Friday, February 07, 2003

The Politics of Motherhood-This Jane Galt piece (linking to Tushnet who links to Balkin [blog stereotype snickers optional]) got my mind going
Eve Tushnet reports on a conference on Roe v. Wade in which she suggest the columnists claimed that abortion has to be kept legal because motherhood prevents women from participating as citizens. I think it's clear that the centrality of abortion to the modern feminist movement is clearly rooted in the fact that the greatest barrier to true equality is the asymmetry of reproductive biology between men and women.
It's not as much pregnancy but parenthood that will effect women's participation in elective politics; men and women vote in roughly equal percentages, IIRC. Motherhood might not prevent women from participating as citizens, but it limits their activity in the political process; moms are less likely to be elected to office or be key aids. To the extent than women look after kids more than men do, women will be underrepresented in positions of power. Pregnancy isn't a big barrier to elective office but the career choices that women make are. To the extent that women choose careers that are less prestigious and less demanding, in order to either stay home with their children of have jobs that allow them to spend more time with them, the less likely they are to advance into the political arena. We're just now seeing a generation of women who came of age in the 70s for whom careers in law, medicine or academe were achievable; for their mom's generation, the woman lawyer or doctor or college professor were exceptions that proved the rule. Note the difference between Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Bush was a stay-at-home mom, but women of her generation went to college to get their Mrs. degree or to work as teachers or nurses. Hillary's generation was the first that could aim for power careers that would give them the prestige to get into politics. While we are seeing more and more women in the political arena, we're unlikely to (without quota laws) get to 50% female legislatures or 50% of the governors being female. That's because not all women are going to be on the power-career track. Some women will choose to stay home with their kids, passing up more politically influential work. Some women will be in the workforce and be politically active, but opt for "mommy track" jobs that are less upwardly mobile but allow them to be better parents Feminists look at that as a downside of our society; motherhood limits women's collective ability to be politically influential. As long as women are allowed to choose not to be on the fast track and to focus on motherhood, we'll see women under-represented in political office. However, that's not a bug, that's a feature, for the benefits of loving moms being there for their kids far outweigh what they could do by being congresswomen and governors.

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