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Desperate housewives: A new feminism?

By John Sanford


Published: Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Updated: Monday, January 18, 2010

August is a dreary month for politics, as Congress ends session and Bush enjoys a five-week vacation, a luxury he has failed to offer to our soldiers in Iraq.

The media is left to expand its coverage of missing children and the exploits of former reality TV stars, and I am allowed to return to my thoughts without the weekly controversies manufactured in Washington.

Recently I ended my first long-term relationship. A long and torturous tale, I’ll save the details for those unlucky enough to find me drunk and sentimental. Marriage had been considered, which is kind of sad looking back. She has many admirable qualities, but one strikes me now as uncommon: she wanted to be a housewife.

After the bra-burning Sexual Revolution of the 1960’s, most baby boomer women found themselves pregnant by the end of the 1970’s, creating our generation. These women either struggled diligently to keep food on the table, as was my case growing up – or if they had a husband, worked just as hard to try and keep the family middle class.

As a result we have been raised by day care, public school, after-school activities, MTV and the streets. Anything but our families.

Trickling at first, it seems like a growing number of young women (and some young men to be fair) are trying to avoid the fate of their mothers and want to stay home. Dealing with children is taxing, and I frankly don’t always enjoy it. But who better to do it than a doting mother? Would you rather have your five month old baby, just one of seventy infants in a room, be raised by a poorly paid, marginally educated stranger?

It seems many radical feminists put a political position ahead of our nation’s future. A woman embracing her nurturing maternal instincts is not an embarrassment to the fight for equal rights. She may be more empowered as she adapts her femininity to the modern world, instead of blindly attempting to follow the traditionally male-centered career path as the only true path to “success.”

Having either parent at home means less need for a second car and opens up the possibility for healthy meals from gardens instead of cheap carbs in the drive-thru, and children learning morals more from their home than TV commercial breaks.

Is this really less progressive than one more child catching an inner ear infection at preschool while her mother gets promoted to middle management?

With economic competition from China and elsewhere, women must be guaranteed access to serious work, and the business community must make changes allowing all the increasingly well-educated women of our generation to leave their job for the most critical period of their baby’s development. This means part time and flexible options have to be explored seriously.

A baby spends nine months in the womb. Shouldn’t she be held in her mother’s arms for the nine months after birth? The government can help by extending maternity leave from three months after birth up to nine. Desperately poor Cuba grants more than this.

By the same token the leaders of the feminist movement must learn that there is more involved in uplifting women than increasing the number of female CEOs and Senators. It is also about helping women live whatever life they choose with all the respect, justice and love they deserve.

John Sanford is a frequent contributor to The Carolinian.

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