The link below has a variety of reader responses to Dr. Slaughter’s article:
Stephanie Coontz’s wording struck me: “the insanely rigid workplace culture that produces higher levels of career-family conflict among Americans.” That phrasing really captures the reality Dr. Slaughter is critiquing, as well as my own experiences and observations.
Someone named “Flavia” described “[m]ainstream feminism” as being “a tool to enforce the current system of inequalities.” She rejected “reactive feminism” that is “chasing this faux equality that puts us on the race to be better managers of exclusion.” That is very challenging conceptually. In essence, she seems to be asserting that mainstream feminism is simply about getting women into the same roles men have occupied in a hierarchical workplace. I can appreciate that characterization and her hostility towards it.
I really applaud Katrina vanden Heuvel’s comment. She reminds us of the critically narrow focus of Dr. Slaughter’s article, which assumes a women who is highly educated and pursuing an elite career. The vast majority of working moms have an even more difficult reality. For them, it is not just a concern that they won’t reach the most elite levels of their profession. For most moms, Ms. vanden Heuvel notes the huge toll economic insecurity and the lack of support takes on children. When women must “cobble together” multiple poorly compensated jobs, she notes that “[c]hild care gets done by grandmothers, neighbors or simply the TV.” That is such an important point. And not everyone has grandmothers or neighbors to help, so women are left to either forego needed income or leave children by themselves. What a travesty.
But in our culture, such points often seem to fall on cold hearts. The common refrain is that the moms in such situations shouldn’t have made the decision to have children. Particularly when you read reader comments to articles on such topics, you often see crude comments like “use birth control.” That command is quite ironic in light of the recent debate about providing birth control as part of the medical insurance we pay for.
For other reasons, it is also highly telling when you see such comments. It is a basic fact of biology that it does take a male as well as a female to reproduce. Apparently some species can reproduce asexually, but not humans. It still takes two to tango. But when you see such crude comments justifying the callus “you’re on your own” attitude towards single moms, I never hear anyone blaming the fathers who are equally responsible for bringing the child into this world. Disproportionately, in single parent households, it is the father who is absent and the bulk of the child-rearing responsibilities fall to the mother alone.
There is another hypocrisy in the common refrain the moms shouldn’t have made the decision to have children they couldn’t care for. In our culture, abortion is something that most Americans do not celebrate and condemn to at least some degree. Many consider themselves “pro-life” meaning they believe that medical abortions should not be legal. Even those who embrace the “pro-choice” stance don’t celebrate it when a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy. I’ve never heard anyone advocate that women should have more abortions. That would be nuts. Even if one has no concern for the fetus. Medical abortions are not good for one’s physical health. And there can be long-lasting emotional and spiritual scares on the woman who has an abortion. At most in our culture, medical abortions are tolerated as a necessary evil or the least awful option in certain situations. Indeed, Bill Clinton famously said he wanted medical abortions to be “safe, legal and rare.”
Because of this widespread attitude that medical abortion is not a positive choice, one would think that we as a society might celebrate women who carry their pregnancies to term. You would think that we might applaud the women who do not choose to have a medical abortion. Due to our widespread attitude of economic individualism, however, this is not the case. Women are berated for having children they cannot support. What a sick attitude.
Economic Darwinism and conservative social values are a tragic, frightening mix.
Aren’t two sparrows sold for a small coin? But not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father knowing about it already. Even the hairs of your head are all counted. Don’t be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.