Friday, July 15, 2005

What price motherhood?

Saw a depressing little bit of social science today. Mother Jones gave a little blog report today on a sociology experiment conducted at Cornell demonstrating that women whose resumes gave subtle signals of motherhood in their background (maybe listed volunteer for the PTA or something) were rated

  • less competent
  • less suitable for hire, promotion or management training
  • deserved lower salaries
At the same time, mothers were held to higher standards of performance and punctuality. Men, on the other hand, were not only NOT penalized but benefited from being parents.

The underlying assumptions here completely elude me. Women who parent become less competent at their jobs because they are parents but men become more competent? Women who parent deserve lesser salaries because they are parents but men deserve higher salaries?

And we think feminism is no longer needed? Discrimination is even more dangerous than it was 30 years ago. Because it is so hidden, so subtle. Society rarely makes
comments of a discriminatory or demeaning nature in public. Nope. We save our cracks for those special private moments. White folks chatting with neighbors on the street who lower their voices when they talk about something race related. Men in the board room, discussing soto voce the disadvantages of hiring women who have snotty nosed kids whose needs always seem to interfere with business.

Seems to me folks who juggle parenting and paid employment have an opportunity to become more competent, not less. Employed parents who do well at both of their jobs learn to focus on the task at hand, be that a snotty nosed child or a brief due yesterday. They polish time-management skills, achieving more in less time. Because they
have less time.

A single childless male (or female) has all the time in the world to pull a weekend to finish up that proposal. Does he actually NEED all day Saturday? Could he perhaps have accomplished his work in less time had he needed to? Did he lollygag all week? Was he less organized because he had no reason to be more organized?

Last time I check, the world needed mothers. And fathers. Why do we persist in punishing them? Why do we, as a society, accept either subtle or blatant discrimination against employed mothers?

Why, might you ask, do I give a rat's ass? Seeing as how I am
just a housewife, and so not terribly affected by this discrimination. Hmm. Guess because it is, at its essence, unfair. Novel idea, fairness. Perhaps it's just my intrinsically unselfish nature, always caring about how things affect others, even if they are not issues pour moi.

Or, perhaps, far more likely, I am a woman and I do not appreciate other women being treated like fourth class citizens, whether or not I share their life situations. Maybe I am deeply offended by the notion of devaluing women simply because of their procreational situations. Maybe I find it incredibly disturbing that women are still being treated as a class rather than as individuals. Maybe I find it demeaning and demoralizing to think of my sisters who are employed mothers doing a double shift each day, yet being paid far less than their partners or spouses--who still generally only work one shift.

Maybe you should give a rat's ass about this, too. Maybe, someday, this will be you we are talking about. Or your wife. Or your daughter.

Until tomorrow,


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