The image of Silda Wall Spitzer--corporate lawyer, mother of three, and wife of now former New York Governor--standing silently next to her husband as he publicly confessed is now etched in our national consciousness. That image, the picture of the pale, silently suffering wife (but definitely smart, she has a law degree after all, the papers remind us) standing by her man has brought forward a flurry of, "... but wait, why is she standing there? Aren't we Post-Feminist?" articles, blog posts, and coffee house conversations across our nation.
Another image -- of Ashley Alexandra Dupré, aspiring young singer, sometime escort, and the person with the "power to bring down the Governor" -- has been equally hard to miss of late. And this image has also brought forward a flurry of assumptions that we're in time of Post-Feminism, and even some conversations questioning if we're in such a time of Post-Feminism that we've gone full circle and it might now be okay to decide to use your body for hire.
Other than the obvious (Elliot), the one thing these two images have in common is that they both elicit a collective sigh of confusion about how these scenarios could even possibly be playing out in our contemporary time of supposed Post-Feminism.
Post-Feminism? As in a time when feminism is no longer needed? To find out what sort of "post" we're talking about here, I referred to the dictionary definition of feminism. Low and behold, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary says, "Feminism is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes." I can dig a post by that definition any day.
But to those who think we're in a time of Post-Feminism, I say this: Dream on. Of course we're not Post-Feminist. The posts may have moved, much thanks to the women upon whose shoulders we stand right now, but we're far from Post-Feminist yet. Take a look around for a moment. Who's still running our nation, and who's taking up all the seats in the board rooms? Not women. Now take another look around: Who's living in poverty, and who can't make it over the Maternal Wall to even scratch the Glass Ceiling? See any patterns here?
(I'll help you out with the pattern check: Last I checked the U.S. was ranked a world low of 71st in women's representation in national legislatures--below Pakistan, Italy, Bolivia, Rwanda, Argentina, France, China, Canada, and 63 other countries. And, women held only 6.7% of top-paying positions in Fortune 500 countries. As for the Maternal Wall, it's more bad news: Women without children make 90 cents to a man's dollar, while mothers make only 73 cents, and single women make the least at about 60 cents to a man's dollar. Given that a full 82% of American women have children by the time they are 44 years old, you can see just how much of our population is impacted).
Our nation is still so clearly in the ostrich in the sand mode on the issue of women's economic equality. We're dreamers who dreamed a better nation into existence; who now dream of having life be a bit easier for each new generation; and who, yes, dream of equality. But we're just not there yet. We have posts to set yet.
There are many kinds of dreamers, but there is one group with the power to carry forward the dreams of equality into tomorrow: young women and new mothers. You see, for this group, there's been just enough equality so far, just enough advancement (58% of college graduates are now women), that when the biggest modern economic hurdle to women's equality comes up, motherhood, it's often more of a shocking, overwhelming experience, than a moment to rise up and demand that the very hurdles which stop us be lowered.
Standing there as new mothers looking up at an unexpected Maternal Wall can be so disempowering that we lose our collective voice together, and we end up thinking of the shared hurdles we face -- like making less money for the same work and not being able to afford healthcare or childcare -- as individual failures on our own part. We get so bogged down that we forget to look up and see that our sisters are facing the same exact problems, and that this means we're facing something quite different than individual failures, this means we're facing a societal structural issue that needs to be changed together.
Change we can do. Mothers are powerful. There are 80.4 million of us in America. And no matter where we're from, we share many of the same hurdles. Here's one hurdle: A new study found that mothers are 79% less likely to be hired than non-mothers with the same resume and job experience. This is a call for revolution. This is a call to action.
And we know what actions to take. Studies show that countries with family-friendly policies and programs in place--like paid family leave and subsidized childcare--don't have the same degree of maternal wage gaps as we do here. And, no, those countries didn't sink down into the sea with the economic burden of supporting families. In fact, many are better off for their support of families since they save funds later with lower grade repetitions, fewer interactions with the criminal justice system, lower infant mortality rates, and a lower overall need for other government entitlement programs. We can do it too.
No, we're not in a time of Post-Feminism yet, but let's take up that post which marks the next frontier of feminism and move it out farther toward equality together. Let's pick up that post and use it as a battering ram to knock down the Maternal Wall and at least build a path to the Glass Ceiling. Let's use that post to give our children a healthier start (a child is now born every 41 seconds without healthcare), get more women and families out of poverty (a full quarter of families with children under six live in poverty), and level the playing field (maternal profiling in wages and hiring is rampant). Momsrising.org is working to get to a day of Post-Feminism, where equality between women, men, and especially mothers is a given. Working together we can make the dream of Post-Feminism a reality. Building a more equal nation has never been more within our grasp.
A Peaceful Revolution is a weekly blog about work/life satisfaction done in collaboration with MomsRising.org. Read a post by a leading thinker in the field every week.
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