Raising children is a Job. And it should be legally recognized as such…

Once again I find myself in the position of defending stay at home feminist moms. Tonight, I’m tossing around this issue because I’ve just had the unfortunate experience of reading Elizabeth Wurtzel’s article in The Atlantic entitled “1 Percent Wives Are Helping to Kill Feminism and Make the War on Women Possible”.

Okay – just to be clear, I find Wurtzel’s brand of pithy offensive and bitterly righteous. For example, I offer up this gem: “When I meet a woman who I know is a graduate of, say, Princeton — one who has read The Second Sex and therefore ought to know better — but is still a full-time wife, I feel betrayed.” Gag. So, if I were say a graduate of Valencia Community College – but had still read Beauvoir – would I be as offensive to Wurtzel? Are only the 1% her issue because there are others who choose wife and mother.

Wurtzel argues that “there really is only one kind of equality — it precedes all the emotional hullabaloo — and it’s economic. If you can’t pay your own rent, you are not an adult. You are a dependent.” Honestly, I think there are more women who think this way than I would like to admit – but I would argue that this completely misses the issue at hand.

Culturally we worship money and power and look down our noses at compassion and care — this framework allows jobs that were traditionally categorized as masculine – doctors, lawyers, politicians, bankers etc. – to be viewed as more prestigious than jobs that were and are still often fulfilled by women – elementary education, child care, nursing, secretarial work and of course mothering. In other words – men – and women enacting roles that were traditionally held by men are seen as more empowered.

This of course leaves stay at home moms sitting on their couches, eating bonbons and doing nothing of importance, which is ridiculous. Raising/rearing children is valuable and needed. The issue is not that women shouldn’t choose to stay home, if they so desire, but rather that the culture does not recognize the value in this endeavor – and reward or respond financially. At Rollins College in Winter Park, FL (my alma mater) I once heard Gloria Steinem say that perhaps the best way to deal with this issue was to work within the system and offer a tax benefit/deduction of some kind for women who choose to take on the challenge of staying home to raise their children – sounds like an awesome solution to me.

I know this is one of my favorite rants – but feminism is about choice and social justice for all people. ARGH!

P.S. Thank You, Mom. You’re fabulous and I treasure the fact that you poured your heart and soul into raising me.

Social Justice is about everyone, isn’t it?

So lately I’ve been encountering some troubling stuff. Stuff that makes me question myallegiance to the feminist tribe. (Well, sort of.) In particular I have encountered three conversations with feminists that make note of the idea of limiting the sphere in which one can truly be a feminist.

The first instance was a comment from a good friend – one I know to be an active advocate for social justice of all kinds. In fact, I would argue that I have almost never hung out with her without discussing some way in which the current social systems are hurting or inhibiting the needs and desires of honest hard-working people or animals.  A few years ago she had a baby – a beautiful strong-minded little girl – and after much toss and turn – she decided that she was not going to return to work as a teacher. So now she is a stay at home mom.  Her comment to me was that most of her feminist friends no longer respect her. REALLY?!! I was shocked – horrified even. This is like the best mom ever, a woman who studies and thinks out all her moves as a mom – what food her daughter should eat, what fabrics should be close to her skin, how much television is too much television – or is she better off with non at all?  This woman who washes her own diapers because she’s worried about the earth and yes, she has a partner – who happens to be a man – who works day and night so that she can stay home and raise their daughter in the way she thinks is best.  This is a job, and important one, is it not?  It is also a job she loves and one that she feels has great meaning for her.

I’ve done some research and there are definitely women who rage against this idea. Like this one . And this one. But, I will continue to defend women who choose to stay home.  Mothering is a key element of society. It is a valuable and honorable profession. Viewing childcare as a less than scenario relies on philosophical framework of importance or success that  is defined by the masculine identity – in other words one of the key issues, early on for feminism was the idea that men’s lives are defined as free – potent and subject oriented. 

Ringing in the second wave of Feminism by writing The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir, explained the nature of women’s cultural standing. She said, “man represents both positive and neutral, as is indicated by the common use of man to designate human beings in general; whereas woman represents only the negative.”   In other words, masculinity is perceived as the norm or the superior state of humanity and femininity exists as “inessential” opposition to this norm. Beauvoir’s theory on implementing male/female equality was grounded in the understanding of womanhood as a limiting state.  Beauvoir advocated the rise of a woman from subordinate to dominate by becoming more like a man, i.e. disconnecting from her connection to ‘her own nature,’ her physicality, particularly her womb and the job of child rearing.  Later feminists recognized a fundamental flaw in Beauvoir’s perspective. In “Humanism, Gynocentrism, and Feminist Politics,” Iris Young explains, “Beauvoir does not call into question the definition of being human that traditional western society holds, and she devalues traditionally female activity in the same way that the patriarchy does.”  In other words, Beauvior’s perspective equates the true state of humanity with masculinity. In light of this understanding, it is my contention, that femininity is not the problem, rather inequality is caused by the “the denial and devaluation of specifically feminine virtues” (Young). The road to compassionate equality does not require that women become more like men, but rather that we cease to devalue and define femininity and masculinity as constructs in opposition, with hegemonic masculinity functioning as the superior form and femininity an inferior reflection.  This idea can be explored further in the works of Val Plumwood.

I am off on a tangent from where I began…So let me just circle round a bit. While I’ve focused on this discussion of stay at home mom’s, I mentioned that there were three conversations that threw me for a loop. The second conversation occurred with Gail Dines and some of the current  key players in FAU’s Women, Gender and Sexuality department at the Florida Consortium for Women’s Studies Conference. The topic of the actual discussion eludes me by the basic premise was a number of female  feminists met to discuss pornography and anti-porn strategies and the told a transgender feminist that her attendance was not appreciated. Ouch…REALLY! Isn’t the ultimate goal empowering and accepting each other as we are and want to be? 

My final issue was a conversation with friends about sexuality – one friend, who is in a long-term relationship with a man but used to date only women – mentioned that when she started dating a man all her lesbian friends disowned her. REALLY!  – I can’t really say that the women who disowned her are feminists, but I can say that they bear the burdens of unequal social justice issues – wouldn’t they want to let people be and choose whatever makes them happy? Obviously not.

What is that? 

I am a proponent of the morality detailed by the principles of feminist care ethics, i.e. acknowledging and examining how one’s personal background, experience and viewpoint affect one’s moral choices, focusing on responses that are person and situation specific, and creating solutions that focus on care and empathy for others. If you are interested in these ideas read Maternal Thinking: Toword a Politics of Peace by Sara Ruddick. I guess my point here is that in the end, the ultimate goal, breaking down abstract prejudice and oppression is the only goal – and these behaviors – judgement and criticism of the choices people make – these are the behaviors of the oppressor.

Kim Gandy speaks for Clinton


Message from NOW PAC Chair Kim Gandy:

In a few hours, at 4:15 am to be exact, I’m headed out in the cold to yet another airport, this time to Chattanooga and then Knoxville, Tennessee to rally and speak for Hillary Clinton.

I’d go anywhere, any time, to shout from the rooftops that Hillary Clinton is the right choice for women, for our families, for our communities and for our future.

Here is why I care so much:

Hillary Clinton is a national leader of the highest order, with the strength and determination and experience to deliver real change to our country. She has been a leader on women’s rights and civil rights for over 30 years.

It is of special importance to me that Hillary is an unparalleled champion for women’s reproductive rights, justice and health. In fact, I’ve just signed a letter from many leaders: Martha Burk, Gloria Feldt, Cecelia Fire Thunder, Lulu Flores, Ellen Malcolm, Irene Natividad, Ellie Smeal, Gloria Steinem, and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones on why Hillary is the best choice for those of us who care so deeply about these issues.

Hillary has been through fire and emerged stronger with each challenge. She can take anything the Republicans can dish out, and give it back double. The Democrats need her, the country needs her, and she needs your vote on Tuesday.

Make no mistake, Hillary Clinton is the strongest candidate to win in November, and to set our country right. She beat the Republicans in two landslide elections, despite predictions that she couldn’t win in upstate and rural New York. And it will take someone with her economic and national security strengths to beat John McCain. We know she can deliver on Day One — from getting our troops out of Iraq, to fixing the shattered economy and the mortgage crisis, to winning health care that covers every single person in this country.

Please vote on Tuesday for Hillary Clinton, and if you haven’t done it already, please email your friends and contacts in the Super Tuesday states and tell them that:

from her earliest days advising battered women, helping abused children, and providing free legal services to the poor,
to her time in the White House advocating for universal healthcare, championing the S-CHIP (State Child Health Insurance) program, and helping to pass the Violence Against Women Act,
to her service as a U.S. Senator, standing strong for reproductive rights and writing legislation to expand contraceptive access, helping win approval of emergency contraception, sponsoring equal pay legislation, and speaking out on the floor against the nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, specifically saying that they would damage Roe v. Wade if confirmed. She was right, and I know we can count on her to nominate pro-women, pro-choice judges to the courts at every level.
She’s always stood up for us, and now it’s time for us to stand up for her with our vote and say “I’m Ready for Hillary.”

I’m ready.

P.S. Robin Morgan’s terrific new essay “Goodbye To All That (#2)” calls out the stereotypes, double standards and toxic viciousness against Hillary Clinton – Our President, Ourselves – and she concludes: “Me, I’m voting for Hillary not because she’s a woman-but because I am.”