And just as work has expanded to require employees’ round-the-clock attention, being a good mom has also started requiring ubiquity. Things were different in my own childhood, but today, parenting has become a full-time job: it requires attendance at an unending stream of birthday parties, school meetings, class performances, and soccer games, along with the procurement of tutors, classes, and enrichment activities, the arranging of play dates, the making of organic lunches, and the supervising of elaborate, labor-intensive homework projects than cannot be completed without extensive adult supervision.
Oh yes: By incredible coincidence, parenting was discovered to require the near-constant attention of at least one able-bodied adult at just about the same time women began to pour into the workforce in large numbers. Sorry ’bout that, girls!
We need to fight for our right to lean out, and we need to do it together, girls. If we’re going to fight the culture of workplace ubiquity, and the parallel and equally-pernicious culture of intensive parenting, we need to do it together — and we need to bring our husbands and boyfriends and male colleagues along, too. They need to lean out in solidarity, for their own sake as well as ours.
Women of the world, recline!
Leaning in, leaning back, overwork and gender February 24, 2014
Self-effacing mothers December 2, 2013
Here‘s a fascinating article about how babies were made to sit through the long exposure necessary to have their portrait taken in the nineteenth century – mothers dressed up as chairs, holding them.
Here is a slideshow of the photos.
One question is whether it was always mothers – as opposed to fathers, or servants – who held the babies, or whether that’s something the journalist, Bella Bathurst, assumes.
Another point of interest, noted in the article, is that many of the photographers were women.
An interesting topic for an aesthetics class, I think.
And you thought home birth was a radical idea September 14, 2013
Shrage in NYT on ‘forced fatherhood’ June 15, 2013
With the prospect of father’s day ahead over the weekend, Laurie Shrage (left) has a piece for the New York Times confronting the issue of ‘forced fatherhood’, and whether (in limited contexts, namely, those in which women can in fact access contraception and abortion services) women’s reproductive autonomy is unfairly greater than that of men. In an instance in which a woman becomes pregnant without the consent of the male partner to the pregnancy (e.g. due to contraceptive accident), she suggests that we have an unfair case of ‘forced fatherhood’. In such cases, a man is required to undertake the significant (at least) financial responsibilities that he has not voluntarily undertaken.
‘just as court-ordered child support does not make sense when a woman goes to a sperm bank and obtains sperm from a donor who has not agreed to father the resulting child, it does not make sense when a woman is impregnated (accidentally or possibly by her choice) from sex with a partner who has not agreed to father a child with her.’
Policies that require biological fathers to take on such financial responsibilities are punitive, she argues, and can be viewed as a way of controlling sexual behaviour (in the way that inability to access abortion punishes women for being sexually active).
Moreover, rejecting this policy that requires the biological fathers to undertake financial responsibilities could open up ways of conceiving fatherhood that move beyond biological relationship (I like this point: as my two siblings and I write our father’s day cards, only one of us will be celebrating our biological father, but he’s a father no more and no less to each of us!).
This raises many interesting questions about what grounds parental responsibilities, and has -unsurprisingly – generated considerable response from the feminist blogosphere.
Here’s my take on the objections that have come up (after the break):
Sometimes you win one April 25, 2013
It was many years ago– not even sure how many– that I found out about Sheffield’s wonderful WARP programme, which provides funding to help restart the research careers of women returning from maternity leave. It was a little later that I learned this was only for women in STEM. And it has been every opportunity since then that I have been a broken record, arguing for the extension of this outside STEM subjects. And guess what? It’s finally happening!!
A small happy dance ensues.
Next step: extending it beyond women.
If breastfeeding is so important, why not research it properly? January 3, 2013
Typically when a woman experiences difficulty with breastfeeding she’s told to keep working at it because she’s probably just doing it wrong. After all, it’s what her body is meant to do. But our bodies are meant to do a lot of things—like produce insulin, eat peanuts, or get pregnant—that they sometimes can’t…In a piece for Time that questions whether the medical community is failing breastfeeding mothers, writer Lisa Selin Davis points out that “lactation is probably the only bodily function for which modern medicine has almost no training, protocol or knowledge.”
More here. And yes, the article probably is too dismissive of lactation consultants. But it is certainly true that *in addition to* lactation consultants, some science would be helpful. And very definitely right that “but it’s natural” is totally insufficient as a response to problems. (Thanks, L!)
Think twice about taking pregnancy leave! October 26, 2012
It might just mean you risk a promotion review. According to the United Faculty of Miami Dade College,
Professor Marlene Morales, of the Miami Dade College School of Education, is being penalized for taking maternity leave. She has served the College for nine years. Her Academic Dean refused to forward her application for promotion to the rank of Associate Professor, Senior to the Promotions Committee, denying her the opportunity to have her case evaluated by her fellow professors. Professor Morales met all of the promotion requirements established by the contract. In spite of this, the Dean claimed Professor Morales was ineligible for due consideration by her peers, because she had taken a combination of maternity leave and unpaid professional development leave (to finish her doctorate).
There’s a petition in support of her, here.
Coates Responds to Mourdock’s Remarks October 25, 2012
Ta-Nehisi Coates reposted a piece he wrote two years ago in light of the comments Senate candidate Richard Mourdock made about pregnancy. I really recommend checking it out. I don’t know what Coates would think of the following comparison, but he and W. E. B. Du Bois make up the entirety of a an obviously very short list of writers who are men and whose writings on women I’ve found to be down right enlightening.
In regards to Du Bois, what specifically comes to mind is his chapter “The Damnation of Women” in Darkwater. (Chapter starts on page 110.)
Only at the sacrifice of intelligence and the chance to do their best work can the majority of modern women bear children. This is the damnation of women. All womanhood is hampered today because the world on which it is emerging is a world that tries to worship both virgins and mothers and in the end despises motherhood and despoils virgins. The future woman must have a life work and economic independence. She must have knowledge. She must have the right of motherhood at her own discretion.
That was written in 1920.
Mentioning motherhood? October 18, 2012
A reader just emailed with this query: When applying for jobs, should one mention maternity leaves? Should one’s references? This is a question that comes up often enough that I think it really merits some discussion. On the one hand, there’s plenty of evidence that mothers’ CVs are judged especially harshly (and this is about mothers, not parents: fathers’ CVs do especially well). But on the other hand, there are sometimes delays or gaps to explain. How can one weigh up the costs and benefits? Is there some way of mentioning motherhood that doesn’t trigger the negative biases?