On Poetry and Culture Shock

A good father

The way Spanish women have children, and the way the work market treats them during and after the process, could be culture-shocking to foreign readers. Americans, for example, might be envious that we get four full months of maternity leave. Great, isn't it? The problem is that it's very hard to keep a job if you get pregnant, because your bosses will fire you if they can. Spanish Law says that they need a good cause to do so, so they normally allude to "low performance", a legitimate cause to fire people. Of course, if you get a job that pays you enough to kmake you think that you can afford a baby, and they fire you on grounds of low performance immediately after you come back from your maternity leave, you can consider yourself lucky that you got a job in the first place, being a young and therefore marriageable, fertile woman. Friends of mine in their twenties have been asked if they had boyfriends, husbands, plans of having babies, in job interviews. It's supposed to be illegal, I think. 

For the last year or so, Spanish law allows the father of a baby to take a paternity leave of 10 weeks. This means that now, according to my newspaper, Miquel Mitjans has the chance of knowing how it feels being a woman: that is, being punished for having a family. 

Mr Mitjans got a rise immediately before the summer. He had his holidays in the month he applied for (the law says you can have your holidays but the company decides when, unless they are very happy with your work). The company he works for sent flowers to his wife at hospital, in July. Before his holidays, he applied for paternity leave. The first work day after his holidays, he was fired for "low performance" and he was accused of having missed work three days in June, a claim that can be easily proved false because there is an attendance diary. Do you see a few incoherences here? 

I'm very sorry for Mr. Mitjans, and sorry for the way his bosses think. The problem is that the law wanted to make people more equal, giving men a women's right so that companies wouldn't discriminate against either. But it turns out this is no longer discrimination about women, but against people who behave like women traditionally do, and against families, and against men who want to be more that the breadwinner, and against people who think that their jobs come after their lives and not the other way around. Shame.  



Un rápido resumen de la situación de las mujeres trabajadoras en España: es estupendo contra con una baja por maternidad de cuatro meses, pero claro, es difícil conservar un trabajo si te quedas embarazada, porque tus jefes te echarán si pueden, aludiendo a “bajo rendimiento”. Aunque bueno, si tienes un trabajo que puedas perder ya tiene suerte, porque difícil será que te contraten si eres una mujer en edad fértil. Damos miedo. Tengo amigas de ventimuchos a las que preguntan en las entrevistas de trabajo si tienen novios, maridos, y planes de tener hijos.

Desde hace más o menos un año, la ley española permite a los padres cogerse un permiso de paternidad de diez semanas. Eso quiere decir que desde ahora, según mi periódico, Miquel Mitjans ha tenido la oportunidad de saber qué se siente cuando se es una mujer: es decir, cuando el mundo te castiga por tener una familia.

Este señor consiguió un ascenso antes del verano. Se fue de vacaciones el mes que pidió (sabéis que las empresas te dan las vacaciones cuando a ellos les da la gana, a menos que les caigas bien), y la empresa para la que trabajan¡ba le mandó flores a su mujer al hospital, en Julio. Antes de las vacaciones, pidió permiso de paternidad. El primer día de trabajo, lo echaron por bajo rendimiento, y lo acusaron de haber faltado al trabajo tres días de Junio, algo falso y fácilmente demostrable porque hay un control. ¿Veis unas cuantas incoherencias, o soy sólo yo?

Lo siento muchísimo por Miquel Mitjans, y por la forma en la que piensan sus jefes. El problema es que la ley quería igualar a la gente, dándole a los hombres un derecho de las mujeres para que las empresas ya no pudieran discriminar. Pero ahora resulta que la discriminación no es sólo contra las mujeres, sino contra hombres que se porten como tradicionalmente lo han hecho las mujeres, y contra las familias, y contra los hombres que quieran ser más que el que trae dinero a casa, y contra la gente que intenta que primero venga la vida y luego el trabajo y no al revés. Qué triste.

4 comentarios

Small Blue Thing -

As we say in Spanish slang "Pero qué fuerte"... Although, from a certain point of view, that's not at all Capitalists' fault but just ours, as zombie workers, most of the times.

Pues eso, que si nos agrupáramos más y nos importaran menos el Internet en el curro, la pausa del café y más lo importante, otro gallo nos cantaría a todos.

Tui -

In Finland a mother can stay at home up to 3 years. However, not all can afford to stay at home that long, the mother receives less money after the first year. The father can stay with the mother and the baby for the first 12 days. After that, parents can decide who takes the parental leave. In some cases the mother has stayed with the child the first 6 months and the father has stayed at home for the following 6 months. Because the financial support is based on the salary of the parent staying at home, it is harder for families to choose the father. Also employers of men may discourage it. Young women often end up in temporary jobs, because employers are afraid of possible pregnancy. It has been suggested that the employers of both parents should share the costs of parental leaves or that some leave could be taken only by the father, because now employers hiring female employees are in less favourable position than companies employing mainly men.

Lady Godiva -

This is sad, but not very surprising... It's a really clear example of how it's not "women" that are oppressed and discriminated against, but "femininity" insofar as that means doing things perceived as done by women. It's not about being a woman, as such - but about having values different from the values of patriarchy, a system that discriminates against all sorts of groups and individuals :( It makes me mad too! We do need to work to change things, however much of an uphill struggle it can seem.

Kestrel -

I think that is incredibly sad. I'm from the UK, and a woman's job is meant to be secure during and after her pregnancy. In many cases this does happen, and things work out. However, there are a few companies that treat women as you have described above. It makes me so mad, I have often heard it said that we no longer have any need for feminism, that society is equal. This just shows that we still have work to do.