Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Seems I'm not the only one...

And following from my previous rant, imagine how I felt to find this in the news yesterday.
I suppose in some ways it covers my undercurrent feelings about the whole issue of bringing up children.

I believe that all children deserve to have the love and commitment that only family can provide and that children can really achieve their full potential in that kind of environment. This is not to say that I disparage working mothers, my own mother worked full time as I was growing up, (and still does!) yet I have a close relationship with her and relate to my parents much better than many of my friends and acquaintances. However, when I was a child, neither of my grandmothers worked, and thus I always had family around to look after me. The same goes for my partner, though the child of a single working mother, he was cared for by his grandmother. But now, our parents are in their late 40s/early 50s and still working. They'll probably be working until retirement, they don't have any other option. So what can our generation do, if they have to work, but put the children in childcare?

Nevertheless, it feels terrible to me that some children are being brought up full time in nurseries, where the ratio for child to carer ranges from 3:1 for children under 2, to 8:1 for children 3 to 8. Even with all the facilities and activities they will have available, what sort of loving, nurturing environment can the children be experiencing? What terrible habits will they be learning behind the busy carer's back?! (I really don't know!)

However even with my dislike of childcare and desire to keep my daughter at home, I don't accept the stance on 'working mothers' suggested by this report, take a couple of quotes for example:

'It also suggests that having many more working mothers has contributed to the damage done to children.

"Most women now work and their new economic independence contributes to levels of family break-up which are higher in the UK than in any other Western European country."'

Firstly, what is this damage? The article directly quotes:

"Children with separate, single or step parents are 50% more likely to fail at school, have low esteem, be unpopular with other children and have behavioural difficulties, anxiety or depression,"

OK, so the original report states that broken families cause the 'damage' and that the working mother 'contributes' to the break-ups. The BBC has decided to restate this as as assumption that it is working mothers that cause damage to children, not broken families.

There is no mention of men bringing up children, it completely side steps this issue in favour of a sly attack on career women, a strategy which manages to subtly reinforce the theme in society that it is wrong for men to stay at home and wrong for women to work. Way to go with progress.

And how about this quote for some lovely 'old fashioned values:'

"Most women now work and their new economic independence contributes to levels of family break-up"

So, how exactly does female economic independence contribute to family break-ups? What is the correlation here? What about cheating partners? What about irreconcilable differences? What about 'we just don't love one another any more'? Is it the case that in the past women were trapped in the family situation because of having no money of their own? IS THIS MORE DESIRABLE?!?!

I am completely in agreement that parents should take more personal responsibility for raising children, and also agree with some of the measures suggested: free parenting classes available around the time of birth, free psychological and family support if relationships struggle and rules making it easier for parents to stay at home to rear their children. However, what I can't stand is the pervasive sexism inherent in the argument, the ideology is so entrenched that you can't even see it if you're not looking for it.


  1. What I find funny now is that many young educated women don't like the label of feminism seeing it as outdated, and stereotypical. We don't seem to like to identify with feminist view points, however like you point out the pay scales for women are far from in line with those of equivalent male positions.
    So how can women not be actively revolted with this inequality?
    How can we not identify with feminist issues?
    When women have paid the same amount to be educated as men why do they get paid less and are expected to possibly rear children as well?
    Yet I have a suspicion that women workers will suffer the most in this "credit crunch". Due to women taking on part time work or being a maternity leave threat (in times of a recession many employers will not want a worker leaving for maternity, no matter what equality laws are put in place) Women workers still do not gain same amount of respect for what they do and therefore will be more vulnerable to redundancy and also inadequate redundancy packages.
    Until that fundamental flaw in our society changes then there will be no true security for women workers in any career or occupation.

  2. Yes, you're entirely right, in fact, it's an issue that many feminists and gender researchers are worried about. if you're interested in reading something very accessable I'd recommend Deborah Cameron - The Myth of Mars and Venus.

    I agree with your fundamental flaw, it's a problem of ideology. The discourse of sexual equality is so pervasive that young women truely think there IS equality. We're told in school that you can achieve this and that girls are getting better grades than boys. No-one ever says in school that boys and girls should do different jobs, but there's still that entrenched attitude that women should be carers and men should have careers.

    There's always that tricky fascade of eqality - look how the attitudes to management have changed in recent years; from the tough business style of the 80s to the 21st century empathy and rapport style. People seem to think this is an acceptance of 'female' styles of leadership, but Deborah Cameron would say that it is more of a cover up. Yes, stereotypical styles of female interaction are more highly valued, but who are the people who are benefiting from this change the most? Men who have adopted the style, not women: it's apparent from the gender gap. I could go on, but I'd just be repeating what Cameron says in the book!

    I believe the problem with feminism for young women today is the association with the '2nd wave' from the 70s, and the degrogatory terms and antagonism built up from it. Some hard line feminists of that time probably pushed too hard in the opposite direction and alienated many who might be sympathetic. In consequence, it created a backlash in the public conscience and the media. I don't discount their achievements, afterall, we wouldn't be in the position to *think* we're equal without their contribution to the cause. However, 3rd wave feminism is much more accepting and encorporates stuff like queer theory and different attitudes towards parenting. It needs a bigger voice and audience.