American feminists have totally lost it over the motherhood thing. Digby has another take on the issue and she quotes Katha Pollitt. Go take a look. I think women are like ships crossing in the night and it’s just getting to be confusing as all get out. I have to partially agree when Digby says:
This discussion about motherhood gets to the very heart of the issue: a women’s “value” is still largely a reflection of her relationship to men in all kinds of ways from economic status to moral agency. And I don’t think most modern women are aware of it on any conscious level — at least I’m not, until something like this ‘War on Women” comes along and I’m forced to take a fresh look at all my assumptions. It’s primal stuff, buried deeply in the human subconscious and hard to ferret out. But it’s quite real and this so-called conversation we’re having about women’s rights in this political campaign is mostly just dancing around it.
I said partially because I don’t think the “relationship to men” is the problem here. The problem is that we have not evolved as a country as we should have because we are stuck with a very primitive religious legacy where half the nation is determined to categorize everything into their proper places. In this case, this half of the nation sees women as uteruses and mothers. I don’t know about Digby but I am sick of being defined as a mother first. Or if not a mother, something less than a woman. That’s just stupid. We are persons first and are many things to many people.
But solving the problem does not include turning poor mothers into “professional” mothers. Somehow, we have this crazy notion that Ann Romney types and other middle class women have some kind of “privilege”. Mebbe. I don’t know. My perspective on this is that with that privilege comes a pretty big sacrifice, your personal autonomy. In this case, it doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman. If you are not capable of supporting yourself, you’re screwed. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.
It is regrettable that women who want to be full time mothers don’t always have this opportunity. Maybe they are the perfect June Cleavers and through fate or circumstance, they ended up without any means of support. That does not make them better or worse people than Ann Romney.
What it does make them is unexceptional. Mothers have always worked. They’ve worked for hundreds of thousands of years. It was only in the last century or so that any woman of modest means was able to afford to stay home with her kids and how did that turn out? Henrik Ibsen wrote A Doll’s House about such a woman back in the 19th century, just about the time when women moved out of the fields and into the factories and the standard of living for everyone started to rise. And what did Nora do in the end? She left to become herself.
I really don’t care about who is staying home with their kids. I have frequently found SAHMs to be judgmental and unfriendly towards working mothers but I have NEVER envied them. Never. Mothers who work are sometimes exhausted, frequently overworked and often underpaid. But they are the norm.
What is aggravating is that knowing this is the default, our country has made so little effort to accommodate working mothers. And this, too, is not rocket science. There are other countries that do a much better job of helping working parents. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here.
In fact, we don’t even need to debate which lifestyle is better. It doesn’t matter what the motivations are that keep the country from evolving. All we need to do is make a commitment to fix it. So, instead of asking why all women can’t be like Ann Romney, why don’t we ask how we can be more like Segolene Royal?