The Status of Men in Lithuania today
It’s common knowledge that science has been men’s activity ever since the ancient times. In the very end of the XIX century they started accepting women to universities. Women have not only been working in every branch of science by the late 80s of the XX century but they have also created a new branch of studies using the theory of feminism – women’s studies.
by Dalia Cymbaliuk
The results of the survey “The Crisis of Men’s Roles in Lithuania” which has been conducted by “SIC Market Research” let us assume that the hegemonic or standard virility is still dominating. Heterosexuality, economic independence, the ability to support family, physical power, rationality, attention to sexual “victories” and, what is most important, not doing the work which is considered womanly are still valued more. A “normal” man according to the survey must be able to earn money, be resourceful, be able to do „manly“ chores and to protect his woman. And although men are both knowingly and unknowingly protesting against such a narrow understanding of virility which is reducing them to just „money earning machines“ only one new role is being ascribed to them namely tenderness to their children. The survey shows that according to the public opinion men should not only support their children financially but also participate in childcare and upbringing.
What is a "normal" man?
Men‘s and women‘s responces to what is a „normal“ man are not too different. Though it is important to women that men should be sensitive and understanding whereas men don‘t consider these qualities important.
This was one of the first surveys in Lithuania where only men‘s opinion was important.
Here is men‘s attitude towards the social care, the legal system and privileges for men and women:
• 30% of Lithuanian men think that legally men and women are equal; 10% of men suppose that laws are more favourable for men; 5% of men consider laws as more favourable for women.
• 25% of Lithuanian men are of the opinion that women have more privileges; 10% think that men have more privileges.
• 11% of men think that it is more difficult for men in Lithuania to find a job.
Men and women in families:
• Half of the questioned men stated that the most important decisions in families were made equally by men and by women; 23% of men expressed the opinion that it was men who made decisions more often and 18% claimed that women were the ones who made decisions within the family.
• More than half of the questioned men suppose that men‘s earnings are bigger; about the same number of men acknowledge that men earn more; 6% of men are inclined to think that women earn more and 20% of men say that women are the breadwinners in the families.
• Men‘s contentment with family life/partnership is rather high in Lithuania; 84% of men living with a wife or a partner say that they are very content or content with their marital status/partnership.
Satisfaction with job:
• 44% of working men claim that they are satisfied or very satisfied with their job. About the same number of respondents would not change their job for a position with similar conditions, 34% are less satisfied and 19% are dissatisfied with the present working conditions and earnings. The number of those who are not satisfied with their job is the highest in villages and among those men who are over 50. 22% of employed men say that they would not hesitate to change their job for the position with similar conditions, 24% would rather change their job.
• 12,5% of employed men stated that their income was enough for the living (this opinion is more common among men of 15-19 and living in the three largest cities), 52% of men were certain that their earnings should be bigger; 35% said that their income was very small.
• Half of the employed men in Lithuania say that they are often under stress and strain at work especially those who are over 50.
• 86% of men think that their work should be evaluated better, men over 50 feel more unappreciated.
• 26% of working men agree that their job harms good family relations and their relations with friends and relatives (such men are about 30-49 and live in cities).
• 62% of working men would like to spend more time with their families (men of 30-49).
Image of a „normal“ man:
• A „normal“ man according to the respondents must first of all be able to earn money, be handy, be able to do technical chores at home, protect their women, provide for the children and care for them. 12% of Lithuanian men think that they are adequate, 65% think that they are almost adequate to the image of a „normal“ man, 10% say that they fall short of accepted standards.
Image of a successful and prominent man:
• A successful and prominent man in the opinion of the respondents must first and foremost be honest and be able to work. Such features as physical handsomeness and sexuality were named as unimportant for a prominent man, the importance of these qualities is also decreasing with the senior respondents.
Men are going through a crisis
Why do we have to discuss who are men and what they are like? I dare assume that women have boldly named their problems in the last decades and have been looking for their solutions. Whereas men being a privileged sex are going through a crisis. We can see the traces of this crisis in their behaviour – men more often commit suicide, suffer from heart diseases, their life expectancy is lower, they use violence against themselves and the others.
Women‘s issues are given priority in Lithuania and men are often forgotten. Virility is considered a natural fact and is secondary. When women‘s domestic and public roles are discussed men‘s roles and the virility itself are not cosidered problematic.
There is still no critical tradition in the attitude towards virily in Lithuania. The concept of the male sex is often ignored when economic, social or cultural issues are tackled.
So if we want to understand what social and cultural forces are taking part in the public life of our country we must analize how men are perceiving themselves, what problems they encounter, what dispersion the virility is undergoing. How is virility constructed in the present „gender system“? How manly and womanly actions and way of thinking are reproduced in social activities? How do men understand the changing women‘s roles and images? How do men accept the sexual roles which are dominating in our society? Or do they oppose them?
One of more original initiatives in recent years, the Lithuania‘s office of Equal Opportunities Ombudsman together with foreign partners in Denmark, Iceland and Malta that are co-managing the project, has launched a new project - Modern Men in an Enlarged Europe - that will try to encourage men to empathize with their wives and contribute more time to sharing the burden of infant rearing.
In fact, office representatives have argued that financial concerns are not necessarily the key factor for "poor father performance" in the Baltic country
By contrast, negative stereotyping and strict role division between men and women are more influential factors, according to the office‘s information. Most Lithuanian men regard parental leave as something for women, and only those with a university degree and "a contemporary perception" exercise their paternity leave.
Ombudsmen claimed that if men were more responsive in taking the time off, society would ultimately gain more in terms of increased tolerance, equality and understanding. Family life would become more balanced and stronger.
The recipe for solving the problems connected with the gradual changing of men‘s role in the society has not been found yet. But the very rise of the question is a step forward in identifying the new men‘s roles.
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Photo: Raivo Juurak