Please Don’t Call Me That….

OntheFringe wrote a post that got me thinking. She had read CuriousJew’s post about not wanting to be called a feminist (which sums up my feelings perfectly – at least about feminism and Orthodox Judaism) and she discusses the different definitions of feminism.

The truth is is that I really hate that word. I hate it so much, in fact, that I would rather be called almost anything but a feminist. It conjures up for me a vision of a fanatic who hates men, and thinks that women who choose to stay home to care for their young children are brain damaged and to be pitied.

I know, this sounds a bit extreme. But my personal experience in speaking with so-called liberated women bears this out. For years I stayed home to take care of my kids. When meeting someone new, the inescabable question “and what do you do?” would have me say “I’m a stay-at-home mom”.

The reaction to this by men would either be a polite, “that’s nice” and sometimes an even fervent, “wow, I wish my wife would do the same!”

The reaction by women would either be “oh, I do the same” or the polite “that’s nice”. After a pause, women who work outside the home would feel the need to add something. This something would usually be deragatory, sometimes unconsciously. I had one clueless individual ask me (in all seriousness) “exactly what do you DO all day?” (implication: gosh – you must be lazy). I stifled some nasty comments and replied “G-d willing you will have kids someday and you will understand”. Other women would say something along the lines of “Oh, I could never do that. I would be so BORED that I’d climb the walls” (implication: gosh you must be stupid). 

I did some reading on Wikipedia, and I came across a paragraph about The Feminine Mystique by Betty Freidan. “In the book Friedan hypothesizes that women are victims of a false belief system that requires them to find identity and meaning in their lives through their husbands and children. Such a system causes women to completely lose their identity in that of their family.” Lots of deragatory terms here – victim, false belief, completely lose their identity…. I find it extremely ironic that someone who supposedly wanted to help women gain “their rights” ended up by diminishing a great number of them who happened to choose a traditional path.

Does this mean that I am against women having the right to vote? Of course not. Does this mean that I don’t support women receiving equal pay for equal work? No way. Does this mean I am against women having the right to a higher education (including Judaic texts)? Emphatic no here too. Does this mean I am a feminist – not necessarily.

Further reading of Wikipedia showed that that I am not alone in these feelings.  Christina Hoff Summers proposes that there are two types of feminism.

“Hoff Sommers describes Equity feminism as an ideology that aims for full civil and legal equality and distinguish it from the term gender feminism, which she uses to describe the idea of much of modern academic feminist theory and the feminist movement which aims at the total abolition of gender roles and structure of the society which they claim is still dominated by patriarchal structures. Hoff Sommers considers this as gynocentrism and misandry that she feels is dominant in the contemporary feminist movement. Christina Hoff Sommers argues, “Most American women subscribe philosophically to the older ‘First Wave‘ kind of feminism whose main goal is equity in politics and education”.[1] Although she realizes that her views are not mainstream in academia or the feminist movement in general, she considers them mainstream among the US population of women [1]

(link to above quotes)

I think it is time to come up with a new word. Any suggestions?

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33 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jerusalem Joe
    Nov 01, 2007 @ 17:58:36

    WBM,
    Interesting post.
    I loved those wiki pop-ups – how do you do that?

  2. muse
    Nov 01, 2007 @ 19:04:48

    I don’t consider myself a feminist either, but I’m no Pat Nixon.

  3. Erica
    Nov 02, 2007 @ 00:09:58

    Feminism, the word itself and everything it implies, makes me cringe. Let me be so bold as to say, I feel wholly incomplete as a single woman, with no husband to love or children to raise, and I think that any woman who forfeits a job outside of the house to be a stay-at-home mom is well aware of a number of things: The work inside the home, in which you are paid only in measurements of naches, is 150 times as challenging as the work in a corporate office, and the rewards reaped in the home, by raising a wonderful family, who will go on to become productive members of society, is a thousand-fold.

    Sometimes I think my job at a local newspaper, editing newstories, and meeting deadlines is challenging, but I ain’t got nothing on a stay-at-home mom. They are Super Women as far as I’m concerned, and personally? I think the feminist movement did a fine job in polluting the minds of woman, by suggesting that women have no place in the home. An entire family’s place is in the home. I am not against woman going to work — far from it. I am against people telling woman that they are somehow inferior because they work at home.

    *whew*

    And those are my thoughts on the subject.

  4. Jason Peters
    Nov 02, 2007 @ 11:41:59

    I agree. Gender feminism finds no support outside the narrow caverns of that philosophy’s hate-filled devotees. Its fullest expression would require dismantling of capitalism, the most successful economic system yet devised. Outside women’s studies departments on college campuses and the blogosphere, the principles of equity feminism are the ones embraced by all enlightened people. Sadly, the gender nuts have purloined the word “feminism” as their own, so it is time to shed that loaded word. And any new word should not exclude men since the misandrists make it clear they don’t really want equality with men. How about “equalism.”

  5. Jack
    Nov 02, 2007 @ 15:32:10

    I think it is time to come up with a new word. Any suggestions?

    I can think of a few, but they might cause people to beat me over the head with a shoe. 😉

  6. Shira Salamone
    Nov 02, 2007 @ 17:49:01

    WBM, for some odd reason, the link to this post doesn’t show up oa my “The F-word, revisited” post. I got here only because I was making the rounds of my blogroll. I’m glad I saw this post, and I’ve manually updated my own post with a link to yours.

    Sigh. Feminism has really gotten got a bad reputation.

    Deborah Siegel, in her book “Sisterhood, Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild,” distinguishes between “cultural/liberal” feminism and “political/radical” feminism. That description seems to be essentially the same as what Christina Hoff Summers describes as equity feminism vs. gender feminism. Equity feminism is something on which I think that most of us can agree. Other versions seem to offend many of us.

    Gender feminism seems to denigrate marriage and the family, hardly a position acceptable to a wife and mom like me. Our son benefited from the fact that I was able to stay home for a few years and keep an eye on him and his education. (I have nothing but admiration for the single moms whose kids attended our son’s special ed. school. Since most single mothers, [as well as many married mothers] are employed, of necessity, outside the home, I don’t know how they found time in their ridiculously-busy lives to a) go through all the effort necessary to get their kid into the school, no easy task, and b) help them with their homework.) I know from personal experience that being a stay-at-home mom was one of the most challenging jobs I ever had. Anyone who thinks that stay-at-home mothers spend their days watching soap operas and eating cherry bon-bons ought to have his or her head examined.

  7. Jaime
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 04:22:23

    I don’t think women who say that they would be bored are implying that those who choose to stay at home are boring or lazy. They are simply stating what they think they know about themselves (those who don’t have any children) and for those who have children and still say that, then they are only being honest with what they have experience.

    I too don’t like the word Feminism because of the image/reputation it conjures up but isn’t the movement’s fault for not putting to bed this outdated definition? Certainly, I think they need to redefine what that means in todays Western World.

    You also have to remember that much of what is being done in the Feminist movement is directed towards women Internationally and face it, in many many cultures around the world, women are second-class citizens from Economic to legal rights to Medical rights to social expectations.

    They also are doing great work with Domestic Violence Prevention, Outreach and Education.

    You may not like the label – but think about Women rights on all levels and what your opinions are if you found yourself in the shoes of a woman without? If liberties were taken away from you or if you were force to behave, dress, act, etc in a certain way because you female – think deeply about those issues – not whether or not someone is being snide and judgmental over your choice to stay home with your children.

  8. Abbi
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 16:25:41

    I agree with Jaime. You might not like the connotations of the word feminism today, but really think hard about what it would be like if you were forbidden from attending the university of your choice, or imagine if you were a single mom and you had to work, and your only options were nursing or teaching- I think that would be a sad world to live in.

    Hakarat hatov is due, no matter how you feel about the radical elements of the movement.

  9. PP
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 16:51:48

    “The truth is is that I really hate that word. I hate it so much, in fact, that I would rather be called almost anything but a feminist. It conjures up for me a vision of a fanatic who hates men, and thinks that women who choose to stay home to care for their young children are brain damaged and to be pitied.”

    – Firsy of all, I’m genuinely sorry that other women have been rude to you about your choice in being a stay-at-home-mom. Or that you have understood their responses as belying a deeper agenda. People can be rude and insecure and nasty.

    But WBM, we’ve been here before… And despite this post, I *still* don’t see why the label is so worthy of your hatred. Last time we argued this point, it was surrounding the actions of the Radical Left-Wing Feminist Groups and their protests against the 2006 Lebanon War, and at that juncture, you conceded that it was the political actions of these particular women (who called themselves feminists) which made your blood boil. But what good comes out of disparaging the movements that got you where you are today? Whether you like it or not, the past actions of the feminist movement have enabled your education, your rights to vote, work, testify in a trial, own your own property- and above all, have enabled you not be considered as a piece of someone else’s property. And, as Jaime mentions above, these rights, while they may be taken for granted by our generation(s), are still not enjoyed by the majority of women in countries around the globe. Isn’t that a valid cause for concern, rather than a cause you would choose to distance yourself from? Seriously- I honestly can’t believe that you’d prefer, by declaring yourself as a Non-Feminist, to “conjour up a vision” of someone who doesn’t care about the ongoing struggle of other women in general.

  10. Lady-Light
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 18:37:26

    I am definitely a “first-wave” feminist. I do not hate the word, myself, but to me it does conjure up an image of a bra-burning, man-hating woman who protests for the sake of protesting.

    This image is not necessarily true, and to a great extent was created by the media. And I do give hakarat hatov to those who started the movement and those women who, way before Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, agitated in the 1820s for women’s suffrage and rights in general, such as the 19th century ‘feminist’ Susan B. Anthony.
    ( see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_B._Anthony)

    But I very much value being a ‘stay-at-home mom’ or a woman who’s main ‘career’ is raising children. The problem is these days, that often we cannot depend on someone else providing for us; very often we are forced to have careers in order not to be homeless and ‘on the street.’

    Society does not value a woman staying home, and there are no or very little governmental provisions (such as a “ma’anak yeladim” in Israel)or incentives to enable women to stay home. These days, a second income is necessary, just to live at a reasonable level.
    Thank you for your interesting post.

  11. balabusta in blue jeans
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 20:05:12

    WBM, I’m really sorry that you’ve apparently met a lot of jerks who think that they’re entitled to denigrate at-home moms. But I will always be happy to call myself a feminist. By me it is the simplest way to let the world know a whole series of beliefs that I hold about equality, freedom of choice, and respect for one’s fellow human beings as these things relate to gender.

    Feminism got women the vote, the right to own property, the right to be protected by society from violence, the right to be paid fairly for their work. None of this would ever have happened without women standing up and demanding it, even when they were told God and nature meant for them to have none of it.

    Are some people who are feminists also jerks? Sure thing! Are there people out there who attach their personal agenda to ‘feminism’ and tell you that you have to agree with them to get the title? Lots! But that’s true of any ideology out there.

    It’s not my fault, or Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s that Andrea Dworkin is a little crazy. And I will argue at length with any woman who insists that her radical feminism requires her to condemn Israel for denying women’s rights, but support Iran as a victim of imperialism. (We got ’em here in California.)Nutjobs exist in all social categories.

    I am still pretty happy with what the first and second wave of feminism gave me, and I’m hangin’ on to it.

  12. therapydoc
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 23:59:37

    The women I see who work outside the home either have fantastic live-in help (usually in-laws) or spouses who participate in second shifting because they want their women working. When those two variables are missing, there’s burn-out, anger, resentment, all kinds of negative emotion, and the kids pick up on it.

    My point is that it takes two spouses to get two spouses out of the house. And generally, the one with the Y chromosome is not interested in carpool, grocery shopping, CLEANING, or either cooking or making sure that something to eat is available. So why should she work anywhere except at home?

    I tell women more often these days that these are the best years to further your education, get the degree you think you’ll need when the kids are all in school. And take it slow.

  13. bec
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 07:43:49

    wbmama,
    if being a stay-at-home-mom/domestic goddess was a corporate job, any woman who had time to be bored or stupid or lazy would be fired without a second thought. as far as i’m concerned, feminism was and is the root cause of the destruction of the family. if both spouses are out earning a living, who is taking care of the kids? even in nature, males and females have their pre-set roles. why do modern women feel the need to bash women who feel that they want a more traditional lifestyle?

  14. PP
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 11:14:54

    Bec- (and anyone else for whom this isn’t crystal clear) any woman who “bashes” another woman is by definition NOT a feminist.

  15. Abbi
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 11:59:16

    bec
    If a SAHM was a corporate job, like any other, then women who found it boring would just find another corporate job, like they do now. I’m not sure I understand your point.

    Feminism did not create today’s middle class, where in most countries, certainly Israel, it’s nearly impossible to survive without two incomes. So how exactly did feminism do more damage than today’s modern economic demands?

    Who’s raising the children when both parents work? The parents, of course, with help from day care, grandparents, and other caregivers. The way it’s SUPPOSED to be. This myth of mom being the sole caregiver was made up in America in the 1950’s when most families were isolated in the suburbs. In most cultures, and in most historical timeperiods, moms had much greater support from extended families then they do now.

    In nature, most animal babies are left to raise themselves after a few months. Do you propose we follow that lead as well?

    Why do you feel the need to bash women who need/want to work?

  16. bec
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 23:20:43

    abbi,
    1. i didn’t “bash women who need/want to work.” i bashed modern women who bash the women who choose to lead a more traditional lifestyle by raising the kids. if this is not considered “traditional” by your definition, then this is just a round of semantics.
    2. usually in nature it is the male who is the hunter/gatherer while the female is the caregiver to the young. in nature, geese mate for life. elephants stay with their families for life. they even bury their dead. lions also form families. then again, many animals also have a shorter lifespan than humans. in that case, i will agree that we should follow the lead of the animals who leave their young as long as we follow their other examples and habits as well. i don’t know about you, but i’m up for some bloody carrion.
    3. abbi, you state that it is the parents who are raising the children with help from daycare and extended family. how is that possible when the american baby boom generation is out traveling and living it up in their retirement years? i’ve heard that 6o is the new retired 30 these days. what’s sad about this is just how much of an income must go to daycare facilities so both spouses can work and pay someone else to raise their children. as a teacher & stay at home mom, i chose not to go back to work because i wanted to raise my children. as it would have worked out, most of my salary would have been spent on things that would enable me to work–the expense of another car and what goes with that, the expense of daycare, and the expense of missing out on watching my kids grow up and teaching them. i’m not saying that this is right for every family or in every situation. however, it doesn’t make a woman less of a woman or less of a feminist if she’s not in the workforce and chooses to raise her children.
    4.
    “If a SAHM was a corporate job, like any other, then women who found it boring would just find another corporate job, like they do now. I’m not sure I understand your point.”
    you misunderstood what i wrote. you should read the sentence. this is a direct quote right here:
    “if being a stay-at-home-mom/domestic goddess was a corporate job, any woman who had time to be bored or stupid or lazy would be fired without a second thought.”–actual bec quote
    the point is that being a stay at home mother is not boring and that people who think that stay at home mothers are lazy and stupid totally have no concept of what it is to be a stay at home mother. (i believe that this was written about in wbmama’s post.)who has time to be lazy or stupid or bored as a stay at home mom? i seriously would like to find someone in that position.
    5. i never said that feminism created the middle class. i said that it caused the destruction of the family. or maybe it was the kibbutz movement. you bring up a good point. now i’m not sure. it’s between feminism and good ol’ fashioned backyard socialism.
    6. abbi, why are you so angry?

  17. phishaliyah
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 23:59:04

    you go girl!

  18. westbankmama
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 09:00:23

    Jerusalem Joe – thanks, and I just cut and pasted the Wikipedia stuff. I guess it includes the pop-ups automatically.

    muse – yes, I think most of us are somewhere in between – without a label that describes us.

    Erica – what else can I say but “you go girl”! And a fervent wish that you find your other half soon.

    Jason – “equalism” sounds good, but it has its own connotations (separate but equal comes to mind)

    Shira – thanks for starting the discussion

    Jaime – you bring up some good points. I think it is unfortunate that feminism has this bad connotation, because it makes it more difficult to really fight for rights (economic and political)for women in countries where gender roles are more traditional. Both men and women who think that the traditional family roles are correct completely tune out radical feminists, even if they speak about things that shouldn’t be controversial.

    Abbi – You make a good argument. On the other hand it is important to remember that the feminists of the sixties didn’t “invent” women working outside of the home or women attending university. Many of our grandmothers were the driving forces in family businesses, for example.

    PP – as I said above to Jaime, the fact that the term has negative connotations because of the radicals prevents real progress in some circles. On the other hand you are right in that we should be grateful for the rights we have. I just wish that the feminists of the sixties were more like the feminists at the turn of the century, who fought for political and property rights for women without denigrating their role as wives and mothers.

    Lady-light – you bring up something interesting about Israel’s attitude to women staying home to raise children. The government does not give tax credits to men with children. These are reserved only for women who work outside of the home. In essence the government discriminates against those of us who chose more traditional roles.

  19. westbankmama
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 09:08:14

    Balabusta – well said, although some would argue that feminism has not been successful in protecting women against violence (men still beat their wives) and in gaining women equality in the workplace (women still do not earn the same as men in the same job).

    therapydoc – interesting idea. Spend the years with young children in the home going to school (part time, I am assuming) and then go out to work when they are older (which is what I did). And you are right in that women who work outside the home basically are taking on two jobs instead of one.

    phishaliyah – thanks!

  20. Abbi
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 09:27:27

    Bec-
    I don’t think I had any kind of angry tone in any of my response to you. I was merely responding to your points. It’s called a discussion.

    I’d like to point out two lines from your response- and then I have to get back to work!

    “as a teacher & stay at home mom, i chose not to go back to work”

    Yes, this was your personal choice, that you were free to make. You seem to be suggesting that those women who make other choices are inferior moms. I consider this bashing and I strongly disagree; my previous points explain why.

    “the point is that being a stay at home mother is not boring ”

    For you, Bec, it’s not boring. For many other women, myself included, it is. It might be busy, stressful and at times quite emotionally fulfilling, but for me it was very isolating, nerve wracking and just plain boring. Different women have different needs. I’ve done both, and I’ve learned that I need some kind of intellectually stimulating job in my life, that doesn’t involve kids, because otherwise, I’d go crazy. Why are you allowed to make the choices that are best for you and your family, but other women aren’t?

    As for the natural world, we can go tit for tat about different animals, but I think that’s silly.

    WBM-

    I didn’t say that sixties feminism invented this concept, but I think it’s hard to disagree that women in the 70’s and 80’s had it much easier in terms of career choices and universities then they did previously.

  21. phishaliyah
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 11:57:31

    is women satisfying career goals worth the destruction of the nuclear family? when women went to work en masse four decades ago, what happened to juvenile crime rates, divorce rates, teenage pregnancy rates? Who’s raising yor children in your attempt to “not be bored?”

  22. aliyah06
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 15:31:44

    My mother, a university grad, was a stay-at-home mom her whole life. I went to college and law school and worked my whole life.

    My mother was a devoted wife and terrible mother. Her anger, boredom and unhappiness contributed to her drinking–so I had a stay-at-home controlling, narcissitic alcoholic for a mother.

    My kid is better adjusted, happier and kinder than me or my siblings, despite the fact that both parents worked full-time. We worked our schedules around the childrens’ schedules—and someone was always home OR we had a grandparent help out. Later, there was Homework Club and tutors.

    My point in this personal digression is that putting a label on something doesn’t make it “good” or “bad” — I have tremendous respect for my non-employed-stay-at-home friends who are devoted moms. I wish, financially, that that had been an option for us. It wasn’t.

    I reminded a frum friend at Brandeis that “feminism” in the true sense of that word meant being able to make a choice—so when her secular friends began bashing her choice to be a wife and mother instead of pursuing a career, she should remind them their behavior is anti-feminist. She need not conform to THEIR expectations since such conformity is no different than conforming to the patriarchal societal expectations feminism claims to abhor.

    One can be a terrific mom and still work full-time; one can be a stay-at-home mom and be rotten. Or vice-versa. It’s the qualities that the woman brings to her family that matters, not her status as “working outside” or “staying at home.” Likewise, a friend left law to be a stay-at-home mom because THAT worked for her and she was great at it–she couldn’t continue in my office because she was too torn about being away from her kids. OTOH, another friend needed to work emotionally and she and her husband, who worked out of a home office, worked out an arrangement where she could work in my office and he took the day shift of child care, and she took the swing shift. It worked for them.

    I have this to say in defense of “feminism” — to me it means that I got INTO law school after decades where women were automatically denied entry; it means that I have credit in my own name, and can take out a loan, buy a car or get a mortgage without having to have my husband or father co-sign the loan because I’m “only a woman.” (My mother didn’t have this option–either her father or her husband had to co-sign. My mother didn’t have credit in her OWN name until the 1970s!) Feminism means that when a less competent attorney is promoted because he’s “one of the boys,” I have a grievance procedure I can resort to. Feminism means I have a choice of careers, including that of being a stay-at-home FT mom, circumstances allowing.

    I understand the bad rap “feminism” has gotten–I thought Friedan was full of #@$ after reading her book back in the 70s. The label has been hijacked by radical misogynists and used to justify all kinds of nutty behavior (most notably in their collective silence over the oppression of women in Moslem nations in the guise of ‘anti-colonialism’ and ‘solidarity’ with Arabs-the-Eternal-Victims-Of-Western-Whatever…)but that doesn’t mean that the original, core meaning of “feminism” is wrong–it is simply equality.

  23. Shira Salamone
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 18:09:50

    One of the reasons why I found motherhood so challenging was that it was extremely isolating, especially because our son, who had behavior problems as a young child, wasn’t always welcome in other people’s homes and other social settings, which meant that I wasn’t welcome, either. I listened to a lot of news and talk radio when our son was young, just to hear an adult voice in the apartment while my husband was working. Given my experience, I think we should be very careful about disparaging women for their choices. Some mothers aren’t cut out for the stay-at-home verson of motherhood, some *must* work, for financial reasons, and some are fortunate enough to be able to stay at home with their kid(s) and find that role fulfilling. Being a feminist should mean, among other things, being free to choose.

    I would hope that most women wouldn’t let the radicals hijack the term “feminist.” This is a movement that tries to give women an equal chance to be treated as human beings. Feminists fight for equity in education and employment. Feminism brought women the right to vote and *own* property, as opposed to *being* property. I hope that all of us, whether or not we choose to describe ourselves as feminists, will keep these achievements and goals in mind. Let’s not let different approaches divide us. We have much to gain from being united–and far too much to lose by being divided.

  24. Abbi
    Nov 07, 2007 @ 07:15:12

    Shira and aliyah- really excellent points.

    Phishaliyah- please read below your tiresome repetition of “who’s raising your kids?” to find out the real meaning of feminism. I still don’t understand why radical SAHMs insist that theirs is the only way to raise happy well adjusted children. I guess someone will have to cue my kids when it’s time for them to become stark raving monsters from all their supposed “deprivation” because it hasn’t happened yet.

    On a different note, I think the SAHM vs. working mom debate is peculiarly American and I’m grateful that the drive to keep young kids at home is not the dominant sentiment here in Israel.

    On a personal note, I work five hours a day at home, so truthfully, I’m a bit spoiled because I can have it both ways- a stimulating well paid job in my field while my children have the option of coming home in the middle of the day (my 5 year old hates being home alone all afternoon without her friends, so she stays till 4.)

  25. phishaliyah
    Nov 07, 2007 @ 11:54:20

    feminism’s original goal may have been to give women the choice to stay at home or go to work but the rush to work several decades ago has helped create an economy where women now MUST work. so the ideal of choice has been thrown out the window. no longer can a family own a home, have a car and live comfortably on one salary unless that salary is of a higher-tier professional. and what has a parent-less home done to the american family? was it worth it? can we ever recover or is it downhill form here?

  26. westbankmama
    Nov 07, 2007 @ 14:47:34

    Abbi – you’re cheating here my dear. If you are working from home than you ARE a stay-at-home mom. You just get paid a lot better than most of us did! If your children come down with a fever, do they go to school/gan/maon anyway or are they home with you? If they have a very upsetting experience at school or gan, do they have mom at home to hear their troubles or do they have to talk to the metapelet (or wait a good five hours to get it out of their system?). Do they have to wait until 8:00 at night when they are tired and ready for bed to start to do their homework (because they have been in after-school programs until 5:00, and then mom has to rush and make dinner, and a parent only has time to sit with them then?)These are the things that make a difference in a childs life, in addition to the “happiness factor” of their mother. The happiest working mother in the world cannot BE THERE for their kids and BE AT THE OFFICE at the same time. And it DOES make a difference.

  27. zahava
    Nov 07, 2007 @ 21:31:02

    This is a GREAT discussion! One I wanted to join earlier but lacked the time.

    On the one hand, as a 40-plus-year-old, educated (i.e. holds a professional degree), Torah-observant mother to three I must admit a tendency to shy away from the label of “feminist.” Why? Because many women who consider themselves “feminists” seem to have an antagonistic relationship with organized religion due to their perception/interpretation of women’s roles(this is probably good fodder for a post in it’s own right, no?!). Too often have I encountered “feminists” who assume that I’ve blindly checked my intellect, self-respect, and ability to think-for-myself at the shul door to blindly dote “on the men-folk” and make myself subservient to their patriarchical pedagogy. How insulting is THAT?! I don’t agree with their perceptions, so therefore I am a Stepford wife?!

    On the other hand, as a girl raised by a mother who worked outside the home for the vast majority of her childhood, I deeply appreciate and acknowledge the role of the feminist movement in creating the wide spectrum of women’s work options which are considered the “norm” in today’s society.

    My mother (z”l) was one of the first “batches” of women stock brokers hired by Merrill Lynch in the late 1970s following the class action suit brought against them for discriminatory hiring practices. I remember her returning home each day in tears, telling us how many of her male colleagues demanded she fetch them coffee, or made unwanted/unprovoked/inappropriate sexual comments to her.

    One day in the late-70s early-80s, my mother was forced to work one day when she was quite ill – fearful if she called in sick, she would be fired. She had a high fever and fainted while at the office. As she regained consciousness, she heard her boss say, “Bah! The b!tch is probably pregnant! WOMEN!”

    In contrast, in the 1990s I worked for Colgate-Palmolive for a number of years. Since my husband’s job didn’t provide health insurance, it was in our family’s best interest for me to continue to work after our kids were born. As a nursing mother, I expressed milk 3 times during the work day. Since there was no convenient place to do this discretely, I often used the handicapped bathroom on my department’s floor. Until, that is, I was summoned by the corporate health offices. Horrified that I was expressing milk in a dirty bathroom teetering on the edge of the safety rail, the company set up a lactation room! A LACTATION ROOM PEOPLE! WITH A COUCH! AND A FRIDGE! AND A DOOR!

    I wish my mother had lived to see that lactation room! Based on her experiences, she wouldn’t have believed it possible.

    With regards to the whole work/SAHM thing — goodness, people! Pros and cons no matter how you slice it! And let’s not forget that today there are some men who opt to become the at-home-primary-care-giver!

    While I have never had the option to be a purely SAHM, I have had experience in both out-of-home paid employment and part-time-in-home-paid employment, and you know what?! THEY ARE BOTH HARD! There are definite pros and cons to each, as I imagine there are to full-time SAHM status. And those pros and cons will vary wildly from woman to woman! Why is so hard to recognize/accept that what works (pardon the pun!) for one may not work for another?

  28. westbankmama
    Nov 08, 2007 @ 14:07:08

    zahava – thanks for your comment. I wonder, though, at the difference in attitude between a company forced to hire women because of a class action suit, and one that hires women because they happen to be the best employees available. I know that we wouldn’t have the choices we do without the pioneers who fought, but at the same time there is a time to acknowledge that the war has been won and remove the chip from ones shoulder. I think many feminists don’t see that times really have changed, and the same aggressive tactics are not necessary anymore.

  29. Abbi
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 06:36:57

    “The happiest working mother in the world cannot BE THERE for their kids and BE AT THE OFFICE at the same time. And it DOES make a difference.”

    WBM: I think you’re really giving extreme examples of working parents that really don’t apply here in Israel. I live now in an area where many women don’t work, but when I lived in J-m, most women worked until 3:30 and were there to pick up their kids at 4. I almost never saw any metaplot at 4 pm pickup maybe one out of class of 30 kids- if anything, I saw more dads picking up then I ever imagined possible. Even now, at 4 pm pickup here I see a mixture of moms, dads and older siblings.

    So I think this image of children suffering at the hands of metaplot is not really relevant here.

    Having said that, I grew up in the states with a mom who came home at 6 pm, had babysitters almost every weekday afternoon and evening. (my mom was home with us as babies and started to work when we were in preschool). I really can’t say that I suffered greatly as a child. We were always a very close family, my parents were always there to listen to us when we needed, even if my mom wasn’t there every afternoon after school. I never felt deprived of her attention. And we had a great variety of babysitters, so it wasn’t even that we had one stable caretaker throughout my school years.

    I have no recollection of this suffering. I never even went through a turbulent teenagerhood. The only time I really started to fight with my mom was as an adult when I made aliyah!

    And many of my friends went through similar experiences. So I have a hard time really believing the case that working mothers destroy their families by not being there for them. As someone else pointed out, plenty of SAHMs going out of their minds neglect their children to terrible degrees (If you have cable, try watching the BBC show “Little Angels” to see some examples of this. One SAHM obssessively cleaned the house and had no idea how to play with or listen to her kids.)

    As for my own situation, yes, I have much more flexibility and I don’t have to worry about sick day childcare, etc. But I have my own share of stresses. And I do need childcare till four, because I need a full day to work and run errands. And the great thing is that I’m able to give my kids my full attention from 4 till their bedtime.

    Also, I don’t know any working mother who sends her child to gan with a fever. If she does, she’ll just have to turn around and pick him or her up!

    I strongly ditto zahava’s whole post, especially that last paragraph.
    Shabbat shalom!

  30. Abbi
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 06:39:51

    wbm: can you give examples of these aggressive feminist using strong arm tactics today? Because I really can’t think of any. really, which feminists are forcing women to work or do anything they don’t want to, today, in 2007?

  31. zahava
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 14:12:48

    WBM: While I appreciate your point that the attitude of a company forced to hire women due to a class-action suit may be…ehrm….less than welcoming, I was actually looking at the same issue from a different vantage point. That class action suits of this sort were necessary because qualified job applicants were turned away only because of gender and/or race issues (not just from Merrill Lynch, but a number of corporate enterprises). I know that you are not intimating that the women in these situations deserved such treatment since they insisted on equal employment opportunities, but unfortunately, when you compare corporate attitudes of the 1970s to corporate attitudes of the 1990s you discount the fact that many, many corporations only reached the point where they could recognize the value of women and minority employees years after having been forced to hire them and evaluate their track records.

    In the 1970s the glass ceiling was much lower than it is today. And yes, part of my point was similar to the one I think you are trying to make: the value of women in the work-place has risen dramatically since then, as has the quality of our work environments.

    BUT.

    And this is a big BUT.

    At the time I left the U.S. to come on aliyah, women still earned on average 40 cents less on the dollar than their male counterparts in the same job. And based on what little exposure I have had to corporate life here in Israel (due to the fact that I am self-employeed), I would have to say that this seems to also be the case here. I don’t know about you, but I am wildly offended by the notion that two people performing the same task could receive unequal pay simply as a result of their gender. Offended, and less-well-off than the guy.

    With regards to aggressive-strong-arm tactics — I don’t believe this technique is EVER ideal.

  32. aliyah06
    Nov 10, 2007 @ 18:09:59

    I want to share a “glass-ceiling” story I think is amusing and I apologize in advance if it offends anyone, but it underlines the glass-ceiling issue:

    I took my husband on a tour of my government law office at a time when we were starting to switch to computers. This was a government entity which had a consent decree in place due to systemic discrimination against women in the past. As we walked from office to office, my husband noted that some people had computers and others did not.

    I later mentioned this our division supervisor. “I told my husband that while not everyone had computers, the lawyers who DID get computers all had one thing in common.”

    “They’re all Team Leaders, right?” my boss said.

    “They all have penises,” I retorted.

    EVERYONE had a computer the following month….

  33. Trackback: Haveil Havalim #139: Chayei Sarah edition « A Mother in Israel

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