Leaning in, leaning back, overwork and gender

Interesting article.

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!

Shrage in NYT on ‘forced fatherhood’

Lauri Shrage 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.

Shrage writes:

‘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):

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Father’s age a factor in autism and schizophrenia

Or so new research in Nature and reported in the NY Times suggests. (The Nature discussion is very interesting, btw.)

The report seems to me to have political dimensions that can pull us in very different directions. On the one hand, it still seems to me amazing to see any questioning of the idea that it is only women who face a ticking reproductive clock. On the other hand, you know that the chances are very high that there is a lot of ablest thought that the research is going to inspire, and may well have been inspired by.

Let me add in that as a parent, the thought that one’s child might not be able to earn a living is utterly terrifying. Perhaps especially in the US, the fate of at least fairly markedly neuro-atypical adults can be very awful indeed.

Having said that, let me ask that if anyone has information on what people with markedly neuro-atypical children can do to plan a safe future for the child after they have died. Supposing, that is, that they don’t want to be academics. (JOKE!)

So it is possible, if you have the money

Education to a professional, post-doctoral level can represent a heavy substantial financial investment; it is also something from which a country’s economy can benefit greatly. So what do we do about the apparently large number of people who take a break in their scientific careers because they having conflicting caring responsibilities?

Money may well help, a fact all too depressing to relatively unsupported disciplines such as philosophy, which is seen as making little difference economically:

From: UAS Race Equality
Date: 31 July 2012 16:03:44 GMT+01:00
To: “race-equality-network@maillist.admin.ox.ac.uk”
Subject: EPSRC funding to support research scientists with caring responsibilities: Call for proposals

Dear REN

Please find attached information on funding available via the From: UAS Race Equality
Date: 31 July 2012 16:03:44 GMT+01:00
To: “race-equality-network@maillist.admin.ox.ac.uk”
Subject: EPSRC funding to support research scientists with caring responsibilities: Call for proposals

Dear REPlease find attached information on funding available via the EPSRC to support and retain research scientists with caring responsibilities, including:

· Women and men who have taken, or are currently taking, a career break to care for a child or close relative (including for maternity/paternity/adoption reasons)
· Women and men who are working part time because they have caring responsibilities.

Applications should be sent to vanessa.howe@admin.ox.ac.uk by 5pm on 31 August or 21 September 2012.

Whilst this may not be of direct interest to you please can we ask you to publicise this funding as widely as possible. A successful pilot of this strategic funding was carried out in 2011/12 and it had a real impact on enhancing the grant holders research.

Thank you in advance for your help in spreading the word.


Caroline Kennedy
Equality and Diversity Unit
University of Oxford
University Offices
Wellington Square
email: caroline.kennedy@admin.ox.ac.uk
Tel: 01865 289825
Web: http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/eop

Thanks, Nathaniel!

Shoe, meet other foot

When I was pregnant, my British GP assured me that if GPs hadn’t noticed a problem with eating or drinking something, it probably didn’t exist. In comparison, biological pre-moms these days do have a lot to worry about. But what about dad’s? Well, I haven’t noticed much, but it seems to be starting. According to an article from Everyday Health, an online article from Occupational and Environmental Medicine (published by the prestigious JAMA), the following jobs are possibly sources of  so-called “birth defects”  in men’s offspring:

Mathematical, physical and computer scientists


Office and administrative support workers

Food service staff

Motor vehicle operators

And a lot more!

By the way, if you have any tendency to OCD or hypochondia, you might think of not even looking at the occupational and environmental medicine publication.

Parents Versus Climate Change

As someone who remains ambivalent about having children (and as someone with young nieces and nephews and friends with kids), this is a topic of deep personal concern to me, as I’m sure it is to many readers. The diagnosis of widespread ignorance and ‘soft denial’ seems pretty plausible, although chastising people for being bad parents seems to me fundamentally unhelpful. Plus, isn’t the sense of deep political powerlessness pretty well justified? It certainly seems that way in the current political and economic climate. For my part I find it very difficult to imagine a day when any government would place long-term interests like saving the planet ahead of short-term economic concerns, particularly when most governments are only in office for 5-10 years (though maybe this is just a tempting false dilemma…)

Your thoughts welcome, especially if you can think of a reason not to despair.

Christine Overall in the New York Times

Nice to see another feminist philosopher writing for The Stone.

As a young woman in my 20s I pondered whether or not to have children. Is there a way, I wondered, to decide thoughtfully rather than carelessly about this most momentous of human choices?

It’s a tough decision because you can’t know ahead of time what sort of child you will have or what it will be like to be a parent. You can’t understand what is good or what is hard about the process of creating and rearing until after you have the child. And the choice to have a child is a decision to change your life forever. It’s irreversible, and therefore, compared to reversible life choices about education, work, geographical location or romance, it has much greater ethical importance.

Amy Allen on the “Mommy Wars” in the NY Times

Feminist philosopher gets it so very, very right:

If the “the conflict” continues to be framed as one between women — between liberal and cultural feminists, or between stay at home mothers and working women, or between affluent professionals and working class women, or between mothers and childless women — it will continue to distract us from what we should really be doing: working together — women and men together— to change the cultural, social and economic conditions within these crucial choices are made.