In my non-online world, I’m into public policy. In other words, that section of the political world that actually revolves around doing the right stuff instead of just arguing about who the good people are and why they should rule the world. It also means that I turned away from the political world of winners and losers and stylish debates and towards facts and statistics and trying to make the world a better place. I also dropped my political party in the process and became a proud and active voter that is Independent of party. OK Kim, that was random, so why are you saying all of this?
Well… it’s because while I vowed to stay out of the mommy wars while Miss L was still in my belly, and I’ve done just that for over 4 years, a friend asked me to address the mommy blog war that’s flaming high tonight.
And because Mr. M is flying away on a jet plane tonight, and I’m watching the election returns flow in while nursing two dogs back to health, I figured, “Why not! Happy Tuesday!”
So…. the current flame war. According to every mommy group I belong to on Facebook, and via multiple mommy friends on Facebook, there are quite a few stay-at-home-mom bloggers who are inflamed over remarks that President Obama made on October 31st. (i.e. Living Whole & The Federalist)
But here’s the problem: these moms neglected something known as context. They even ignored the title of the speech. And instead they copied and pasted to create an inflammatory quote, in the same style that those lovely cable news programs create racy soundbites. (Full disclosure: I don’t have cable.) And they made a speech that didn’t talk about them at all ALL ABOUT THEM. So let’s figure out where it all went wrong.
So let’s start at the beginning. The title of the speech was, “Remarks by the President on Women and the Economy.” If you’d like, you can read the full speech here. It was given at Rhode Island College in Providence, Rhode Island.
President Obama started with a normal political spiel (I paraphrased the speech for fun) about the victories in the economy, education, energy & jobs since 2008, then wanders into the “there is still work left to be done!” section to rally the electorate to stay on this path. Then he provides the thesis of the speech: “And today, here at RIC, I want to focus on some common-sense steps we can take to help working families right now. In particular, I want to zero in on the choices we need to make to ensure that women are full and equal participants in the economy.“
“Women make up about half of America’s workforce. For more than two decades, women have earned over half of the higher education degrees awarded in this country. And you look at the RIC student body, almost 70 percent women. In colleges nationwide, there are more women graduating than men — which means that for the first time, America’s highly educated workforce will be made up of more women than men.
But here’s the challenge — that’s all good news — the challenge is, our economy and some of the laws and rules governing our workplaces haven’t caught up with that reality. A lot of workplaces haven’t caught up with that reality. So while many women are working hard to support themselves and their families, they’re still facing unfair choices, outdated workplace policies. That holds them back, but it also holds all of us back. We have to do better, because women deserve better. And, by the way, when women do well, everybody does well.”
So what are some of those “unfair choices” that have to be made?
- “Women deserve a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship.“
OK. Not losing your job or your pay due to choosing to take care of sick kid.
- “Many women can’t even get a paid day off to give birth to their child.”
OK. No maternity leave may mean financial hardship and losing a job due to just giving birth.
- “In many states, sending your child to daycare costs more than sending them to a public university.“
OK. Affordable daycare options where you don’t spend every penny you make just trying to stay in the workforce.
- “And too often, parents have no choice but to put their kids in cheaper daycare that maybe doesn’t have the kinds of programming that makes a big difference in a child’s development. And sometimes there may just not be any slots, or the best programs may be too far away. “
OK. Having no options to send your kid to a good daycare program due to cost or scarcity.
- “And sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result.”
OK. Due to all of the above stuff, sometimes women have to leave the workplace to stay at home with a kid.
“And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make. “
This is the line of contention.
Use your deductive reasoning, and I dare you to picture the President is a big fluffy and cuddly creature like Baymax in Big Hero 6, and decide what you think he means in the context of the speech. (Remember, I’m a policy person. If I didn’t picture all politicians this way when they’re talking about policies, I’d be a really mad and jaded individual.)
Is he saying that he doesn’t want mom to make a choice to“leave the workplace to stay home with the kids” or is he saying that making a reasonable “choice,” you know, due to all of the piles of other stuff that has been listed before this final point, that results in “her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result” shouldn’t even be on the table. In other words, moms are punished for trying to stay in the workplace just as much as those who are kicked out it are.
There is absolutely no mention of moms who stop working to take care of their kids as an active choice. None. The speech is about women as active participants in the economy, aka. workplace.
You’ll find nothing bad said about moms who leave the workplace by choice and choose a new position as a mom who does not hold a paid occupation while she has children in the home. There’s no judgment passed upon them for their choice. Because, those women are not a part of the economy that we’re talking about in the speech, “Women and the Economy.” Therefore, they’re not neglected or ignored, because this speech isn’t about moms. It’s about women working in the economy.
Instead, he’s talking to and about women who have the odds stacked against them in the face of working. To those who are doing everything they can not to lose their job due to a baby arriving, or because their daycare costs exceed their take-home salary. Usually because giving up their wage-earning potential isn’t an option. This is about the lack of a choice and the inability to say, “Oh that’s ok if I make less for the rest of my life. I don’t mind” because that means basic needs will not be met.
Please read the whole speech. There’s no offense. No slam. Nothing there to cause an alarm.
In fact, it’s probably probably one of the most positive speeches on the contributions of women to the United States made by an American President, and definitely the most supportive of improving women’s stature in the workplace by far.
I’ve seen comments that ask, “Why is he only talking about what we can do at work? Why not address our value to the family?”
My dear friends… that’s ALL that anyone used to talk about. I’m a bit too blurry eyed to ruffle through my notes on how historically dismissive male politicians are to women, but our capacity to contribute within the home is pretty much the only thumbs up we’ve ever gotten. To be mad that he’s not talking about it? This is not the speech for that.
And that’s where I’ll leave this issue tonight. Another friend just told me Snopes was on my side, so I just patted myself on the back a little. Logic and reason only win some of the time, you know.
Choose to stay at home. Choose to work. I’ll be happy when the choice is extended to all women, and not just those of us in the upper tiers of socio-economic well-being who can spend all day yelling at each other on Facebook about these things.
p.s. Can we all stop throwing around this silliness on the Internet too? Let’s be the solution and not part of this silly mommy war problem by spreading this silly stuff.