Yesterday, I went to a reception for the Women in Science Program here at IU. It was a fairly standard, cookies-and-coffee, meet-people event. The two sentences on the invitation that jumped out at me the most, though, were 'Bring your children. Childcare will be provided.'
I have not seen child care mentioned on invitations for any other campus organization's event. I think it's awesome that the Women in Science Program is providing child care at their events. I also think that it's wrong to only provide child care at events for women. That's unfair to dads, and it reinforces the idea that child care is a woman's responsibility.
And yet, like it or not, in 2008 child care still usually is the responsibility of a woman. The ideal, it seems, would be if the gender of the expected attendees at an event had absolutely no bearing on whether or not there was child care provided at the event. But to make that vacuously true by saying "Men's events never seem to have child care, so, dammit, we won't have it at women's events, either!" would clearly be ridiculous.
So, I guess the question is: How do we help people who are trying to take care of their kids -- most of whom are probably going to be women -- without implicitly reinforcing the notion that child care must be a woman's responsibility?
I don't have the answer. And furthermore, I suspect that if I did have kids, I would be quite happy to get whatever child care help was available, regardless of whatever notions were being implicitly reinforced by its existence, and would probably be rolling my eyes at any hand-wringing taking place with regard to same. So, you know, maybe I should just drop it. You tell me.