Call it the new "masculine mystique." Just in time for Father's Day, Berdahl completed a study that points to a uncomfortable reality for many dads: Devoted fathers who spend a lot of time caregiving feel ridiculed by co-workers for not being man enough.
Berdahl and her co-researcher, Sue Moon of the Long Island University Post, surveyed 232 middle-class union members about how many hours they spent looking after their children each day, and how much they were taunted for "not being man enough." Their results, to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Social Issues, were striking.
Women also faced a similar kind of harassment around the issue of caring for children, but the pattern was reversed: Women without children got the worst of it, while mothers who spent a lot of time with their kids experienced the least.
This is particularly worrying in our new world order, where a woman is the sole or primary breadwinner in over 40 percent of homes, according to a 2010 study by the Center for American Progress, and again by a Pew Research poll last month.
In a second study, the researchers surveyed 451 workers in a male-dominated public service organization about how many hours they spend doing housework and caring for children, and how much they were disrespected by co-workers. It found the same correlation: Women were subjected to more mistreatment when they behaved less like traditional mothers, while men took more abuse when they acted less like traditional fathers.
So though caregiving dads might be loved in the home, they might not have an easy time at work. "Men really do report fearing this teasing and social ridicule that they might experience at work if they are going to take leave, or take their kids to the doctor early," says Berdahl, who spent years studying the harassment of female professionals. She decided to study men to see if they also might be harassed -- for spending too much time with their kids, and concludes: "It makes sense that they would be afraid to play these non-traditional roles."
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