Friday, March 31, 2006


I was email-interviewed two weeks ago by Veja, one of the largest magazines in Brazil, think Time magazine in Portuguese. Yes, it seems like my ideas have greater currency in Brazil than they do in the US, and someone will have to explain that to me. Anyway, I was cleaning up documents today and found the questions, and the answers I typed out. I thought I'd post them here. I was intrigued by the questions, and had fun answering them, even though I know but a fraction of my words will reach the final article, if that, and being portuguese-illiterate, I won't even know what they are. Enjoy!

Interview questions from Veja:

- You are a daughter of feminism, decided to leave your job and I can imagine how you felt judged these last months (even though you wrote a great book etc.). Why did you decide stop to work all day long for few years? Did you feel guilt?

My job demanded tremendously long hours, as do many jobs in professions like law, medicine, business and academe. Long hours make it especially hard to combine these jobs with having a family, especially a family with young children. That's why we're seeing so many mothers leave the professions we fought so hard to enter--these are the hardest jobs to reconcile with being a mom.

When my first daughter was born, it was just too much. I wanted to work less for a few years. In the US we are expected to work very long hours; it's just assumed. I wanted a different model for family life, in the name of a family-friendly feminism. Most moms and dads are just asking for a few years off, to work a few hours less each day, over a working life that is 45 years long. It's not such a big deal. Our culture is still caught in the judgmental mommy wars, and that stops us from realizing what changes are possible.

Some people judged my decision harshly; they felt I had so much to contribute to my profession, and it was a shame to waste that. Many others understood the inner tension that mothers experience when working fulltime becomes too hard. They realize that asmore of us share our stories, we can start to change our society, so that women won't have to sacrifice their careers and their economic earnings when we become mothers.

My own mother is the model working professional woman, and she had been home with us kids when we were very young.

I didn't feel guilt. No, when I had a child and realized how little our country supports families and supports women who have children, I felt anger. My generation was told we could be totally independent, that we could 'have it all.' That turned out to be untrue.

- What is your opinion about "feminism choise"?

We need more real choices. Women and men need the choice to leave their jobs for a few years to parent young children, and be able to return to good jobs later. People in Scandinavia have this kind of choice, but not in the US. Working a paying job is important. Caring for children is important. For too long women and men were told to choose one or the other. We need the real choice to do both, without penalty, and with more support. I'm not interested in debating who's the right kind of feminist. I want to show our nation a family friendly feminism.

And you know what? Some of the next wave of feminist activists are housewives too. The founder and editor of Mothers Movement Online ( is a housewife. The creators of the forthcoming motherhood activism website are both housewives. We're seeing mothers leave the workplace, get frustrated, and become very political about making change. Housewives can be very political on behalf of all mothers, paid workers and at home both.

- Do you think feminism failed - where and when?

Feminism hasn't failed, no. There was much backlash; almost immediately conservatives started to organize against women's requests. In the 1970's, feminists were trying to support mothers, and families. They were asking for good daycares. They were asking for equal pay. But the political forces against them were stronger, and eventually feminism's programme was whittled down to something more narrow. All that is changing. The National Organization for Women (NOW) is beginning a new campaign on behalf of mothers and caregivers. There's a new political website called that hopes to launch on Mothers Day.

- How do you see feminism today?

In feminism I see a chance to rally all of us to take better care of our families, in ways that help women, not keep us down. I see lots of young mothers, especially those online in the blogosphere, saying, hey, we want to work, we want reproductive freedom, we want economic independence, we want families too. They won't accept the old answers, which told us to either work, or have families. Younger mothers want both. This is feminism today: friendly to families, offering support to all of us, openminded, like a best girl friend.

- What is your opinion about Hirshman's solutions, like to marry down and have only one baby?

That's insane advice. Marriage is magical it's about love. Telling women to "marry down" is as bad as the old advice that told us to "marry up," to marry for money. Hirshman's marriage advice abandons the love and romance that we women want in our lives. Real feminism believes in love. Real feminism recognizes that we share the work of raising the next generation--of loving the next generation. Instead of bad relationship advice, we need policies that help us and our families. And one baby--ridiculous--some of us want one child, some want three. Children are about love, not social engineering. Her advice takes our eyes off the real problem, which is that our workplaces and our policies don't yet support family life, and don't really support mothers, who do most of the work of raising children.
Mothers don't want to be told what to do. They don't want to be underestimated. Many feel they wanted to keep working, and were pushed out by their employers. They're mad, and they want people to understand that, not tell them they married the wrong man.

- In your opinion, what is the future of feminism?

The future of feminism is quietly exciting. Beneath the media radar, younger mothers and fathers are rejecting the old roles. Stay-at-home fathers, like those at the website, want to raise their children. Mothers and fathers both are asking for part time jobs with fair pay, so we can earn a living and be near our kids and stay happy. At its core, feminism is about having real choices about work and real choices about family life. Our nation's policies and mass media haven't yet caught up to this shifting wind.

1 comment:

Lilian said...

WOW, I'm SO EXCITED! How great that Veja interviewed you! They always interview extremely interesting people, generally "people of substance" in their "yellow pages" (color of the interview page - is it for an article or really a "stand alone" interview?).

I'm Brazilian and I've been reding your blog for a while now. I'll try to get a copy of the magazine from someone in Brazil. Do you know when the interview was published? (I'm also a translator scholar and would be curious to see how it was translated and edited).

I live in Philly and I've been quite frustrated that I haven't been able to meet you yet because I haven't made it to any Mother Talk events of book signings, but hopefully I'll get to meet you someday.

I'm an ABD, working on my dissertation from home right now as my husband works as a Post-doc. We have 2 boys under 4!

(sorry for writing so much on my very first comment - I'm not usually like that, but I got carried away).

Nice responses, BTW.