Monday, January 01, 2007

PM has fertile imagination: feminist

Feminism dead: PM announces the giant banner headline in the news section of the Sunday tabloid. It is accompanied by a large photo of a smiling young mother and a subhead that reads Praise for younger mothers. The story, by Howard-friendly journalist Piers Akerman, reveals that John Howard believes younger women are abandoning careers they were once peer-pressured into pursuing, in favour of having children. But here's the funny part. While the PM is keen to attribute the rise in the birth rate to younger, ‘post-feminist’ women, Akerman goes on to contradict him completely by quoting statistics that demonstrate "the continuing trend of delaying motherhood" and the fact that "women aged 30 to 34 continue to have the highest fertility rate of all women". Um...
What irks me though, more than his distortion of the facts, is Howard’s contention that women have only pursued careers out of a sense of keeping up with the Ms. Joneses. He claims, "They thought: 'I’ll be letting the sisterhood down if I don’t stay in the workforce until I’m a certain age'". Not only is he a mind-reader, but he also conceives of women as pretty pathetic, gormless creatures. It does not occur to him that women might be motivated to work for much the same reasons men are--for intellectual stimulation, to use their skills, education and talents to be productive members of society, for obtaining financial benefit, for reasons of self-esteem, power or status, or whatever.
In rhetorical desperation, Howard brandishes the biological clock in our faces. He says young women have "a greater awareness now of the disadvantage of postponing having children too long." Well, this is probably true of all women these days. We are very much aware of the difficulty in reconciling a desire to work with a desire to parent, particularly in a patriarchal society where men are never criticised for wanting to 'have it all'. This does not mean women are ready to throw in the towel, though. Sorry, John. In the end, Howard’s arguments amount to nothing more than wishful thinking from an old-fashioned social conservative with a penchant for nostalgia about the male-as-sole-breadwinner model.

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