Partnership & Accountability blog series

Partnership & Accountability blog series

Accountability to the women´s and to social justice movements is crucial for building collaborative and equitable partnerships. Accountability requires the development of a receptive capacity in men and others who have been placed in positions of power and privilege, so that they can listen to the perspectives and needs of oppressed groups in order to become authentic allies. Accountability and partnership building also require us to engage in respectful dialogues, and a willingness to constantly address issues and concerns raised by our partners.

We hope that this blog series contributes to these ongoing conversations and serves as another platform to share useful information.

Blog posts are written by member and partners of MenEngage, for whom we provide a platform for dialogue. The opinions expressed in the posts do not necessarily represent those of the MenEngage Alliance.

To learn more about MenEngage & Accountability go to

Thursday, September 1, 2016

"I can do it all by myself:" Why increased male caregiving may find resistance from women

By Oswaldo Montoya

Oswaldo Montoya
I found Bayano Valy’s post, Men seeing themselves as full partners in care work, very revealing. It makes us think about the complexity of working with men to transform patriarchal relations with women. In its intervention “Men in the Kitchen,” Rede HOPEM of Mozambique combines skill building, related to domestic chores and attitudinal change, in turn related to gender and masculinity, so that doing care work is not seen by men merely as supporting women but as a joint responsibility. HOPEM is enabling men to move from a helping-out mentality to the equal sharing of caregiving work in an effort to challenge power relations among genders.

Bayano points out the apparent contradictory responses from most women when their male partners engaged in care work. Some women felt “an invasion of their private space,” he reports; others even questioned their partners’ manhood as a result of their performing domestic work.

The solution proposed is to engage women in gender work as well, using gender-synchronised approaches. I agree with this conclusion, however I think it is important to dig deeper about why men encounter resistance from women when they increase their involvement in house care work. Are we really challenging power relations when we support men assuming 50 percent of care work? Is it really gender transformative when men discard the helping-out mentality and fully embrace care work? My hypothesis is, we may be challenging these power relations, but we may not, too.

Patriarchy has a tremendous capacity to re-accommodate in times of gender-roles change. In some contexts, the fact that men do care work in similar amounts as women may not necessarily equalize power among them. Actually, it may exacerbate power differentials, with men gaining more legitimacy and self-sufficiency. Men’s egos can become further inflated by such an “I can do it all by myself” mentality, thus relegating women to more marginalized positions.

Therefore, we not only have to think about sensitizing women to the need to appreciate, and not feel threatened by, men’s involvement in care work. We also need to keep raising awareness among men in relation to the meanings attached to their new domestic practices. We men should not be in competition with women about who is more capable or who does more care work. It is not from such a patriarchal sense of rivalry that we should engage in this work. If done that way, there is a greater chance that women will resist our efforts, and will regard them as an invasion.

In addition to working with men on these deeper meanings, it is important that our work with men also enable them to support women’s economic empowerment and other forms of women’s empowerment that expand their horizons. If projects focused on changing men lack efforts to empower women, then women may indeed resist changes to the domestic gender order, in which the kitchen has been one of their few spaces of sovereignty. 

No comments:

Post a Comment