Back to work
If the kids are back to school, that means I am back to what is known around here as (dum-dum-dum) The Manuscript. Everyone who asks what on earth I am going to do with myself now that my youngest is in all-day kindergarten is told that I am finishing (dum-dum-dum) The Manuscript.
So now I have to do it. Shit.
To get back on track, I’ve been rereading my old work, including chapters, columns, and miscellaneous essays. Below is something I wrote for the 25th anniversary issue of the Minnesota Women’s Press that I don’t believe I linked to here. I was challenged to present my feminist vision for the next 25 years, and not surprisingly, it involves caregiving. Here it is:
25 years ago, despite the determined efforts of Mrs. Phyllis Schlafly, women were out of the home and into the workplace in then-record numbers. The women’s liberation movement was a success! Wasn’t it?
Today, think-tankers bemoan what New York Times writer Lisa Belkin dubbed “the opt-out revolution,” the gradual return of educated women back to the realm of unpaid home work. Does that mean that the women’s movement was a failure?
Two questions, one answer: maybe.
I’ve often felt that second wave feminism of the ‘70s made a big mistake when it failed to urge men out of the workplace and into the home. After all, the need for caregiving remains constant no matter the gender of the worker. 20th and 21st century mothers with careers must entrust their children to workers who are often paid as little as hamburger flippers—workers who are, almost without exception, other women.
What will it take for our culture to value caregiving? Imagine the impact if Brad Pitt quit the film industry to watch six small children while Angelina Jolie earned the family millions. Like anything else in American life, caregiving will earn respect once more men do it.
Our tasks for the next 25 years are the tasks of our foremothers. First, we must pass a federal Equal Rights Amendment to combat pay inequity and other discriminatory practices that conspire against the moms who want paid work. Next, we need the social revolutions of the last century to come full circle with a paradigm shift in American masculinity. We’ve already destroyed the notion that women are biologically unfit for work; let’s teach our sons that men can care for children and elders as well as women do. Only then will our society be able to intelligently debate how to balance work and family.
Now if you’ll excuse me, Ryan Lavery is about to booked for the murder of David Heyward, whom I suspect is only faking his death to exact revenge upon his wife (and Ryan’s ex) Greenlee. You didn’t think I was going to give up all of my housewife pleasures, did you?