Back to work, ladies!


I was seriously disturbed to read this April 25th op-ed piece in the New York Times by Linda Hirshman entitled, “Off to Work She Should Go.” Ms. Hirshman is the author of “Get To Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World,” in which she asserts that “choice feminism” has put the freedom to choose whether or not to work above making strides in equality for women. She contends that when educated, wealthy (and most likely, white) women choose to stay home to raise their children, they are effectively creating their own glass ceiling, and greatly decreasing the power of women to effect societal changes.

Of course I think it’s important that women make up a percentage of powerful employers and the workforce in general. If there aren’t enough women at your place of work, there will most likely be less leverage when it comes to getting flexible work hours, salaries might be lower and sexual harassment higher. However, why is that Ms. Hirshman only seems to be concerned with wealthy white women returning to work? I hate to break it to her, but many librarians are highly educated and intelligent women. Guess what? Their earning potential is ridiculously low and their chances for advancement ain’t that great either. And what of the women who contribute to society in other ways who are forced to go back to work immediately after having a child, because they can’t afford not to? Perhaps these wealthy women can return to work for them and subsidize their incomes? But then, who would take out these power chicks’ trash and serve them lunch during their business meetings?

I understand it’s difficult to understand why the women who would have the easiest time returning to work after childbirth decide against it. But really, what women WANTS to hand over her infant to a stranger to care for 9 hours of the day? And don’t even get me started on breastfeeding. Even if you’re lucky enough to have the autonomy at work required to close your door and pump several times during the day, who wouldn’t love to have that time to bond with their child, instead of having someone else shove a bottle in her mouth?

The reality is, today’s woman has stopped buying into the myth of “having it all.” Corporate America, as well as libraries, is notoriously inflexible. It’s entirely too difficult to balance your work life and home life. Besides, studies have proven that the longer a woman waits to have a child, the higher her earning potential. Companies don’t value working mothers!

Instead of a call to mothers to change their views, how about demanding that employers stand up and lead the change? Working mothers need flexible hours, affordable, on-site daycare, the option to telecommute, etc. And these “luxuries” shouldn’t be just for the most wealthy and educated women in society. Until we as a society and a country start valuing our working mothers more, they will stay at home in droves.


4 Responses to Back to work, ladies!

  1. Mimi says:

    I’m really glad to read this. Part of me finds Hirschman’s article, and Leslie Bennett’s book, (and god knows whatever other “women’s journalism” on this subject) really objectionable, really exclusive and self-concerned, and generally irrelevant to anyone living outside of NYC and pulling in less than $300,000 a year. But on the other hand, IT’S ABOUT TIME!

    I feel like our generation has been force fed the message “You can’t have it all!” so much that we forgot to be ambitious in planning our careers. Think about how many articles you’ve read in third-wave aligned magazines about knitting or sex positivity, compared to the number you’ve read about planning your career!

    Maybe really privileged women don’t feel like it’s important to achieve anything, but I personally have a couple of generations of forebears who had way fewer opportunities to answer to. Whatever, I *do* want to “have it all”, but not on lame hierarchical/consumer terms.

  2. Daniel says:

    As the son of a mother who did “have it all,” I agree with Mimi in that it depends on your definition of having it all.

    Though I have to admit that it would not have been possible for my mom to “opt out” of working.

  3. Tisha says:

    Well, yeah, obvs your definition of “having it all” makes a difference. Is it possible for someone to have a fulfilling career as a high school teacher and still be a great mom? Yeah, I think so. It gets harder the more demanding your job is, though and I was specifically speaking to the author’s ideas. Ms. Hirshman is not talking about women who want to be teachers, paralegals, librarians, nurses, etc. She is talking about the most wealthy, educated and powerful. Can you be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company and still a great mom? I think that’s iffy. Notice most super powerful people are men who are able to do this because they have a wife at home handling everything else, including all of the child rearing, or women who’ve chosen to not have kids. Personally, I’d rather be fulfilled as a wife and a mom. Work has seriously become a paycheck to me.

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