Wives are killing feminism? Hand me a knife

Like I said, I’ve been feeling alienated from the feminist label ever since I’d become a mother. I have found too often in my personal life, and in what I’ve read online and in traditional literature, a scorn for motherhood. What prompted this latest round of processing for me is an article that Elizabeth Wurtzel wrote for the Atlantic where she rails against the wives of the 1% who remove themselves from the workforce in order to raise their children full time. She imagines that what these women are really doing is getting pedicures and Jivamukti class (whatever the hell that is). Then she states the thesis of her articles,

Let’s please be serious grown-ups: real feminists don’t depend on men. Real feminists earn a living, have money and means of their own.

Let ME please be a serious grown-up and ask a question, what kind of movement has the Prozac Girl as their spokesperson? Like she knows anything about the choices most of us make on a day to day basis.

So let me drop some knowledge on you Elizabeth. Some of us are financially dependent on others because we can’t find a fucking job. Some of us leave the work force because childcare is more expensive than we can hope to make. Some of us leave the work force because America is the only industrialized country that doesn’t have a paid maternity leave. You aren’t always recovered from giving birth in two months. Furthermore, your natural maternal instincts are going to resist handing a newborn baby over to a paid care worker.

BUT, you might protest, Ms. Wurtzel is only talking about the female members of the 1%. I found the narrowing of her article to the wealthy very interesting. Now let me be clear. I think choosing to stay home and raise your children a valid choice no matter who you are. Raising children is more than wiping noises and getting pedicures. It is the formation of a human life. It is valuable, emotionally challenging and fulfilling work. But what Ms. Wurtzel neatly avoided in her article is the fact that most of us are choosing from a menu of “not perfect” options.

According to NOW, 80% percent of women between the ages of 40 and 45 are mothers. We also comprise 55% of the workforce. If you want to get serious about keeping women in meaningful employment, you are going to have to talk about serious, grown up things, like paid maternity leave. You know women in America have no political capital because even though we make up most of the workforce, no one wants to talk about that. But let me tell you what I mean when I say maternity leave: a paid leave that lasts at least 6 months so that our bodies can heal and we can bond with our babies. The fact that America doesn’t have this is immoral. If mothers could take an appropriate amount of time off and still return to their jobs, more women would make the “feminist” choice.

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14 thoughts on “Wives are killing feminism? Hand me a knife

  1. Um, so I missed this before posting my previous comment! Because yeah, what you said. When we have a society that provides an appropriate social support for child-rearing, then we can talk about what’s the appropriate “feminist” response.

  2. I just mixed it up with commenters on Above the Law about this very thing (it was re: an article about a woman who “chose” to bring her baby to court with her when a judge wouldn’t continue her case during her maternity leave). UGH.

  3. Thank you everyone for your comments. So I’m not the only one riled up! And Attorney at Large, seriously, I hated her since Prozac Nation. That was the most self indulgent book…ever.

  4. Ugh. I assume this is all targeted at Mitt Romney’s wife. And, yes, she strikes me as someone rather silly and out-of-touch with reality, like the majority of rich people I’ve encountered. But who cares? She’s stinking rich. It doesn’t even matter whether or not she raised children. Why should she go get a job just to have a job? Take a job a way from some man or woman trying to support their family, when she’s working just for the novelty of it? Just so she can be an “independent woman”? That would actually make me hate her. I’d much rather her be getting pedicures and buying absurdly expensive horses (preferably from Kentucky), and doing whatever it is that rich people do, contributing to the economy. If she creates jobs for teams of nannies, well, good. It doesn’t make her the anti-feminist, it makes her rich. No one marginalizes the rich. If Romney dumps her for a 20 year old intern, guess what? She gets to be independly rich. Good for her. I wish I were her. I’d roll around naked in my husband’s money all day, and I wouldn’t think it was in the least bit unfeminist to do so.

    Anyway, your commentary is spot on. And the reality is that women like Romney have a choice, which is what feminism is supposed to be about. When the common folk like us have a choice, both men and women, to be in the workforce, to still be parents, without being marginalized, then we will have achieved equality.

  5. I’m not a mother, and I am a feminist, and I am offended that Elizabeth Wurtzel is held out as someone who has the right idea about feminism. Ugh. I thought feminism was about choices, which includes choosing to stay home, even if the reason behind the choice is economic.

  6. Pingback: Mothers in the Legal Profession No. 258 — Wild Women Do « Today Advocating Tomorrow

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