Several people have asked me what I think about last week's NYTimes feature on Ivy-educated women who plan to leave the workforce or work part time once they have children. After all, I've made a recent career of reading the NYTimes and pointing out how poorly it deals with gender and motherhood. The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars is filled with this kind of analysis, and since its publication, many blog entries have followed that direction.
For those who have asked, my response is that these young women aren't insane, and they may not even be antifeminist, though the article poses them that way. We don't know enough from the article to say whether they are the vision of the new conservativism (though some may be, especiallly since in the last decade, we've seen very progressive moms on the blue-state side of things leave their paid jobs, stay home, or work part time. These young women may merely be pragamatic. They may be looking ahead to women ten years senior and saying, ah ha, this is what happens, especially in law, business, medicine and the other high prestige jobs they are headed toward.
Critics in Salon.com, and at Slate respond in part by saying that this is a tiny subsection of our society, and that in fact more women and mothers than ever are in the workplace. That response fudges the numbers. More women/mothers than 20 years ago are in the workplace, yes, but a huge proportion of them are working part time, in other words, they're accommodating motherhood and work in ways that are often unfair, salary-wise. To say in the name of a feminist response that more women and mothers are working is to undermine the real support that many mothers need to find fair labor.
Near the end of Truth Behind the Mommy Wars, I write that what looks like a retro trending back to the 1950's may not be so. But what the trend of mothers leaving the full time workplace needs is a voice, is a framework that explains the real frustrations and the true structures that make it so hard for many moms to work fulltime. It needs a voice that says: things must change. It needs a vision.
Good thing we have Judith Stadtmand Tucker at Mothers Movement Online on our team. Head right over Judy's new post on the Times article, and let's all be glad we know someone with vision, and that she's focused her life so that she can share it with all of us.
Have a great day, and a great start to the week.