After a long week, I finally sat down on my couch with a glass of wine. I had intended to relax. Off in the corner of my laptop screen was a tease for a Bloomberg Opinion article. Relaxation left my body. Agitation took its place.
Curiosity got the best of me and I clicked on it to find out what in the name of Margaret Atwood was happening in the world. The tease looked like this:
I know enough about writing and journalism to know this word choice was deliberate. It’s also horribly misleading and I’m not going to stand for that. I know better. I am, after all, a woman.
Women are not being forced to give up their careers. The word “forced” connotates that we have no say in this. That’s not what is happening. Women are making the choice to go back into the home. There is a very big difference here and I think it needs to be clarified.
The article cites three main reasons why women have borne the brunt of domestic labor during the pandemic, leaving their jobs behind:
- Inflexible workplaces
- Oblivious husbands
- Poor public policy
While I understand how these factors contribute to a woman’s reluctant decision to take care of the house and kids, acting as though we are powerless to control these factors is doing nothing more than painting us as victims. I can’t endure that.
I don’t want to be a victim. I want to be a fighter. If these factors exist, and we recognize these exist, and we make the decision to head to the home despite their existence, we’re not fixing the problem, we’re perpetuating it.
That’s not fighting for equality. That’s rolling over and letting the patriarchy scratch our bellies. I’ll be damned if I’m going to be the dog in this scenario, Harry.
We have better options. We have action we can take. We just need to be courageous and do it.
Last I heard it was no longer cool to have two separate time-off policies based on gender, thanks in huge part to Derek Rotondo who sued JP Morgan Chase for the equal right to paid paternity leave and won.
So, if gender discrimination is not legal, why would it matter who takes leave or requests a flexible schedule in order to oversee the kids? Why would it matter who is denied? Why does the mom have to be the one to vacate the job?
Let’s admit what the reality of the situation is and call it by its name. Men earn more than women. But we can’t say that because to say it means we’re acknowledging the pay gap.
Men hold more higher-ranking, higher-paying jobs than women. This is due in part to them walking into the workplace like they own it while we quietly accept what we’re given.
One thing I see over and over is that we do not stand up for ourselves and make demands of employers, current or potential, because we’re too concerned that we are going to come across as pushy. You know what? I don’t care.
Women need to come to the table when we are negotiating for salaries and benefits ready to stand our ground and forget about being nice. We can be nice when we’re shown where our office is, preferably the big one in the corner. Before that? Ask for the moon. Why? Because we know damn well our male counterparts are doing it.
I have a friend who was, admittedly, an oblivious husband. He had no idea how much more work his wife did with the kids. Homework, projects, pick-up, and drop-off at school and practice. She also did the lion’s share of the work around the house.
He told me he never got it. He hated it when she nagged him. He felt she was always on his case and their marriage suffered because of it.
Two years later, he was doing an equal share of all the work. Why? Because that’s what the divorce decree dictated. 50/50. Everything she nagged him to do he eventually had to do anyway because she wasn’t around to do it anymore.
After two divorces, my “never again” list is pretty long. It’s the list of bullshit that I put up with in one way or another that is now a hard line for me. This mainly focuses on one thing: everyone does their equal share.
This list started somewhere in the back of my brain when I had a very sudden realization a few years ago.
After I had my daughter, my side of the bed was not dictated by my preferrence but by which side of the bed was closest to the door so that it was easier for me to take care of my daughter in the middle of the night if it was needed. I was the mom. That’s what the mom does.
It’s not that I felt the need to relinquish my maternal duties in raising my kid and stop being a mom. It’s that I wanted my duties to carry no more or less weight than my partner’s. I wanted equal.
If there is one promise I have made myself is that in any relationship I will use my voice. Notice I did not say I would pound my fist. Fist pounding is not a solid conversation starter. Partners need to talk about these things.
Communication leads to boundaries and expectations. When women leave their careers because they can’t get their husbands to understand and embrace boundaries and expectations, they are doing themselves a disservice and throwing their hands up in defeat. I don’t believe in enabling men’s cluelessness by pretending I am powerless to it.
Poor public policy
We lost Ruth Bader Ginsburg, our biggest champion for gender equality. Filling her seat with a similar champion is critical to ensuring women’s fight for gender equality remains an important focal point of public policy.
Blaming women’s return to the home on poor public policy makes little sense. According to research done by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, only 63.3% of women age 25–44, prime mothering age, voted in the 2016 election. The winner of that election has nominated three Supreme Court justices.
When 36.7% of us aren’t showing up to the polls to cast votes up and down the ballot to put people into office that will create public policy that helps bring equality, we’re choosing to keep patriarchy in place.
If we are reluctantly making choices that require us to do things we really don’t want to do, I think it’s time to examine what other, better choices we can make in our lives.
Now is not the time to shake our fists at the sky and curse it that we’ve been foiled again and we would have had everything if it hadn’t been for those meddling men.
When we roll over and agree to sigh, throw up our hands, and go along with this, we are handing the patriarchy a ladder with which to step right over our heads. The last thing we need to give the patriarchy is a leg up.