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Missing the point

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?

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Kinder Kuche Kirche

If my German is correct, that title translates to Children, Kitchen, Church.

Yesterday, in response to the very ill-conceived and short sighted WORK bill that is being proposed by progressive Democrats, of all people, I posted an article about the German proposal to do roughly the same thing.  In Germany, the government coalition is proposing to pay low income women a stipend to stay home and take care of their kids instead of spending that money on badly needed daycare.  German women are the one European female constituency that is still constrained by traditional female roles because daycare options are so few.  I advise anyone who is still suffering from the delusion that all low income women need is more money thrown at them to read this article.  It spells out in detail why other options are more effective at bringing women out of poverty, the primary cure being good quality, low cost, subsidized childcare and training programs.  And a real jobs program.

This morning, reader Pips found a link to a photoessay of 19 German women explaining why they opposed the subsidy.  You can find the link here.  If you’re using Google Chrome, the browser will automatically translate the page into English for you.

So, what does it all mean?  Well, to me, non-poli sci, non-ivy league college graduate, non-young, white male paid blogger that I am, the election strategy of both parties this year is to appeal to white men and to force women back into their traditional role. That way, they look like they’re trying to do something about unemployment when they’re really not, and they get the bonus of appealing to conservative voters.  The big stink about SAHMs vs Working Moms should have tipped you off.  Other things to consider:

1.) The US Congress consists of about 16% females.  If the right wing noise machine starts catapulting the propaganda heavily, women in Congress haven’t got a chance to hold off any legislation that will have the effect, directly or indirectly, of keeping women out of the job market.

2.) We have two presidential candidates who have SAHM wives.  This is no accident.  Michelle could have been a champion for working mothers.  Her kids do not need full time care.  Heck, they didn’t even need after school care.  BTW, when Chelsea Clinton grew up in the White House it was Bill who used to help her with her homework.  Despite the absence of a full time, stay at home mother, Chelsea managed to overcome the deprivations of her childhood and turned out ok.  But Michelle decided to hang up her hard earned law degree and stay at home- gardening.  If you haven’t asked yourself why in the past 4 years, it is never too late.

3.) Ron Suskind wrote in his book Confidence Men about the Obama White House that when he took office in 2009, Barack Obama’s first priority in the area of unemployment was to put men back to work doing manly construction type jobs.  His idea was that men needed to feel like men and being unemployed was harshing their manly mojo.  Women’s jobs?  ehhhhhh, not so much.  Yes, Naomi Wolf’s TV orgasm about Obama’s “feminism” *does* look moronic in retrospect. Why do you ask?

4.) Women’s organizations are nowhere to be found.  No rally on the mall, no occupy events, no million hoodie march.  Nada.  I have no idea what they’re up to except they seem to be a lot more concerned with gun control and marriage equality than, you know, WOMEN.

5.) In the beginning of the Great Recession, men were losing more jobs because women were still overrepresented in teaching and public sector jobs.  In the “recovery”, more women are losing their jobs and are having a much harder time getting hired again.  Again, where are women’s organizations on this?  {{crickets}}

Bottom line: This is an attack on working women.  The male politicians of both parties have unilaterally decided that they are going to champion a child, kitchen, church role for women this election cycle and you are going to go along with it because you have no place to go (they think.  BTW, if you want to vote for a real African American Socialist for president this year, Stewart Alexander is your man. Not endorsing.  Just saying, there are choices.).  If you are a woman with a degree and you have an actual career, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to advance in it because the attitude that you are shirking both your motherly duties AND your work duties is going to become more commonplace.

We should have seen this coming 4 years ago.  Thanks for nothing, guys.

My New Best Friend

I was redirected to the YouTube channel, Mompetition, from Lenore Skenazy’s excellent blog Freerangekids.  The creator of Mompetition, a cancer researcher and helicopter mom skeptic, and I seem to have a lot in common.  Check it out:

Now, I have made no secret of my dislike of SAHMs.  Some of our former frontpagers, who incidentally were NOT SAHMs, have used this as an excuse to take their dishes and go away.  But I don’t think I’ve made it clear what it is I dislike about them.  So, let me explain, because I suspect that it’s something the forces of evil will use to divide women in the upcoming elections.

First, I love my kids but I would go stark raving bat $#@^ crazy if I had to spend the majority of time with the moms depicted in mompetition’s videos.  Unfortunately, the suburbs where I live is chock full of these women.  They never let their kids outside, they organize their kids’ friends, sports events and bowel movements down to the second and they have the nerve to impose their religious views on the rest of us.

Second, I have no problem with women who choose to stay home with their kids.  If that’s what you want to do and you can afford to do it and you possess the mothering skills of Mary Poppins, go right ahead.  Don’t let us stop you.  But don’t ask for any special recognition of your “sacrifice”.  When you use that word, you reveal more about your relationship to your children than you probably intended.  They’re your *children*, not a burden that you have given up your life to raise.  More than that though is the attitude that those of us who work have somehow chosen the low road.  We might cure cancer but we will never be saints, revered by our families and churches for denying everything about ourselves in order to raise these future humanitarians.

Let’s clear that up that misconception. We working moms put in a full day and then come home and do all the parenting too.  We volunteer at school, set up science experiments at school science fairs, make smoked salmon tea sandwiches, decoratively cut into perfect crustless triangles for Victorian History Week Lunch and go on two day field trips with a bunch of eighth graders to a Y camp in early March when the temperature plunged below freezing and where (at least) one of the chaperone’s had forgotten her thermal underwear.  In other words, we do everything SAHMs do and then some.

But more than that, the pressure on women (and yes, there is all kinds of pressure on women) to give themselves up for the sake of their children, is rooted in the myth of the golden era of domesticity of post WWII when women were more or less forced back to the home and the household economics of the middle class rose. (And anyone who has watched Mad Men or read Betty Friedan knows how well that worked out for some women who were never meant to be stay at home mothers) There’s some kind of correlation-causation error related to the nostalgia of the era, my parents’ generation, that overlooks the fact that historically, the SAHM has been very, very unusual for the human species.  Most mothers work or have worked since the dawn of time.  They sometimes took their kids with them.  Children have had to grow up fast and go to work themselves.  Some bourgeoise women had wet nurses so they could spend their time at leisure.  The SAHM who was there when you came home to give you cookies and milk was a statistical blip on the historical record.  Most mothers throughout history did not spend every minute of their day obsessing about whether they were spending enough time with their kids.  There were survival things to do and everyone had to help out.

So, this notion that good women stay home with their children while less than good women stick their kids in day care and go to work is a recent construct.

One thing is for sure, people like Sarah Palin will glom onto the mommy wars like there’s no tomorrow.  Older women my mom’s age are heavily indoctrinated and are venerated by the FOX news crew for being “the good mothers”.  If women’s votes are crucial to the next election, and I believe they will be, now is not a good time to be at each other’s throats.  But I am not going to jump on the conservative mothering bandwagon and give SAHMs an extra special place in the pantheon of mothers.  If I did that, I would immediately be complicit in slapping working mothers with the label of inferior mommies.  Yes, Stay at Home Moms, that is what you are doing whether you are aware of it or not.

And I’m not going to go along with it.  Don’t ask for a special recognition award.  If you need to be recognized for giving up your career to raise your kids, then you need to sit down and have a conversation with yourself and determine whether you did that of your own free will.  If you did, fine.  Then you don’t need a medal.  You should be happy with your decision.  If you didn’t, don’t get mad at me because I don’t kiss your ass to validate your choice.  Going against the tide of conformity is hard.  It can make you unpopular with your family, community and peers.  But if you are true to yourself, it has its own rewards for yourself and your kids.  I feel sorry for women who didn’t feel they had that choice but that doesn’t mean they have the right to resent and condemn the rest of us.  How does that move women’s issues to the forefront if we’re ready to go to war over some societally imposed pressure to sacrifice ourselves?  Can it bring back our younger days?  Change the past?  Does it make it easier for our daughters and granddaughters to do what’s right for themselves as person’s in their own right?  It’s never too late to decide that you won’t subject another woman to the pressures that were imposed on you.

We all make decisions that take our lives in different directions.  But fighting over who is the best mother is something the masters of the universe take great delight in stirring up.  I won’t be part of it.  On this blog, I will make sure that no mother is held in greater esteem than any other.  Mothering is hard enough without having someone we don’t even know tell us how to do it.