So much fun to appear with Barbara Ehrenreich and Andi Buchanan on a panel last Friday evening at the Virginia Festival of the Book. BE has been fighting and writing for so long for women's rights, and for the rights of all americans across class lines to have a shot at economic independence and a decent life. She began the session by talking about her own life, just a bit, reminiscing about how when she interviewed to enter a PhD program in the sciences, she was asked whether she intended to become a mother. "I knew the right answer," she said, "No." You couldn't at that time profess to want a family and be taken seriously as a professional. She did indeed want a family, and did go on to have kids. Considering this, and reaching as she always does for a vision of the big picture, she told us that she fears that work and family are on their way to becoming one or the other, mutually exclusive, once again. She reminded us all to look beyond class lines, to care about what happens to professionals and to care about what happens to cooks and line workers and taxi drivers and the people who clean the bookstore--we were appearing at the UVA bookstore that night.
The evening energized me. It's easy to become dispirited. There's so much to be fixed in the work-and-family problem, and it all seems to intractable and vague. And still, we discuss it as mommy wars, or as work-family-balance, and we leave out the F-word; we don't seem able to tackle head on the fact that we are talking about another episode in a 150 year struggle in our nation about the role and rights of women. Clear and simple, but untill we can address it in these terms, as a gender problem, we'll never get to the core of why the workplace is so hard for mothers to navigate well (hint: it's not because we're lazy or stupid or not ambitious enough) and why good nurturing child care is so hard to find and afford and why we need to pit women against each other (hint:the mommy wars keep our eyes off real prizes, like social change, or equity, or fairness.) It was lovely to be in a place where you could say the F-word. I had a good time announcing "I'm a mom, I'm a feminist. And I'm proud." And Andi was her usual eloquent self. Barbara seemed to enjoy herself, and was incredibly gracious to us younger women. I think she was happy to find some women writers who weren't running fast as they can from a feminist and progressive vision of the world.
Ah, children to be put to bed, so I will return later. Till then, the panel should be aired on Saturday on C-SPAN 2. I knew, in lieu of Good Morning America and the Today show, I get to appear on C-Span. Hey, could be worse, at least on C-SPAN, when you say things like "sexism is bullshit," no one edits or censors you. I'll post the time when I know it.
(PS: the Good Morning America show with Kim Gandy and Laurie Pettine will air Friday, we're told. They're on between 8 and 8.30. And Laurie will be putting in a guest appearance here at the playground next week sometime.)