Monday, October 19, 2009

Link round-up: feminist weddings, maternity leave, and Barbara Ehrenreich

I haven't done a link round-up in a while, so just to give you a brief overview of what's been new, noteworthy and commented upon in the feminist world over the past week or so:

Feministing editor and all-around feminist rock star Jessica Valenti got married on October 3 to Talking Points Memo blogger Andrew Golis, and her wedding announcement was in the NYT's Style section yesterday. I was mildly horrified by the NYT's coverage, and it turns out, so was Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell (who is something of a rock star herself), who wrote a piece about it for the Nation's blog last night. I wrote about this for Care2 today, but really, Harris-Lacewell's piece speaks for itself.

File this under ridiculous: a survey conducted in Britain revealed that 74% of women think that maternity leave, or its equivalent, should be available to people who don't have children. Because we all know that maternity leave is just a fun vacation.

Barbara Ehrenreich debunks the new research that people use to blame feminism for society's ills. Are women really unhappier now than they were in the 1970's? Ehrenreich says that the research "doesn't pass the giggle test."

This is just horrible: an interracial couple in Louisiana were denied a marriage license because the judge felt that their children might face "difficulties" in later life due to their parents' ethnicities. Right, I'm sure they'll encounter difficulties - like racist judges!

What have you been reading and writing over the past week? We always love to hear from you in our comments section.


At October 19, 2009 at 3:08 PM , Anonymous Molly B said...

While I have the greatest of respect for working moms, I do have to point out that perhaps some kind of not-motivated-by-a-change-in-your-parental-status leave isn't actually as ridiculous as it first sounds. After all, there are quite a few people in the world who choose not to (or, for whatever reason, are unable to) have children. We talk a lot on this blog about empowerment, and yet women still face the implicit belief that we are intended to have children, and that our lives cannot be complete, significant, or meaningful without them. Obviously maternity leave is a medical and mental-health necessity, but it does represent a right that comes with a specific lifestyle choice -- one that we usually celebrate with parties and gifts. Our culture dictates that we support and reward our friends who choose marriage and/or children (and often quite lavishly), but no such system of encouragement and congratulation exists for the men and women who choose to be single and/or childless. Why? Because we don't regard it as a CHOICE; spinsters, bachelors, and childless people are more often construed as social, emotional, or biological unfortunates who missed the marriage-and-babies boat. The government is absolutely obligated to respect and honor a pregnant woman's choice to have a child -- but wouldn't it be pretty cool if it was also obligated to respect and honor a woman's choice NOT to?

At October 19, 2009 at 4:00 PM , Blogger Amelia said...

I guess it's more the conflation of maternity leave - which is a necessity - with a personal leave that you could use to go backpacking that bothers me. Maternity leave should be a given. I don't know how we can celebrate the choice of childless people not to have children (which you're right about - we don't appreciate people for doing that) without implicitly denying the fact that maternity leave isn't like personal leave - and that it's absolutely necessary for both parents.

So I'm not really sure where this leaves me. Thoughts from anyone else?

At October 19, 2009 at 10:08 PM , Anonymous Dan said...

"Our culture dictates that we support and reward our friends who choose marriage and/or children..."

There is a rational basis for this, namely that children are necessary for society to carry on. As things stand right now, western society is in danger of imploding because of fertility rates that are well below replacement levels.

Yes, on an individual basis, procreation is a choice, but there is nothing wrong with incentivizing the choice that is necessary for the continuation of everything that matters to us.

At October 20, 2009 at 6:03 AM , Anonymous Molly B said...


I certainly agree with you that there is a rational basis for celebrating the birth of a child -- if for no other reason than that it is a miraculous event and an amazing testament to the strength and power of the female body.

However, I think you may have overstated your case about the impending implosion of Western society. The United Nations predicts positive population growth rates for 205 of 230 territories between 2005 and 2010 (including the United States, at 0.97%), and an overall world growth rate of 1.17%. Check it out:

But if you want to talk fertility rates, try this one: the fertility rates of Hispanic immigrant women show a decline corresponding to the number of years they've spent in the United States, and African-American women's fertility has also been decreasing for decades. I'm all for baby showers, but if you're really worried about increasing Western fertility, maybe you could check out organizations designed to support underprivileged mothers.

At October 20, 2009 at 8:46 PM , Anonymous Dan said...


You are confusing population growth rate, which includes immigration, with fertility rate, which measures the rate at which a population replaces itself.

Here is the wiki link that explains total fertility rate:
Notice which parts of the world are coloured blue, ie. below replacement levels.

If you're thinking that immigration can make up the shortfall, think again. In the near term, yes, but in the long term, no.

I've linked the following article in previous comments, but it is worth linking it here again:

At October 20, 2009 at 8:55 PM , Blogger John said...

Molly, I disagree with your last point somewhat--while supporting underprivldged mothers is admirable, I think (I didn't look it up right now, but seem to recollect reading/hearing it somewhere) that the groups you mention already have above average fertility rates (and the longer they stay in the US the closer they approach US norms). IS it really sensible to encourage women who are already underprivledged to have even more children (or even to shoulder an abnormally large portion of childbirthing/rearing)? Thus, pregnancy leave for women have careers seems much more sensible. Do we really want to live in a society that breaks child-birth down on the basis of income (i.e. well off career women work, underprivledged women pump out babies).
Supporting privledged women in becoming mothers/having more children seems more sensible, since, I beleive, they not only have less children typically, but also have more money to potentially care for their offspring (not to say that money is all it takes to properly raise a child, but they are doubtlessly expensive).


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