Fighting Biology, Again

We have reached an age where women have opportunities to succeed and have careers. Women are accepted at all the top educational institutions (my class in law school was 57% women). We have reached an age where marriage and procreation are not the only goals a woman can have, and she can reject them completely should she choose.

And yet, feminists get all hot and bothered because some young women in top colleges actually choose to acknowledge their maternal instinct and plan on having part-time careers, and staying home with their kids. (See here.) Quote that pissed me off:

“They are still thinking of this as a private issue; they’re accepting it,” said Laura Wexler, a professor of American studies and women’s and gender studies at Yale. “Women have been given full-time working career opportunities and encouragement with no social changes to support it.

“I really believed 25 years ago,” Dr. Wexler added, “that this would be solved by now.”

Ugh. What an idiot. Solved? As if these young women have some sort of responsibility to society to not want to be home with their children? As if these young women are wrong to want this?

Worse yet, in my opinion, is the implication that this is somehow society’s (and Men’s) fault. We’ve failed young women, clearly, because they still adhere to (classic femin-nazi phrase) “traditional gender roles.” I don’t think any of these girls envision a June Cleaver lifestyle, and want to go back to the ’50’s. What these ladies want is, Professor Wexler’s idiocy notwithstanding, a biological imperative. That the female of the human species gestates the baby is not a traditional gender role. It’s a fact of life. That most pediatricians will tell you that there are tremendous health benefits to breast-feeding for at least the first 4-6 months of life is just medical fact. That women are the ones that produce breast-milk is also just medical fact. (Don’t go telling me that men can breastfeed too. I know they can. But that’s just gross, and would require hormonal therapy to achieve the result. Not worth it.) So there’s 15 months that the women are involved that can’t change, societal pressure or not.

I don’t know if Professor Wexler has children, or if she eats children for lunch to maintain the vitality of her coven, but societal pressure or not, she can’t deny that children do better when their parents are home. Certainly, parental bonding would be beneficial with both parents. But there is something different and special about the maternal relationship. Wex can argue all she wants about equality, but she can’t change the fact that men and women are biologically different, and bring different things to the family-raising table. (Like, for instance, women bring the family.)

So quit whining, and schedule an appointment with your psychotherapist and figure out once and for all why your mother didn’t love you. And stop projecting your own crappy childhood on everyone else.

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10 responses to “Fighting Biology, Again

  1. I have only one thing to say on the topic of women wanting to do every single thing a man does… Suzyn Waldman… Need I say more?

  2. Just had an interview today where I asked about part time work when I have kids.

    Men can’t breastfeed
    men ask kids if they are hungry 40% less than women. I think those are clearly connected.

    While childcare may be excellent, it is IMPOSSIBLE for someone to love for, care for and teach my kids in the way I will.

    The women who have a problem with this are not feminist. A feminist wants women to have the most options possible. Women who don’t want me to ever use the option to stay home with my kids are psychos.

    sigh cross your fingers about the job for me

  3. Hi,
    I found your site via…ugh, I don’t even know anymore.

    I think that what “Wex” is saying is NOT that she thought we would have convinced women not to have children by now.

    I think she is talking about the fact that, in the US today, it is still very difficult for women to balance work and children. If you have a sucessful career and leave it to care for children (as I and many of my friends have done), it will be pretty difficult to get back to a similar level later. For instance, most if not all major law firms would not even interview you if you have taken five or ten years off from work.

    Also, if you do, say, NEED to work, the childcare options in the US are not always that great.

    I think that is what she means by the younger women thinking this is a private issue, whereas there really are societal issues here too.

    Thanks for considering another point of view. From someone who is living it.

  4. Or, for instance – your other commenter.

    I am willing to venture a guess that even at this late date, the fact that she asked about part time work when she has kids, will be held against her.

    I think that is a perfect example of the kinds of things Prof. Wex(ler?) thought would be fixed by now.

    I hope in Nina’s situation that won’t be the case. But I’m willing to bet that it is.

    I personally think that the next wave of helping women in the workplace IS to acknowledge that they are women, and that their needs as the childbearers and (often) early nurturers needs to be accomodated in the workplace.

    (It is the same people that usually rant against feminists that make fun of women needing to breast feed at work or wanting to work parttime. At least in my experience.)

  5. Krisco, welcome! I understand what you are saying, but when did it become society’s job to make sure that a woman who leaves for 5-10 years is gently assimilated back into her old job when she comes back?

    Shouldn’t (to use the example already put forth) a major law firm have the right to want to hire associates that it thinks will commit to the firm? Why should the firm waste an office on someone who wants to work part time when they can fill that space with someone who will work full time, and bill 2,000 hours per year? Now, assuming a firm wants a particular candidate for whatever reason, and has the space, they can choose to allow that candidate to work part or “flex” time. But that should be the firm’s choice, not the mother’s (or anyone that takes an extended leave of absence.)

    If a woman takes 5 years off to have a baby, and stay home with the baby until he/she goes to school, you don’t think maybe that woman wouldn’t even be qualified to have her old job? Trends and technology change so much in five years, that woman would be behind.

    The college girls in the article understand that, and have no problem with it. Professor Wexler seems to think it’s not relevant, and that these girls are making a mistake; that it’s a masculine, sexist bias in society that forces women down.

    My point simply was, and still is, that I think biology and the truths of life have more to do with the situation than sexism.

  6. This conversation may be dead but I decided I should add something.

    I never seriously considered making a career at a large firm. This was mainly because the hours and work do not interest me but also because the lifestyle in total doesn’t work for me. If I had stayed in New York I was going to stay at a small law firm where I would have been making a very healthy salary and where the boss was agreeable to the idea of making me “of counsel” when I had children.

    I moved south because of the lifestyle (even big firms don’t kill you here). I am looking at government jobs and at small firms. Both are places where saying I intend to go part time will not be held against me because most people do it that way.

    That being said, my former boss’ wife is a partner at Kramer Levin in New York. She became partner after going part time for her first child (which they no longer allow I believe) and after taking maternity leave twice.

    It is possible to take time off your career and still attain that level of success. The thing is you have to work your ass off. You do have to make up for the years you were out of the work force when the guys weren’t.

    The part that disagrees with me personally is having to pay someone to spend more time with my kids than I do HOWEVER I am one of the kids who had babysitters and my babysitters loved me and I think I turned out okay.

    BUT my mother and the other female Vice President at her bank (because there are only two) both wonder why both of their daughters are choosing to stay home with their kids (both the daughter and I have degrees from Columbia). I can’t answer that question. Frankly I don’t know why I feel a pull that my mother did not (and still does not) feel.

  7. Hi Noy, Nina, and Ed,
    Thanks for the welcome Noy. I realize this conversation may be dead too but still wanted to respond to Noy. Hopefully he’ll check back in.

    My point is – there is some *awareness* that needs to happen. I don’t think it’s sexism necessarily; I think its that old habits die hard. People are used to not hiring people who have a gap in their resume. The truth is it does not make them useless.

    For instance – if a man graduated from college, went to law school, worked for several years and developed a skill set, then stopped working where they paid him for five years in order to work by caring for a child or his elderly parents – he would be perfectly capable of stepping back into that old job after that.

    Same for a woman. There is nothing about touching a diaper that taints you in such a way you can never work again.

    In regard to whether it’s society’s job – I think the point is that it is to society’s benefit. These are talented, skilled, helpful people who have plenty to offer. As it happens, with the baby boomers starting to retire, there will even be an employee gap coming up, speaking at the societal level. So frankly these workers will be needed by society.

    The other thing is, you assume anyone who is a parent would work part time or flex time. I do think companies (and law firms) would do well for themselves to allow more flexibility – for fathers and mothers – to work a flex schedule or have sometime they can take off. Happier employees means a lower attrition rate, and it is expensive to have turn over. But plenty of women – or men – if not most – want and financially need a full time job.

    As for being behind after a few years means exclusion from the work force – that would mean no one could ever start a job, even a recent graduate, because they would be so far behind. The truth is any job takes some ramp up time; you can learn any new case law – or business practices – in a short period of time. That’s not at all a reason to exclude potential employees.

    In fact, lawyers add practice areas (where they have to get up to speed) and other people switch whole careers later in life. Again, nothing about once having touched a diaper excludes you from being able to do that.

    Again, I don’t necessarily think it is sexism. And maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see any anti-male business with what the professor said.

    I think it is just a matter of existing business practices. And once people think about it, and to use the seventies term (though I hate most things seventies), their “consciousness is raised” about it – basically, their attitude is changed – there is no reason why women – and men – couldn’t and shouldn’t be welcomed back into the work force with open arms.

    I think biology and the truths of life will tell you that the old feminist arguments hold true – women are perfectly capable of performing all the work men do – witness the wonderful lawyers, surgeons, businesswomen out there – whether they have had children or not.

    Krisco

  8. Krisco,

    I’m always checking my comments, so please keep them coming. You’re a welcome addition. I have no problem with you disagreeing with me, in fact, it helps me clarify and hone my arguments.

    In this instance, I feel as though we are getting off on a tangent. I understood Professor Wexler’s comments to mean, in some sort of way, that the fact that women must be the one’s to take maternity leave is, on some level, part of the problem. The issue I took with that is that it’s a biological imperative.

    Additionally, in my opinion, I felt as though Professor Wexler was faulting these women for their choices. I also found troubling that statement, since again in my opinion, having the choice should be the pinnacle of feminist achievement. I think it is.

  9. If women work, who takes care of dinner when the man gets home? Nobody thought of that problem?

    Let’s say for argument sake I spend 10-15 hours a day in the office trying to support a family. I finally get home at 10:00pm after a harrowing day and I’m freaking starving. Let’s say my wife, who is working the same hours as me, is exhausted as well – HOW THE HELL DO I EAT?

    Answer – women works part-time, less hours, or not at all.

    Don’t thank me, I’m just here to help.

  10. Hi Noy,
    I forgot to check your response to this.

    I could be wrong, but I really think Ms Wexler’s issue was with the fact there really is no societal support for women and maternity leave, or for going back to work after taking years off for maternity leave. I think that’s what she meant by thinking this really wouldn’t be a problem anymore.

    I agree it would be the height of feminism to be able to take off for your kids, without penalties so high they make the choice untenable for some women and families.

    I think the first feminists just had to be focused on allowing women to work based on their abilities first. I don’t think they could take on all of it at once. I don’t even think you can foresee the next round of problems until you accomplish the first goals.

    And as for your anonymous commenter: I assume he is being facetious, just trying to upset people, but part of him believes it too. I hope he finds a woman who feels the same way. In the meantime I’m glad hes’ not making decisions for other people. And finally – has he heard of take-out?

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