Does Feminism Overlook Motherhood for Abortion Rights?

While mainstream media often try to pit feminism against motherhood (our stance: that’s bullshit), there’s no doubt that conflict exists for working mothers. Guest blogger Guinevere A. Murphy, Ph.D. reveals how returning to her high-level career in science after giving birth to a child made her question, then value, feminism.

The beeping machines and the loud voices in the crowded delivery room fell silent in the instant I saw the tiny, crying baby. My baby. A long minute later, they placed the wet, pink, perfect little human in my arms. A warmth and light effused my being, and without even a slight hint of cliché, I thought wonderingly, “This is the best moment of my life,” with an absolute certainty and fervor beyond anything I’d ever experienced.

Everything changed in that moment. I had to separate my life into pre-Evie and post-Evie epochs, like B.C. and A.D. The overwhelming love I felt for my baby gave me a clarity and sense of purpose I hadn’t realized was missing before.

I came to realize after Evie’s birth that my devotion to my career in science had become in large part an act, one that I put on, among other factors, because of my whole-hearted belief in what is popularly attributed to a feminist ideal of the high-achieving career woman, but I’ve since come to realize originates more from an out-of-control, greed-dominated corporate culture. Marissa Mayer famously went back to work after just a “few weeks,” and worked from home while still healing from delivery. Her decision to do this largely contributes to the idea of motherhood as merely a minor bump in the road of one’s career trajectory.

I went back to the office at six weeks. It’s not hyperbole to say that my every instinct cried out against walking out the door most mornings, and nights I mourned if I was home even five minutes late, for the precious hour we had together before bedtime. My experience illustrates why feminism is still needed in the U.S., one of four countries in the world without mandated paid maternity leave. This angle wasn’t lost on me at the time, but above all, I felt a furious, overwhelming sense of betrayal, by the feminist movement.  [Read more...]


Having It All Means Asking for It

jobinterviewThe media is obsessed with examining the pursuit of women trying to “have it all,” almost always blaming feminism. But I just experienced what that ideal really means, at least to me.

I had a phone interview with a prospective employer. She was impressed by my credentials, I was attracted to the job. We discussed pay, logistics, etc. and then I didn’t hesitate to mention my son, who is now two. “Finding a job that values its employees’ commitment to their own lives, particularly their children, is paramount in my decision,” I told her. “I don’t want to apologize for sick days, or pretend that I’m not a mother.”

I waited.

Her response: “I feel you. When I first started working I was one of the first faculty hired and no one was having babies, certainly not talking about wanting them. Things have changed so much, at least around here, that I now stock kids’ toys in my desk’s bottom drawer in case someone needs to bring her child to work.”

I got the job. I was hired because I am qualified and enthusiastic. I took the job because I will be valued for those skills and not devalued for being a mother. I feel so much better knowing this going in rather than wading in the waters to figure out the climate of my new workplace.

My scenario exists in the slightly more flexible world of academia. I am taking a part-time teaching job at a local college while I continue to work on books and articles at home, while raising—and prioritizing—my child. But my experience is something all working mothers (and that’s each and every one of us) should think about. We need to put our wants and desires above those prescribed for us by everyone else.

The only reason we have the FMLA, flex-time, job sharing, or any semblance of prioritizing women and mothers in the workplace is because some of those very mothers demanded it. Women like my new boss benefitted from it and now she’s in a position to make sure others can as well. We still have a long way to go before women are forced to feel torn between career and motherhood, but we’re not going to get there unless we keep talking. Feminism has given us this opportunity; the lesson is that having it all is possible if you speak up for what you want to have.

For more on motherhood and feminism, visit Sexy Feminist’s sister site, feministmommy.com


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