Hathaway begins her speech by recalling childhood memories of her father asking her to point out which direction was North, as a symbol of how her father helped develop her sense of direction at an early age, and now she trusts her ability to “navigate space.” The reason why Hathaway includes this story is to highlight the importance fathers have on their children’s lives. She continues by speaking about her new role as a mother and explains her concerns with balancing her career and being a parent. She adds, “American women are currently entitled to 12 weeks unpaid leave. American men are entitled to nothing.” This presents a problem not only because mothers are expected to go back to their normal lives after 3 months of having a child, it also sets up an expectation for women to be the main caregivers of the household.
“If the practical reality of pregnancy is another mouth to feed in your home, and America is a country where most people are living paycheck to paycheck, how does 12 weeks unpaid leave economically work?”
Hathaway makes an important point here, and adds that for most families, it does not work. She explains that 25% of American women go back to work 2 weeks after giving birth because they can’t afford to take any more time than that. And those that can take the full 12 weeks often don’t because it can mean incurring a “motherhood penalty,” which means they will be perceived as less dedicated to their job and will hurt their ability to earn promotions. She then addresses that that in order to liberate women, we have to liberate men.
She highlights that the stereotype for women to take care of the home and family not only discriminates against women, but also undermines men’s ability to connect with the family and society. We know that when parents do not spend enough time with their children, it has significant effect on the children and the family’s life. It’s not about taking time off work, it’s about parents being able to choose their roles and establishing “new positive cycles of behavior.”
Hathaway’s opinion and call to action on paid parental leave is likely one that many Americans share, but don’t feel like they have a voice that is significant enough to make a difference. Luckily, we have leaders like Hathaway to speak on behalf of women and encourage positive changes to be made.
Many know Hathaway as an award-winning actress, but her role as a UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador has transformed her into an empowering female who advocates for positive change. Her speech focuses on the importance of lightening the burden of mothers and making role parents have in the household more equal and less based on stereotypes. It is important for everyone to share this passion that Hathaway has in order to establish closer bonds within families and eliminate guilt women feel for taking time off work to be a mother. It is also necessary to eliminate the stubborn stereotype that women should be the primary caretaker of the home and allow men to embrace the beauty of fatherhood.