Motherhood versus Feminism :
A Fight for the Nuclear Family in the Twenty-first Century
Presented to the Raleigh Tavern Philosophical Society
On this 31st day of May, 2001
“There is no influence so powerful as that of the mother.”
“The Mother is the most precious possession of the nation,
so precious that society advances its highest well-being when
it protects the functions of the mother.”
Ellen Key, 19th century Swedish writer
Different people in our society define feminism differently today. Many men and women are confused by what feminism is and, therefore, are not really sure how, or even if, feminism is important in their lives. Many support some feminist issues but are suspicious of the “movement” itself, and they shy away from being labeled as “feminist.” Because of this, it is necessary to offer my own brief understanding of feminism and explain how the feminist movement has affected me personally.
When I think of feminism it conjures up a negative connotation. I depict a movement of narcissistic women who are radical men-haters, deliberately provocative and confrontational, seeking to control not only their own lives but all others as well. The mental picture that I get of the feminist is somewhat of a caricature, very unattractive and homely with thick ankles, rage in her bloodshot eyes, and wielding an axe, a Carrie Nation if you will. (She would not dare brandish a firearm as that would be politically incorrect in this day and age, but she might allow her bodyguard to do so). I did say caricature. Obviously that is not what feminists look like, at least not all of them, and they are not all radical provocateurs. But it is fair to say that the militant arm of the women’s movement has projected this image causing many women such as myself to recoil in disgust and fear at the mention of the word “feminism.” Even though I derive personal satisfaction and have had a certain degree of success in the workplace, my aversion of the feminist movement is quite normal (although lately “normal” is hard to define, thanks partially to this movement). It is normal for two reasons. One is that I disagree with the bulk of their current agenda and find it destructive to the core of our society. And two, because I myself have been a “feminist” most of my life. This is a fairly recent personal revelation, so please bear with me. My newborn child and this project have revealed a lot to me about myself, one being that I have been in denial about my own feminist tendencies. I have determined that that is why I have created an irrational caricature of what a feminist should look like, so that I could convince myself that I could not possibly be one. It may sound ridiculous, but I have learned that I am actually in the majority and, quite frankly, it gets me through the day.
I collided with the feminist juggernaut at the obnoxious age of 16. Actually, I don’t recall the terms feminist or feminism being used much back then. During my formative years it was referred to as the “women’s movement.” Nonetheless, this movement had a tremendous impact on what I would, or would not, become. I was an easy target for their sales pitch simply because I was a normal pubescent girl trying to establish my own identity and in search of recognition. Bombarded with feminist propaganda in the 1970s by commercial advertising, news reports, and pop culture, I developed a defiance and selfishness that has come back to haunt me. Radios blared in my ears “I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore. . .,” billboards jumped out at me “You’ve come a long way, baby,” Hollywood was producing tear-jerking movies like Kramer v. Kramer, and television commercials were singing to me “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you’re a man, ‘cause I’m a woman!” As I matured, so did my feminism.
Once graduated from college, my feminist nature was better defined yet subtle. So subtle that I did not even know it was there. I am not sure if the movement changed or if I changed, but somewhere along my journey through life I became jaded about the movement and it’s ridiculous male-bashing propaganda. Whichever it is, I have repeatedly declared all of my adult life that “I am not a feminist.” I have shouted it from the rooftops and declared myself above such radical, selfish ideas that “the movement” promotes. I like men. I like them to open doors for me, buy me dinner, bring me flowers, and tell me I look nice. A male colleague commenting on my dress would never translate to perversion and a sexual harassment lawsuit. Does this somehow make me inferior? A second-class citizen? A “doormat?” Of course not. It makes me human. It makes me a woman, a woman who likes being feminine, believes women are mothers and wives above all else, supports the existence of the nuclear family, and is pro-life. On the other hand, I have always prided myself in being a strong-willed, independent person, making my own decisions and my own money, developing a career that would allow me to compete and excel, always taking responsibility for my own actions, never being classified as “needy.” So am I a feminist? Radical feminists, both men and women, would say that no I am not a feminist but a traitor to women. Other people would say that, yes, I am a feminist, while still others don’t know where I fit in because they themselves don’t know where they fit in anymore. The feminist movement seems to have caused confusion for many of us, thus we are living in a society with different views of what our roles are to be. While reading Carolyn Graglia’s Domestic Tranquility: A Brief Against Feminism I faced some mind-numbing revelations about myself, one of which is that I have played the role of feminist much of my life, subconsciously for the most part. This feminist behavior shaped my decision-making, for better and for worse.
Most women are in fact feminists. What I mean is that most women do support equal pay for equal work, champion women’s rights to equal opportunities to pursue educations and careers, and want themselves and their daughters to develop a certain degree of independence and self-reliance. These are the same women, feminists if you will, who want to stay home to raise their children, believe that a good marriage is important and must be cultivated, are concerned about the declining role of the nuclear family in the U.S., cherish traditional family values, and are skeptical, if not cynical, of the very publicized and seemingly accepted “feminist movement” of our time. They, like myself, believe that the leaders of the modern feminist movement have distorted the female role in society, making the goal of women to be men the end-all-be-all. Even though the average woman in America knows very little about official feminist positions, they do not feel that the movement represents them. They view the modern feminist movement as out of touch with their own lives and actually believe that the leadership views their individual lives as insignificant.
Even though women have benefited from over thirty years of political achievements by the feminist movement, many American women today reject being referred to as “feminist.” In an interview with Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, a gentleman, who by the way did support equal rights for women, likened the term “feminist” to “chauvinist,” inferring that they are both four-letter-words. In another interview, one woman who supported equal rights did not want to be “associated with the word [feminist]” and said “it’s a word that is not appropriate for the ‘90s…” The fact is that most women say, “feminism is not talking about my life.” But you would never know that from reading the newspapers or watching the nightly news. The feminist views that are most often espoused by media sources are not the more rational views of these “silent majority” feminists, but the radical views of the few. Those views most often heralded by the media include: women are victims in a white male-dominated society; women deserve an extra “leg up” with affirmative action; abortion is a good thing if that is what the woman wants (because that is the only thing that matters . . . what the woman wants); marriage is a travesty; men and women are equal, the same, without difference (literally); child-rearing is boring and tedious and a way for men to control women; children’s needs can best be met by “the village”; and children do not need two parents, at least not two of the opposite sex, therefore, the nuclear family has outgrown its usefulness.
In my view, these are destructive ideas created by power-hungry women and promoted by the liberal media and politicians. Have these ideas seen success? You be the judge, pick up a newspaper (see who and what is getting coverage), go to the movies, note the new day-care centers popping up around your neighborhood (like the new one across the street from Tomball College), take a look around your office, or even your house for that matter. What you see is a society of men, women and children that have gradually acclimated to lives of submission and servitude, submitting to a self-destructive philosophy of “village socialism” where the government meets our needs (and grants us our rights), and in return we are willing to service the government (i.e., pay taxes) to fulfill those needs. This gradual adaptation to government reliance has been staunchly advanced by a movement of women seeking their own selfish goals. What the modern feminist leaders have done is given feminism a bad name. They have twisted its meaning into a perverse version of female “totalitarianism,” as Graglia would say, that has feminized most aspects of our society (and not in a good way). This movement of feminists has helped to create a depraved, selfish society that is also angry and frustrated with its lack of direction. Nobody wins here. One of the most disturbing aspects of the feminist agenda is how children fit into its “risky scheme.”
“The children are our future.” How many times did you hear that political sound bite in the 1990’s? It doesn’t take powerful insight to recognize the importance of children in any society, since that is how we get from one generation to the next. They are our “bridge to the future” (sorry, but I just couldn’t resist). It is almost as ridiculous as the recent revelation by some that men and women are different. But these are the types of symbolic, sensitive statements that politicians make to sell their wares. Another good one is “it’s for the children.” This is just one of several declarations we have heard both political parties use, but it is the Democratic party that uses it most creatively any time they are criticized for promoting one of their many big government programs. It is always for the children. With this slogan in their hip pocket, available as an excuse for spending taxpayer dollars, any opposition to their proposals is made to appear selfish, mean-spirited and hateful (a heel at the very least). I mean, how could you deny anything that claims to assist the development of or promote the well being of children? The fact is no one in his right mind (no pun intended) would. It is not really about the children for the Democrats, anyway. It is about political power and keeping it. Children are merely a weapon in their political arsenal to stay in control. Why this is not more apparent to the American public, I’m not sure. To say that liberal Democrats today are genuinely concerned about children as much as they say they are is to say that the moderate Republicans of the 1860s and ‘70s were genuinely concerned about the well being of black freedmen, wanting them to be free and equal voting citizens with the white population. It was about political power then, and it is about political power now. Just as the freedmen suffered from political agendas, so do American children suffer today.
Victimization is the theme. According to most Democrats, children have been victimized by the mean-spirited Republican party that wants to take away their school lunch programs, their sex education, and their new math. Someone has to fight for them. Well, it appears that the left hand doesn’t know what the far left hand is doing because somebody forgot to tell the feminist wing of the party that the children are our future, not working women. The theme of the modern feminist movement is also victimization, with the main difference being that women are the foremost victims. They have been victimized by a white male society for decades, even centuries, so they rebelled by piggy-backing on the civil rights movement of the 1960s to fight for their rights, in particular, the right to be equal with men and compete in the workplace. In order to do that, however, somebody else would have to raise their children. So it appears that the feminists missed a meeting, because there is a serious contradiction in themes. If women are victims and can only find fulfillment competing with men in the workplace, who will care for their children and see that their needs are met? That’s right, low wage daycare providers.
In order to gain support from other women and keep children and family issues from overshadowing their own goals, feminists have tried to convince women, successfully I may add, that children are better off in the care of a surrogate. Feminism has dramatically altered the perception of the traditional family within our society. Women have been brazenly and effectively stripped of (or, at the very least, numbed) their most natural characteristics and, thus, their true identity; allowing for the bond between mother and child to be weakened (the most sacred bond that exists, I might add). Once the bond is weakened, the woman is then re-created and molded into man (you know, the sex that militant feminists have consistently denigrated). And, contrary to their better judgment, women have left the home for the workplace half-heartedly convinced that they have the right to seek out what they have been denied in the past at the expense of their marriage and children’s welfare. Most of them do not really believe it is worth jeopardizing these intimate relationships, but they do it anyway. Why? Society seems to expect it of them. And the mantra remains, “it is for the children” who “are our future.”
So if there is such a great concern for the well being of the children in this country, why have we destroyed the very family unit that best provides and cares for them. Recent reports as late as May 15th indicate that the nuclear family now makes up only 25% of our families. The feminist movement is largely responsible for this freak of nature. According to the feminists, quoting Friedrich Engels in Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics, “the family, as that term is presently understood, must go.” Why have we allowed ourselves as a society to be led down the feminist primrose path to self-destruction. More specifically, why have we as women bought into “the big lie” that our children, our “futures”, as they are referred to, don’t need us, and we don’t need them; that what we as women really need is the workplace. A place where women can be men, of course, only after changes are made to feminize the workplace so that women can fit in. How convenient. According to modern feminism, women are “insufficiently feminine” to be satisfied with homemaking, yet, “too feminine” to equally compete with men in the workplace. Therefore, young children must be carted off to a surrogate mother (i.e., daycare provider), and the workplace must be altered to accommodate the “too feminine” workers. Modern feminism has successfully empowered (i.e., desensitized) the woman, alienated the child and husband, and turned the workplace into a sexual-harassment lawsuit just waiting to happen. How many square pegs can you fit into a round hole?
This all seems so contradictory. What does “too feminine” mean anyway? According to Carolyn Graglia, the workplace had to be purged of traditional male aggression and competitiveness in order to make room for a new and improved work environment that is “conducive to female qualities of sensitivity, caring, and empathy.” This is interesting since those are the very qualities that can best be used to raise a child. That is what children need. And isn’t it great; God planned it so that those qualities are present in the very person that also provides the womb in which the child can grow. Her name is Mother. But modern feminists claim that women cannot possibly find satisfaction in a full-time commitment as a homemaker . . . rearing children is for somebody else. They view this as “an unworthy endeavor.” They believe that in order “to live . . . the only life worthy of respect, a woman must devote the vast bulk of her time and energy to market production, at the expense of marriage and children.” So, as women have marched to the beat of the feminist drum for the past thirty years, they have empowered themselves through broken families, abortion, workplace overhauls, and daycare. The result in the year 2001 is that the nuclear family is on the decline, single parent families are on the rise, and the need for daycare providers to raise our nation’s children is greater than it has ever been in our history. But don’t forget, it’s for the children; after all, they are our future.
No one, not a paid daycare provider, a friend, a sister, nor even a grandparent, will ever be able to fully replace a mother’s care and love. Even Barbara Walters said, “parents of young children should realize that no one will find their children as enchanting as they do.” It’s true. I know. But modern feminists have deluded women into believing that “children are better cared for by surrogates, and marriage neither deserves nor requires much attention.” So when you buy into the feminist delusion and decide to leave your child at a daycare facility Monday through Friday 7am until 6pm, you need to know that the people working in that facility get paid in cash for a reason. They will not accept hugs and kisses, nor love and smiles, nor giggles and surprises for the many diapers they will have to change, the many messes they will have to clean up, and the many frustrations they will face. They will not wonder in the delight of your child’s babbling and attempts to walk. They will not rush to comfort your child as quickly as you would like when he falls or just needs a hug for security. They will not (and cannot) give your child the individual attention that he needs. Why? He’s not their child. And as much as the self-important feminist movement would like to promote the daycare facility as an equal substitution for a mother’s care and say that it is a “healthy environment for the child to develop socialization skills”, don’t take that bait. I did and found out very quickly that it was a horrible lie to assuage my own guilty conscience. Babies, by nature, are not social beings. They do not indicate a need or desire to socialize with children their own age until well into their twos. And even then it is minimal.
When I would leave Harris at daycare in the morning, he cried (of course, I was told that was natural); while there, I learned, he would not play with the other children, but did enjoy his own company (that, too, is not unusual); and when I picked him up in the afternoon, he would crawl to me in high gear (crawling has high and low gears), babbling in incoherent excitement and saying “mama” over and over again. I have noticed that he does not get that excited with anyone else, except sometimes with Tommy. Harris knows who I am and knows that of all the people he has been in contact with, I am the one person he can trust completely. That is an important fact to make note of. Child Psychologists still say that the bond of trust with the mother is the most important thing in the early stages of child development. So, if I am a working mom away from my child a minimum of forty hours a week (that is if the daycare facility is in my office building – the average is 55 hours per week), how can he fully trust me and develop a sense of security if he spends most of his waking hours with someone else. Socializing with other children at one year old is not an imperative, but bonding with and learning from mother is. But we as women, striving to keep up with the feminist agenda and not be treated as lepers, have learned to harden our hearts and say “he needs to learn to socialize with children his own age” (as if he cannot learn that outside of daycare) and “it is natural for him to be anxious when I leave . . . he will grow out of it.” If it is “natural”, shouldn’t that be a clue in and of itself? Just because separation anxiety is a common stage that young children go through, does that mean we should exploit it for our own selfish gains?
As creatures of habit, we get put off if our routines are disturbed, even minutely. For instance, have you ever been in such a hurry in the morning that you forgot to apply your deodorant – did it make you feel “not quite right” for the rest of the day? Or maybe you forgot to put on your watch – weren’t you a little “lost” all day? Feel like you had lost an appendage? I have done both of those things and on the days when I “forgot,” well, it felt unnatural. So it is only natural for a woman to feel “not quite right”, “lost”, or short one appendage when, after spending nine months with a fetus in her womb, she allows her child to be raised by someone else five days a week. This feeling that all working mothers experience is commonly referred to as guilt. I am here to tell you that they all feel guilty about their choice to create a career outside of the home at some time or another, granted, some more than others. The reason for the guilt is that they are living a lifestyle that is inherently adverse to their nature. Women, by nature, are caregivers and nurturers. But we seem to live in a society that does not either want to or feel the need to preserve and foster the natural state of man. Our society has come to minimize the need for the instinctive role that women play in nature, thus, minimizing the importance of child rearing.
The irony is that this is the same western society that dedicates much of its energies to preserving the natural state of wildlife, trees, lands, the ozone and the like. Conservationists, et al decry attempts to alter the earth and its inhabitants. They believe that we should preserve our “national treasures” and leave things “as God intended.” Yet, there is such a willingness to destroy what God intended when it comes to the family – more specifically, mothers. What about mom. . . . isn’t she a national treasure. . . . shouldn’t we leave her role as God intended? Modern feminists say no. Any dufus can raise a child, even the government. Aha! There is a method to their madness. If the “big government” agenda of The Left were to gain control of the daily raising of our young children (outside of the influence of their natural home), the same way the federal government controls education in public schools, this would create a greater dependency on the government, which translates to more taxes, which in turn translates to increased government power. And this would explain why the feminist movement is granted so much leeway in promoting their own agenda within the party. While so many of us are worried about our guns being pried from our “cold, dead fingers,” we fail to realize that many of our children have already been pried away. The “village” just got bigger. There is a madness to their method.
It is not unusual for different special interest groups to combine their lobbying efforts in order to achieve a larger goal. Some of the individuals leading these groups crusade for the sake of their “cause” while others crusade solely for personal political power. One of the most socially unstable combinations I have seen thus far that attracts the most self-serving individuals is the feminist movement intertwined with the fight for “children’s rights.” This marriage of movements has brought forth some of the more destructively radical ideas, one of which is this whole “village” thing being promoted by one of the more egocentric feminists advocating children’s rights, Hillary Clinton. Clinton is perceived as a strong, intelligent woman, passionate about her “work.” She has even been called “the smartest woman in the world.” The fact is Clinton has become a significant role model for many young girls and an icon for like-minded men and women today. So don’t discount her village just yet. Her ideas may seem “out there” now, but keep in mind how easily our society is swayed by emotion. One important reason for her popularity is her crusade for children’s rights which “appears principled” and “has a spiritual appeal.” However, if you read them carefully, her early writings reveal that her only real interest in children is as “levers with which to extract political power.” They reveal that her crusade is not “principled” at all but “really tactical”; that it is not “spiritual,” but “it is really about the temporal achievement of power.” In her book, Hell To Pay, Barbara Olson offers a convincing argument on behalf of the traditional family structure and its right to function independently of the government. The most effective method that Olson uses to argue her points on behalf of parents and children is her use of quotes by Hillary Clinton revealing her Marxist philosophy and village mentality.
“There is no such thing as other people’s children.” This is a favorite quote of Hillary Clinton when touting her village philosophy. As a student of Saul Alinsky and great admirer of CDF (Children’s Defense Fund) founder Marian Wright Edelman, Mrs. Clinton has learned that children are, as Edelman once said, “a very effective way to broaden the base for [social] change.” Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, Edelman successfully used children in “almost every domestic policy debate” to bully politicians for public housing programs, guaranteed employment, Head Start and WIC (Women, Infants and Children). If anyone dared to criticize these welfare programs as supporting illegitimacy and/or “creating a culture of government-dependent poverty and victimhood,” the CDF responded with sharp criticism that “any attempt to reduce the welfare state was a direct assault on children.” This mantra still rings in our ears today. Edelman gained a great deal of public support and status with this position, not just for CDF and the welfare state, but also for herself.
In addition to furthering her own social agenda, Edelman aided Clinton, a like-minded supporter, in pursuing her own interest in children’s rights in the 1970s. Through her work and research with the Carnegie Council on Children, Clinton helped write a report on Children’s rights, entitled All Our Children, issued in 1977. In this report, she and the others on the Carnegie Council declared the “deconstruction of the American nuclear family” inevitable and, rather than offer a remedy to thwart this cultural transformation, advised society to “find ways to encourage, supplement, and support single-parent families.” This report seemed to almost delight in the increasing divorce rate and single parenthood in our country. The Council went on to claim that the family structure was not of importance to the future of our children. They determined that it would be the “larger village of teachers, pediatricians, and social workers who would socialize the task of raising, supporting, and nurturing children.” We as a society needed to come to grips with the cultural change and accept the fact that raising children is becoming “less of a parental task” and more of “a social one.” It is for the best. The Council proposed the development of “public advocates” to arbitrate disputes between parents and their children, on the children’s behalf of course, reducing parents to, as Barbara Olson phrased it “subunits of the state.”
Clinton reveals, among other things, her contempt for the traditional family unit when she writes: “The pretense that children’s issues are somehow above or beyond politics endures and is reinforced by the belief that families are private, nonpolitical units whose interests subsume those of children.” Her arrogance and sarcasm used here make evident the complete disrespect she has for individualism and her belief that families are somehow a creation of the state, not in fact “a traditional institution that has arisen organically and stood the test of time.” In October 1992, Christopher Lasch was able to easily uncover part of Clinton’s hidden agenda in her essays from the ‘70s stating, “the movement for children’s rights, as she describes it, amounts to another stage in the long struggle against patriarchy.” She, like so many other feminists, believes now as in the 70’s that the traditional social organization must be torn down and re-engineered so that women may gain equality, that the nuclear family has outlived its usefulness, and that children are best cared for by surrogates. Clinton takes children’s needs one step further by suggesting direct “government involvement in childrearing.” In the late 1970s she advocated “a series of national experiments” through the use of “an experimental grant for a few years. . . . The Children’s Defense Fund might be given financial support to coordinate programs under varied community control models.” Oh goody, government daycare. Clinton was very open-minded about experimenting with children when it came to just about anything, as long as it was not to decrease dependency on government programs. School choice was, therefore, not worth experimenting with.
The essays and articles that Hillary Clinton wrote in the 1970s, in the name of children’s rights, expose her misguided view of what it takes for parents to raise a child. She exhibits a “warped and disconnected view of families and normal life,” due probably to the fact that she has been a politician (or married to one) and ward of the government most of her adult life. The arrogant social restructuring that feminists like Clinton believe they have the right to engineer, regardless of their individual goals, is detrimental to the survival of our culture because it destroys the most intimate of human relationships, that between parents and children.
Many Americans believe that raising a child and being a “homemaker” requires little brainpower and is not challenging enough for the modern woman. The modern feminists certainly believe that to be true. Clearly these are people that have never raised children. The fact of the matter is, parenting, good parenting, requires more brainpower and creativity than any “job” or “career” I have personally ever experienced. Tiring at times? Yes. Frustrating at times? Yes. Infuriating some days? Yes. But what job isn’t? After the problems I had with the college district office this past semester, raising a toddler is a snap. Those people at district must have been raised in daycare – Ha.
Parenting children in a household is much like managing employees in a business. The most important difference is that parents have more of a personal stake in the development of their children than business managers have in the development of their employees. Both of these jobs are difficult to do, requiring extraordinary listening skills (i.e., read minds), well-developed negotiating tactics, flexibility in scheduling, quick reflexes (i.e., “fast on your feet”, figuratively and literally), the ability to be a chameleon (i.e., wear many hats), a positive attitude and professional demeanor (i.e., you can’t lose your cool in front of subordinates/children without losing credibility), boundless energy, and last but not least, great patience. While I have my moments, I have become more patient in general. I really don’t have a choice since I am dealing with someone who can only communicate by babbling, laughing or crying. Yes, it is frustrating at times. What job isn’t. But how many jobs let you create and nurture your own image? While not all women (single parents) have a choice, I can’t relate to those women who leave their children in daycare 55 hours a week. As far as I am concerned, I made my choice when I got pregnant. Once Harris was born, it only took me a minute to be honest with myself and figure out what to do – to figure out what “felt natural.” And I have to say, it is very cool being a mother and I am so glad I didn’t miss it.