Friday, July 30, 2010
Feminism and motherhood
The organiser of the Cherchez La Femme IV: Feminism and Motherhood event on next week asked me to suggest some themes for the evening.
This is the little rant I sent her:
OK, feminism and motherhood. I will definitely be able to give the personal account, I suppose, as I am no academic, though I have certainly given the subject a lot of thought.
To me, motherhood seems to be the final frontier for western feminism. It's the point at which it all falls down! (Hence, the conflation of motherhood, perhaps.) Women can be going along very nicely, and then *bang* they become mothers, find themselves alone all day with babies, drowning in domestic chaos, and wonder when they agreed to all this. (That's not to say that we don't all have to deal with the realities of life, or that having babies isn't also lovely, but I do think it is the point at which men's and women's lives can cease to resemble each others' in all sorts of confronting ways.)
All that lip service paid to equality still doesn't seem to translate into the private sphere. Mothers are still the ones taking it all on, keeping their families afloat, emotionally, domestically etc., even though they are also (often equal) financial contributors.
Mothers are under an extraordinary amount of pressure from all sides. Society has not kept up with their expectations and then they are blamed for it--either punished for being a nag, or not a good enough mother, or not a dedicated enough worker... That's the guilty, vulnerable space backlashers step into and exploit--women (usually) who have decided that those old roles and divisions of labour made so much sense after all and wouldn't it be easier if we all just scuttled back to the kitchen. Which no doubt it would be... but at whose expense?
So yes, structural change is necessary. But also how do we go about changing men and women's own hard-wiring/patterns of behaviour? Will structural change send enough of a message to men that they will start putting on that load of washing without being asked?!
What do you reckon? If have other ideas of pressing issues that should should be covered, please let me know.
Thank the Lord it's being held in a pub. I think I'll need that drink!