realitycheck(dot)ie

Irish doctor with too many thoughts, too little time and a blog that's supposed to check in on reality.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Big Bite and Feminism

Just came in on an afternoon off and switched on d’telly. David McWilliam’s Big Bite is discussing Mary Robinson’s statement about educated women taking time out of their careers to raise their children as a cop out.
David McWilliams raises the point about ESRI study women earn less than men but also work less hours.
He had Helen Sheehan, lecturer in DCU and Harry McGee (father and journalist) on the one side of the couch and Brenda Power (journalist and mother) and Brenda Raggert (mother of 5 and involved with the ICA) on the other.

Sheehan was the greying feminist of the bunch who thoroughly agreed with Robinson. Women have a responsibility to do the work of the wider world to the best of their ability and are Letting themselves down, letting other women down and letting society down by leaving the world of work.
But what really upsets her are women with children not yet born (like moi) and who are already talking about giving up work. She’s disgusted with students of hers who say things like they’d rather be good mother than good journalist.
Sheehan gets last word on show by lamenting that young women don’t realise how hard these opportunities have been won.

Brenda Power was my heroine on this show – I agreed with her completely. Unlike Sheehan who thinks that educated women have an obligation to toil away, Power makes the point that obligation element of education is quite small and that education is about making us happy fulfilled complete people. She also attacks the narrow definition of female fulfilment which involves being like a man, working like a man and contributing to society in male fashion.
McWilliams made the point that many women now in their 30s never expected to have the urge to actually raise their children now are.
Power makes point that there will always be a trade off; sacrifices will always have to be made for women to work or not work.

Harry McGee didn’t really say much of substance. He did however mention hierarchy of women in society – which I totally agree with. Educated women have these choices but our insistence on the need for women to be equal in the workforce has left many poorer women with no other choice but to work – they’re unable to make the choice that they many desire – to spend time with their children.
He also mentions how many men as well as women are deciding that some things are more important than just making money. McWilliams also says that many women look at corporate ladder and just don’t want to keep going. This is good thing, people! Women are making decisions for themselves in their own lives and are perfectly happy with this situation.

Brenda Raggert makes the point that most important thing in society is rearing of next generation and also that for most women taking time out of workforce is only a temporary thing.
It is this notion that the gender feminists tried to turn on its head. That the only way to effect power in society was in the world of work. Previous generations believed that the “hand that rocks the cradle rules the world” and that the care of the future generation of citizens is perhaps the most vital thing in civilised society.
Sheehan and the other feminists of her generation may whinge about how awfully callous young women are abandoning them in their middle age, but the reality is that young women view their equality as part of the basic framework of a civil, democratic society. They do not consider their personal lives as part of a greater female crusade against the current structure of society. They do not think that they’ve any special responsibility to other women. (Well, I don’t anyway!)
The idea of equality is no longer radical. This is perhaps the greatest victory for modern human beings.
Women are now faced with the choices that their mothers did not make, and they fail to see what is so awful about raising their own children, while not working or working part time.
As McWilliams pointed out having large families is now part of being really swanky and posh.
This is on of the reasons I abandoned the notion of feminism – what was once considered a beautiful part of being female, the ability to be a mother and actually spend time with your children has now been relegated to the preserve of the wealthy, a bit like having your own helicopter.
I’m going to end with a quote from Danielle Crittenden’s book – “What our mothers didn’t tell us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman.”
“I’d like to think that an enlightened society is not one in which all its economic and cultural forces combine to encourage women to deposit their children in state crèches and walk away without a backward glance. And if I’m right, then any solution must begin with the recognition that women need help getting away from the workforce to be with their young children and not, as current advocates would have it, in subsidizing day care to free Mom to go to work to pay taxes to fund childcare.”

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6 Comments:

Blogger Beth Bond said...

I wish I had the chance to watch Macca's show today, but then I was doing homework with my son and playing let's pretend with my daughter.

I have read your posts re feminism with interest recently and feel that finally you are beginning to show some understanding of the complex and multi-facted nature of the issues facing modern women today. I respect your right to state that you reject feminism, and yet the more you write on the topic the more you seem to agree with the essence of the ideology. But then, it's only a label ...

However, I will take issue with a number of points you make:

1. Women are not paid as much as men - the CSO backs this up every year when it compiles its statistics and the disparity is not linked to hours worked despite what Macca might say. Sometimes, like the rest of us, he gets it wrong. As a woman who has spent over a decade in top managerial positions within the commercial sector, I can confirm that, with the exception of middle management, women at the bottom and women at the top do not get paid like for like wage for hours worked. I have also been refused a promotion because of my gender - this is not some crazy victimisation dream I spin around my head to make me feel better; a like minded female manager informed me of this after a few too many. Then we both left the company. And, I am not alone.

2. As a feminist, I do not believe that the best educated women of western society are 'letting the side down' by choosing to stay at home and nuture their families. Equality for all, is everyone's responsibility.

3. I gave up my career this year to look after my children, and with a bit of luck, have some more. I do not believe that I am therefore precluded from calling myself a feminist because my days are packed with motherly activities and I just about have a car, never mind a helicopter. Sure we all make sacrifices, but I will not sacrifice my feminist sympathies just because I am a mother.

If, one day, you become a mother, you will understand that no mother carelessly abandons their children to childcare. For many years I left my children in creches with a heavy heart and yet enjoyed every single moment of my career. Life is complex, there are more shades of grey than as a student you can begin to imagine.


Love your blog and your feisty free-thinking. I'll be back.

December 05, 2005 4:37 p.m.  
Blogger Newsandseduction said...

interesting blog!

December 06, 2005 9:39 a.m.  
Blogger Auds said...

feel that finally you are beginning to show some understanding of the complex and multi-facted nature of the issues facing modern women today. I respect your right to state that you reject feminism, and yet the more you write on the topic the more you seem to agree with the essence of the ideology. But then, it's only a label ...
Yes, it's only a label but it is one I eschew because I don't agree with major chunks of the ideology.
My first post on the topic was pretty flippant, something I regret given how complex the concept the feminism is.

http://www.iwf.org/issues/issues_list.asp?sType=73 has a few articles on the wage gap that you might read if you're really bored or something!

If, one day, you become a mother, you will understand that no mother carelessly abandons their children to childcare. For many years I left my children in creches with a heavy heart and yet enjoyed every single moment of my career. Life is complex, there are more shades of grey than as a student you can begin to imagine.
I appreciate this, but my point was that becuase there is a tug of war, between not liking the creche but yet liking the career, it's all the more reason to try to be more creative in identifying solutions for women who want to spend time with their children.

As a feminist, I do not believe that the best educated women of western society are 'letting the side down' by choosing to stay at home and nuture their families
But loads of feminists do.
And it's such a crazy position to take!

Anyways....
I'll certainly be checking your blog in the future too!

December 06, 2005 9:52 a.m.  
Anonymous Sinéad said...

Feck, I usually remember to watch Big Bite but missed this one.
Brenda Power was on The View recently

December 06, 2005 11:42 a.m.  
Anonymous Sinéad said...

oops. don't know why that got truncated.
Was just saying that Brenda Power is a strong panellist and interesting speaker, whether she's discussing topical issues or the arts.

December 06, 2005 12:07 p.m.  
Anonymous ainelivia said...

"Yes, it's only a label but it is one I eschew because I don't agree with major chunks of the ideology"

we don't have to, it's not a religion, it's (feminism) a body of ideas, to be added to or let go of, at least that's how I see it. And yes there are some who see it as their duty to "evangelise", and wow does that make me cringe.

"My first post on the topic was pretty flippant, something I regret given how complex the concept of feminism is".

I thought you were pretty off the cuff and passionate, and threw up some good questions, and ones that need to be looked at.

Hang on to the passion of your ideas and feelings. Trust that gut instinct.

December 06, 2005 1:01 p.m.  

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