Friday, February 02, 2007

my mother on women's issues today

This is an interesting concept—that in a short 30-40 years something so important to one generation could be seen to the new generation as irrelevant.

I mean the feminism issue.

The world has changed almost completely in that time as far as women and their status goes. You can imagine that if you lived in an environment where equal education, employment, promotion, levels of responsibility, and protection by the law, were being worked out every day, it would be really important to your generation, as to mine.

Any social movement has its liberals, conservatives, and the vast middle. In the equal rights for women movement the liberals are the raging feminists. The vast middle are women who just wanted to be all they could be and were willing to work extra hard to make it happen.

Because of social changes in these years, there are advantages to your generation that my generation only dreamed of. That is a really good thing for the mothers to have given to the daughters.

I don’t think the following generation has to give special homage to their predecessors, but they do have to work out their own issues that have popped up because of the rapid societal changes.

The main issue today is that we have realized that we can’t have it all. Economic, intellectual, developmental, and creative achievements have a cost. Finding meaning in life through our family relationships—like finding and keeping a happy husband and raising a family of Godly young people who will make a positive difference in the world--has a cost. We figured out in the 80’s and 90’s that one person just doesn’t have the currency to pay both bills. The question is whether we can sustain a society that allows women to choose to be “equal” parts of the work force at the times of their choice—before their children are born and after the children grow up, or during the hours that the children are in school

Interestingly, most of the issues ironed out previously have to do with life in the marketplace, but now the issues are about life in the home. Because women are able to do whatever they want now, they have to choose what it is they really want to do. Those who want to climb to the top of the corporate ladder probably won’t be spending a lot of quality time with a houseful of kids. Those who homeschool their brood probably won’t have time to compose many symphonies. You can’t have it all. You have to be really creative to even come close.

Politically, the top three issues today for working women are childcare, childcare, and childcare. Affordable, reliable, and just like mom would do it if she was there. The political issues are affordable and reliable, but close to the heart of women is the third issue.

Then after that comes maternity rights—keeping the job, being able to opt for longer maternity leaves perhaps even without pay but with the assurance that the job will still be there for you, and not being penalized because of your “Mom” status. Related to that is the issue of how in the world a woman can prevent the perception that her children negatively affect her job performance. Also related is possible leave time for dads to take care of children.

Then is the issue of older moms returning to the workforce when their children are gone. When a woman is over 40, she has valuable skills to market, but because she has been raising a house full of kids for the last 20 years, her resume looks like trash to employers. So, just at the point where she needs to get a good job, commensurate with her education and skills, she finds herself “qualified” only for positions that won’t do much to pay for her kids’ college bills.

There is still a bit of an issue about equalizing pay across professions. Although it is better than before, the professions to which women often feel called are remunerated at lower rates than other professions requiring similar training and qualifications. That makes it harder for widows, single moms, and single women in general.

So, feminism may not seem to be an issue to young, upwardly mobile women without children today, but the moment the HPT says “positive” that all changes.

4 comments:

CraigS said...

Interesting essay. Here are some thoughts -

Related to that is the issue of how in the world a woman can prevent the perception that her children negatively affect her job performance.

Take two women with the same position. One has 3 high school children at home, the other has no children. Clearly the latter woman will be able to put more into her job (if she chooses).

That is simply a reality of the situation - as you mentioned in your essay, the 3 children come with a price tag. But its a price tag I think most mum's were happy to pay.

Also related is possible leave time for dads to take care of children.

This gets spoken about every now and again. But, as one post-feminist author recently pointed out, the sort of man who wants to stay home and do the ironing is not the sort of man most women want to marry...

Then is the issue of older moms returning to the workforce when their children are gone. When a woman is over 40, she has valuable skills to market,

This is certainly true.

but because she has been raising a house full of kids for the last 20 years, her resume looks like trash to employers.

Somewhat true. The aging population in the western world will make a tremendous difference here, as labour shortages will force employers to be more flexible in their hiring criteria.

A woman with tertiary qualifications and experience (eg. a doctor) will probably have little trouble finding work again. I assume you are primarily talking about women who lack these.

For many of those women, some sort of job in retail is about all that they can initially aspire too. However, a good worker can quickly establish themselves in such an environment. I've seen a number of 40-something mums quickly rise into retail management. Good workers are always in demand...

Lorie said...

Because women are able to do whatever they want now, they have to choose what it is they really want to do.

Too many choices---it is more a curse for our generation than a blessing. And it effects every aspect of our lives: choosing a school, choosing a career, choosing a mate, choosing a home...

wageslave-mum said...

"Then is the issue of older moms returning to the workforce when their children are gone. When a woman is over 40, she has valuable skills to market,"

To further complicate matters, the average age for first time motherhood is hitting 30 here in Oz and many 1st 2nd 3rd & 4th babies are being born to women in their early-mid 40's. Stay at home mothers are becoming increasingly less common in Oz, whether Xn or not. Gov policy is changing, everybody is expected to be a taxpayer, and the value of motherhood is less than it has ever been. All mothering is being increasingly outsourced into a booming child "care" business sector.

Damn those feminists. Our children are being ripped off.

Radagast said...

As a Christian, I think the debate should be about "how can I serve?", not "what can I have?"