Monday, April 23, 2012

Gender Politics

I would, ideally, like to keep politics out of this blog. However, given that this is an election year, politics seems to be butting its way into everything, so here goes.
The CSWA works hard to advocate for women in science. One issue that comes up over and over again is the problem of balancing career and family -- an issue for any working mother, really. A key to that balance is the ability to plan when and how many children to have -- something that many of us, like myself, take for granted.
So when a Republican-controlled House Committee convenes an all-male panel to discuss coverage for birth control, it's hard not to take it a little personally. It's bad enough that dependent care coverage is a real issue for many young astronomers, particularly grad students and postdocs, but to not even have coverage for birth control?
More recently was the whole kerfuffle between Ann Romney and Hilary Rosen about whether or not Romney "has actually never worked a day in her life." Given that Rosen was speaking specifically about women in the paid workforce, Romney's response that raising children was "work" sounded to me a lot like "gravity is only a theory."
Yes, raising children is a lot of work. So is being a scientist. Force times distance is also work. At any rate, why is it that stay-at-home mom are lavished with praise and put on pedestals, while working moms are frowned at? And, by the way, where is dad in all this?
It's great to be talking about getting more girls interested in science and math, since they are certainly smart enough. But girls are also smart enough to see the barriers ahead. If they can see that they won't be able to raise families on their own terms, no wonder they drop out.


  1. Hannah, I agree that we need to make workplaces more family friendly. And the entire planet more woman friendly.

    That said, I really think that it's really inappropriate to suggest that stay at home moms are put on a pedestal and lavished with praise. It really depends on who is talking and the socioeconomic group they are talking about. The same people who suggest that upper class women like Ann Romney are angels for staying at home and "working" (and I put that in quotations because I doubt she did most of the work) are hard at work putting down poor and working class women, especially Black and Latina women, who stay home and do that hard work. If only there were affordable health care and parental leave subsidies so that poor women could actually make choices! And we women in the workplace could benefit from that too.

    I don't think it serves us well to talk in divisive terms like this. Women who work outside the home, women who work inside the home, women who do both: they're trying to screw all of us. So in this conversation I think it's useful to remember that Ann Romney hardly represents anyone who is actually relevant to the discussion, most especially stay at home mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

    This is why the WORK Act that was recently introduced into the House is such an important piece of legislation.

  2. Sorry I meant to say *affordable child care* not health care. Although, both seem important for the sake of raising children and having options.