Gender, motherhood, etc

Last week’s NYT Magazine big article is about the increasing numbers of women who are choosing to leave prestigious, successful jobs to stay at home and raise their kids. The article asks whether this movement is the failure of a feminist revolution, or the beginning of an entirely different revolution. I’m not sure I think it really reached a solid answer–it thinks it does, but when I reached the end I was surprised, and left feeling like I’d missed some important part. But it’s a provocative article nevertheless.

I hate the issue of work-versus-motherhood the same way I hate that we have to think about race. I just wish these didn’t have to be issues. I wish we could all be race-blind, so I don’t have to be frustrated and angry every time I watch TV or a movie with a minority character (heads: “that Asian character is so stereotypically nerdy/ghetto/ditsy/wimpy/sexy-in-a-fetishized-Orientalist-way/artistic/nice!” versus tails: “why are there no Asians/other minorities in this movie/show?!”). Same thing for gender; I wish everyone could just do their normal or not normal male or female thing, and we would just view it as an individual choice, not representative of an entire gender and historically significant set of choices. But since the reality is that these are important issues, I’m passionate about them. This article does occasionally get to the heart of the postfeminist dilemma. In so doing, it really resonates with me. I consider myself a feminist, so I bristle immediately at the thought of women leaving the work force to stay at home. But I was raised by a stay-at-home mom myself, and it was a great way to grow up. I want my kids to have the same upbringing, as much as possible anyway. I don’t intend ever to let someone else raise my kids while I sell my soul to my career, and I realize that might mean eventually spending some time at home watching them grow. What other option is there? And I hate that there isn’t any kind of discourse out there about fatherhood-versus-work. I want to go stick my finger in every individual male’s face and tell him to take responsibility, starting from contraception and sexual responsibility! Because dammit, men have been ignoring this obligation long enough! “It’s your kid too you know! Stop making women bear the burden alone!” Yes, I do have a lot of anger about this–you expect a conscientious history major not to be obsessed with the past? But sometimes I really do think men and women are biologically hardwired to feel differently about jobs and kids. Much of what I see in the lives of people around me, and in my own life, confirms that no matter how much we try to equate the sexes, men and women are different. And I hate that too, having to admit that and try to deal with all the implications. The article articulates this well:

We accept that humans are born with certain traits, and we accept that other species have innate differences between the sexes. What we are loath to do is extend that acceptance to humans. Partly that’s because absolute scientific evidence one way or the other is impossible to collect. But mostly it is because so much of recent history (the civil rights movement, the women’s movement) is an attempt to prove that biology is not destiny. To suggest otherwise is to resurrect an argument that can be — and has been — dangerously misused.

In the end, every conclusion I reach is uneasy at best. I guess I feel this article reflects that feeling that there are no easy answers, and perhaps no definitive answer at all. I think the author feels she’s come to a conclusion, but I’m not convinced, and may never be.

If my preoccupation with thinkings and discussings bores, annoys, or frightens you, just be glad you’re not the one who’s going to be stuck with me for the rest of our lives. ;b I think Erik and I talk about gender issues at least once every week, along with race, class, music, politics, food, and all kinds of other good juicy topics. In fact last night we decided this is one of the big reasons why we love each other, because we can and do talk about everything. We both think talk is good. So… talk to me! Tell me what you think. Leave comments. Email me. IM me. Just don’t call me because I’m slightly phone-phobic. ;b

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at]