Historiann has a piece up on the NYT "Opting back in" article that's well worth reading. Go read them both, if you haven't already.
When I was growing up, back in the bronze age, there was a saying that every woman was one man away from welfare. I grew up pretty middle class and very white, and there was a definite expectation that married women would pretty much stay at home and raise a couple of kids, two being the preferred number, keep house, volunteer in the community, and so forth.
But even then, the women my Mother's age talked about lost opportunities, how to support oneself if/when a marriage fell apart or a husband died, and so on. I remember a point in the 70s when my Mom made a point of getting a credit card in her name. (This wasn't a source of conflict within my family, but the bank had to be convinced.)
I guess pondering this article, and thinking that these women didn't learn the lessons of my Mother's generation (the 60s and 70s adult women, say), I wonder: how can we convince young women who have opportunities to value their careers more carefully?
No, that's not quite right. I don't know how to put it, exactly. Here's what I'm after:
How do we convince young folks that you can't "have it all" if you define "all" as a high powered, high status career and full time stay at home parenting?
You can, if you're darned lucky, have it all if you define "all" as meaningful work and meaningful family/social relationships. But luck plays a huge part, doesn't it? I mean, I don't think I ever felt my work was especially meaningful when I worked in retail. And I doubt working a factory job would feel meaningful. Maybe?
How do we convince young folks that women AND men can parent, and that actually making equitable relationships would be better?
How do we convince everyone that pay inequity hurts us all? (There's a hint in some of the stories in the NYT article that women made/make less money, so it was "natural" to have the woman stay at home and the man work full time. Ending pay inequity would help us see that as not "natural.")
I'm sort of despairing here because the women the article talks about were/are way privileged; they sound like they all had college educations, and they all went to college when feminism was important on college campuses. They all had job opportunities beyond what most people have.
And yet they thought they could use the social structures that feminists in the 60s and 70s had critiqued as disempowering women without being subject to disempowerment.
Did they miss the most basic Marxist base/superstructure discussion? (Yes, of course there are problems with that idea, but it seems at play here, doesn't it? Reproduce the economic structure of the 1950s middle class household, and you reproduce the social structure, too.)
Maybe what I'm after is trying to convince young folks to rethink "all"? Or the desire to "have" it all?
I need to go finish up my syllabi. I'm teaching Paradise Lost this semester. Talk about a great text to discuss what it means not to have "all," eh?