The Thinking 

Why We Must Discriminate, cont.

January 12, 2010


Tammy writes:

A friend directed me to your blog today and I am so glad she did. I decided to drop you a note and let you know how much I enjoyed it. After reading your current post, I clicked on your first entry in your Featured Posts list, “Why We Must Discriminate.” My first thought while reading it was, “Wow, this is a very brave woman to even touch this subject in a public blog.”

There is much in it that echos some of my own thoughts and statements throughout the years. In fact, several years ago, I wrote an article with some similar views, but never had the courage to submit it for publication. There are some of your conclusions I am still mulling over, but I completely agree with your statements regarding the importance of the family and the stay-at-home mother.

When my husband and I married almost 30 years ago, he was still in college and for a time I was the “principle supporter.” I hated that role and all the stress that went with it. I was very happy to relinquish it to him when he got his first job. I decided to pursue freelance projects while we were trying to start our family, turning down full-time career opportunities. I am a person who gives 100 per cent to all I do, and I just didn’t see how I could be a full-time wife and mother and have a career outside the home. One of the factors that also affected my decision was that I had a husband to support me, so why should I take a job from a man who had a family to support. I received much criticism from family and friends for that point of view. Even from some whom I thought would be very supportive of my decision. Among the things I was told was that I was wasting my expensive education. Several years ago I asked my oldest son if he thought that was true. He replied, “Mom, you are the best teacher we could’ve had.” I did not homeschool my kids, but made use of all the “teachable” moments that come up when picking them up from school, driving them from activity to activity, and tucking them into bed. Discussions around our dinner table consisted of politics, religion, science and history. I did not put my intellect, talents, and professional training “on hold” because I was not using them in a 40-hour a week job!

I kept my professional skills honed by volunteering my services at church, school and in the community, as well as continuing to do a few paying freelance projects. It was then that I saw that as women increasingly entered the job market, the volunteer workforce was drastically dwindling. The backbone of our important volunteer workforce is women! Volunteer services are essential for many aspects of our community to function. (That is actually the subject of the article I mentioned above that is still languishing in my “article ideas” folder.)

I’m not sure about your conclusion that we need to target hiring men over women. But I do believe as a society we need to more appreciate those women who opt to make their career raising the next generation as the accomplished women they are. We need to encourage more women to take that option. I believe there are two major reason women don’t. First, many who want to can’t afford it because they are single moms or trapped into a two-income situation. Second, our society makes stay-at-home mothers feel like they are leeches and non-productive members of the community. Tax incentives may be a good way to do that economically. But the main thing is to publicly acknowledge that motherhood is one of the toughest jobs there is and the women who make it their career are just as intelligent and accomplished as women who are politicians and CEOs of corporations.

Thank you for your courage in speaking out. You have emboldened me, and I hope will do the same for many other women.

Laura writes:

Thank you very much. It is rewarding to hear from you. We are like soldiers in the same infantry in the same war. Some people might think that’s silly, to compare a woman who does not work to a soldier. These people are hopelessly naive about the wall of cultural disapproval non-working wives and mothers face, as well as the work involved.

I wish I could share your optimism that renewed respect for motherhood and the traditional family would be enough to change things. Unfortunately,  jobs and professional opportunities are finite resources. This is one factor permanently left out of the feminist equation. The other factor is simple economics: The more the labor supply grows the more wages go down.

In the 1960s the family wage was paid by 65 percent of all employers and more than 80 percent of all industrial employers. [See Brian Robertson’s excellent book Forced Labor.] This was not the result of luck or happenstance but a great social achievement that reflected, as Robertson notes, both conscious and unconscious social policies. Among those policies was the widely accepted notion that men should be favored in hiring, paricularly in hiring for jobs that can support a family.

The standard of living of the traditional family (male breadwinner and female homemaker) has fallen precipitously since then. While two out of three families fit the traditional pattern in 1950, about one in six do today. Dual-income families without children are greater in number than traditional families with children. One reason for this is economics. Allan Carlson has calculated  a means of measuring the prevalence of the family wage with something he calls the “family wage ratio.” It involves dividing the median family income of familes with working wives by the median income of those with wives who are not working. A family wage economy would be at 1.0 and a society of sex equality would be at 2.0. According to Roberston, from 1959 to 1961, the ratio was at about 1.25. By 2002, it was at 1.75.

Remember, I am not advocating laws against the hiring of women or that women be barred from the workforce or even that employers be legally prevented from favoring women if they choose. I am advocating the removal of laws banning discrimination on the basis of sex and renewed respect for the economic burden of men. Sex discrimination laws are in effect an indirect form of discrimination aganst traditional families. Once a certain percentage of women enter the market, prices rise and the pressure on others to follow increases. This is what Roberston calls “forced labor.” Surveys showing that many women who work would rather not work confirm this observation.

As further proof of what you call my “courage,” I would like to add that I believe universities, graduate schools and professional training programs should be under no compulsion, either legal or informal, to accept men and women in equal numbers. This is wrong. I also do not believe women should be barred from any of these except in the case of single sex schools.

                                                                          — Comments —

Tammy writes:

Thank you for posting my comment. I like your soldier analogy. I much admire you for stating your opinion and offering this forum for discussion. I have always hated quotas. I think they do much more harm than good. So I definitely agree with your bottom line here. I am, however, a little more optimistic that we can convince our society to value stay-at-home mothers, than I am that we can convince it to get rid of the quotas.  And I believe every person should have the opportunity to pursue formal education to whatever level they desire. Education is not just preparation for the job market. It is preparation for life. Fortunately, now with the Internet making on-line courses available, it is possible for women to be at home and still obtain advanced degrees.

Laura writes:

You are welcome. I too strongly believe in the value of education for women, but women should not receive an entirely masculine education or give in to excessive vocationalism. I’m referring to the majority of women and not the exceptional few. Even the most ardent early proponents of education for women would probably be disappointed today. Also, it is important to remember that the expectation that women receive the same education as men places great financial strain on families, leading to the inability for many women to raise their children themselves. Tammy is absolutely right. The Internet has opened up new, more affordable options.

It’s interesting that the last 50 years has seen an enormous increase in the percentage of women who are in higher education. Ironically, women have become less cultured, more illiterate, perhaps even generally more stupid during that time. Education is not always best obtained by profit-making institutions.


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