From Suffrage to Suffering? Modern Mothers’ Work

On August 18, 1920, the 19th
Amendment
was officially ratified, bringing fruition to the women’s
suffrage movement and acting as a platform for modern day feminism. Since that
time, commonly known as feminism’s first wave, women’s rights movements have
progressed. During the early 1900s, suffrage was a primary concern of
feminists. Today, though, the issue is quite literally closer to home – family
life.

Neil Gilbert’s book, A
Mother’s Work: How Feminism, the Market and Policy Shape Family Life
,
discusses the modern family and the choices faced by women today in terms of
motherhood versus an occupation. He begins by prompting the question: is
motherhood in decline? Articles appeared in newspapers all across the nation,
talking about an “opt-out revolution”, or the story of women choosing to stay home
and raise families instead of pursuing a career. Gilbert claims, however, an
assumption that women are choosing family over work is misplaced.
A Mother's Work: How Feminism, the Market, and Policy Shape Family Life: Neil Gilbert

He continues on by talking
about the effects of capitalism on motherhood, addressing both a literal and
what is known as a “psychic” income, the latter being any non-material changes
that result from motherhood. In addition to this cost-benefit analysis, he asks
the reader to consider feminist expectations. What is the true meaning of
independence? Privilege, choice, and material possessions are all subjects that
are broached, which prompt a deeper consideration of how our society affects
our families.

To tie this back to voting,
the issue of “family friendly” policies is one worth noting. Gilbert concludes
his book that different policies may be conducive to certain lifestyles, but
not others. Controversies such as day care are discussed. Ultimately, Gilbert
encourages a new perspective on the pro-family debate—he advocates
consideration for alternatives for balancing work and family life. He cites
family/work policies of several other countries, saying that ultimately, women
need to educate themselves and seek the changes that they desire.

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Categories: Law, Parenting, Social Science, Women's Studies

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