Ed.: MomsRising member and blogger Dasa Kelly responds to a recent op/ed in the New York Times about the stamina of sexism in our culture.
Oh, where to begin. What this, Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Anne Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic piece, and others fail to mention in the ongoing debate on women in the workforce and - more broadly, what these trends say about sexism in our society - is how women get to Congress or the boardroom in the first place. Where is talk of paid maternity leave, school schedules that are currently based on an agrarian calendar and that require $$ camps/$$aftercare/trying to stressfully piece together care each day. Where is talk of the women who work because they have to, not just for fulfillment or ambition?
Women know what it takes to ascend to the top like a “man.” It takes very expensive outsourcing and if you’re lucky – a supportive stay at home spouse. Sandberg’s book said nothing new. We all know how privileged women can earn even more privilege. What of true middle class and lower class women? As things stand, there will never be enough women running for Congress if they’re not in the pipeline for this position 20 years earlier. There will never be enough women gunning for CEO if they’re not supported in their careers once they have children. All women – not just the ones lucky enough to have attended Harvard on a full ride and score a job at Facebook or Google upon graduation.
In a country in which the majority of women work, in which women are the primary breadwinners in 40% of households (yet still perform the lion’s share of childcare and household responsibilities), we have fallen woefully behind in support of middle class women and their children. Women need to work for their families, yet fear job loss when soothing a child who is suffering from yet another ear infection or when their child’s school is closed for yet another vacation week or teacher in-service day or federal holiday that no private business seems to observe.
Girls now outperform boys in school, garner more spots in college & grad school, and women are approaching the majority of the workforce. Since the economic downturn, most jobs lost were filled by men. These trends indicate a need for major policy change that other developed countries have right now – paid maternity leave, increased sick leave protections, and quality AND affordable childcare.
Maybe if our boys grow up to see Congress enacting legislation and businesses crafting benefits in support of women and children, they will begin to view our girls as more worthy. Right now, the message is that we're not worth it. Our kids aren't worth it. Our daily struggles aren't worth it. Katniss and Laura Croft (mentioned by the writer of this piece) – in tight pants and push up bras – just don’t seem to be cutting it.
Dasa Kelly lives outside of Philadelphia, where she works as a proposal writer at an environmental services firm. In her free time she serves as soccer mom/toddler wrangler/feminist philosopher to her two spunky daughters and alongside her outnumbered husband.