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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Day 6

Apparently my last post has been publishing since I wrote it sometime around midnight last night. What was I doing up at that hour considering I was back at work by 5 a.m. today? I was being an idiot. That's what.

I know all two of you who read this blog (or am I back to talking to myself again?) have been patiently waiting for something of substance to come out of this whole thirty days of blogging thing - especially since if you read the NaBloPoMo website you know that it is based off a novel writing challenge. Thus one can deduce that the purpose of this exercise is to actually improve one's writing and not just to post a word or two every day for the next month.

So, anyway.

Let's talk about feminism, family and careers.

A few months ago I had a conversation with one of my more liberal girl friends (but let's face it, I've lived my whole life on the good ol' left coast - most of my friends range from liberal to very liberal) and she pointed out to me how "unfair" it is that pregnancy and child-rearing doesn't affect the man's career the way it affects the woman's. I got where she was coming from, sure, but pointed out that it was one of those things that would likely always be unfair due to the fact that men will never carry babies and women will always be more likely to actually want to quit their jobs and take care of the little ones. This isn't to say I don't think men should have an equal share in taking care of the kids - they should - but there's a little secret that feminists haven't been let in on yet: life's not always fair and things that "should" happen aren't always the most realistic in practice. There must be a reason that I hear all the time about highly successful women (doctors, lawyers, marketing executives, etc.) who after having their children decide they don't want to work anymore. They do not feel that taking care of their children full time is a "waste" of their degrees or years of experience. Feminists may find this unbelievable, but it's absolutely true.

I think I went off on a bit of a tangent there, but my main point to her was that sure it's not fair, but there's no real solution either so why dwell on it? She seemed unconvinced and even threw out the possibility of forced paternity leave to "level the playing field."

Thinking back, the part of the conversation I find the most interesting is when she brought up her opinion that women should not be penalized or held back for missing time due to pregnancy when pursuing higher education. I think that it is this sort of thinking that makes most men despise feminism with a passion. This new (or maybe old? I really don't know much about the history of feminism to be honest..) breed of feminist that wants it both ways: they want men to respect them as 50/50 equals and yet they want men to give them the advantage when they need it.

My friend's main argument was an understandable one: women have a limited time to get pregnant and to get education/training. Which again, I understand. It sucks having to make that choice between advancing your career and starting a family. And yes, it sucks that men don't face exactly the same consequences that women do when it comes to having a family. But there's really no "fair" way to change this - really the only way this would change is if we were able to change the biology of men and women. Which isn't gonna happen. And you don't make it "fair" by lowering standards for women when what you say you're striving for is equality!

Just a little disclaimer, I'm not criticizing my friend, she made some good points and arguments...I just don't buy them. And I'm sure she feels the same way about mine!

Labels: ,

wingless was still breathing at 3:32 PM -

I don't really think I'm a feminist, so my comments are just kinda random.

Its true that men and women are different biologically. And while it does seem unfair career wise that women often have to take time off and be "held back" in the career race, there is indeed, more to life than work. Work satisfies parts of us that sometimes friends and family can't. Many of us want to take part in offering something to society through a vocation.

But on the flip side, men can (but why don't they?) say it's unfair in their relationships with their children, because they miss out on the pregnancy and breastfeeding bonding experience. Women have an edge on something that men don't.

One gender complains about the difference more than the other. Why? Is it because women just complain more? Maybe because historically, men have held more power than women. Domestic violence is one area where that is evident. So if we take a step back and look at the context to which this "unfair" complaint comes from, it's much more understandable.
I definitely agree with your point about needing to look at the historical context - because historically the feminist argument actually does makes sense. But I think the problem is that now there this extreme backlash the other way.

My main beef with a lot of feminists is that they seem to want it both ways: they want to be treated as equals but they also want the benefit of being given a "free pass" where it suits them. For example, arguing that if during a two year training program a woman gets pregnant and misses several months, she should still be allowed to graduate on time without having to make up for the time missed. Sure, women get old and can't have kids at some point, but I guess the question I would ask feminists is do we want to be treated as equals (i.e. the way they would treat other men) or do we actually still want to recognize the fact that there are differences between men and women (in regards to childbirth/childcare) that can affect their work differently.

It's kind of funny because I basically work with all men now and although they will say almost anything in front of me, I still appreciate that when the conversation gets too crude they'll still look over and shout "earmuffs!" at me hehe.
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