Every few weeks there are books and articles that come out that raise the ire of moms and parents. The last one I remember is Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and now we have The Conflict, the new book out by a French "feminist" mom. My business partner Deb and I have always considered ourselves feminists. However, that word seems to be fully loaded these days.
As Deb says,
"I don't want to get into the arguments about breastfeeding, co-sleeping/attachment parenting, and some other issues, as those have been discussed ad nauseum online and in print. The research on breastfeeding is clear, and it should be encouraged in our healthcare system as the alternatives are very clear and heavily promoted. Attachment parenting, however, is a theory.
But what troubled me more was the author's definition of feminism, and her objectives for women and mothers.
Her thesis seems to be that raising children is a nuisance that gets in the way of us achieving equality in the workplace. Any pressure on mothers to spend more time with their children, should be ignored or removed, and women should get back to work, and make sure they earn as much money, and get as much power as men."
Is that really our objective? Is that what feminism is about?
Don't get me wrong. Deb and I are people who have always worked. We enjoy working and neither of us could be home full time. We want women to succeed probably more than the average person. We consider ourselves feminists, in an age where the media seems to have turned this into a dirty word.
Deb was voted "mostly likely to own her own company employing only women" in high school (funny how that came true for us...!) Neither of us believe women HAVE to stay home with their kids. But nor do we believe that our frame of reference should be that both parents have to be at work full time and outsourcing the "nuisance" of child rearing to someone else.
Is equality about us all playing the same role and trying to achieve positions of power? Or should it be about recognizing and valuing the role that different members of the household might play, and allowing either member of the couple to play that role through better work-life balance initiatives for both parents? And if the mother does want to pursue her career, ensuring that there are no barriers to her advancement and equal pay for equal work?
What's sad to Deb and myself is that feminism no longer has a rallying cause in the West: we can vote, drive, work, own property. We are protected in terms of physical and psychological harassment and abuse (mostly.)
But now we are at the point where we don't all agree on "what's next." We know we're not quite there yet, but it seems some of us have a different vision of what "there" looks like.