A recent opinion piece by Suzanne Venker has really got me pondering what feminism really is. Ms. Venker seems to be under the impression that it is solely becoming a “career gal,” denying motherhood and burning bras… or something like that.
I don’t really agree with that. Feminism is really about empowering choices. At one point a woman’s only choice was to find someone to marry her and have babies. A lot of women like it, a lot didn’t and a lot wanted that, but more.
Venker is REALLY into the idea of the one-income household, becoming a mom and then building a career. She thinks it’s sad that women go to college to get BA and BS degrees, and not MRS degrees. But she still thinks that college is a worthwhile endeavor, even if becoming a wife and mom is a woman’s main goal. To that I say good luck finding a man who will pay not only his own student loans, but yours, too, and for all those babies you’re popping out.
And I love the way Ms. Venker works in absolutes. Either you have a career, you have a family or you do both at full steam. I think there are a lot of women who would love to work part-time in an industry they love while the raise their children, but for many that’s not possible, and part-time workers have little to no protection like full-time employees.
And for me and many other women, I’m sure, it’s scary to give up your independence. How many of us have heard stories of women who have come to depend on men, only to have them leave for a new model, providing minimal child support and leaving her, who’s only job has ever been to clean poopy diapers and kiss boo-boos, to support herself. It’s scary. And even if he’s a good guy, he could still drop dead at any moment by being hit by a bus or a heart attack, again leaving her to fend for herself. While becoming a full-time mom is valiant, many employers just see it as being unemployed for a long period of time.
But for many, part-time work isn’t an option, either, because part-time workers are pretty much garbage in the eyes of the law. In order to get maternity leave a woman needs to be working full-time at her company that employs at least 50 people for 12 months before giving birth. That means that a part-time worker who’s first priority is being a full-time mom, who may love her job and just want a little adult interaction a few nights a week, doesn’t need the money but wants to have her own, can actually be fired for having a baby. She puts in for 10 weeks off, boss denies, she has the baby and doesn’t come to work, fired for not coming in to work when scheduled. While most employers wouldn’t do that for good employees, it’s legal and that’s what’s scary.
Motherhood and career can happen one after the other or simultaneously if women are given the right tools. This is the crux of feminism. Choices. Which also means that if someone chooses to be childless, that should be respected as well. But so should motherhood. There are no absolutes in life, compromise is always attainable.