Thursday, December 21, 2006

Individual responsibility and moms in the workplace

Amen to this:

"You know its very curious to me that the same American people who have stood by silently and watched the rule of law become subsumed to fear and bullying, (the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, NSA spying etc) are in effect saying they trust their leaders to prosecute criminals without trial, without a lawyer, and without a hope of justice.

Yet these same Americans are now saying they do not trust their neighbor's integrity in raising their own children. They are so anxious that mothers with children might be getting away with something, anything, but their leaders are given carte blanche to lock up whoever they want on any pretext they want?This is illogical and idiotic."

This is a comment in response to Joan Blades' post on The Huffington Post blogspace in which she defended an earlier post on why the fight for mothers' rights is needed in this country.

So many people derided that post as a call for "special rights" for "breeders." The comment I posted above (not written by me) nicely challenges that. Those who argue so passionately against things like equal pay for men and women, paid family and sick leave, and health care for all children are arguing about pennies, in essence, compared to the dollars taken out of our paychecks to support the war in Iraq, which costs millions every single day and drives this country ever deeper into debt.

This quote from Sen. Obama was just used in the last MomsRising e-outreach: "Despite all the rhetoric about being family-friendly, we have structured a society that is decidedly unfriendly... What's missing now is a movement. What's missing now is an organization. That's why MomsRising is so important."

This efficiently and effectively articulates why we need an organized movement for families. I'm not talking about some extreme right-wing organization that exists to protect the interests of white conservative Christians (who don't seem to embody much Christian love). This country purports to be family friendly, but when it comes to actually putting policies in place that would in fact help families be stronger, the powers that be are silent.

We're asking them to step up, to put their money where their mouths are, or to quit calling themselves "family friendly."

When people say things like "can't feed 'em, don't breed 'em," they're coming from a place of extraordinary privilege where they can't even begin to imagine why poor and middle class people should or would want to have children. All this posturing about individual responsibility is par for the course in American culture, but it shouldn't put us on the defensive (eg "sometimes people make bad choices but we should still help them").

We shouldn't let them define the argument that way 1. because that's not the strongest position we could take, and 2. more importantly, those who make those comments can't really claim superior "individual responsibility" by not having kids.

MY TAKE HOME MESSAGE: Working to take care of the kids you have *is* being responsible, a responsible parent. Working to change the system that only pays lip service to family values is being a responsible citizen. And figuring out how to shift corporate culture to support the realities of being part of a family is being a responsible worker.

Furthermore, those making that argument generally don't appreciate that the workplace culture is designed to increase profits, period. As the BusinessWeek Best Buy article shows, the whole notion of face-time is out of step with the techno-uber-connected way of doing business in the 21st century. Workplace culture is not tailored to fit the realities of employees' lives. This is bad for business (eg Best Buy and that small business featured in the film show) and bad for employees. The subtlety in the argument is that we're not trying to get the same pay for less work or get "special rights." We're trying to get the American corporate work culture to realize that as part of (even, perhaps, as a pillar of) a society that claims to "care about the children" and to be "family friendly," they are at the center of the current problem and the key to the solution.

MomsRising is on the cusp of what I believe to be a total shift in the work paradigm, which in this country is equal to a total shift in the culture. People who cavalierly say "can't feed 'em" are missing the boat. Again, this is not about people wanting to "slack off" at work. This is in fact all about finding innovative ways to be productive (so American!) and to raise a family (so apple pie!). We believe it's possible, and we've identified ways to make it work (the MOTHER points). Those on board (like Obama, like anyone who has or is a parent) will find themselves in good company. MomsRising is how we can speak up together and effectively produce change.

Here's my Third Wave-y feminist take on the issue: success in the workplace has, for so long, been defined by white men. But when women make up such a significant portion of the work force, and when so many of those women have kids, it's way, way past time for the tired old "can't feed 'em" nonsense. Success must be redefined by everything a multitasking woman does in her life. Corporations that embrace this are much more likely to have a stable workforce with high morale.