Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Having it all- the injustice we've put on ourselves

The lie of having it all is the greatest crime of inequality committed against women- and ironically by women in the last 50 years. It has been nearly 50 years since Betty Freidan’s  The Feminine Mystique  was published- and there are still plenty of glass ceilings that need some shattering. Women still  don’t earn equal pay for equal work. Women make up a little over half of the population. Women hold 90, or 16.8%, of the 535 seats in the 112th US Congress.  Although it is hailed as a monumental number- there are only (yes only) 18 women at the helm of Fortune 500 companies. These injustices can rile any thinking woman. It has been 50 years after all- but the greatest injustice against women, we foisted on ourselves by trying to be what is humanly impossible. Feminism touted the glory of “having it all”, of not sacrificing your womanhood to your career. In the feminist’s ideal world- a woman can have it all. I’ve always considered myself a neo-feminist. I believe women can do everything men can. (and they do. every day. ) But in my limited experience I do not believe that any woman can truly  have it all. Any endeavor of worth requires time, energy and a single minded devotion.  There are only so many hours in the day.  According to a recent NY times article, ( working mothers are less likely to be hired because of the simple fact that compared to single women, they have so much less time and energy to devote to their jobs. An unmarried woman will never have to cut out of work early for a bout of her child’s chicken pox.  Work takes priority in her life and that makes her an attractive prospective employee.
  Motherhood requires an endless amount of time, energy and single minded devotion. It does distract a woman while she’s at work. A truly devoted, ambitious employee cannot be a truly devoted mother.  An employee who stays overtime,  who brainstorms solutions on the weekend, who rises early and with energy to devote to her job, who volunteers for extra projects, who spearheads committees, who brings in new clients and spends hours on her meticulous, professional reports and memos has no energy for story time when she (finally) returns home.  The opposite is true- a truly devoted mother, one who takes her kids on chol hamoed trips, is home at four to do homework, serves dinner, reads stories  bathes and tucks into bed, a mother who is present to wipe tears and tushies (MOMMY!!!! CAN YOU WIPE ME??) and build lego castles does not have the energy to attend meetings and spearhead committees all day long. She cannot assume both roles. No human being can. It is not physically possible. And it’s so grossly unfair that it is even remotely expected of women.  A woman may be able to have a serious career after her children are grown (a ‘la Hillary Clinton) or if she has a husband/partner who is willing to assume to role of primary caregiver. I commend any individual who assumes the mantle of parenthood in the full sense- kudos to all dads out there wiping tears and tushies.  A woman may be an awesome mom but then she’s most probably a lackluster employee. An incredible employee is most probably a sub-par mom. I do believe mothers can work (and I do!) but I don’t think that women can attain high positions in the business world without sacrificing the quality of their parenting.  In my opinion- Marissa Mayer CEO of Yahoo- did all women a disservice by publicly forfeiting her maternity leave.  She is denying the needs of her body and her child to make a statement of “I can have it all!”  Working mothers are already held to ridiculous standards in this country (see Sweden for how it should be done!) and Mayer does us no favors with her  statements of sacrifice. Equality will come when all human beings (men and women) are expected to choose either the role of caregiver or provider- and then devote everything they have to the role they choose. 

1 comment:

  1. "Having it all" is also not available to men. Males are not able to have children. If feminism were originally preaching that women are equal to men, the fact is that women already can do more than them.

    With feminism also came a "meh" attitude towards child-raising. STAHMs found themselves "belittled," since being a full-time mother wasn't "a real job." That sort of mentality pushes the next generation aside.

    There are some women who can happily tackle both work and motherhood, and handle it something amazing, with neither side being neglected. But not all women are capable of that. And as you said, they should not be sneered at because they chose one role.