The media present a woman’s fear of losing her career as the fear of losing herself. But the greatest fear of most mothers is not being able to provide for their children. Mothers with high-paying jobs go back to work to earn money for their kids. Married mothers with low-paying jobs quit to save money for their kids. Single mothers struggle to find work that pays enough to support their kids. Self-fulfillment is a low priority in an economy fuelled by worker insecurity.
The assumed divide between mothers who work inside and outside the home is presented as a war of priorities. But in an economy of high debt and sinking wages, nearly all mothers live on the edge. Choices made out of fear are not really choices. The illusion of choice is a way to blame mothers for an economic system rigged against them. There are no “mommy wars”, only money wars - and almost everyone is losing.
Since #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen trended, I have seen excellent pieces by women of color, many suggesting steps white women can take to be better allies. Their insights are leading us toward a more conscious feminism. White women, however, need to take responsibility for educating ourselves, too. So, here are five steps white feminists — myself included — can take to check ourselves, connect more genuinely with women of color and improve feminist outcomes for people of all races. As a test of the need for these actions, consider whether you’d want the men in your life to try each step in confronting their own sexism.
Most middle-class Americans, including policy makers and politicians seemed to agree that it was a “tragedy” when a middle-class woman could not have a baby. The president of a pharmaceutical company that manufactured fertility drugs spoke to a large constituency in the 1980s when he defined “fundamental rights to life” as including “access to infertility therapy.” Yet many people seemed to draw the line at applying these principles to the family-building urges of poor women. Most Americans agreed that motherhood was “a source of self- and community esteem” for middle-class women, “of family life, of community, and of loving relationships.” Most agreed “that the desire to raise a family is a fundamental human longing for most adults, and to be denied that experience is a denial of the right to choose.” Yet when women with few resources had the desire to have a child or to build a family, many Americans freely and quickly applied a financial test for motherhood and found such women inappropriate candidates for motherhood. As we have seen, many argued that for the poor, motherhood was a source not of self- and community esteem or loving relationships but of dependency and even depravity.
During the same season that some members of Congress were promoting middle-class family-building [adoption and infertility treatment] activities, federal and state politicians were engaged in plans and fantasies to give governmental authorities greater power than ever before to control how resourceless women made fertility-related decisions, and to control the arsenal of punishments leveled against a poor woman to made the “wrong choice.” In the late 1980s, in Michigan and other states, politicians were working to cancel Medicaid funds that had given poor women the choice of abortion, at roughly the same time that Pat Schroeder introduced the bill mandating insurance coverage for middle-class infertility cures. On the federal level, President Bush approved big cutbacks in the WIC program—covering nutrition and health care for infants and their low-income mothers—while Pat Schroeder and some of her colleagues spoke piously to the middle class about the basic human right to create a family and the joys of tending one’s children.