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]


3 responses to “Gender, motherhood, etc

  1. Nice entry. I’ve had similar conflicting feelings myself – having also been raised by a stay-at-home mom, I’m really wary of leaving my kids with a nanny or shuttling them off to daycare for indefinite periods of time. I want to be able to really be there for them, and this will inevitably clash with whatever career-minded goals I may have for myself. I haven’t really settled any of these issues but I do think about them fairly often and wonder what I’ll have decided in 10 or 15 years…

    Oh, and I have LOADS of respect for stay-at-hom dads. American society believes it’s so forward-minded with racial and gender equality but when it comes down to it, the same old patriarchal values are still firmly in place, especially when it comes to division of labor in the child-rearing department. Sure, women are moving forward in the workforce, but this only means they’re shouldering TWICE the burden because most women continue to do most of the domestic work as well. Men and women ARE fundamentally different, I think, but that doesn’t mean that certain responsibilities should automatically be assigned to one or the other. And I tend to think they’re different in a men-are-better-at-tackling-one-thing-at-a-time, women-are-better-at-multitasking way, not a women-are-better-at-dishes, men-are-better-with-cars way.

    • Glad you enjoyed my entry. πŸ™‚ And thank you for commenting!

      Oh yeah, patriarchal values are definitely in place in the domestic sphere. I could write a whole other rant on that, but I won’t. πŸ™‚ Suffice it to say that I have a lot of anger about that too. ;b

      Yes, stay-at-home dads get my respect, both for their actual parenting duties and for going against the grain.

  2. Pingback: More on gender |·

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