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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 7:42 am 
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Mihl wrote:
This is interesting. I should have clarified that I was talking about educated and middle class, too. (The upper class is somehow completely invisible in Germany.)

I know some German upperclass people through my family (like, I'm kinda related to someone who majorly messed up when he was the main person at Bayer/Schering and I was at a birthday or wedding once, etc) and my grandmother lives in an exclusive area in a Bavarian city (they bought it in the 60s) and always makes friends with everyone she meets...

In my experience the upper class has nannies the first years, then the children are sent to exclusive boarding schools (maybe Salem, preferably in other countries, depends on the parent-child bond mostly, I guess), then off to expensive business universities, then taking over the business of their father or maybe doing something else "worthwhile". They're not really taking part in the "normal" German society, that's why they're so invisible. It's also a lot more patriarchal than the rest of society, which says a lot. As a woman there you don't need to find a job if you're married with kids, as far as I can tell.


I hate the comment about Ursula von der Leyen as much as the rest of you. I do think though that the criticism of hypocrisy can be applied to her. She and her party are definitely pushing for laws that make it super hard for a woman to work and take care of kids at the same time and they definitely make it impossible to live her kind of life if you're not already rich.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 7:45 am 
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Tofulish wrote:
I have always been interested in Germany, because it seems from the outside like it is the ideal for women - so many highly educated women with a strong network of legal protections for women and mothers. It was interesting to see how far the reality diverged from that ideal in practice though.

Right on.

Tofulish wrote:
Like aelle, I noticed that although there were so many women at the universities, they started to become less common as you rose through the ranks. The last years of our relationship, I worked at a law firm in Frankfurt, and I was the only woman, and was given really crappy assignments, and treated very differently from my male colleagues. During my time working in Germany, I saw that women were often excised from the protections of the legislation - most female lawyers that I knew were "freie Mitarbeiter" so they didn't fall under the statutes and a lot of other women were promoted to management shortly before they had children, because management was exempted from the requirement of keeping your position free for three years. So it seemed like there were a lot of work-arounds that kept women from freely entering and exiting the workplace.


This is very striking in my workplace (a large European aircraft manufacturer). There is a fairly successful affirmative action policy towards women in place, with the aim to hire at least the same ratio of women as the graduating ratio from engineering school. So we have lots (well, relatively) of pretty, young, female junior engineers. But if you look even at the very first promotion level in the company hierarchy, the ratios have changed from 10:100 to like 1:100. Women simply do not stay as they get married and start thinking about families. And as you pointed out, many are in more precarious situations - such as being hired as consultants (like me... Wally was hired with a more stable position straight out of college) instead of full time employees, and not managing to make the switch.

It's all the more striking right now for me because out of the 4 (male) department leaders that I report to, 3 have had a baby this year and have taken or will take the full 2 months of paternity leave that they are entitled to. So it doesn't even make economical sense.

As an aside, these 3 men, and all the other guys I have seen take advantage of this new paternity leave, have only taken 1 week to 10 days off at the birth of their child, and saved the bulk of the leave for when the kid is 6 months old or so and more fun to be around...


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 10:50 am 
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aelle wrote:
In general, I feel AP in France is not quite practiced by the same social groups as in the US. It's not so much the upper class (who in France tend to be practicing Catholic and quite traditional in child rearing habits), but rather educated but middle class, Social-Democrat or Communist affiliated families. As such it goes hand in hand with anticapitalist, degrowth ideals and a weird fetishization of poverty, of "the simple life". Valenti touches on that notion in "The hardest job in the world" (the story about the progressive book-club members agreeing that public policies on maternity leave should be completely reworked ... so that their wives could stay at home) : the fact that the patriarchal status quo (women dropping out of the public sphere to care after children) is being repackaged as revolutionary.

I think it would still fall into the educated but upper middle class here as well. And that weird fetishization of "the simple life" is certainly here in AP and in those upper classes in general. We've had a big influx of magazines here devoted to such things in the US lately. Of course, the simple life requires spending a lot of money on electronics and material goods and Top Quality at every turn, so there's a big disconnect there.
As Mihl notes above, when you are poor and struggling to get food on the table and pay basic bills (not your cable teevee and spotify and tofu of the month club), there isn't much glamorous about it. It's picking and choosing things that fit into the ideals these people are trying to push. The US left has its own form of fear mongering and it has been coming in the "natural" sphere lately (a word which no longer means anything) but a better word would be purity, be it their food, children, living space, etc.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 12:29 pm 
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Did anyone read "The Opt Out Generation Wants Back In" - the NYT article about the generation of women who left their jobs to stay home in the 1990s and 2000s? It covers interviews with some of these women, many of whom have gone back to work, because they felt like they needed some career goals to feel satisfied. I thought it was particularly interesting to see the impacts on their marriages. This seems to fit in well with the discussion here, but I am happy to move it to the feminism catchall thread.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/11/magaz ... wanted=all

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 12:29 pm 
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Did anyone read "The Opt Out Generation Wants Back In" - the NYT article about the generation of women who left their jobs to stay home in the 1990s and 2000s? It covers interviews with some of these women, many of whom have gone back to work, because they felt like they needed some career goals to feel satisfied. I thought it was particularly interesting to see the impacts on their marriages. This seems to fit in well with the discussion here, but I am happy to move it to the feminism catchall thread.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/11/magaz ... wanted=all

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 2:44 pm 
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aelle wrote:
Valenti touches on that notion in "The hardest job in the world" (the story about the progressive book-club members agreeing that public policies on maternity leave should be completely reworked ... so that their wives could stay at home) : the fact that the patriarchal status quo (women dropping out of the public sphere to care after children) is being repackaged as revolutionary.


There is so much truth in this, especially since the stay at home movement is pushed by otherwise left leaning, "liberal" folks.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 2:50 pm 
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Tofulish wrote:
Did anyone read "The Opt Out Generation Wants Back In" - the NYT article about the generation of women who left their jobs to stay home in the 1990s and 2000s? It covers interviews with some of these women, many of whom have gone back to work, because they felt like they needed some career goals to feel satisfied. I thought it was particularly interesting to see the impacts on their marriages. This seems to fit in well with the discussion here, but I am happy to move it to the feminism catchall thread.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/11/magaz ... wanted=all


I actually found that article fascinating. A lot of it does match what Valenti talks about, especially the economic costs of leaving the public sphere and what happens when a marriage ends or the only income earner loses their job. Again, Valenti does note that if it were such a great deal and was without great risk, men would fight for it themselves.
Quote:
And yes, it’s kind of small — “an apartment,” O’Donnel, who is 44, sometimes says bitterly, when she’s reminded of her former life with her ex-husband in their custom-built, six-bedroom home. But then again, it’s perfectly maintained and impeccably furnished, and most important, it’s rented with her own money, from the first real job she has had in almost a decade.
It’s a midlevel sales job, a big step down from the senior position she held before she had children and quit work. When she was first hired, in May 2011, her salary was just a fifth of what she earned at her peak. But, she said, she wasn’t complaining. All around her, she saw women her age scrambling to find work, some divorcing and losing their homes.


Quote:
Eighty-nine percent of those who “off-ramped,” as she puts it, said they wanted to resume work; but only 73 percent of these succeeded in getting back in, and only 40 percent got full-time jobs. “It was distressingly difficult to get back on track,” Hewlett told me. In addition, the women Hewlett surveyed came back to jobs that paid, on average, 16 percent less than those they had before. And about a quarter took jobs with lesser management responsibilities or had to accept a lower job title than the one they had when they left. The impact of those sacrifices, Hewlett noted, was in many cases amplified after the financial meltdown, when 28 percent more of the women she surveyed reported that they had a nonworking spouse at home.



There are huge costs and a huge risk, frankly, to being dependent upon someone else. I would think that it accounts for the loss of equality and power in relationships. (The NYT article touches on this.)
Quote:
But money was not the primary focus of the women I spoke with — whether they needed more of it or not. Rather, what haunted many of them, as they reckoned with the past 10 years of their lives, was a more unquantifiable sense of personal change. They had been supremely self-confident when they took the “plunge into full-time motherhood,” as a former high-level corporate lawyer put it to me.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 3:01 pm 
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I read that article last weekend (I'm now a fancy NYT Sunday subscriber because I'm bougie like that), and I also found it pretty fascinating. Mostly, what I took away was the overall idea that being a mother only was not enough for the group of smart, driven women profiled in the long run. Luckily for them, the women profiled were just that, smart and driven, and it seemed to me like they were probably better suited than many to get back into the workforce. It would have been interesting to hear the story of a more "typical" woman - someone with an unremarkable job and more modest career goals.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 3:21 pm 
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I thought it was really interesting that the stay-at-home parent just de facto seemed to become completely responsible for the housekeeping as well, and how that led to some resentment and feelings of inequality.

Quote:
She had no issue doing full-time child care; that was a labor of love. But housekeeping? That was another matter. She resented that the couple’s mutual mess was now seen as her concern.


Quote:
Many of the women I spoke with were troubled by the gender-role traditionalism that crept into their marriages once they gave up work, transforming them from being their husbands’ intellectual equals into the one member of their partnership uniquely endowed with gifts for laundry or cooking and cleaning; a junior member of the household, who sometimes had to “negotiate” with her husband to get money for child care.


I also thought it was very interesting to read of some of the resentment that the husbands had as well.

Quote:
From his perspective, the numbers pertaining to what he called her at-home “journey of self-discovery” just didn’t add up to be a very good deal for him or any husband whose nonearning wife still expects to split household drudgery 50-50.

He continued: “Being the kind of person I am, Type A, wound, always going after something, I wonder what I could have done, having 12 years to sort of think about what I want to do. I sometimes think, Wow, I could have been an astronaut in 12 years, or I could have been something different that I’d really enjoy and that I never was afforded the financial opportunity or the time or the resources to enjoy. Maybe call it jealousy. Maybe envy. What could I have been in 12 years of self-discovery? I’ll go out on a limb and say: ‘I’d like to try it. It looks pretty good to me.’ ”


I thought the whole article was very balanced, and painted a good picture of some of the pitfalls as well as the opportunities that taking some time out of a career can provide. Its really scary to let go all the professional cachet you've built up and stay home, and its nice to read of some people who were able to re-enter the workforce and do something fulfilling.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 3:23 pm 
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I thought it was really interesting that the stay-at-home parent just de facto seemed to become completely responsible for the housekeeping as well, and how that led to some resentment and feelings of inequality.

Quote:
She had no issue doing full-time child care; that was a labor of love. But housekeeping? That was another matter. She resented that the couple’s mutual mess was now seen as her concern.


Quote:
Many of the women I spoke with were troubled by the gender-role traditionalism that crept into their marriages once they gave up work, transforming them from being their husbands’ intellectual equals into the one member of their partnership uniquely endowed with gifts for laundry or cooking and cleaning; a junior member of the household, who sometimes had to “negotiate” with her husband to get money for child care.


I also thought it was very interesting to read of some of the resentment that the husbands had as well.

Quote:
From his perspective, the numbers pertaining to what he called her at-home “journey of self-discovery” just didn’t add up to be a very good deal for him or any husband whose nonearning wife still expects to split household drudgery 50-50.

He continued: “Being the kind of person I am, Type A, wound, always going after something, I wonder what I could have done, having 12 years to sort of think about what I want to do. I sometimes think, Wow, I could have been an astronaut in 12 years, or I could have been something different that I’d really enjoy and that I never was afforded the financial opportunity or the time or the resources to enjoy. Maybe call it jealousy. Maybe envy. What could I have been in 12 years of self-discovery? I’ll go out on a limb and say: ‘I’d like to try it. It looks pretty good to me.’ ”


I thought the whole article was very balanced, and painted a good picture of some of the pitfalls as well as the opportunities that taking some time out of a career can provide. Its really scary to let go all the professional cachet you've built up and stay home, and its nice to read of some people who were able to re-enter the workforce and do something fulfilling.

And most of all, I liked that the article points out that the solution really requires both men and women to insist on equal treatment - our current state of mind too often tells men that all they need to do is bring home a paycheck and that in exchange for that, they get a pass on being present at home and get to expect the women to shoulder all the responsibility for the children, the house and the relationship as well as their own fulfillment through a career etc.

Quote:
To find time for that “something more,” husbands would need to join with their wives in rejecting nighttime networking sessions and 7 a.m. meetings. They would have to convey to employers that work-life accommodations like flexible hours or job sharing aren’t just for women and that part-time jobs need to provide proportional pay and benefits. At a time when fewer families than ever can afford to live on less than two full-time salaries, achieving work-life balance may well be less a gender issue than an economic one.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 4:06 pm 
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Like Aelle, I work in male dominated field for a large company that has an engineering focus. Although there isn't an expectation in the US for women to have kids and step out of the workforce, their is still a definite bias towards women especially married women. Although you may have had success in your career, by the fact that you are a woman, you could have a baby any moment and either not be as dedicated to the job or step out completely. I've definitely felt I've been passed up for promotions and jobs due to this. On the other hand, there has been a positive shift in our company in the last few years where many of our top execs are female, including our CEO. At the lower levels though, the bias is still felt.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 8:51 pm 
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jordanpattern wrote:
I read that article last weekend (I'm now a fancy NYT Sunday subscriber because I'm bougie like that), and I also found it pretty fascinating. Mostly, what I took away was the overall idea that being a mother only was not enough for the group of smart, driven women profiled in the long run. Luckily for them, the women profiled were just that, smart and driven, and it seemed to me like they were probably better suited than many to get back into the workforce. It would have been interesting to hear the story of a more "typical" woman - someone with an unremarkable job and more modest career goals.


I don't know that the story would be as exciting if they focused on "typical" women.
Quote:
Among the women I spoke with, those who didn’t have the highest academic credentials or highest-powered social networks or who hadn’t been sufficiently “strategic” in their volunteering (fund-raising for a Manhattan private school could be a nice segue back into banking; running bake sales for the suburban swim team tended not to be a career-enhancer) or who had divorced, often struggled greatly.



I find it very troubling that so many women did not consider what would happen if their partner lost his job or if they divorced. There were few discussions about expectations, housework, money...
There are also identity issues raised in that article that speak to what Valenti discusses. Is it fair for women to be expected to have parenthood be their primary identity? There is something horribly inequitable in a system that allows men to be people first with parent as part of their identity but expects women to be a perfect mother first and foremost.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 12:32 am 
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Vantine wrote:
There is something horribly inequitable in a system that allows men to be people first with parent as part of their identity but expects women to be a perfect mother first and foremost.


I agree, and what makes it even more inequitable is that the standards that women are subjected to make it impossible for us to ever win in the patriarchal system, which seems to be constantly judging us. If you're single and childfree then you get marginalized in all the ways discussed in the "Women who have chosen not to have Children" thread - blamed for not carrying on the family genes, not being given time and space for your own interests, and generally not being treated like a full adult. If you have children but aren't married, then you're marginalized for being a bad mother and depriving your children of stability (and if you're not with their father any longer, a father, as though all fathers have to be good ones). If you're poor then you're not giving your children all they deserve and they are going to suffer because of it, and you're made to feel lazy and not good enough. If you work, then you're depriving your children of your tutelage and time and are probably a bad mother who is selfish and doesn't love her children. And if you are staying at home, then you're treated like you're a lazy parasite, living off your husband and like you are a failure (because who would stay home for no pay if they had any other alternatives) and your time is no longer of value, along with myriad other ways in which most of us are going to fail if our children don't measure up (not sleeping through the night early enough? Not potty trained at 18 months? Not reading yet? Not accepted to an Ivy League college? Living at home? Not having the kind of professional success that our system rarely doles out?) The whole system is just set up for women to be judged and then fail, no matter how hard they are trying. I think the only way out is just accept that you're not going to get the validation you want from the system and try and find the course that senses right to you, separate from that. And to try not to play into the judgments by not judging others.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 3:06 am 
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Tofulish wrote:
Did anyone read "The Opt Out Generation Wants Back In" - the NYT article about the generation of women who left their jobs to stay home in the 1990s and 2000s? It covers interviews with some of these women, many of whom have gone back to work, because they felt like they needed some career goals to feel satisfied. I thought it was particularly interesting to see the impacts on their marriages. This seems to fit in well with the discussion here, but I am happy to move it to the feminism catchall thread.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/11/magaz ... wanted=all


Aljazeera did a response piece to the NYT article that is also quite good. Less focused on personal choice (and blame) and more about systemic issues.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/08/201381615448464851.html

Quote:
The New York Times piece frames the mothers' misgivings as a result of questionable planning and poor marriage partners, paying mere lip service to the tremendous change in the economy over the past ten years. Whether to work or stay at home is presented as an option that has to do with personal fulfillment and childrearing preferences, divorced from fiscal limitations.

But for nearly all women, from upper middle-class to poor, the "choice" of whether to work is not a choice, but an economic bargain struck out of fear and necessity.

.../...

The assumed divide between mothers who work inside and outside the home is presented as a war of priorities. But in an economy of high debt and sinking wages, nearly all mothers live on the edge. Choices made out of fear are not really choices. The illusion of choice is a way to blame mothers for an economic system rigged against them. There are no "mommy wars", only money wars - and almost everyone is losing.


I have lots of thoughts on women who opted out and regret it, because it's my mother's situation. My father leaving and the ecomonical aftermath has radically changed the choices I always thought I would make in marriage and motherhood.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 6:54 am 
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aelle wrote:
I have lots of thoughts on women who opted out and regret it, because it's my mother's situation. My father leaving and the ecomonical aftermath has radically changed the choices I always thought I would make in marriage and motherhood.


Although it wasn't uncommon at the time (70s) but my mom chose to follow my father rather than go to college and she ended up a stay at home mom which was fine until he left and she had a nearly non existant work history. It was rough for us for quite a few years especially since he also dodged alimony and child support. I kind of cringe when I hear other women making the same choice.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:06 am 
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Reading this, I'm really happy my mother chose to return to work half-time again when I was 3. She returned to work fulltime later. I do remember some moments when people told her she was being a bad mother for "sending her children" away. I really need to ask her what her experience was because I obviously only perceived little of the expectations she felt.

Recently she did tell me though that when I was born it was kind of the opposite of nowadays regarding breastfeeding. That she had to fight to be able to breastfeed us and that doctors told her she was a bad mother for it, etc.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:53 am 
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VeganinBerlin, I'd be interested in how your mother sees her choice in retrospect.

I remember as a kid hearing my mother criticizing working mothers quite often (not as a group, always specific people we knew, including family members). "She says she's proud of how she raised her daughter, well that's easy when all the actual raising is done by your mother in law. I don't think she's ever changed a diaper". "She says she will work less when her children are older, but you only get one shot at bonding with babies. I can't see how she won't regret this." "She thought she could compensate not being there after school by paying for fancy holidays in exotic countries. Well I'm not surprised her daughter is so difficult now that she is a teenager." Yada yada. Now she doesn't say anything on the topics anymore...


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 9:35 am 
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That's funny because I think that is one of the biggest criticisms the Valenti book received. Feminism is about choice, so how can you judge my choice? (Not that your mother necessarily identifies as feminist.) But those choices don't happen in a vacuum and it is important to look at both the personal and professional and political consequences of those actions.

In America I think that goes hand in hand with the American Dream™ and the idea that we live happily ever after. We "deserve" to have a comfortable life and things are supposed to work out for us once we get married and have kids. Back in the good ol' days that's how it worked! Of course, plenty of people in the 50s were miserable in their stifled lives and the facade was all that was really there. To me feminism and choice means that there are some tough decisions that women (with certain financial means) now get to make that may make life more difficult but we have the damn options to not be stuck in the one role that used to be mandatory.

And what I have most learned from comments on such books and articles is that no one wants to be "judged" for their choices, but it is ok for them to "judge" others. (Judge in quotes because I doubt there's much consensus on what that actually is when it comes down to it. Critiques and questions are often considered judgments when someone feels personally threatened.).

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 10:06 am 
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pandacookie wrote:
That's funny because I think that is one of the biggest criticisms the Valenti book received. Feminism is about choice, so how can you judge my choice? (Not that your mother necessarily identifies as feminist.) But those choices don't happen in a vacuum and it is important to look at both the personal and professional and political consequences of those actions.


Well said.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 6:34 pm 
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Mihl wrote:
pandacookie wrote:
That's funny because I think that is one of the biggest criticisms the Valenti book received. Feminism is about choice, so how can you judge my choice? (Not that your mother necessarily identifies as feminist.) But those choices don't happen in a vacuum and it is important to look at both the personal and professional and political consequences of those actions.


Well said.

Indeed.

There are consequences for women as a whole when parenting methods are pushed as "best" that are out of reach of some parents or unworkable. There are consequences when those methods by nature place an unfair burden on the mother. There are consequences when women are told that motherhood is the most important job they will ever have when men are not told that the same about fatherhood. There are consequences for women as a whole when educated, talented women drop out of the public sphere to be at home.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:34 pm 
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Quote:
pandacookie wrote: Feminism is about choice, so how can you judge my choice? (Not that your mother necessarily identifies as feminist.) But those choices don't happen in a vacuum and it is important to look at both the personal and professional and political consequences of those actions.


I agree that its important to look at the consequences of individual choices, but its also useful to look at the context in which each of us makes our choices. None of us makes our choices in a vacuum. And second, I think its useful to distinguish between being a feminist and the choices we make.

If you have a society that tells men that they are effectively absolved from the majority of the parenting grunt work - picking kids up from school, taking them to the doctor, etc - and then you tell women that in order to compete in the work place, they have to be able to be available just like the men who don't have any childcare responsibilities, while shouldering all the childcare responsibilities, it is an unequal playing playing field.

And I think its useful to look at why people make the choices they do, without blaming them or judging them for it. The problem with the "Mommy Wars" is that there is so much focus on the choices other women make, as though any of us has enough information to fully judge, that we don't look at what would be needed to level the playing field. And we don't pull our male partners into the discussion and ask them to start bearing some of the weight. I thought the NYT article was so interesting because almost all women didn't want to go back to their "high powered jobs" but did have a sense of regret for what could have been possible in a less sexist system. I would love to see an end to the "Mommy Wars" because the truth is that whether you are a mother or not, the sexism is the biggest part of the problem, and judging people for the choices they make within a context that doesn't allow them a full range of choices, seems unfair and not helpful.

As far as feminist choices go, I definitely don't subscribe to the "I am a feminist so every choice I make is a feminist one" - I think its useful to look at Kate Harding's piece here and make a distinction between the person being a feminist and the choices they make within their context.

I liked Vantine's point in another thread that we want to make sure that in our push against gendered toy choices (girls get princesses and boys get firetrucks), we also want to make sure that we're not shaming those little girls that do choose the princess outfits. The choice is made within a context, and instead of judging the child who chooses the toy they like, its more useful to look at how we change the context, so both little girls and little boys can choose the princess costume or the fire truck or both.

Kate Harding wrote:
So acting as though any of us can stand outside of that deeply sexist context and make a free, individual choice to take a man’s name is plainly forking ridiculous. The end.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:36 pm 
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Quote:
pandacookie wrote: Feminism is about choice, so how can you judge my choice? (Not that your mother necessarily identifies as feminist.) But those choices don't happen in a vacuum and it is important to look at both the personal and professional and political consequences of those actions.


I agree that its important to look at the consequences of individual choices, but its also useful to look at the context in which each of us makes our choices. None of us makes our choices in a vacuum. And second, I think its useful to distinguish between being a feminist and the choices we make.

If you have a society that tells men that they are effectively absolved from the majority of the parenting grunt work - picking kids up from school, taking them to the doctor, etc - and then you tell women that in order to compete in the work place, they have to be able to be available just like the men who don't have any childcare responsibilities, while shouldering all the childcare responsibilities, it is an unequal playing playing field.

And I think its useful to look at why people make the choices they do, without blaming them or judging them for it. The problem with the "Mommy Wars" is that there is so much focus on the choices other women make, as though any of us has enough information to fully judge, that we don't look at what would be needed to level the playing field. And we don't pull our male partners into the discussion and ask them to start bearing some of the weight. I thought the NYT article was so interesting because almost all women didn't want to go back to their "high powered jobs" but did have a sense of regret for what could have been possible in a less sexist system. I would love to see an end to the "Mommy Wars" because the truth is that whether you are a mother or not, the sexism is the biggest part of the problem, and judging people for the choices they make within a context that doesn't allow them a full range of choices, seems unfair and not helpful.

As far as feminist choices go, I definitely don't subscribe to the "I am a feminist so every choice I make is a feminist one" - I think its useful to look at Kate Harding's piece here and make a distinction between the person being a feminist and the choices they make within their context.

I liked Vantine's point in another thread that we want to make sure that in our push against gendered toy choices (girls get princesses and boys get firetrucks), we also want to make sure that we're not shaming those little girls that do choose the princess outfits. The choice is made within a context, and instead of judging the child who chooses the toy they like, its more useful to look at how we change the context, so both little girls and little boys can choose the princess costume or the fire truck or both.

Kate Harding wrote:
So acting as though any of us can stand outside of that deeply sexist context and make a free, individual choice to take a man’s name is plainly forking ridiculous. The end.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Mon Aug 26, 2013 2:54 am 
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Vantine wrote:
There are consequences for women as a whole when educated, talented women drop out of the public sphere to be at home.


Consequences for every woman who drops out of the public, as we already discussed it above. In Germany we have a discussion about rising elderly poverty rates. Women who did spent their life raising children don't have the chance to save up money for their pensions. The ideal scenario is that you stay married and live together with your spouse and your income is his pension, which can support both of you. But this is no longer the case and I think it is important that women need to think about what happens when they get old. And of course that is a dilemma. Because what are you supposed to do if you just cannot find (Germany) or afford (USA) childcare?

Tofulish wrote:
Quote:
pandacookie wrote: Feminism is about choice, so how can you judge my choice? (Not that your mother necessarily identifies as feminist.) But those choices don't happen in a vacuum and it is important to look at both the personal and professional and political consequences of those actions.


I agree that its important to look at the consequences of individual choices, but its also useful to look at the context in which each of us makes our choices. None of us makes our choices in a vacuum. And second, I think its useful to distinguish between being a feminist and the choices we make.


Pandacookie already said that we don't make choices in a vacuum. It seems to me though, that you both write about different things. I think, and please correct me if I don't interpret this the way you mean it, pandacookie is talking about how private decisions have political consequences. Tofulish seems to talk about how private choices have private reasons. Or am I misunderstanding this?

Tofulish wrote:
If you have a society that tells men that they are effectively absolved from the majority of the parenting grunt work - picking kids up from school, taking them to the doctor, etc - and then you tell women that in order to compete in the work place, they have to be able to be available just like the men who don't have any childcare responsibilities, while shouldering all the childcare responsibilities, it is an unequal playing playing field.


But isn't it our responsibility to question what society tells us? And isn't it our job to fight against it by making for example private choices that have political consequences? For example, my partner and I share all the childcare responsibilities and we did this roughly from the moment our daughter was born. I demanded it and my partner agreed. I know not everyone can and wants to make the decisions I made. But I also think that our decision had some impact on other people and made them challenge some of their traditional beliefs.

I can't help myself but think that your posts, Tofulish, sound like we are stuck in all this and there is no way to change anything because of the overpowering structure that is called patriarchy. And I partly agree with it. But then I don't. Because there are things we can change and it starts on our personal level and in our families, partnerships or in the relationship with our kids.

Tofulish wrote:
And we don't pull our male partners into the discussion and ask them to start bearing some of the weight.


I think that is a very good point. And I think it is my responsibility to pull my partner into the discussion. And I do. And maybe we also need to give our partners some credit. Some of them do this without us having to ask them.

Tofulish wrote:
I think its useful to distinguish between being a feminist and the choices we make.


Is that really possible? After having read the article you quoted I think it is not.

Kate Harding wrote:
Look, you’re a feminist who, in this particular case, made the non-feminist choice. That’s all. I assume it was the right choice for you, or you wouldn’t have done it, and that’s fine! But feminism is not, in fact, all about choosing your choice. It is mostly about recognizing when things are forked up for women at the societal level, and talking about that, and trying to change it. So sometimes, even when a decision is right for you, you still need to recognize that you made that decision within a social context that overwhelmingly supports your choice, and punishes women who make a different one.

Tofulish wrote:
And I think its useful to look at why people make the choices they do, without blaming them or judging them for it.


Sure, that is what Valenti's book is about and that's why this thread was started, I think.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Mon Aug 26, 2013 2:55 am 
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Vantine wrote:
There are consequences for women as a whole when educated, talented women drop out of the public sphere to be at home.


Consequences for every woman who drops out of the public, as we already discussed it above. In Germany we have a discussion about rising elderly poverty rates. Women who did spent their life raising children don't have the chance to save up money for their pensions. The ideal scenario is that you stay married and live together with your spouse and your income is his pension, which can support both of you. But this is no longer the case and I think it is important that women need to think about what happens when they get old. And of course that is a dilemma. Because what are you supposed to do if you just cannot find (Germany) or afford (USA) childcare?

Tofulish wrote:
Quote:
pandacookie wrote: Feminism is about choice, so how can you judge my choice? (Not that your mother necessarily identifies as feminist.) But those choices don't happen in a vacuum and it is important to look at both the personal and professional and political consequences of those actions.


I agree that its important to look at the consequences of individual choices, but its also useful to look at the context in which each of us makes our choices. None of us makes our choices in a vacuum. And second, I think its useful to distinguish between being a feminist and the choices we make.


Pandacookie already said that we don't make choices in a vacuum. It seems to me though, that you both write about different things. I think, and please correct me if I don't interpret this the way you mean it, pandacookie is talking about how private decisions have political consequences. Tofulish seems to talk about how private choices have private reasons. Or am I misunderstanding this?

Tofulish wrote:
If you have a society that tells men that they are effectively absolved from the majority of the parenting grunt work - picking kids up from school, taking them to the doctor, etc - and then you tell women that in order to compete in the work place, they have to be able to be available just like the men who don't have any childcare responsibilities, while shouldering all the childcare responsibilities, it is an unequal playing playing field.


But isn't it our responsibility to question what society tells us? And isn't it our job to fight against it by making for example private choices that have political consequences? For example, my partner and I share all the childcare responsibilities and we did this roughly from the moment our daughter was born. I demanded it and my partner agreed. I know not everyone can and wants to make the decisions I made. But I also think that our decision had some impact on other people and made them challenge some of their traditional beliefs.

I can't help myself but think that your posts, Tofulish, sound like we are stuck in all this and there is no way to change anything because of the overpowering structure that is called patriarchy. And I partly agree with it. But then I don't. Because there are things we can change and it starts on our personal level and in our families, partnerships or in the relationship with our kids.

Tofulish wrote:
And we don't pull our male partners into the discussion and ask them to start bearing some of the weight.


I think that is a very good point. And I think it is my responsibility to pull my partner into the discussion. And I do. And maybe we also need to give our partners some credit. Some of them do this without us having to ask them.

Tofulish wrote:
I think its useful to distinguish between being a feminist and the choices we make.


Is that really possible? After having read the article you quoted I think it is not.

Kate Harding wrote:
Look, you’re a feminist who, in this particular case, made the non-feminist choice. That’s all. I assume it was the right choice for you, or you wouldn’t have done it, and that’s fine! But feminism is not, in fact, all about choosing your choice. It is mostly about recognizing when things are forked up for women at the societal level, and talking about that, and trying to change it. So sometimes, even when a decision is right for you, you still need to recognize that you made that decision within a social context that overwhelmingly supports your choice, and punishes women who make a different one.


Tofulish wrote:
And I think its useful to look at why people make the choices they do, without blaming them or judging them for it.


Sure, that is what Valenti's book is about and that's why this thread was started, I think.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Mon Aug 26, 2013 7:44 am 
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Thanks for your post Mihl! Please let me know if this isn't clear.

Mihl wrote:
Pandacookie is talking about how private decisions have political consequences. Tofulish seems to talk about how private choices have private reasons.

No, I am saying that while private decisions have political consequences, political consequences also shape private decisions. Its not a one way street.

Like Kate Harding says, it is almost impossible to make certain private decisions free and independent from the political ramifications. I hear a lot of judgment of the choices that women make to stay home or go to work etc, but I don't really see enough conversation about how strong the pressure is of the myths of masculinity, and how that unseen set of assumptions structures keeps an unequal burden on women, and how to shift it and make caretaking something that isn't assigned to one gender or the other.

Mihl wrote:
Tofulish wrote:
I think its useful to distinguish between being a feminist and the choices we make.


Is that really possible? After having read the article you quoted I think it is not.

Kate Harding wrote:
Look, you’re a feminist who, in this particular case, made the non-feminist choice. That’s all. I assume it was the right choice for you, or you wouldn’t have done it, and that’s fine! But feminism is not, in fact, all about choosing your choice. It is mostly about recognizing when things are forked up for women at the societal level, and talking about that, and trying to change it. So sometimes, even when a decision is right for you, you still need to recognize that you made that decision within a social context that overwhelmingly supports your choice, and punishes women who make a different one.


My point was that as Harding says, even feminists make some choices that don't further the goals of the feminist movement. And that doesn't make them bad feminists. Its useful to distinguish between the judging a choice and judging the person making the choice.

As an example, I see myself as a feminist because I believe that women should have equal opportunities, live in a system that keeps them safe and doesn't make them second class citizens. I made a choice to keep my last name when I married, which is seen as a feminist choice. But I also have gotten married and stay home with my daughter, both of which are likely not feminist choices. But I don't think that negates my commitment as a feminist. Feminism is intended to be a "big tent" to embrace a wide variety of women and the choices they make to move us all forward - I don't see the benefit to women in general of kicking anyone out from under the tent unless its people like Sarah Palin, who are manipulating the word feminist to work against the interest of the core mission of equality.

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