Korean Sociological Image #63: Childcare No Longer Only Women’s Job!

As any father can confirm, parenting is a grueling business. So much so, that it makes our testosterone levels drop like a stone for instance, a rather ironic outcome for the ultimate proof of ones’ virility. Also, not only do we gain weight by being too tired to exercise or eat properly after the birth, as you’d expect, but actually we gain weight even before it too, all the better to prepare for the rigors of carrying our offspring on our backs for the next few years.

Granted, that latter research actually comes from a few monkey species, rather than men per se. And reported weight gain in men may be due to a change of lifestyle rather than expectant fathers being biologically wired for it. But still, with serious concerns about future back problems from having to carrying my daughters in my right arm so much over the last few years (they cried if I put them in the left), then my money’s on it applying to humans too.

Why then, are our daily lives still saturated with images of only women caring after children while traveling on public transport and in public spaces?

In hindsight, this is just bizarre. Surely I’m not just projecting when I say that, as the stronger, taller, and faster parent, it usually makes much more sense for me to keep an eye on my hyperactive kids as they try to run literally everywhere, while my wife watches over our bags? And whereas I’m increasingly struggling to carry them as they get older, she’s already just about reached her limits with our five year-old (in more ways then one!).

Which makes these humble pictures such a breath of fresh air. They may not look like much, especially at their low resolution here (my wife is still figuring out her new smartphone – sorry), but they are actually the first example of an image of a male rather than a female caregiver that I’ve ever seen in a subway – well, anywhere –  in Korea. Taken in Daegu on my recent trip there, based on my impromptu survey over 2 weekends then I’d say a good 30-40% of signs for escalators had men rather than women (and in malls etc. also).

Can any Daegu-based readers confirm my estimate? Have any other readers seen any more with elsewhere in Korea? Either way, kudos to the Daegu Council and/or subway company for making an effort to ensure a mix of genders, and – to any readers not yet convinced – please see here for more on why this is genuinely such a big deal.

(For more posts in the Korean Sociological Images Series, see here)

7 thoughts on “Korean Sociological Image #63: Childcare No Longer Only Women’s Job!

  1. It’s not a total reversal of roles, but the latest I-Clay CF (or some similar Play-Doh like substance) has a bakery kit for making clay cupcakes, etc, with a boy as the lead baker / cake decorator and a couple of girls marveling at his mad skillz. Again, it’s only one data point, and it isn’t real baking, but it’s still something that’s stereotypically girlish in Korea, so I thought it was interesting. If I can find it on line, I’ll post a link.


  2. James,

    I’ve actually taken a picture of a sign here in Chungju that shows a man/androgynous figure holding the hand of a child while waiting to cross the street. I’m not sure how to attach a photo to a comment, but if you’d like I can email it to you or post it on my blog for you to see. I’ve also seen other signs in Chungju that show male/androgynous figures with children.


  3. Heck, I would find an image of a neutral or non-female-gendered adult figure in that kind of sign vaguely remarkable in the US. That’s unfortunate (read: ridiculous!) but anyway, I’m happy to see that there.


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