to work with, well, what’s a misandrist to do?

Power’s ignorance of the basic facts about what men and women actually do is matched only by her ignorance of sex roles as men and women have evolved them over time. She refers to a recent Australian study and then to one promoted in the U.S. by Hillary Clinton.

It found major inequalities persist between parents. Women spent between two and 10 times longer than men caring for children.

Again, that’s nothing like the truth. In fact, mothers and fathers in the United States spend close to the same amount of time doing domestic chores including childcare. And former London School of Economics researcher Dr. Katherine Hakim found the same thing in the 34 nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And when paid and unpaid work are combined, men and women’s daily totals are almost identical, with men usually working 15 — 20 minutes more per day on average.

We’ve known this for a long time, but Power’s not interested in facts.

Fortunately, Clinton and Paul Ronalds, CEO of Australia’s Save the Children see things differently, which is to say accurately and compassionately.

"Too many Aussie fathers take on back office parenting roles for a range of reasons like work pressures, social expectations and basic lack of know-how. We want this to change since we know how important it is for fathers and male carers to play an active role in raising children right from childbirth," said Save the Children CEO and father-of-three Paul Ronalds said.


"Times have changed and men are becoming more active and engaged parents, which is great because this really helps enhance children’s physical, intellectual and emotional development. However our report reveals there is still a long way to go before men become equal partners in parenting," said Mr Ronalds.

Clinton added,

Released in time for this year’s American Father’s Day, Ms Clinton said balancing caregiving in the household "is not only morally the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do — for fathers, for families, for communities, and for countries."

"Why is that the smart thing to do? Well we know that engaged fathers are going to be healthier fathers. We know that positively engaged fathers now are happier fathers. We know that happier and healthier people are going to be more productive contributors to their countries’ economies. We know that when fathers are more engaged, it creates more time and space for women to be more engaged in work outside the home."

So why aren’t fathers “more engaged?” It’s a question Power doesn’t want to answer for fear of interrupting her narrative of paternal lassitude.

But the answers are easy to come by. For one thing, a couple of million years of evolution have made human fathers, unlike the males of the vast majority of mammal species, co-parents with mothers. That evolution has proceeded mostly via sexual selection, i.e. females choosing as mates males who, among other things, looked like good parental material.

Still, human males have always been secondary parents to females. That’s largely because they had other chores to do like defending territory with other males and bringing home food and other resources that were vital to survival. To find today that men are secondary parents mostly concerned with providing income should surprise no one. It’s what we’ve always done.

And, also unsurprisingly, women’s behavior parallels men’s. Yes, women are still the primary caregivers to children, just like they’ve been throughout millions of years of hominid evolution and in every single human society. And, as mirror images of men, they spend much less time than do men at paid work.

It’s true that much has changed. Women are doing more paid work and men are doing more childcare. But the cheerleading of the news media and popular culture obscures much of the reality that people generally resist the changes to sex roles demanded of them by elites. The fact is that, even in the United States, only 56% of women between the ages of 20 and 64 are either working or looking for work. And even those who are employed work markedly fewer hours than do men. Women are far more likely to work part-time and even full-time female employees work fewer hours than male full-timers do. And surveys find working women complaining that they’d like to work even less. All that occurs in an economy in which more and more families struggle to make ends meet.

Julie Power will never admit it, but there are two sides to this coin and both reflect gender roles that have evolved over millions of years. Men bring home the bacon and help with the children. Women care for children and help with the earning.

Nor will she admit another reason for the stubborn persistence of evolved sex roles — family courts and laws, themselves expressions of those same sex roles. They routinely consign fathers to visitor status in the lives of their children. According to them, fathers are good only as a source of money and otherwise an inconvenience to all. Does it occur to any of these people crying for greater father involvement in children’s lives that what fathers do is all too rational given the legal context of marriage and divorce? Why would any sane dad devote himself body and soul to childcare knowing that he could lose his children any day?

Ask Scott Ritchie who made exactly that mistake. He was the primary caregiver to his son for the first six years of the boy’s life while, with her agreement, his wife earned the family income. But when she decided to move on, Michigan courts did what they would never have done had the roles been reversed; they gave custody to the parent who’d done only a small fraction of the childcare.

Of course it matters little to children how many hours of parenting each parent puts in. Children bond with both parents and benefit from both of their parental investments. So, if courts really wanted to act in the best interests of children, they’d order equal parenting whenever remotely feasible. But they don’t, and dads know it.

So Power, et al can kvetch all they want about men not doing as much childcare as women. They could even kvetch about women not pulling their weight in the earnings department, but we all know they’re not likely to do that. But whatever the case, there are reasons why men and women do what they do, why they mostly ignore the pleas of elites for men to be more like women and women to be more like men.

You can read those reasons here, but not in the Sydney Morning Herald.


National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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