Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sexist or Outdated?

Several months ago, Hubby and I were enjoying a grown ups-only dinner at a wonderful Italian restaurant. It was a weeknight -- a night where we were able to extend our nanny's hours to cover this extravagance which was made possible by a gift card Hubby got from a work vendor -- so this normally-popular restaurant wasn't very crowded and was blessedly serene. As I savored my Chardonnay, I got philosophical, recalling a news story I had seen about a woman who was protesting sexist road signs.

"We live in a man's world," I mused. "Road signs are just one example. School schedules are geared toward assuming that there's a parent at home in the middle of the afternoon. At work, men and women are rewarded based on how much time they put in but who's supposed to take care of the kids? EVERYTHING is geared toward assuming that men are still the workers. Meanwhile, 70% of moms are in the workforce. It's sexist!"

"Is it sexist or outdated?" Hubby thoughtfully asked. Hmm. Great question. I admitted that it could very well be the latter.

Now a new report by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress, The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything, takes a "deep dive" into this very issue. While women's roles have changed dramatically in the last few decades, society-at-large has barely changed to accommodate how dual-income families, or even families with stay-at-home dads, live today. Now that women are quickly encompassing half of our country's workforce, the great unknown is if our nation will finally pay attention to and address the needs of the modern American family like comprehensive childcare, flexible work, health care reform and paid time off.

I applaud Maria Shriver and NBC for bringing all of the issues I've been struggling with ever since I became a working mom to light. These are the issues that have been a drain on my marriage as Hubby and I have tried to negotiate and renegotiate parental and household roles and responsibilities over the years. And these are the very issues that spurred this blog. Society at large does NOT accommodate women's move to the workforce, the "seismic shift in gender roles" (as NBC's Brian Williams puts it) that has resulted and the reality of the modern American family. I just hope it becomes more than just some good television for a week. I pray that this report and the fact that women now make up 50% of the American workforce have an effect on our country's psyche and that it sparks some real change in support of our families.

Unfortunately, it's going to be up to women themselves, arguably the busiest people on earth, to step up and speak up and keep these issues at the forefront, as Maria Shriver suggests in her recent Time magazine editorial aptly titled, The Unfinished Revolution. An unfinished revolution indeed. Organizations like Momsrising.org have been at the forefront of continuing the revolution, building grassroots support and movement on these issues. And while I'm glad that Maria Shriver is using her public platform to shine a light on the issues at hand, I couldn't help but wonder where Momsrising was in this conversation and why they have not even commented on this series.

I started this blog pissed at Gloria Steinem because it was she and her cohorts that created more choices for women. To me, it seemed like an ill-conceived plan given that they didn't address how women's entrance into the workplace might affect the family dynamics. But as Ms. Steinem has said herself, women will never be equal until men share equally in the family responsibilities. And, I'd add, until government and business make some serious adjustments. It's clear that even after all of the progress we've made as women, there's still alot of work yet to be done.


No comments: