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.