Can you be a feminist but be anti maternity leave etc

(147 Posts)
BaresarkBunny Wed 28-Nov-12 10:43:54

Although I have children I often take a peek at the #childfree on Twitter.

One of the popular discussions at the moment is that maternity leave should be abolished as it is unfair to those without children and mothers should use holiday time.

One of the most prominent posters who believes this says on her bio that she is a feminist but is also anti breastfeeding in public and how mothers are a drain when working, as well as other anti-mother sentiments.

Can somebody with views like this count herself as a feminist?

Nagoo Wed 28-Nov-12 10:54:00


You can't pretend our biological function doesn't exist. If you aren't supporting women to be mothers then that is a hell of a lot of women you are not supporting.

TheCrackFox Wed 28-Nov-12 10:54:52

Dunno but she sounds like a cock.

RoxyRobin Wed 28-Nov-12 10:56:10

Rosie Boycott, who describes herself as a life-long feminist, has been putting the case against maternity rights for several years now.

She said in the Guardian: 'While parental rights are a wonderful thing in theory, beloved by governments eager to court the "family-friendly" vote, they are an immense burden on the small businesses who are expected to pick up the tab.'

Her change of heart might have something to do with the fact that she took up running a small business herself!

MissCellania Wed 28-Nov-12 10:59:53

No, you can't. How can you be a feminist while telling women they have to choose between children and work, because that is essentially what no maternity leave means?

At a fundamental level, feminism is defined as the desire for equal rights to men. Do men have to choose between work and a family? There is your answer then.

BaresarkBunny Wed 28-Nov-12 11:11:40

When she has been challenged about her view in the past she has stated that to be a feminist does not mean you bow down to the conceived myth that mothers are goddesses and 'breeding' is a choice for women.

It is worrying that someone who counts themselves as a feminist wants to marginalize a large segment of women.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 28-Nov-12 11:19:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

poorbuthappy Wed 28-Nov-12 11:23:45

I do get annoyed by this.
Companies do not pay maternity/paternity leave. It is all claimed back from government. If a small company chooses to pay more then that has bugger all to do with anyone apart from that small company.

And if a small company will stop working economically because 1 person takes off a period of time with usually approx 6 months notice, then that company could probably be run better.

OneMoreChap Wed 28-Nov-12 12:33:26

Exactly! How can it be tolerable that someone declares themselves a feminist unless they tick certain boxes accepted withing the orthodoxy.

[As an aside, maternity leave (which I support) is now - hopefully -- going to be used as a leaver to encourage men to take some more responsibility for their families - as in parental leave(which I support, too)]

notcitrus Wed 28-Nov-12 13:35:37

While the woman sounds like a total twit, I hate the way people shut down debate by telling women they can't be feminists, and I think it is much more useful to have an inclusive definition of feminism, alone the lines of 'feminism is the astonishing notion that women are people' or 'all I know is people call me a feminist whenever I distinguish myself from a doormat' - as soon as you start restricting further than that, conversations get derailed by arguments as to whether someone is a feminist, rather than whether their ideas have any merit.

I prefer asking further questions like "how do you reconcile that with both men and women having equal rights to work and raise families', or why should mothers be any more of a 'drain' than fathers. Many young or inexperienced or thoughtless people will change their minds and become more constructive feminists, whereas telling them they cant be feminists is more likely to alienate them from feminism forever.

KRITIQ Wed 28-Nov-12 13:36:33

I personally don't think you can, for most of the same reasons cited above.

I've been in a situation where 6 of a team of 25 have been on maternity leave at the same time. Financially, it was no biggie because as poorbut says, it can be claimed back from the Government although some employers tend to leave this fact out when bleating about the cost of maternity leave. Yes, it meant shifting things around, but in any business, there are things that happen that mean you have to do that - people resigning, people falling ill, having to find new premises, stuff like this. It's something you build into your planning and if you don't, well, that's kind of hard cheese.

If we were in a situation where there was no discrimination against women related to pregnancy, being parents or their roles as carers (of children or others,) and there was adequate provision for maternity leave and care leave (for parents or carers of either sex,) then there wouldn't be a need perhaps for support for something "additional" for pregnant women or mothers. But, we are a way, way long way off from that.

So, I think I'll stick to the original answer of, "no."

msrisotto Wed 28-Nov-12 14:05:18

She sounds like a right dick head.

chubbleigh Wed 28-Nov-12 14:25:50

Not feminist, not close, more in the vein of Maggie Thatcher where you basically deny your biology, that is what this sounds like to me.

My place of work is an absolute baby factory due gender/age demography. It is just accepted and plans are made and changed accordingly. The type of thinking poster refers to I find so fundamentally negative, nothing good can flow from it, before you even get into feminist arguments.

Further, by the rationale of it being a burden on small business and generally inconvenience all round, you had better not get sick either.

mountaineeress Wed 28-Nov-12 14:28:51

I guess if you belong to the #childfree movement and you genuinely think that we should all stop reproducing then you could be a feminist who believes we're all equal as nobody is having babies and you could believe maternity leave should be stopped... but that doesn't say what happens to a woman who becomes pregnant by mistake, or a man who fathers a child by mistake... are they both thrown out of their jobs? (doubt it somehow).

summerflower Wed 28-Nov-12 14:48:59

As a feminist, I think the argument against maternity leave would be that it creates an expectation that women would be absent from the workplace in a way which men would not be, therefore, it creates discrimination against women. However, I think there is a more general antipathy in this person’s comments which are anti-mother. Thus, the feminist argument may be to see women as people and not primarily as mothers, given that it is women’s biological function as mothers which is at the root of most discrimination, but also that it kind of assumes women will be mothers (itself oppressive if you don't want children)

I have heard feminists make that argument before and to me, it seems an odd argument. I don’t see the purpose of feminism as to erase all difference between men and women; plus, there is ample evidence to suggest that even childless women are discriminated against.

That apart, there are health and welfare reasons, for both mother and child, why at least a minimum period of paid maternity leave is necessary. We surely don’t want to go back to the days when women worked up to their confinement and then went straight back out to work as soon as they could stand. That’s not equality, that’s just brutal.

I also question whether equality is really adopting a traditionally male way of working (i.e. which does not need to take account of things like childbirth as men don’t do that), or whether it is more to the point to adopt a more flexible pattern for both sexes (i.e. that both adapt working patterns to new arrivals in the family and that it is acceptable for both sexes to do this).

OneMoreChap Wed 28-Nov-12 14:54:18


whether it is more to the point to adopt a more flexible pattern for both sexes (i.e. that both adapt working patterns to new arrivals in the family and that it is acceptable for both sexes to do this).

Would that this happens soon!

BaresarkBunny Wed 28-Nov-12 14:58:42

Personally I find her a complete twat and bully. As she so nicely puts it breeding is optional and other people shouldn't pay or parents should not benefit for what is essentially a contraception failure (her words).

I find her attitude at odds with feminism but she is adamant that these beliefs are what makes a true feminist.

HalloweenNameChange Wed 28-Nov-12 16:46:02

I can see an argument against maternity leave although I would disagree with it.
awaits xenia

there is no feminist argument against women breast feeding in public though. You can't. If you are going to say breasts need to be hidden from view you are taking the view that they are there for sexual use. Unless she also think men should put their nipples away?

HalloweenNameChange Wed 28-Nov-12 16:47:54

I have seen some really hateful child free sites though.. They all seem very anti women and the language they use is misogynistic and disgusting. So you don't want kids.. don't have them. Don't devote your life to abusing those that do or calling babies "cunt larvae" sad

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 28-Nov-12 22:02:43

Well it isnt very practical, given many workplaces give 4-5 weeks holiday and don't let you carry forward more than a week,

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 28-Nov-12 22:05:31

...Plus a significant proportion of pregnancies are unplanned - what if you'd already used your holiday allowance for the year?

Also, all the above arguments, from a political perspective.

FastidiaBlueberry Wed 28-Nov-12 22:54:41

Most childfree sites are full of obsessively child-hating women who have internalised misogyny and they call it feminism.

They 're just fuckwits tbh.

Yes breeding is optional.

It's a shame her parents opted to do it.

Sorry, I know that is an awful thing to say, but women like her really piss me off.

I have know several women who are child free by choice, but none of them are like that, they realise that women who have children need time off to do so. They know that it's important to keep the population going.

HazleNutt Thu 29-Nov-12 15:30:05

I do feel that maternity law is not a great idea from the feiminst perspective. But I don't think it should be abolished - it should simply be parental leave that can be used by either parent. As currently employers view hiring women as more risky, as they can at some point take the leave - would be hemful for women on the job market if employers had similar chances with male employees taking the time off.

As for the original question, no I don't think a person so negative about all mothers can at the same time claim to support womens rights.

BaresarkBunny Thu 29-Nov-12 18:01:54

I know I shouldn't but I can't help myself from reading the #. The hatred that is spewed is frightening luckily I don't know anyone like that in rl. (I hope!)

JuliaScurr Thu 29-Nov-12 18:10:08

we live in a world that makes child rearing a burden. since even childfree 'feminists' will benefit from other women having the kids who will grow up and work in seniors' facilities when cff's are aged and frail, she is clearly an arse to believe childrearing is the private business of the biological mother.

scottishmummy France Thu 29-Nov-12 18:16:32

motherhood isnt biological destiny,its a choice.some do it.some dont
maternity leave is not a jolly or elongated holiday.and no i dont think it detrimental to anyone else
but having child doesnt elevate women to godess and ardest job in world ststus
the sentimentality of mutha as ardest job in world is toxic and it smacks of wimmin know your place - sticke to what youre good at eg nurturing,dont bother with hard jobs now you have ardest job in world etc

scottishmummy France Thu 29-Nov-12 18:25:35

if woman op refers to wants to call herself feminist thats her call imo.
plenty dispute camille paglia credentials calling her anti-feminist as she doesn't toe the line
its entirely possible to be feminist and challenge received orthodoxies

Trekkie Thu 29-Nov-12 23:28:35

I think that your friends ideas lack pragmatism.

To use holiday time to have children - say 4 weeks a year - would mean that women would get (if they saved all their holiday up) 2 or 3 weeks after giving birth to recover. Depending on timings and health complications it could be 1 week, 0 weeks or (actually probably quite frequently) a negative amount of time off!

If it were my friend I would forget the feminist argument and come from a basic human argument. If a woman works until she goes into labour, is in labour for a couple of days, and ends up with a CS, then she is going to need, medically, 6 weeks and 2 days off (assuming she heals OK etc). So this woman will forfeit her job. As will women who stop work on their due date and go overdue and have a CS, or women who have infections or complications post birth, or who have to stop work prior to their due date due to medical problems.

In a time of recession this course will result in women who are not fit for work, returning to work.

I would ask her if she feels that people with other medical conditions should have their time off work restricted.
If it's to do with "lifestyle choices" then does she think that anyone who has time off work due to "lifestyle choices" eg playing sports, riding motorcycles also needs to take recovery time off after injury out of their holiday time and be sacked if their condition (eg neck injury from rugby) be sacked if leave does not cover it?

And so on.

I think her attitude is illogical and impractical, and on a personal level I believe it is not in line with feminism as I understand it.

However I suspect your conversations will not get you anywhere except wound up so I recommend simply avoiding her wink

Winetta Fri 30-Nov-12 00:48:06

I'm a childfree feminist who is pro-public breastfreeding and indeed anything that makes mothers' (and fathers') lives easier - particularly in the working arena. For me, it's all about supporting, not judging, people's rights and choices.

Xenia Fri 30-Nov-12 19:01:44

Of course you can. The fact I had no maternity rights meant that I had a fair femniist marriage where we both from day 1 did as much with the babies and is the direct result of my having done so well with career and achieving equality at home over the years.

Ghettoising women at home with extended maternity rights is a bit like attaching them by a chain to a kitchen sink (although I certainly accept that the 6 weeks at 90% pay and then tiny amount per week you get does reflect recovery time of the physical birth element).

Also the making mother hood into some kind of job it isn't and men who say - my wife is wonderful, I could not do what she does is a way to keep women down. We all know cleaning and childcare is as dull as ditchwater and any woman with half a brain wants work and children just like men do, not a life of domestic servitude and no money and power. However that myth is peddled of sacred wonderful housewifery by sexist men and women who probably could not do much more than scrub a floor so have to suggest that their cleaning and childcare role is some kind of job for which they get a special halo. Instead that attitude is a conspiracy to ensure women never get anywhere. If it's such fun to clear up baby sick let men do it.

LRDtheFeministDude Fri 30-Nov-12 19:53:04

No, you can't. You can be deluded or ignorant, but not a feminist. IMHO.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 30-Nov-12 20:11:01

Xenia, I'm curious, do you have a file that you copy and paste from?

scottishmummy France Fri 30-Nov-12 20:31:13

what inane thing to say?
do you cut and paste from a file
is that an idea you want to share or advocate

LRDtheFeministDude Fri 30-Nov-12 20:35:24

I think them as needs it is already onto it, TBH. That or the unvarying drivel comes naturally.

BoulevardOfBrokenSleep Fri 30-Nov-12 20:46:37

I think the only way to reconcile being a feminist with opposing maternity leave, would be to say that it should change to parental leave and be take-able by either new parent. IMHO.

Your twitter lady there is just being an arse. Tis an equal-opportunity vocation though.

HalloweenNameChange Fri 30-Nov-12 20:56:18

I like looking after my children xenia. It does happen. Sitting in an office staring at a bunch of blowhards so full of their own importance they can't make room for dinner would bore the fuck out of me. I pity your kids you find them so boring, and whoever you paid to look after them as they clearly wouldn't have been shown any respect. The "jobs" you are talking about aren't even jobs in some countries.. why should people aspire to do them? In small villages around the world where the men and women look after their children and farm and hunt.. do you think they secretly all long to go be selling shares?

scottishmummy France Fri 30-Nov-12 20:59:30

dont be so harsh on yourself ,we don't concur but I wouldn't say unvarying drivel
your not the only poster on fem topics who writes formulaic posts
the anti feminists,mra apologists they quite dribbley too

FastidiaBlueberry Sat 01-Dec-12 09:06:01

"it is entirely possible to be feminist and challenge received orthodoxies"

Yes it is, but categorising motherhood as a lazy skive, isn't challenging received orthodoxies, it's re-inforcing them.

Also this nonsense of anyone can call themselves a feminist - yes, obviously that's true, but only if you don't believe the term feminist has any meaning.

I can call myself a book if I want. The fact that "book" has a distinct and generally agreed meaning in the English language is irrelevant - I've decided to be a book today.

Much like women who have some sort of emotional investment in promoting women's disadvantage and then calling themselves feminist. It's meaningless and sensible people recognise that words have meanings because if they don't, then we're all sitting here talking incoherent nonsense all the time.


MardyArsedMidlander Sat 01-Dec-12 10:04:54

'In small villages around the world where the men and women look after their children and farm and hunt.. do you think they secretly all long to go be selling shares?'

Since a large proportion of those women will also suffer injuries, disability and death from childbirth- I don't think we should be idealising it too much. Frankly, I would MUCH rather be a blowhard in an office- I would last two minutes in a 'traditional' village.
As a feminist, I would be much much happier if maternity leave was not seen as 'just' a woman's problem- presumably all these women are procreating with men- at some level?And as a disabled feminist, I would be happier to see MORE flexibility in the workplace, not less.

Xenia Sat 01-Dec-12 12:54:46

The 6 weeks of maternity leave on 90% pay is fine. We are about to give women and men more transferable rights and that is great too as chidlcare is a parent issue not a women's issue. the more rights you give to women but not to men the more you chain women to sinks and ensure they do dross dull jobs at home which you need a lobotomy to enjoy and men get to have the balanced lives of work and children.

kim147 Sat 01-Dec-12 13:09:29

Childcare should be seen as an issue for the family to sort out. Not for the woman.

Of course, some women feel it is their role to be the one who does the childcare as they are the only possible ones who know how to bring up their children and don't want to their OH to take responsibility for childcare as well.

Which then leads to the cycle of the man continuing to pursue a career whilst the woman is juggling her career and childcare responsibilities.

Xenia Sat 01-Dec-12 13:31:17

It is strange how some women see children as their issue. What makes them like that? It is not age. 30 years ago my children's father and I saw this as a joint issue. We interviewed a nanny together. He arguably did more than I did with hiring and keeping her.I think I dealt with the nanny tax/admin and he usually got home first to let her go home.

Surely rolling on nearly 30 years men have not become more sexist and women haven't gone back to some kind of sexist role? That would be very very sad to see. Most men I know or have known over all that time are as competent as a wife at finding and hiring childcare and women with sense avoid sexist men and do not tolerate sexism even for a day - they throw up their hands in horrow, say not on you nelly, here is the phone book, find the emergency nanny, I will be back at 7pm. Or more likely work out who has the most important tasks that day and organise things accordingly.

summerflower Sat 01-Dec-12 13:58:32

>>Surely rolling on nearly 30 years men have not become more sexist and women haven't gone back to some kind of sexist role? <<

I think two things in response to this:

1. there has been a backlash. Measures which made it easier for women to combine family and work, such as childcare tax credits, have been rolled back.
2. Equality in child-rearing was never really achieved, except maybe for a minority, and the exception does not prove the rule. Otherwise, we would surely see, after 30 years, a more equal number of women in senior roles, following the logic that the women at the start of their careers, and having families in the 80s, would be at senior level now. Whereas it is between 0 and 20% depending on the field and level of seniority, which suggests thats, in the balance of career and family, men have done better professionally over the last 30 years.

Xenia Sat 01-Dec-12 14:07:04

I had no tax credits or childcare vouchers 28 years ago. In fact that is my point - the absence of those things made women return to work which meant more fairness at home and equality in relationships.

I was a product of the 70s and women really were aware of feminism then. We were reading all the feminist books as teenagers. In the mean time after that came girls brought up on MTV, soaps, woman as visual item rather than woman as business leader and those equality gains which followed inr elationships just after the Equal Pay Act 1970 seem a little to have been lost.

However I amn ot disheartened as (a) things are now better -feminism is going back to how it was - not a dirty work (b) most parents bring up their children in gender neutral ways (c) most women work and have the sense not to enable sexist men.

Women continued to marry up even if they had degrees so when it came do - does this woman on £40k give up work or her husband on £100k even with advancement of women the woman was pin money second earner so her career came second. When women are as likely to marry men who are worse than they are at careers etc then decisions about if either will stay home will be made on gender neutral grounds. It is happening but not that quickly as even though women are doing wellthey still marry someone a bit older who earns more.

You could argue that the reason I earn what I do now after 5 children is because I broke the rule and ended up earning 10x my other half. Had he earned double what I did I might have put less into career and earned less or gone part time. I am of course delighted I didn ot.

summerflower Sat 01-Dec-12 14:21:00

I don't know, my mother had her children in the 1970s and without affordable childcare, found it very difficult to pursue her chosen career. I suspect her experience may have been more common at a population level than yours, I don't know.

MariaMandarin Sat 01-Dec-12 14:42:55

I can see the argument for restricting maternity leave, if only looked at from the point of view of women's advancement in careers and ensuring gender equality in the workplace. If you feel this is the ultimate goal of feminism then it makes sense. But if you have other considerations, such as the needs of the baby, then I am afraid there is no argument. Babies need to be with a primary carer with whom they can form an attachment. Great if you can afford a nanny or maternity nurse, not so great otherwise. This is why Xenia's arguments are always flawed, because she was in the financial position to make things work for her and her children. The majority of people are not, and never will be, no matter how hard we all work.

HalloweenNameChange Sat 01-Dec-12 15:42:11

mardyI am not really sure of your point, my response was to xenia's idea that women hate being around children and that the only real work you can have is a job.. which to me is a totally artificial as Jobs aren't real, our society invented most of them.. why would anyone have a natural urge to do something unnatural? My dh absolute would prefer to be home with our children.. he doesn't want to spend all day in an office.. we need the money and as he hasn't got breasts I won and got to stay home. When they are older I think we will probably switch and he will stay home while I work. Or we will each work part time.

I can't see feminism is helped by women slagging off the work women have done since the beginning of time while simultaneously praising the work men have traditionally done in our society. How is men=better/important a feminist principal? Sounds awfully misogynistic to me. It's this kind of shit that gets jobs done by females paid less as they aren't valued.

monsterchild Sat 01-Dec-12 15:57:57

I think the long maternity leave has been detrimental to many women, based on what I've read here. It does presumably do good for babies, but again, that argument brings us to the why do babies have more rights than women place, doesn't it?

And when I say detrimental, it seems that (again, this is from reading this site, there isn't much maternity leave in the States) many women who do stay home end up staying longer, or due to length of unemployment (mainly due to this downturn) becoming unemployable.

It troubles me because I don't think work equality is the only way to measure success, but I do think it adds to the male-centric view that women can't/won't earn equal money and be able to support their families.

And I also see many women bashing others for NOT taking a long maternity leave, which confuses me too.

However, the person in the link is just mean and nasty, and that's not a feminist issue at all.

HazleNutt Sat 01-Dec-12 16:04:21

Scandinavia has longer parental leave, but not the same level of discrimination of women and mothers. What's different though is that almost all mothers return to work after the leave and mostly full time, not to "term time school hours only jobs", as there is affordable child care. (And of course fathers are fully expected to share the leave and take time off too.)

HalloweenNameChange Sat 01-Dec-12 16:06:46

But you don't become unemployable, because maternity leave is a guaranteed right in the UK Monster. You stay off for up to a year and then your employer takes you back. It's not like you made a choice to end your job then try and find a new position. Maternity leave is a joke in the states (I'm American) I felt so bad for a waitress we had a few months ago, fit to drop and really struggling. BUt she had to work because she was only allowed 6 weeks leave and didn't want to waste it before her baby was born.

Xenia Sat 01-Dec-12 16:08:57

1. It is does not do good for babies to be with their mother 24/7./ That is a myth put about by sexists to keep women down. Children of working mothers and indeed children of families with more money in them do best. Children who go to a childminder, stay with granny or grandpa, go to ao nursery or stay with a nanny or their father do the same as children with a mother 24/7.

2. It is not true that in the past women never worked and men did. Women have always worked. My grandmother worked in the 1920s. Her mother worked etc etc. However those with an agenda to keep women down, to keep women thinking being glorified servants at home is some kind of haloed role like the peddle that myth to ensure men have a read supply of unpaid slave labour at home.

LeBFG Sat 01-Dec-12 16:21:42

OP - of course you can be a feminist and anti-mat leave. THere's a whole brand of american feminists who adhere to this (hence low bf rates, so says the bf bible milk, money and madness).

There are all sorts of feminists: some are anti-strippers, others are pro.

Although I personally don't agree with the idea, the feminist line is to give women an equal employment footing to men - equal pay based on equal experience at the work face etc. Xenia puts this point across well. I just object to the notion of equality - being equal meaning to play the game like a man.

Problem with this is that men and women aren't (on the whole) equal biologically. The sexes aren't the same and have different desires (on average). Many, many men I've met could do without ever having children for example - I've only met one women happy with this life choice. Most women with newborns would feel unhappy to return to work a few weeks after giving birth. Although you could, and people do, use this as an excuse to keep women 'tied to the sink', I think the basis of the idea springs from the natural biology and, in and of itself, isn't 'wrong'.

HalloweenNameChange Sat 01-Dec-12 16:22:46

I am sorry but I really can't take you seriously. I have seen where you previously stated that children of parents who stayed home were not as intelligent.. you made up some ridiculous pseudo science for that as well. Please show me the research that says children of SAHP don't do as well as other children?

I never said women haven't worked in previous generations I said since the beginning of time. Small farmers people in towns and villages did do jobs around their home they grew their own food they did things where their children were involved as well. This still happens around the world.
please explain how women breast fed their many children if they were never around them?

I have no problem with anyone choosing to work or stay at home I wish you would stop peddling the myth that women stay home because they are too stupid to do anything else.

HalloweenNameChange Sat 01-Dec-12 16:24:41

^that was to xenia btw

Xenia Sat 01-Dec-12 16:41:07

You take the baby to the fields to feed. I breastfed all 5 and worked full time from when they were 2 weeks old. Even if you read Tess of the D'Urb. her baby was brought to her in the hay field to feed. I think it died actually ...and indeed most babies died before age 5 but women have always worked.

Also on the point that children of working women do better, household income is the best indicator of child outcomes. If you have two wages coming in the family will have more income and ultimately the children of those homes do much better. My children graduated debt free for example because I chose to work rather than being a housewife.

On LeB, I don't agree with that - that it is a man thing to want money and power and success. I don't think those are male values and I think it's very anti feminist to suggest women are some kind of soft squidgy useless crying thing who wants to care all day. I think that types of prejudice keeps women down. Heaps of us adore to rule, gain power, out earn men ,compete. Competition is not just a male attribute It is as much a woman as a man thing. The stereotype of woman as pathetic little useless thing who wants to sit around sewing or kneeling in adoration at her hsuband's feet is not what women need nor what feminism is about. The power behind the throne is not what many women want. They want the throne itself. Let me have the back stage role and cleaning tasks if they want someone in a pinny in the kitchen. The throne itself is much more fun.

HalloweenNameChange Sat 01-Dec-12 17:02:06

Do you really believe breast feeding is an option for most working mothers? I could not express milk at all, and I am not quite sure who was meant to bring me dd or ds while I was at work? Or should I have only breast fed for 2 weeks and then gone back to work?

Also on the point that children of working women do better, household income is the best indicator of child outcomes. If you have two wages coming in the family will have more income and ultimately the children of those homes do much better. My children graduated debt free for example because I chose to work rather than being a housewife.

Money will improve a child's life.. yes. Two working parents however does not generally indicate more household income. Many parents find the money made by one person working is negated by the cost of child care. MOst people aren't high earners xenia.. This is not due to being horrible stupid's due to the fact that everyone CANT be a high earner. People make their money off the backs of the poor. If a family can provide money for food and shelter and education for their children while having a loving parent at home... I think they have done quite a bit for their child. Graduating debt free is not the end all, I would say having some concept of the value of money is nice lesson to learn to.

Once the stigma of being a sahm parent is lifted more men will choose to stay at home.. this is the problem people like you make others feel uncomfortable with their choices.

MariaMandarin Sat 01-Dec-12 17:13:39

Yes exactly Halloween. There is an army of (mostly) women employed in low paid and low status work as childcarers. If it wasn't for these women then the likes of Xenia wouldn't be able to develop their own careers.

The only answer is for childcare to be provided by the state, at high quality and low cost. This has the effect of enabling all parents to work and also raising the pay and status of childcare workers. It would also raise educational outcomes for children from deprived families.

confuddledDOTcom Sat 01-Dec-12 17:58:35

How about women in jobs that aren't office based? How about women in environments that aren't suitable for babies? How do they manage to EBF? Or are you differentiating between EBF and expressing? There's a whole other set of questions on that one!

LeBFG Sat 01-Dec-12 18:41:04

Xenia - I don't agree at all that I suggested women should stay home and they were weak and useless....I am a woman after all so to suggest that would mean lumping myself into that category grin.

I don't think it uncontroversial to suggest women want different things to men...they sometimes want the same things of course....we wouldn't have had Thatcher et al if that wasn't the case.

Many things have already been done to get more women into the workplace, that's why in part so much has gone into mat leave and so on to encourage the very many women who want to be with their children to work too. These sorts of things would never have been brought in if women hadn't wanted them...and yet it still isn't enough. Plenty of women who can afford it jack in their jobs (for better or worse) when the family starts to grow, even with all these provisions. Despite the efforts gone to, women are still under-represented in top posts. Is it hard to believe that not as many women as men want this sort of work?

Xenia Sat 01-Dec-12 18:52:40

I think it engrains sexism to suggest women have some huge urge to clean and do childcare and earn nothing and that men are a different species who want to have it all and are allowed to have it all because they have muggins at home who apparently adores her hours with the mop.

If women have been conned into thinking they will be happy at home then it behoves feminists to raise the scales from the eyes of those women and show them how wrong they are, not pat them on the back and say all hail madonna stepford wife you have found your true calling.

LeBFG Sat 01-Dec-12 19:10:04

Who's saying women want to earn nothing and are different species to men? What is wrong with being happy at home? Many men would like to stay at home more too! In my posts I've taken care to emphasise that I'm talking in general terms.

HalloweenNameChange Sat 01-Dec-12 19:10:42

I don't think anyone enjoys cleaning but it has to be done confused. So who should do it? Same with child care?

We can't all find nameless faceless nannies to do our bidding. I worked in child care for years and the condescending bull shit from parents who thought me beneath them really pissed me off.

Some people like kids thank god for that, or the world would come to a stand still. Does it occasionally getting boring? Yes, as does everything you do day in and day out. I have never held a job that didn't get monotonous sometimes.. I really don't get your disdain for people who enjoy doing things differently than you. Honestly, my kids are awesome, I love them. They are silly and funny and brilliant fun sometimes and sometimes they are smelly and horrible.. just like any other work.

OhDearNigel Sat 01-Dec-12 19:17:32

well, if breeding is optional and we all decide not to do it she'll have problems collecting her pension in a few years time, won't she ?

I don't think we should dignify her by discussing it really.

LRDtheFeministDude Sat 01-Dec-12 19:36:54

It might ingrain sexism to put words into other women's mouths, xenia.

Your bashing of other women is very tedious - why do you still assume that the only way for women to get ahead is by adopting the patriarchy's ways and stamping on other women to get to the top?

summerflower Sat 01-Dec-12 20:40:00

>>You take the baby to the fields to feed. I breastfed all 5 and worked full time from when they were 2 weeks old. Even if you read Tess of the D'Urb. her baby was brought to her in the hay field to feed. I think it died actually ...and indeed most babies died before age 5 but women have always worked.<<

Apart from the fact that your figures are staggeringly wrong (the highest levels of recorded infant mortality prior to the 20th century were around 20 - 25%), actually this point hits the nail on the head. The point about maternity leave is that it is in the best interests of the child.

Thinking on it, arguments for antenatal care and maternity leave were to do with lowering infant mortality, and reducing the number of women who sought illegal abortions for fear of losing their jobs. So, it is really about what is best for the foetus and baby. I found a study from 2006 of 18 OECD countries which showed that for every extra 10 weeks of maternity leave, the infant mortality rate went down 2.6%. That's figures from the 21st century in the developed world. I think that is staggering, really. This is why the maternity leave period in the UK was extended to a year.

So, no, you don't take the baby to the fields and accept that a number don't survive, you give women the choice of keeping them at home and make sure as many as possible live. Part of that is breastfeeding, but there must be other protective factors as well. I can see how that sounds anti-feminist, but at the same time, I really don't see that feminism means erasing difference, it means accomodating it, surely.

plus, the arguments for maternity leave are about infant life, not women's rights, and a measure of a society is how it treats its weakest people. Everyone should take responsiblity for that, and if it means women are out of the workplace to breastfeed, then the responsiblity of the workplace is not to penalise them for that <watches pigs fly>

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sat 01-Dec-12 21:47:57

That's interesting about maternity leave being for the benefit of the
Baby, I hadn't thought about it that way

kim147 Sat 01-Dec-12 21:52:27

"Everyone should take responsiblity for that, and if it means women are out of the workplace to breastfeed, then the responsiblity of the workplace is not to penalise them for that"

And of course, society needs children to be the workers of the future to provide resources for an ageing society (How capitalist / Brave New World does that sound). So why should society not be geared up to help those who bring children into the world and look after them?

LRDtheFeministDude Sat 01-Dec-12 21:53:46

Though - and forgive me, because I'm now being serious and I know I don't realy know - isn't it now being found that it's very important to sort out maternal care because PND is so debilitating, and so common? I can believe that maternity leave may well have been brought in in the interest of babies, but I do believe that it matters hugely that a civilized society has a way of accepting that a woman who has had a baby does actually need and deserve some care. It seems really shit to me that many societies even today are predicated on the idea that a woman gives birth (thereby continuing that society!), and yet she's expected to continue on as normal, doing the same work with no statutory maternity leave and no provision for her health.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sat 01-Dec-12 22:03:57

That's true LRD. It's back to the old issue of what we want - equality of input or equality of outcome? If I am more vulnerable to flu because I am pregnant or elderly or asthmatic, I can get vaccinated when others can't because it makes the outcome more equal.

summerflower Sat 01-Dec-12 22:07:21

I don't know either, LRD, I just know that the early arguments for antenatal and postnatal care were very much to do with infant health and reducing infant mortality and I was surprised I guess to see how current such arguments still are. I think women's health and well-being during and after pregnancy was a side-effect, rather than the main aim.

i absolutely and entirely agree with what you say about the physical and emotional upheaval, for want of a better word, that having a baby is, I think that is why, in many countries it is just not legal to work for a minimum period after birth. At the same time, and the answer to this is not necessarily work, I think there is also a recognition that isolation in the home and the change in a woman's life is a contributory factor to PND. So, I am not sure that placing infant care squarely on a woman's shoulders is the right solution either. There's a big gulf between everyday working lives and new mummy baby club and clinic life. But again, the answer to that is not no maternity leave, imo.

FastidiaBlueberry Sat 01-Dec-12 22:09:49

"Which then leads to the cycle of the man continuing to pursue a career whilst the woman is juggling her career and childcare responsibilities."

Oh yes, that cycle is solely caused by women being control freaks and wanting to exclude men from parenting and childcare.

No other reasons at all.


LRDtheFeministDude Sat 01-Dec-12 22:10:04

That makes sense, I'd not quite got my mind round it so clearly. I think it's equality of effort, rather than of imput, for me: people should all be required to try equally hard.

I don't think, though, that PND affects equality of input. I think it is simply that society has normalized those things that exclusively or mainly affect men, so they become part of the base level of society, whereas those things that affect women do not. So, male biology defines sex, but female biology does not define the outcomes of pregnancy. Male biology defines what is understood as 'strength', but female biology does not determine how medication in labour works - male doctors feel competant to judge that for themselves. It is unequal already, so I think we are conditioned to think that PND is debilitating per se, rather than thinking perhaps (and I don't know, but I do believe this) that it is debilitating largely because of the context in which we live, which doesn't make allowances for women as it does for men.

Xenia Sat 01-Dec-12 22:19:25

The ones at home have the PND. The ones saddled with a baby 24./7 are the ones with the worse deal. The baby doesn't need you.

Anyone thinking being home alone with a 4 year old 2 year old and baby is some kind of holiday/care has never spent time with small children. You go to work for a rest. It's a picnic in comparison and you get paid and you have a fairer relationship with your other half,. winwin all round which is why most women of sense have always worked and always will

LRDtheFeministDude Sat 01-Dec-12 22:23:57

Rubbish. You obviously know fuck all about PND.

Belittling it by pretending the cure is going out to work is crass.

As usual, your argument is predicating on exploiting some other, less well-paid woman, rather than on changing the system. You are helping the patriarchy keep women down, while being smug about it.

FastidiaBlueberry Sat 01-Dec-12 22:39:36

Can you point to any reliable research which shows that SAHMs are more likely to suffer from PND Xenia?

Nah, didn't think so.


WithTheDude Sat 01-Dec-12 22:59:54

That would require Xenia remembering that oft-mislead human characteristic of empathy.

WithTheDude Sat 01-Dec-12 23:00:18


confuddledDOTcom Sat 01-Dec-12 23:36:43

I've been a SAHM for 6 years, in fact for about 18 months before that as I had such a tough time with pregnancy and losing my first baby. I now have three children and one of the way, I love it! I've never had PND.

I'd love to see this research that all SAHMs have PND!

HalloweenNameChange Sun 02-Dec-12 01:29:51

Very well said about maternity leave being in the best interest of the baby summerflower. Yes confuddled I'd like to see the research too, because frankly I woudl have been a gibbering fucking wreck if for financial reasons I had been separated from my babies before I was ready.

Xenia Sun 02-Dec-12 09:52:32

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Xenia Sun 02-Dec-12 09:53:53

I did a quick search and there seem to be masses of links to studies that housewives are more depressed than working mothers

Xenia Sun 02-Dec-12 09:55:21

Also the 7% of children at private schools get 50%+ of the best university places so as a mother if you work and pay school fees you confer absolutely massive life long advantage on your child. Throw those aprons down today and get back to work for the sake of your children never mind your own mental health.

XBenedict Sun 02-Dec-12 10:01:53

Xenia you are clearly an educated person - that link is not great "research" is it?

Xenia Sun 02-Dec-12 10:07:02

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

SirBoobAlot Sun 02-Dec-12 10:09:37

I've heard it a lot that children with working mothers do better educationally. I've also heard that they do worse emotionally. So we can't win.

The woman the OP was quoting sounds like a total shit either way.

LeBFG Sun 02-Dec-12 10:49:12

Xenia Sun 02-Dec-12 09:52:32

Why do posters usually housewives take a post of mine saying something like - on the whole more children of working mothers do better as there is more money around or on the whole working mothers are better educated and then pretend I have said "all" housewives are XYZ? Can't they read? Working mothers don't seem to make those mistakes.

Ermm, exact equivalent to how you misread my post. Please don't make the same mistakes you criticise others of making.

I don't know (or particularly care) about whether SAHMs are more depressed/have less well educated offspring. These are just statistical associations not inevitabilities (common mistake made when interpreting these sorts of figures).

Mums can inspire daughters in ways other than not being there and working. Working means compromising your time to a degree, it isn't possible to do it all. I personally find working mums don't have time to read and reflect - debates are not so rich and fulfilling. There are plenty of positives to being engaged but not at the work place and I'm sure children are enriched by this.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 02-Dec-12 10:49:37

I don't see an "on the whole" anywhere in your posts on this thread, Xenia. For example, "The ones at home have the PND."

LRDtheFeministDude Sun 02-Dec-12 11:57:54

Ah, shit. You know what I forgot to do recently? I forgot to boast about my three degrees (in English, or 'reading', if you're Xenia or like nice simple words) and make myself look like an arrogant twit.

Oh well, all in the service of humanity.

xenia, loads of people who're perfectly well educated and not housewives disagree with you. Loads of people who are housewives also disagree, and they have just as much right to speak as you do. Trying to make people feel inferior by commenting on their education is low - if you were really that eloquent, or had any sort of good point, you wouldn't need to make out that everyone who disagrees with you is badly educated.

You know what I notice about MN? I have absolutely no clue how 'well' or 'badly' educated most posters are, and whether they're housewives or SAHMs or work in all sorts of exciting or intelligent jobs. I only find out when it comes up in conversation, because there are hundreds of posters on MN who post as if they had several higher degrees ... they don't, they're just intelligent women who've educated themselves, know what they're talking about, and know how to express themselves.

Sadly, you're not one of them. You're turning into a caricature with all this repetitive sniping at 'housewives'. It is very obvious you are doing it simply to hurt people, and to make yourself feel better.

As doctrine points out, you lied about your own post - or 'misrepresented' if you prefer that - and then accused others of not being educated enough to read correctly. Please, go back to your child's primary school teacher and ask for a basic lesson in reading comprehension, since you obviously value formal education and obviously need it.

summerflower Sun 02-Dec-12 22:06:46

It seems to me that the SAHM and depression argument misses the point.

Someone on maternity leave, for however long, is not a SAHM, they are a member of the (paid) working population exercising their statutory right to leave after the birth of their child. This is a different proposition to someone who is no longer in the workplace, and has different social implications.

There is evidence (Journal of Mental Health policy and Economics, 15 (2), 61 - 76, 2012 June) to suggest that 'for mothers who worked prior to childbirth and who return to work in the first year, having less than 12 weeks maternal leave and having less than 8 weeks of paid leave is associated with a reduction in overall health status' - the paper discussed mental and physical health. I also found a couple of other papers, which had similar findings, but this is the most recent.

Interestingly, this article still couches the findings in terms of the health of the child, because it starts and finishes by saying that full-time maternal employment in the first year of life is detrimental to children's health, cognitive development and behavioural development, and it also says in the policy implications bit that the mother's health and well-being is an important route through which children are affected. So, the feminist argument would be why on earth is it not enough to make an argument about women's health for there to be policy implications? It's still because it affects children.

And this is where I think you might find an explanation for the depression in SAHMs, namely the lack of value accorded to women as mothers in and of themselves. The link which Xenia posted was all about the stress which women feel to be 'perfect parents', that mothering should be child-centred and the children seen as sacred and fulfilling. Where's the woman in this?

summerflower Sun 02-Dec-12 22:07:37

>>I personally find working mums don't have time to read and reflect - debates are not so rich and fulfilling.<<


LRDtheFeministDude Sun 02-Dec-12 22:10:24

That's really interesting summer, and it sounds logical, doesn't it, that PND might be related to how people treat you as much as what you see as your 'job title'.

I suppose also, frankly, if you have severe PND, how likely is it that you're fit to work and merrily getting down to it?! Surely a lot of the women xenia claims to know about, who're working mothers and don't have PND, are simply those lucky enough not to have got it and who're therefore able to work?

confuddledDOTcom Mon 03-Dec-12 09:06:02

Quick post because I'm not used to my new phone yet grin apologies in advanceblush

a. before havingchildren I havesuffered with my mental health all my life, so for about a quarter of my life (including the loss of my first daughter) I have been a SAHM and my mental health has been stable.

b. even if I worked we wouldn't. afford to pay for private school without finishing education first which would take until it was too late for most of my children anyway!

LeBFG Mon 03-Dec-12 09:31:50

Summerflower - I can see how my pov is probably a bit hurtful (though this is my truthful opinion, I did mainly say it to counteract Xenia's pov that SAHM are impoverished). My greater point from this is that it isn't a simple choice between working and staying at home - both ways of life bring advantages and disadvantages to the family.

Until I started writing the post I hadn't even formed the idea but now it seems obvious to me: working mums can't do it all. For example, I have a dear friend who has a very charged work life - she's very much into attachment parenting etc and declares she is doing it all. But I know that isn't true - she's a great naturalist but never goes out birdwatching for pleasure anymore and grows very little in the garden. I know if she was a SAHM she would do these things a lot more and include her children. It's no criticism of her approach - perhaps it's true she's inspiring her children to work and earn more...but surely at the cost of enthusing them less about nature.

So what does it all come down to? What you value more as a parent and who you are as an individual. I'm sure some people are a whole lot more interesting after getting out and working in a mixed workplace all day - more relaxed and mentally stimulated. I'm equally sure some people find a whole lot to stimulate them if they stay at home and find the slower pace/less hassle/no politics of the home extremely restful.

MariaMandarin Mon 03-Dec-12 09:59:41

I think it's becoming obvious Xenia is a real person only in the way that Liz Jones in the Daily Mail is a real person. She's presenting an exaggerated caricature of herself to provide 'entertainment' for the rest of us. None of her arguments hold water, or indeed are even vaguely relevant to the vast majority of the population. To say that mothers need to work so that their children can benefit from private schooling is denying the reality of life in this country. Less than 10% of jobs pay over £50,000 a year which would be the minimum you would need after tax to privately educate 2 kids and pay for childcare. It's not open to everyone, regardless of whether 2 parents are working or not.

summerflower Mon 03-Dec-12 11:57:39

LeBFG, I was reacting to your comment about the way working mums posted - without having time to read and reflect, that is all. I'd like to think that most people do read and reflect on the threads they comment on, they might just comment on fewer. I tend to spend quite a bit of time reflecting on issues I comment on, I just don't comment that much! So, yes, I find it a bit hurtful to say that working mums don't contribute to a rich debate. I can see where that comment comes from, but surely meeting someone on their own level is not enriching things either.

To the rest of your clarification, I don't think that working mums can have it all, and definitely they can't do it all. I see on a day to day basis how having a job and looking after the DCs (80% of the time myself as Dh is away) affects my mental and physical health. It also affects my children, but the choice is really whether it would affect DD more to remove her from her school, her friends and her father (not DH, her dad left when she was a baby) to go and live with DH, to be financially dependent on him, when I have had the experience of being left to bring up a child myself, or whether to stay where we are and try and make it work, in the hope that DH might move here at some point. Hobson's choice.

But to get back to the point of the thread, one of the articles I looked at suggested that the risk of depression depended on the gap between your ideal situation (work/parenting balance) and what you had. The bigger the gap, the higher the risk of depression. That makes sense to me.

LeBFG Mon 03-Dec-12 12:14:25

Summer - I'm not talking about working mums posting on MN - I'm talking about RL conversations/debates! It's clear to me that if you work you have less time to read about current affairs, read less books, watch less documentaries etc. OTOH I would expect them to have more of a working knowledge in specific areas eg. teachers will know more about Gove's policies, but have less breadth. If that offends, well, it's just my opinion.

I suppose I also wanted to emphasis that whilst working mums don't/can't have it all, neither can SAHM. Both choices have costs/benefits so ultimately what's right for some one person is just personal preference. I prefer to have less money but spend more time with my DS, whereas Xenia wants security from money at the expense of spending less time with her kids. That's all fine. And as you say in your last paragraph, makes sense.

summerflower Mon 03-Dec-12 12:22:04

I think I misunderstood your comment about reading and reflecting then, as I read it in the context of the thread. No worries. I don't think we really disagree that much!

MardyArsedMidlander Mon 03-Dec-12 12:44:00

'well, if breeding is optional and we all decide not to do it she'll have problems collecting her pension in a few years time, won't she ?'

Breeding IS optional- surely that's the whole point of feminism??? Women should not be penalised for having children- or for not having children.
It's very unlikely- and shows an incredibly jaundiced view of parenthood- that people only have children because they have no choice, or want to pay their pensionsconfused

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 03-Dec-12 12:45:36

Breeding is optional at the individual level, but if everyone in society decided not to have children there'd be very little point to the feminist utopia we might thereby create.

I don't think that's the whole point of feminism, btw, but if you do fair enough.

MardyArsedMidlander Mon 03-Dec-12 13:03:44

How likely is it really that EVERYONE would stop breeding ??????? I have never understood this idea that give women choice- they will all stop. There will always be women who want children, and they should be supported.
But choice over fertility and control over one's bits is a vital part of feminism

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 03-Dec-12 13:18:09

That's the point, isn't it? confused

Some people will always want to have children (men and women).

But it's ridiculous to look at women (or men) who have children and claim they 'made a choice' and should therefore suck up anything that results from it.

People who have children chose to put themselves in a position where they have to change nappies, wipe up infant drool and sick, and put up with hundreds of 'why, daddy?' questions. This seems fair.

People who have children don't choose to put themselves in a society that penalizes people for having children. They don't control society - they only have (some) control over themselves as individuals.

So, I think it's unfair when people say having children is a choice and use that to justify, say, women losing out on job promotions. After all, we don't go around saying to childless pensioners 'well, you chose not to have a child so no money for you!'. The whole reason that pensions were brought in was to save elderly people from living in poverty or having to go into the workhouse.

LeBFG Mon 03-Dec-12 14:21:05

I agree with you in general of course LRD. But I know of a few women who have a multiple children in row, take the max maternity leave possible missing out on years of relevant experience and then expect the same job prospects as fellow childless colleagues. I do find this type of situation a bit much in the meritocracy in which we live and I wonder if it's this to which the feminists in the OP were objecting?

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 03-Dec-12 14:28:37

My feeling is (and this is really unhelpful, I know) that if society were structed in a more woman-friendly way, probably those women wouldn't on the whole be doing the same thing.

I don't know, of course.

And I do think you'll always get some people who have unrealistic expectations or expect something for nothing, so they'll crop up no matter how good the system is.

If nothing else is at issue, obviously it isn't fair to expect someone with more, and more relevant experience not to get the job. But I can also see the mother with the multiple children's point of view, in that I wonder how much choice she's had really? The binary choice of having children or not having them seems pretty stark (and ultimately a reductio ad absurdam as we can't all do it). But there are hundreds of littler choices and pressures, aren't there? Like, do I take mat leave because DH earns more (and why does he?). Do I take it because I can breastfeed and he can't? Or because I think I am more patient and he thinks women make better mothers? Or did I get kinda pushed into it because there was no option for me to have PND at work?

(Not 'me', obviously, but someone ...).

LeBFG Mon 03-Dec-12 15:02:03

It's always been a difficult one to call. More generous benefits you have the more people will abuse them...but the benefits are there for good reasons, so...

Interesting how different countries have come to different balances. I guess they are all thinking they're doing more-or-less the right thing for society as a whole. I wonder how things such as PND varies with mat leave options between countries? And I wonder how this effects women's choices? For instance, I know that birth rate is higher in France but mat leave is less generous than the the UK - I've never understood this (obviously other cultural things are at play too, but it just seems that the lower mat leave doesn't appear to present an obstacle to reproduction).

Mu1berries Mon 03-Dec-12 15:04:53

I think fathers should have to take paternity leave so that it's no longer logical to discriminate against mothers. I agree that we can't deny our biology and women alone shouldn't take the burden of continuing the species.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 03-Dec-12 15:07:05

I think this is why tweaking the system - though it's good - is never going to be enough. We need really seismic changes (which is what, say, the vote for women or criminalizing marital rape were, IMO).

But yes, I would love to know how PND varies by country. Someone told me in countries where there is a good support network for women, it's better. And I know Jennifer Worth writes that midwives used to recommend women stayed in bed after delivery, not because it's especially healthy (obviously it's not: we know now it can lead to thrombosis), but because by establishing 'bed rest' as the norm, they got women's families to accept that they needed to take on the heavy work for a few days.

I guess with France, perhaps one thing is that (IIRC) they have the shortest working week in the EU and I believe we have the longest.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 03-Dec-12 15:07:54

Strongly agree mulberries. And I know several men who have as strong an urge for babies as I've seen in anyone - it's not a purely female thing!

Xenia2012 Mon 03-Dec-12 15:10:21

You can have a strong parental urge (I adore children and have a lot) and want to work a lot too. That is the message we need to get home that loads of men and women have large families and adore their full time work and lead happy lives particularly if they don't suffer sexism at home.

LeBFG Mon 03-Dec-12 15:32:46

THere's huge, cheap provision for child care in France too unlike in the UK (so I'm told). French women aren't complaining about going back to work (they may have a higher rate of part-time employment too though, no idea).

Ha, just found this [ quote]:
Only in the USA, Austria and France was time away from the baby mentioned as a source of happiness following delivery. The study compared countries, including the UK. In the UK, a source of unhappiness was going to work (with the theme of more unhappiness, more chance of PND).

I like the idea of equal opportunity for mother or father to care for babies. I do think this will only suit very few couples because of what I've said earlier about what women want and also men just can't bf. But I think it's worth having as an option if only to better valorise men's role in child care and child rearing.

LeBFG Mon 03-Dec-12 15:33:36

Sorry crap brackets quote

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 03-Dec-12 15:37:48

Ooh, can I move to France? grin

Something that sounds daft but I really like - French women are automatically offered treatment for their vaginas/birth canals after labour, so they get fewer prolapses and so on. That always strikes me as very down to earth and humane.

That is fascinating about the stats re. being away from the baby. But then perhaps if you knew you'd soon be back with the baby, it is not so mcuh an issue?

I think I am biased because my brother is a very clingy father, whereas his wife - who is fucking amazing as a mother - is much more laid back about whether she needs to be there 24/7. But then, I do wonder if other men and women are like this too, really?

I would hope with the BF it'd become something, like using a tampon, that the work establishment could cope with. I remember hearing that when women were allowed into certain areas of work in the 80s, some men were horrified at the idea that there might be tampon bins in ladies' loos (or even, that there should be ladies loos!), and that women would be using them. But of course it is normal and just biology.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 03-Dec-12 15:38:24

(The link worked for me before but thanks!)

confuddledDOTcom Mon 03-Dec-12 15:58:26

Why is it all about sexism at home? Don't you believe that someone can choose to be a SAHM and there be no sexism? You also don't seem to think that women can be happy and fulfilled as full time at home mothers, just because you wouldn't be, doesn't mean that the rest of us aren't. I am working on sidelines but I would not want a regular job, I love being there for my children, I love the excitement when they come home, I like when they empty their bags and talk to me about their day, I love watching my toddler gain confidence in her abilities. For me there's nothing more fulfilling.

The message that needs to be got across is that SAHM, WOHM, SAHD and WOHD are all valid choices that need to be supported.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 03-Dec-12 16:00:06


I don't get it.

Who are you asking, confuddled? Honestly not saying that in a snipey way, i just don't follow and I'm hoping I didn't say anything that'd prompt that reply.

If it's not me I'll go back to muttering quietly to myself. grin

BaresarkBunny Mon 03-Dec-12 16:06:30

LeBFG - what she is complaining about is that the concept of maternity is unfair to childfree people. She does not believe that people should benefit from having children and therefore childfree people should be offered paid leave which amounts to the same length as someone going on maternity.

Xenia2012 Mon 03-Dec-12 16:15:34

That's always been an interesting issue. Do we treat the man or women who has an 85 demented parent at home in the same way as the couple who choose to have 3 under 5s and work? Do we treat the person training for the Olympics or with her horse or 8 dogs to get home for in the same way or the person who just wants to sit with their feet up for half the week because they want to draw or look out of the window and work fewer hours?

Do we think having children per se is a social good (given they destroy the planet)? I will lose all my child benefit soon. That is the only thing the state ever gave me to say - well done, you are producing future tax payers and we salute you.

Narked Mon 03-Dec-12 16:17:40

Having children is a choice. A choice that's essential for the future of society.

Countries with falling birth rates and aging populations are screwed economically speaking. The money we pay into the state during our working lives is funding today's pensioners. We need enough young people working when we reach retirement age to fund us. Private pension funds only do well when the economy does well, and that's also reliant on having suffficient labour.

Go look at Japan and, to a lesser extent, Germany, and see how concerned their governments are about the low birthrate.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 03-Dec-12 16:20:53

I think you generalize that claim beyond recognition, xenia, while still securely assuming it's 'we' (society?) who do the 'treating', rather than understanding that social paradigms do change, and quite often too.

There is no inherent advantage to accepting that the current social paradigm is out of date and damaging to women. Sure, you might get a pat on the back from the patriarchy for supporting it - but so what? It is much better, IMO, to apply proper analysis to this and leave aside the knee-jerk 'I'm alright jack' reactions that come so easily: yes, it seems easy to assume that 'we' should be making allowances. But, why do you assume that 'we' should be in a positon to decide? Why should we take on the privileged world-view of the rich person (therefore usually white, usually male, usually Western, etc. etc.), as the norm?

It is rather snide to refer to 'the person who just wants to sit with their feet up'. Do you honestly believe that person comes into the same category as a mother with PND?

LeBFG Mon 03-Dec-12 16:23:36

I'm not sure which she you're referring to BaresarkBunny.

I've often debated the idea of paid sabbaticals for childless people in lieu of maternity leave with my DH (who thinks extended paid mat leave is grossly unfair). Although I agree with the principle - it's a fair solution - there are some major difficulties. For a start, this could not be offered to women of child bearing age (they could change their minds later and thus take sabbaticals as well as mat leave). The second main difficulty I can see with this is it yet more non-work time a government is expected to pay for. With the economy and demographics the way they are, this is not really feasible. At least women on mat leave are producing the future generation as recompense for the work-break.

Narked Mon 03-Dec-12 16:28:52
Bonsoir Mon 03-Dec-12 16:45:00

"For instance, I know that birth rate is higher in France but mat leave is less generous than the the UK - I've never understood this."

It's just what you are used to...

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Mon 03-Dec-12 16:50:14

But again LeBFG, that's back to my equality of input vs equality of outcome example. Should all workers be offered a government paid (albeit at a low level) sabbatical to make it fair? That's an equal input. But it wouldn't be an equal outcome because only women would have to use their sabbatical for reproduction, whereas men could use it for anything they wanted. (insert some men and some women where appropriate). And would everyone avail themselves of the time off during the career building years of 20-40, or would some people opt not to take it until older, more established, when 90% of pay for six weeks was higher, when they wouldn't be "looked down on" by management? Is that equality of outcome?

HazleNutt Mon 03-Dec-12 16:50:41

Just maternity leave does not make much difference, if many people can't return to work after that, because of the cost and lack of availability of child care.

BaresarkBunny Mon 03-Dec-12 16:54:21

LeBFG Sorry it's the person who I was referring to in my first post.

confuddledDOTcom Mon 03-Dec-12 17:00:38

LRD, I should learn to quote more blush I wasn't replying to you, I was replying to this:

That is the message we need to get home that loads of men and women have large families and adore their full time work and lead happy lives particularly if they don't suffer sexism at home.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 03-Dec-12 17:02:31

You're fine! It is just I am slow of thinking and need to check these things! grin

LeBFG Mon 03-Dec-12 17:22:14

Indeed, DoctrineOfSnatch. There will never be equality in everyone's eyes.

By the by, I'm a little unconvinced that mat leave is so important wrt birth rates. Take Germany for example, in Narked's link, there was a range of problems listed and proposed, interestingly, was that educated women are taking longer to get their careers off the ground and by the time they are thinking about reproducing, their fertility has dropped. Perhaps if Blair had got half the school population into unis we would be facing a similar crisis (not a serious idea grin but a nice thought-experiment ending to Xenia's get-earning philosophy).

mindosa Mon 03-Dec-12 21:30:19

No, I think you need to support maternity leave.
BUT if you are serious about a career in finance, law etc then 6 months off is career suicide. I dont care how many anecdotal stories I hear to the contrary, its fact!

HalloweenNameChange Tue 04-Dec-12 02:46:01

he thinks women make better mothers

Yeah, LRD, I think everyone agrees with him too grin

LeBFG Tue 04-Dec-12 08:45:16

Mindose, it's one of those great disturbing truths women find at certain levels in certain careers.

In my background, science, publishing hiatuses are not viewed on well. If you've had a productive period before taking time off you can write papers while at home and so bridge the gap a bit. Long term though, if you want more than one child, it gets very difficult. I know personally four women lecturers, two junoir and two high-flyers all of whom have 2 or more children. The two high-flyers went straight back to work Xenia style (one was taking PhD meetings from her hospital bed!). I've often thought if this was neccessary and how it would impact the family. I think these sorts of 'successful' women have simply adapted male roles to complete in a world of rules set up with men in mind.

It's hard to see how mat leave helps women's careers in these fields very much (helps woman and baby yes) unless the nature of these careers changes substantially.

Narked Tue 04-Dec-12 12:32:59

If you start treating the birth of babies as essential to society rather than a women's issue then you solve a lot of problems. When it's seen as a 'women's issue' it gets less attention. The debate becomes tangled with various ideas of what 'most' women want or what they should want. It should be viewed as economic planning. It's good for all of us when people have DC.

LeBFG Tue 04-Dec-12 12:53:10

As a bit of an environmentalist, I have a problem with this approach. ALthough birth rates are important to the prosperity within a country, morally how can we be encouraging higher births rates with the world population so high? In France you get child support for one kid up to 3 years old, then nothing...unless you have two or more then you get it up to 18. It's policies like this that are seen to 'support the family', 'babies essential to society' etc but which as the same time grate at this other part of me that think it's morally wrong to encourage higher reproduction rates.

LRDtheFeministDude Tue 04-Dec-12 12:58:46

halloween - oh, you know what I mean! blush grin

'... are we agreed he can't be a mother, which isn't anyone's fault, not having a womb and all, but he can have the right to want to be a mother ...'

monsterchild Tue 04-Dec-12 13:42:59

I don't think birth rates are so essential to society. Certainly if you population is waning, then it's a different issue to a growing population. This is a county by country problem.

But I also agree with LeBFG, population is a concern, and all aspects of it need to be looked at, not just the "will there be young people around to pay for me" part.

LRDtheFeministDude Tue 04-Dec-12 13:46:15

confused So how is that not thinking birth rates are essential?

If it's country by country, isn't it a bit like saying 'well, we can exploit UK women, after all we don't really need as many people having babies?'. I think that is exactly what is going on, btw, but I don't like it.

MardyArsedMidlander Tue 04-Dec-12 13:59:18

I agree with BFG- birth rates may be waning in Japan and Germany. But I wonder how much of that is down to choice?- perhaps some women, given the choice, don't want to have children. And on a worldwide scale, population growth is a real concern. The sad fact is that a child born in the West is going to have more of an enviornmental impact.
There are plenty of young people in the rest of the world, able to take up the slack.

monsterchild Tue 04-Dec-12 14:15:00

I meant increasing birth rates isn't essential. They are increasing, just not in most industrialized countries.

LRDtheFeministDude Tue 04-Dec-12 14:24:35

Ah, got you. Yes, I agree.

But I feel as if we're talking cross purposes.

At the level of society, we need people to have children. We just do. We'd die out if not. Sure, this isn't remotely likely to happen, but it does mean that having children isn't a totally private and individual choice. And yet it is so often treated like that - as if it's a woman's (often just a woman's, and her partner not mentioned) personal choice and doesn't affect the rest of us.

Besides which, the fact that there are increasing birthrates across the world, doesn't mean countries like Germany aren't concerned, because we don't have a universalized pension scheme so the fact that their country's birthrate is going down, will be a real concern.

RiaUnderTheMistletoe Tue 04-Dec-12 14:31:57

In terms of global population, people living longer is at least as important as birth rate. There are more generations alive today than there were a century ago, and that's a lot of extra mouths to feed. At the same time, where women in developing countries become more educated and have access to family planning, the birth rate falls. I think this is the key to dealing with over-population, along with living more sustainably, rather than cutting maternity rights.

LeBFG Tue 04-Dec-12 14:39:03

Birth rates are an important part of a country's wealth/potential so to speak. This value isn't necessarily the same on the global stage. However, this is all much-of-a-muchness because countries always work with their own interests at heart. They have to.

You could think of mat leave and other methods to make lives easier for working mothers as measures put in place as part of the 'human rights package for mothers'. Or equally as ways of encouraging/discouraging them to have more kids. Any policy influencing birth rates must have a political as well as human rights element/justification. There must be a range of provisions which suit a country's women and its politics. Where there is a large gap between the two I guess you get discontent and protests. Where they more-or-less match, then everyone's happy. As some countries are facing tighter and tighter budget controls I expect we'll see more and more protests at the eating away of mat leave and the like.

MardyArsedMidlander Wed 05-Dec-12 17:58:40

'but it does mean that having children isn't a totally private and individual choice. And yet it is so often treated like that - as if it's a woman's (often just a woman's, and her partner not mentioned) personal choice and doesn't affect the rest of us.'

Sure, if there is a way of having a child without involving MY uterus, MY body and MY fanjo confused. It HAS to be a personal choice- unless you stray into the area of eugenics and encouraging certain sectors of the population to breed. Or banning contraception along with abortion.
Perhaps- radical suggestion- society could try looking after the children already here. And then I'd be out of a job.

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 18:07:09

I'm sorry, I put that badly.

I am not suggesting it is anyone's choice but yours to get pregnant, or that anyone else can make that choice for you.

The posts I was responding to, however, weren't about pregnancy, they were about whether it's ok to say that every social disadvantage women (specifically mothers) face is their own problem because they 'chose' to have a child.

I don't believe this is fair, because that choice to have a child also has inescapable and very basic implications for the rest of society.

I'm a little confused as to what in my posts made you think I wasn't suggesting society should be looking after children already here? confused

Narked put is so much better than me so I will quote: 'If you start treating the birth of babies as essential to society rather than a women's issue then you solve a lot of problems.'

I would argue that denying women access to contraception etc is making it a 'woman's issue' because it is focussing on taking away her rights, not on looking after her as a person and then, if it comes, her child as a person).

I think this is true that making it not a 'woman's issue' is also better from an environmentalist point of view, since at the moment I think the motivations for having/not having children are so screwed up with women's poverty (which is huge), women's status and women's rights over their own bodies, it's hard for the environmental arguments to get any look in. But I could be wrong here, it's just a hunch.

MmBovary Thu 13-Dec-12 14:57:57

I haven't read the whole thread but I think parental - not just maternity - leave is extremely important to promote equality both in the work place and at home.

I think many socialist countries got it right to make maternity leave as long as possible. However, it's not just maternity leave and its conditions we need to work on, it's paternity leave too. It should be made compulsory for men to take at least six months of leave when they have a baby, so when they apply for a job, employers don't make any distinctions between men and women. Men should feel exactly the same pressure women feel when they return to work after maternity leave.

I do find it odd that a feminist is against promoting parental leave, however, we also have to respect and try to undertand the opinions of people (both men and women) who don't want children or can't have children and might feel the pressure at work from those who have children and need a lot of accommodating.

My main issue with granting parental leave only to women and not men is that many see it as a springboard to become SAHM's for the next ten years of their lives, and that is certainly something detrimental to the situation of future generations women in society.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 13-Dec-12 18:58:41

MmB would you make six months' parental leave compulsory for both parents? Because at the moment it's optional for both except the six weeks minimum (or is it two weeks for non-physical jobs).

Medically you need time to recover from.pregnancy and labour. You also need time to mentally adjust to parenthood. Maternity Leave is the time you need to recover physically and adjust emotionally.

Surely even a staunch feminist can agree that seeing as we are the onoy gender that can birth a baby, that alone justifies the need for recovery and adjustment time.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 13-Dec-12 22:47:26

Lots of staunch feminists would agree with you, Gold!

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