Feminists Claim Motherhood as Liberal CauseTuesday, May 21, 2002
By Wendy McElroy
The average woman feels no connection with elite feminists who analyze her life in terms of "deconstructing gender," and politically correct feminists know it. That's why they are now scrambling to play the "mommy card."
The "mommy card" is MOTHER, an organization being created by three PC feminists whom Women's eNews describe as "top-selling political authors."
MOTHER Mothers Ought To Have Equal Rights plans to "rally mothers to become the nation's most powerful lobbying group." In other words, the feminists of MOTHER want to thoroughly politicize the last bastion of personal life in our society: families. They want to wrest motherhood from its traditional right-wing associations and make it a left/liberal issue, with "Mothers Are Victims" writ-large on its banner.
As Washington Post columnist Suzanne Fields recently asked, "Where does the New York Times find these women?"
And who are the "top-selling political authors" now bravely speaking out for the average mom?
Naomi Wolf who recently published Misconceptions: Truth, Lies and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood. In this self-indulgent diatribe, Wolf's pregnancy became an indictment of hospitals, male society and capitalism, all interwoven with public soul-searching about whether children would destroy her identity.
Ann Crittenden a former reporter for the New York Times who authored The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued. Crittenden indicts not feminism, but capitalism, and argues for government to "economically recognize" motherhood so that women will not be dependent upon husbands.
Barbara Seaman who stated in her book Free and Female: The Sex Life of the Contemporary Woman: "Some of the women I know are so pathetic. They run around looking for a man, any man, just because they don't know how to masturbate."
These "pro-family" women wish to "harness" what Wolf calls the "pissed-offedness" of mothers in order to play "hardball politics." This motivation explains their abrupt announcement that full-time motherhood is a choice that deserves left/liberal support.
For decades, PC feminists have led a full-frontal attack on the traditional family. They have rejected stay-at-home motherhood as unliberating and celebrated career women instead. This rejection has come back to haunt them because motherhood, in all its forms, has become politically chic. For example, the "babies versus career" debate has been rekindled by Sylvia Ann Hewlett's new book, Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children. The recent resignation of White House counselor Karen Hughes, who wants to spend more time with her family, is also a sign of the times.
PC feminists are now jumping in front of the motherhood parade to lead the way. Clutching a baton and gesturing wildly to the tuba, they rush to proclaim what other women already know: You can't have it all. Mothers who leave the workforce incur financial losses, these feminists solemnly declare. Mothers do not receive sufficient respect from society, they explain (as if feminism weren't largely to blame).
Where have these three women been for the last few decades? Most of the women I know are not shocked to hear that life has trade-offs. They work hard, in offices or at home. Most of them work nights as well being mothers, wives and caregivers. They cook, clean, nurse elderly parents and sick infants, and race the clock to make sure everyone is on schedule and fed. Very few have the privileges of Wolf, who earned $15,000-a-month as a paid consultant to the Gore 2000 campaign.
When Crittenden speaks of the "mommy tax," she explains that mothers usually can't work overtime or travel on business, which excludes them from higher-paying jobs. Thus, it has "been estimated that if you have one child and you're a college graduate, your lifetime earnings will be about a million dollars lower than a woman who does not have a child. That is what I call a mommy tax." (Oddly, the admission that motherhood is a large factor in pay differentials is absent from most feminist discussions of the "wage gap.")
Crittenden and MOTHER have a solution for the "the mommy tax." More government. In The Price of Motherhood, Crittenden suggests a year's paid leave for women after the birth of each child, access to part-time work with full benefits, Social Security credit for the time women devote to the family, free preschool for children three years of age and older, and either a government salary for full-time parenting or a subsidy for child care.
In short, Crittenden wishes to solve motherhood by establishing a welfare state, by instituting government control of "the family." Because that is what accepting tax money and legal privilege means: government control over your life.
Motherhood was on safer ground when the left and liberals viewed it with suspicion.
Wendy McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com. She is the author and editor of many books and articles, including the forthcoming anthology Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century (Ivan R. Dee/Independent Institute, 2002). She lives with her husband in Canada.
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