sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

May 27, 2011

The State of Feminism in San Francisco Bay Area

A while ago I promised to write a response to King Shamus and No One’s post about feminism and motherhood.  Their proposition is that the Left would be far more dangerous if feminists would not insist that women work instead of raising children because the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.  I love both blogs, but I don’t think either one of them had the data when it comes to contemporary feminism or left-leaning women.

I’m surrounded by liberal Bay Area mothers.  Most of them are middle class middle age white women born in the United States.  Almost everyone is married, and their husbands are usually middle-class and middle age, white and born in this country.  Men and women spent their twenties and typically a part of their thirties in school, pursuing white-collar careers and/or being an artiste.  Not every mother around here chooses feminist as her primary identity marker, but if asked if they are feminist, most would say yes.  I don’t think any of them would have anything negative to say about NOW.

I’d say that a little more then half of women in my neighborhood are stay at home moms, and the ones who work wish they didn’t have to.  The cost of living around here is high, so many women have to return to work full time after maternity leave runs out.  Women with relatively wealthy husbands and/or trust funds, as many liberals are, stay home.  Unless they have truly illustrious careers, which, by definition, few do, there is no point.  Who wants to go back to that associate position, putting in 80 hours a week, while pumping and freezing and worrying herself silly about that diaper rash?

In the 1970s feminism took a certain mothering-friendly turn.  The 70s “visionaries” encouraged women to go to the woods and have painless, erotic childbirth without the evil male doctor and his evil male science.  Hippie and now yuppie women breastfeed their babies, sleep with them, wear them in slings (preferably over one shoulder, Bjorns are dad carriers, apparently) and in some cases homeschool, although I don’t think the last one is any longer hip, for obvious reasons.  This kind of motherhood is considered “natural”.  Because they all worship Dr. Sears, sometimes, if I’m in a feisty mood, I’d say something like “Do you know that Dr. Sears is a big Christian?”

"Natural" childbirth gets feminist stamp of approval.

One reason this is happening is because Marx trumps Friedan and Drerida trumps all.  Instead of being a cog in the capitalist system, mother gets to stay home, do something crafty on her spare time, and maybe sell it on Etsy.  She can take up a new hobby like photography, gardening or blogging.  One or more of these hobbies applies to someone you know.  Gourmet cooking for her family is another option, and, again, since the 70s, lefties have been very much into gourmet cooking.  One of the really nice things about living in the Bay Area (and you won’t catch me saying that often) is food.

This is not to say that those women embrace traditional gender roles.  They have cartoonish ideas about traditional gender roles, actually.  Many times I have heard it said: “I’m not your typical housewife!!! I read books!!!” as if that is anything new.  Bay Area mothers have something to prove.  If she’s selling her knits on Etsy, it’s because she’s still an artist.  Many remain career-minded overachievers at heart who view their children as projects and always try for extra credit.  For instance, when Yelena was born the extra credit was potty training at birth.  That particular initiative, although environment-friendly, didn’t square well with Doc Sears theories, though.

Stay at home mom is very much in synch with the environmentalist calls to return to the middle ages.  She cooks locally-sourced organic food from natural ingredients.  She does her linens in a front-loading washer in cold water.  She prefers “natural” parenting (see above).  She buys expensive organic cotton onesies.  Most importantly, she teaches her kids to recycle and to turn off the lights as well as other received liberal wisdom, such as never using skin color to describe a person’s appearance.  This is how she raises a moral child.  OK, I’m exaggerating.

Another reason why stay at home liberal motherhood is possible is difference feminism championed by Carol Gilligan that teaches that men and women are different, and that women are better.  Difference feminists will say that men should strive to be womanly, and that girls deserve special attention.  Therefore our society has to work to accommodate women’s careers while respecting our choice to raise kids.

Around here we no longer attempt to accomplish raising boys and girls the same.  That experiment was undertaken in the 70s, and it flopped.  From time to time a genderless hold out pops up, and then there is a stray lesbian couple, but there is no movement to raise boys and girls alike because few people want to set themselves up for a disappointment.  Now we are merely raising kids who are not too excited about becoming either men or women.  A case in point is the insistence on the part of quite a few moms that their sons pee sitting.

What this all amounts to is that women take maybe a half a decade to a decade off, and that our husbands help with housekeeping.  Women around here take it for granted that somebody out there lobbies on their behalf, so that when we return to work, our careers take minimal damage.  If we don’t quit work, we expect generous maternity leaves and flexibility from our employers.  I’m mystified by the number of visibly pregnant women who, in this economy, were able to score lucrative positions.

Me, I consider myself a feminist in Christina Hoff Sommers vein.   I can’t imagine what it would be like to leave my child in daycare and head to work.  I know my professional life will take a beating, and that’s just the price to pay for having this amazing stage in my life.  I don’t ask anyone to lobby for longer maternity leaves on my behalf, and while I will want an understanding employer in the future, I don’t expect to be compensated as generously as single women or fathers.  Above all, I want to raise my son to be a gentleman, and my daughter — a lady.

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29 Comments »

  1. My goodness that was an amazing analysis. Thanks for it, because it gives me a new perspective. I simply do not have any exposure to the kind of community you described.

    I’ve never studied it and don’t know about any of the ladies you named above LOL.

    My exposure to feminism has been to the ambitious professional sort. “Anything you can do, I can do better.”

    Ever seen the old 80’s movie Baby Boom with Diane Keaton? That’s the sort. First in college, then graduate school, then in my professional life, and now as a mil spouse, I have encountered women that put career before family.

    If this sort of lady manages to squeeze marriage in young enough, she may have 1 or 2 kids. Or she may adopt a foreign toddler. These kids either go to military base day care, or have nannies.

    The idea that the woman ought to sacrifice even a bit of upward career mobility for the sake of her kids is met with a sharp defensiveness, probably borne of that ubiquitous mother-guilt.

    Even dual military families are not uncommon. The child/children are sent to extended family members if deployments coincide.

    On the other hand, the majority of stay-at-home types I run into are more like me: Christian of some stripe, either conservative, moderate, or apolitical, and more into that “old-fashioned family values” type vein.

    That’s why I have tended to view feminism as encouraging career and discouraging family. You’ve opened my eyes to a whole new angle.

    As an aside: From the best I can tell, homeschooling is an exploding phenominon in the military community right now. More than the religious issues, it is the need to escape the ever-increasing rigidity of schools, and the desire to keep our kids away from their poorly disciplined peers.

    cheers Missy S!
    Linda

    Comment by nooneofanyimport — May 27, 2011 @ 7:10 pm

    • I think what it comes down to around here is that wealthy women will find little reason to return to work.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — May 27, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

  2. […] Go read the rest.  She provides an excellent peek into today’s leftist female views on motherhood. […]

    Pingback by Missy S on Feminism « NoOneOfAnyImport — May 27, 2011 @ 7:33 pm

  3. Sounds not much different than any of the women I know, except the ones that work, work because they have to to support their families. Most of the that don’t read, don’t do it because they don’t want to, it’s just that their days are so busy, by the time they have a chance to sit down, they usually fall asleep. That was the way it was for me. People around here are crafty out of need. They can’t afford to buy a lot of the stuff they want, and learn to make it themselves. Perhaps the people in SF are just responding to that quality that is in most women to be independent. It would be hilarious to tell them that they are very much like Sarah Palin.

    Comment by loopyloo305 — May 27, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

    • They all hate Palin. I think a part of it is that she’s a better feminist. She had a family, and a large family, and she had (still has) a fabulous career. She had a child at 43, and she didn’t need any medical help conceiving. And then she had the temerity to keep the child when he had trisomy.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — May 27, 2011 @ 9:52 pm

      • I’d consider myself more of a lefty, and can respect Sarah Palin for all those reasons you listed.
        I just fundamentally disagree with most of her politics. That’s where my “hate” (though that is maybe too strong a word) comes from.

        Comment by Sera — May 29, 2011 @ 3:21 am

        • I probably should not have said “all”. But the hatred of Palin is wholly irrational, and there is a lot of it.

          Comment by edge of the sandbox — May 29, 2011 @ 4:29 am

        • I mean “hate” as an obsessive quality. Take a look at AH London link, for instance, it’s one thing to say that you’d abort a Down baby, but quite another that a woman who carries this baby to term is stupid. The idea that Palin is stupid is impossible to reconcile with the facts of her biography. She’s a self-made woman who became a governor against the wishes of her own party, and one doesn’t get there being stupid.

          Comment by edge of the sandbox — May 29, 2011 @ 4:42 am

      • I probably should not have said “all”. But the hatred of Palin is wholly irrational, and there is a lot of it.
        __________________

        The character assassination is often unnecessary, I agree.

        Comment by Sera — May 29, 2011 @ 4:41 am

      • I mean “hate” as an obsessive quality. Take a look at AH London link, for instance, it’s one thing to say that you’d abort a Down baby, but quite another that a woman who carries this baby to term is stupid. The idea that Palin is stupid is impossible to reconcile with the facts of her biography. She’s a self-made woman who became a governor against the wishes of her own party, and one doesn’t get there being stupid.
        __________________________

        I agree.

        (Also, it seems that people who would denigrate a woman in that situation isn’t quite grasping the concept of pro-choice. To me anyway).

        Comment by Sera — May 29, 2011 @ 4:51 am

  4. Best of the web did an interesting post on feminists and Palin hatred a few months ago. I’ve got it here. http://americanhousewifeinlondon.blogspot.com/2011/02/i-support-jane-in-her-life-choices.html?showComment=1306605535440#c6635195313167418046
    I haven’t read no one and the king on this issue, yet, but trying to follow you, it wouldn’t matter if the left encouraged housewives because they would just turn it into a accolade seeking job? I need to read up, obviously.

    Comment by AHLondon — May 28, 2011 @ 6:05 pm

  5. Ok, with you now. King Shamus and No One just didn’t know that liberals have already discovered the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. Finally I have found a place to discuss this link http://www.mommytracked.com/tool-of-the-right
    Like you Sandbox I live in a land of liberal values. I think liberal, centrist, agnostic parents raise children differently that we do. They buy into ever shifting expert advice. Needing expert advice is part and parcel of elevating motherhood to work. When feminists couldn’t stop women becoming mothers, they had to shift tack on motherhood, make it work worthy of their advanced degrees. Furthermore, modern expert advice encourages us to treat children as mini adults when they are young, and as children when they are older. In short, feminist mothers do know about influencing their children, but I don’t think that they are nearly as successful at it as we are. If nothing else, they don’t encourage the kind of independent thought and self reliance that are the foundations of child rearing on the right.

    Comment by AHLondon — May 28, 2011 @ 7:13 pm

    • Lots of very good points and a terrific link. I think it’s hilarious that Mellar has to plead with her liberal mom friends to discipline their children. I think a lot of it has to do with parents not being fully grown up. I remember the first time I had to discipline my daughter, I started giggling. I later understood what it was about: I was finally an adult, I was becoming my mother or perhaps a grandma, and I just couldn’t believe it. Liberalism is ideology of the young, so liberal moms can’t figure out how to discipline their kids because they themselves refuse to grow up.
      “Furthermore, modern expert advice encourages us to treat children as mini adults when they are young, and as children when they are older.” So true. It’s also true about education. We demand too much from pre-schoolers, and then students are play-learning their way to grad school.
      Liberal parents say they want independent thought, but they’d be terrified to discover that their children are reading conservative books. Self-reliance is not even on the radar in most cases.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — May 29, 2011 @ 5:31 am

      • Yes, these are great points AH.

        “Needing expert advice is part and parcel of elevating motherhood to work.”

        As a new mom, I was taken in by all the expert advice initially. But after a few months (and specifically, the Baby Whisperer was the Last Straw), I realized what a load of garbage it mostly was.

        I never thought about this intrusive and complicated advice in political terms before. You have nailed it. The collectivist view is to rely on experts, top-down, take care of us and tell us what to do.

        No wonder I rebelled against it, and chucked those books and mags in the trash.

        And I’d never thought about the way little ones are treated too grown up and the big ones are held back.

        But it’s so true!

        I love getting enlightened. As Gru says in Despicable Me, “liieeeeght buuuuuuulb.”

        cheers ya’ll.

        Comment by nooneofanyimport — May 29, 2011 @ 5:42 pm

  6. Consider myself schooled.

    Nice job, Edge. I knew I put you on my blogroll for a reason.

    Comment by KingShamus — May 29, 2011 @ 2:35 am

  7. By the way, if parents here haven’t read The Three Martini Playdate, I highly recommend it. No One, it is a book you would not throw away. Confessions of a Slacker Mom is good too. I suspect that that author, Muffy Mead Ferro, if I recall, is liberal as well. A few of them understand that parents should focus not on specific successes like getting Junior into the Ivy League, but on Junior being a happy and productive citizen at 30. It makes a world of difference in how you treat a 6 year old. I wonder why only a few of them get it, whereas conservatives might get caught in the initial frenzy but snap out of it quickly on contact with reality like No One describes? Personally, I was lucky God sent me a dog a few years before I had children. A headstrong Border Collie cured my naiveté.

    Comment by AHLondon — May 29, 2011 @ 10:42 pm

  8. Wow, that was really excellent. You wrote pretty much everything I’ve been thinking. Basically, I’ve come to the inescapable conclusion that mothers working full-time is responsible for a LOT of our society’s ills.

    Comment by Karen Howes — May 30, 2011 @ 2:03 am

  9. Wow, that was really excellent. You wrote pretty much everything I’ve been thinking. Basically, I’ve come to the inescapable conclusion that mothers working full-time is responsible for a LOT of our society’s ills.
    ————————–

    I’d disagree with you here. It isn’t “working mothers” who are often responsible for most of society’s ills, but poverty and related problems.

    On a related point, it’s all very well judging a woman who could easily (or manageably) afford to stay at home, but some people actually need the money. You mightn’t even be “poor” and still require that extra income.

    Comment by Emma — May 30, 2011 @ 10:23 am

  10. Okay, this part made me laugh:

    Now we are merely raising kids who are not too excited about becoming either men or women.

    But this part made me go, huh?

    A case in point is the insistence on the part of quite a few moms that their sons pee sitting.

    I’ve potty trained two boys and a girl and, with my daughter, I couldn’t figure out why my back was hurting so much, until I realized with her, I am lifting her up and putting her on the potty at least five times a day, which I never had to do with my boys, who would stand to pee. WHY would anyone want to change that?

    And I completely agree on one other thing. I went from full-time work to freelaancing when I was pregnant with my third, since I just couldn’t do the juggling anymore. And not only am I making much, much, MUCH less now, but I expect to do so when/if I decide to re-enter the fulltime work-force. I mean, at this point, I’ve been out for close to five years, and may well be out for five more. Yes, I am developing new, marketable skills as a freelancer that I hope will be compensated accordingly, but that will still be close to a decade outside an office. (The main reason I say “if” is because, despite the huge drop in income, the fact that I don’t have to beg permission to stay home on a day like today, when two of my kids have fevers, is worth a LOT in mental sanity. Not that watching “Beauty and the Beast” followed by “Alladin” followed by “The Incredibles” in between fetching water and slicing fruit and offering Motrin is a job for the feint of heart.

    Comment by Alina Adams — May 31, 2011 @ 7:19 pm

  11. AH London,
    I second your book recommendation. I thought “Three Martini Playdate” was upbeat and inspiring. It’s basically what No One keeps saying: If parenting is impossibly hard, maybe you are doing it wrong.
    Karen, Emma,
    there is also such thing as single motherhood. It doesn’t matter if the woman works, absence of father is bad for kids.
    Alina, I always thought that being able to pee standing is an advantage. Why should I deny it to my son?
    Hope your kids recover quickly.

    Comment by edge of the sandbox — May 31, 2011 @ 8:21 pm

  12. Wow not a lot to add. Although I am not a woman, I have found Camille Paglia’s insights into feminism very… insightful. A number of “feminists” seem to dislike her because she is not as Left Wing as they are which makes me think a lot of feminism is really about Left Wing politics, not what “works.”

    Comment by Harrison — June 1, 2011 @ 3:27 am

    • Much of what passes for feminism today is basically a hatred of religious people. Why is abortion the rallying cry if women are no more likely then men to support it, and don’t support it that much to begin with?

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — June 1, 2011 @ 5:51 am

  13. […] response to an American Housewife in London and No One’s comments about expert advise in the thread below, but then figured I have a post worth of […]

    Pingback by The Relative Uselessness of Parenting Experts « sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue — June 2, 2011 @ 3:57 am

  14. […] in 1987.  As I mentioned earlier, mothers in my liberal neck of the woods either stay home or wish they could.  A few days ago, an occupy troll stopped by to make a comment that “[Occupy kids] are our […]

    Pingback by Why Have Kids If Not to Spend Time With Them? « sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue — November 28, 2011 @ 2:04 pm

  15. […] never taken a class, nor read a book on the topic.  Blog buds like American Housewife and Missy Sandbox clearly know more.  (Perhaps you kind ladies can gin up a “feminism for dummies” post […]

    Pingback by Feminism and Politics « NoOneOfAnyImport — April 19, 2012 @ 9:26 pm

  16. […] never taken a class, nor read a book on the topic.  Blog buds like American Housewife and Missy Sandbox clearly know more.  (Perhaps you kind ladies can gin up a “feminism for dummies” post […]

    Pingback by Feminism and Politics « Disrupt the Narrative — April 19, 2012 @ 10:30 pm

  17. Fun read! The only comment I have is that I live in Canada where we get paid maternity leave for a year and it really makes sense to allow the mother/father that time with their new babe regardless of financial status. Six weeks is not enough time. Studies show that the year of mat leave pay actually costs a country less money in the long run due to the health benefits of extended breast feeding etc. It’s awesome that you (edge of the sandbox) have been able to make it work out even without a longer mat leave pay package but not everybody is able to do that.

    Comment by farah — July 26, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

    • Thank you for the compliment.
      I’m glad you liked your maternity leave. I had 4 months paid with the money the state took out of my earnings. They probably think I wouldn’t know how to save. Heh!
      A year with a baby is nice, but in all seriousness, by the time he turns 3, he’ll probably be ready for part time pre-school. Until then he’ll need one-on-one care. I’m not sure you are ready to argue that employees should be required to give 3-year leaves and then take the mother back part time.
      What works the best for mothers and families is good economy so that jobs are plentiful and a new mother feels free to take years off work to raise kids, fathers are able to support families and moms can find part time jobs when they need or want. Regulations, such as maternity leaves or litigation by pregnant applicants strain economy.
      What you seem to be doing really well in Canada these days is capitalism. Canada now surpassed the US in household wealth. I have a feeling that it will all change back once Romney is elected, but still — Congratulations!

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — July 26, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

  18. […] extended maternity leaves and freebies to those on welfare.  In my progressive knee-jerk feminist suburb breastfeeding, including extended breastfeeding is more or less the norm, at least among the white […]

    Pingback by Ask Your Councilman Where He Stands on Grantly Dick-Read « sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue — August 2, 2012 @ 1:46 pm


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