In the latest "Mommy War" skirmish, two tech titans have awakened that other giant: the Ladyblogs. But like so many previous battles, Sandberg-Mayer vs. the girl gang is just a distraction from the real struggle over workplace equality desperate for reinforcements. (For more on the backlash, and the backlash against the backlash against Yahoo CEO's and Facebook's COO, read Roiphe, Walsh, or Goldberg.)
Much written on this topic is so personal, focusing on Mayer's dresses, Sandberg's shoes, or an author's own work and family choices. This sends the message that only through one's own experience can you develop a legitimate opinion about women's equality. (And your experience better be relatable!) I too have such credentials, but they are ultimately irrelevant.
Because the debate about how we accommodate mothers in the workplace should be much larger than any one CEO, or any one woman's story. When we have no national child care policy, and no consistent national standard about how new mothers are treated at work, we all suffer. We don't just suffer because it's harder. We suffer because we fight amongst ourselves over how hard it is. Working moms judge stay-at-home moms. Stay-at-home moms judge working moms. Mere mortal working moms judge Sandberg and Mayer. Women reporters judge women bloggers. Women bloggers chafe when they are critiqued.
All this infighting wastes valuable energy we should be spending fighting for policies, on which, amazingly, we largely agree. Last week the WK Kellogg Foundation released a national survey on breastfeeding, and they found similarly huge numbers of both stay-at-home moms and working moms say a variety of measures would be helpful to breastfeeding moms, including "free, discounted, or tax deductible breast pumps (78 percent stay at home moms, 82 percent working moms), workplaces supporting breastfeeding with "time and space to pump" (85 percent stay at home moms, 88 percent working moms), or even the vaguer "government policies that support breastfeeding" (64 percent stay at home moms, 68 percent working moms).
But helping moms is not just about breastfeeding, of course. After one State of the Union mention national polling shows preschool to be a higher priority than immigration reform or raising the minimum wage, and actually the second priority among women, tying background checks and following closing tax loopholes. Further, as I've written elsewhere, the pressure of balancing work, family, and personal responsibilities transcends party, and is not at all limited to rarefied world of high-powered executives. (Thanks to both the folks at Public Opinion Strategies and the Kellogg team for providing us with crosstabs for their surveys.)
Yahoo, albeit belatedly, explains their new policy is striving for "all hands on deck." Coincidentally, that's exactly what the women's movement needs, too. That means less time fighting each other, and more time fighting for all of us.