Gender Norms at Play - A sociological study on new, first-time parents’ attitudes towards the EU directive on earmarked paternity leave
Sammanfattning: This thesis aims to examine gender norms in parental leave praxes and attitudes towards earmarked paternity leave. The starting point is a forthcoming EU directive on work-life balance for parents and carers that will implement earmarked paternity leave in Denmark by 2022. The empirical data consists of nine semi-structured interviews with six new, first-time parents (three couples). The study sets out to explore these first-time parents’ contemplations about parenthood and their distribution of parental leave. Furthermore, their arguments in favor of and against earmarked paternity leave, respectively, are uncovered. The theoretical framework comprises Judith Butler’s theory on gender performativity and Pierre Bourdieu’s analysis of masculine domination as an example of symbolic violence. Based on the study, I observe that parental leave praxes are highly influenced by traditional perceptions about work, parenthood, and gender – including the persistent stereotype that the mother is the natural caretaker. Moreover, the study finds that the question of earmarked paternity leave is a complex and ambiguous matter. Among the new, first-time parents, there seems to be a trade-off between, on the one hand, idealistic attitudes towards gender equality and, on the other hand, pragmatic considerations of economy, work, and family life. Within the proposed framework of Butler and Bourdieu, these findings support previous studies in concluding that the distribution of parental leave continues to be highly informed by gendered norms, which are embodied and performed within the context of parenthood.
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