Corporate feminists like Sheryl Sandberg frame female success as a matter of attitude. But it is really a matter of money - or the lack thereof. For all but the fortunate few, American motherhood is making sure you have enough lifeboats for your sinking ship. American motherhood is a cost-cutting, debt-dodging scramble somehow interpreted as a series of purposeful moves. American mothers are not “leaning in”. American mothers are not “opting out”. American mothers are barely hanging on.
Careers in this economy are not about choices. They are about structural constraints masquerading as choice. Being a mother is a structural constraint regardless of your economic position. Mothers pay a higher price in a collapsed economy, but that does not mean they should not demand change - both in institutions and perceptions.
Erasing stigma - whether of hard-working, impoverished single mothers branded as “lazy”, or of wealthier mothers whose skills outside the home are downplayed and denied - does not cost a thing.
The irony of American motherhood is that the politicians and corporations who hold power do have a choice in how they treat mothers and their children. Yet they act as if they are held hostage to intractable policies and market forces, excusing the incompetence and corporate malfeasance that drain our households dry.
Mothers can emulate them and treat “choice” as an individual burden - or we can work together and push for accountability and reform. This option is not easy. But we are used to that."
— Karen Kendzior
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. Since 2008, the costs of childbirth, childcare, health care, and education have soared, while wages have stagnated and full-time jobs have been supplanted by part-time, benefit-free contingency labour.
The media present a woman’s fear of losing her career as the fear of losing herself. But the greatest fear of most mothers is not being able to provide for their children. Mothers with high-paying jobs go back to work to earn money for their kids. Married mothers with low-paying jobs quit to save money for their kids. Single mothers struggle to find work that pays enough to support their kids. Self-fulfillment is a low priority in an economy fuelled by worker insecurity.
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."
— Sarah Kendzior
We smile when we’re harassed on the street or hit on by jerks. We laugh at sexist jokes. We learn that when we have strong opinions, we’ll be called bitches and that if we get angry, we’ll be called hysterical. When we say what we want, we’re called pushy or aggressive.
Part of learning “ladylike” behavior is about learning to smile politely when someone is being crude. Femininity has long been attached to passivity and to being docile. Men fight, women giggle and fume silently."
- What you're saying: You shouldn't do that, boys don't like it.
- What you're really saying: You know what? You ARE in this world to live up to mens expectations. It is your duty to think of a man first and only afterwards about yourself. It is your duty to look like, dress like, speak like and act like men want you to and society expects you to. You shall not be true to yourself, nor comfortable with who you really are. You, my little girl, will never be seen as a whole human being without a men at your side. And having a serious relationship with a man will only happen if you are not you.
- Feminists: Hey. We'd like for women to be treated as equals.
- Society: Oh sure. You want "equality" but then you expect men to open the door and pay for meals, is that it? That's not equality! That's special treatment!
- Feminists: Um, no not really. You don't have to open the door and pay for our meals. We can do that ourselves.
- Society: *gasp* What? You don't want men to open doors for you? Why do you hate nice people? No wonder chivalry is dead! You'd yell at a man for just being polite and opening the door for you?
- Feminists: No! We're just saying you don't have to do it just because we're women!
- Society: And while we're at it, how come you don't protect male victims of abuse and rape, huh?
- Feminists: Actually, we think it's really terrible that men are forced to stay quiet about their abuse because they're worried about not being taken seriously. It's this Alpha Male myth that causes it. Men are abused and raped and they're not helped because men are supposed to be tough and able to handle it. This also goes for men not being able to express emotions.
- Society: Oh, so you just want men to be a bunch of pansies then, huh? You hate men for wanting to be strong LIKE NATURE INTENDED THEM TO BE. You'll be sorry when you end up married to some weak, simpering fool who likes to talk about his "feelings"!
- Society: Also, you can't have equal rights because women aren't aggressive enough to want higher pay and stuff.
- Feminists: HOW ABOUT YOU GO FUCK YOURSELF AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON?
- Society: Jesus, calm down. No need to be so aggressive.
As it happens, I agree. Rape threats are a free speech issue. They pose a deliberate and carefully calculated threat to women’s freedom of speech. The relentless barrage of obscenity is designed to shut women up, to force them out of the public square and to keep them from contributing to our shared culture. Men who send rape threats to female writers and broadcasters are attempting to put a price on speech. They’re taxing women who won’t be quiet and submissive, trying to impose a toll on entrance to the public sphere. They don’t need to have a better argument, or discredit a woman’s views. They just need to make it too costly to be part of the discussion. One threat might not have that effect, but twenty or fifty might, and publishing her address might tip the balance."
— Jem Bloomfield, “Rape Threats: It’s A Free Speech Issue” (via ladonnapietra)
— @miaorwhatever on twitter
— (via thisfaggotkillsfascists)
When women speak out forcefully, or perhaps dare to raise their voices and object to things, they are quickly reminded of gender protocol and intolerance for hearing what they have to say–especially when speaking about women’s rights. This is most commonly executed with the phrase, “don’t be a bitch.”
Four short words, yet don’t underestimate their strength: its enough to make almost anyone shut down. To which I say, own it. Being called a bitch is proving that you are overstepping preconceived gender stereotypes, to which the other person is very uncomfortable accepting. When a woman strongly voices her opinion, uses sarcasm instead of smiles, or chooses not to respond to a pitiful pickup line, she cannot be simply dismissed with an upward arch of the brow and a supposed insult. It must be said that women, believe it or not, are people too and sometimes they have bad days and don’t want to exchange pleasantries. Yet when women possess such attitudes, phrases like “don’t be a bitch,” are used to put them back in their subordinate place."
But that’s not our world, and it may never be. Yeah, it sucks that women often take it “the wrong way” when you give them unsolicited compliments. You know what sucks more? Yup, patriarchy."
If women are raised being told by parents, teachers, media, peers, and all surrounding social strata that:
it is not okay to set solid and distinct boundaries and reinforce them immediately and dramatically when crossed (“mean bitch”)
it is not okay to appear distraught or emotional (“crazy bitch”)
it is not okay to make personal decisions that the adults or other peers in your life do not agree with, and it is not okay to refuse to explain those decisions to others (“stuck-up bitch”)
it is not okay to refuse to agree with somebody, over and over and over again (“angry bitch”)
it is not okay to have (or express) conflicted, fluid, or experimental feelings about yourself, your body, your sexuality, your desires, and your needs (“bitch got daddy issues”)
it is not okay to use your physical strength (if you have it) to set physical boundaries (“dyke bitch”)
it is not okay to raise your voice (“shrill bitch”)
it is not okay to completely and utterly shut down somebody who obviously likes you (“mean dyke/frigid bitch”)
If we teach women that there are only certain ways they may acceptably behave, we should not be surprised when they behave in those ways.
And we should not be surprised when they behave these ways during attempted or completed rapes.
Women who are taught not to speak up too loudly or too forcefully or too adamantly or too demandingly are not going to shout “NO” at the top of their goddamn lungs just because some guy is getting uncomfortably close.
Women who are taught not to keep arguing are not going to keep saying “NO.”
Women who are taught that their needs and desires are not to be trusted, are fickle and wrong and are not to be interpreted by the woman herself, are not going to know how to argue with “but you liked kissing, I just thought…”
Women who are taught that physical confrontations make them look crazy will not start hitting, kicking, and screaming until it’s too late, if they do at all.
Women who are taught that a display of their emotional state will have them labeled hysterical and crazy (which is how their perception of events will be discounted) will not be willing to run from a room disheveled and screaming and crying.
Women who are taught that certain established boundaries are frowned upon as too rigid and unnecessary are going to find themselves in situations that move further faster before they realize that their first impression was right, and they are in a dangerous room with a dangerous person.
Women who are taught that refusing to flirt back results in an immediately hostile environment will continue to unwillingly and unhappily flirt with somebody who is invading their space and giving them creep alerts.
People wonder why women don’t “fight back,” but they don’t wonder about it when women back down in arguments, are interrupted, purposefully lower and modulate their voices to express less emotion, make obvious signals that they are uninterested in conversation or being in closer physical proximity and are ignored. They don’t wonder about all those daily social interactions in which women are quieter, ignored, or invisible, because those social interactions seem normal. They seem normal to women, and they seem normal to men, because we were all raised in the same cultural pond, drinking the same Kool-Aid.
And then, all of a sudden, when women are raped, all these natural and invisible social interactions become evidence that the woman wasn’t truly raped. Because she didn’t fight back, or yell loudly, or run, or kick, or punch. She let him into her room when it was obvious what he wanted. She flirted with him, she kissed him. She stopped saying no, after a while.
These rules for social interactions that women are taught to obey are more than grease for the patriarchy wheel. Women are taught both that these rules will protect them, and that disobeying these rules results in punishment."
I’ll be posting more portions from this piece; the entire thing was something I read early on in my feminist awakening that made a whole bunch of concepts come crashing into place for me.