Feminists: Just Another Cost-Shifting Special Interest Group

Like all liberals, feminists just want somebody else to pay for their life choices.

Back when the feminist movement began what became the "war between the sexes," we wondered what feminism was all about.  Some men were treating women pretty badly, but why would women go to war against men in general and the traditional marriage relationship in particular?

After half a century of increasingly vicious and destructive battle, it's finally become clear what feminism is all about - money.  We should have seen this sooner.

Shared Sacrifice or a Free Ride?

Since the dawn of time, very few human females have been able to raise children without help.  In nature, father birds may help feed the nestlings and father wolves often help the mother defend and feed the pups, but for the most part, raising animal babies is a maternal matter.

Human babies, on the other hand, are so helpless and so dependent for so long that it's pretty much impossible for a mother to achieve reproductive success by raising a child to maturity without a lot of help.  During our many hunter-gatherer generations, women could gather carbohydrates from plants, but the protein needed for a successful pregnancy came from men who hunted and shared meat with their women and children.

A woman had to nurse her baby for a year if not longer.  Lugging a child along on a hunt isn't practical - a crying baby would scare away any game she was about to catch.

Once we discovered agriculture, women could raise chicken and pigs for protein, but plowing, planting, and harvesting grain for carbohydrates needed a man's strength.  Again, the only way a woman could achieve reproductive success was by persuading a man to assist in feeding her and her children.

With the coming of the industrial revolution, women could get jobs.  They could earn enough money for food and lodging, but a woman still couldn't hold a job without finding someone to take of her children until they were 6 or 7 and could go to work in the mills themselves.  As in prehistoric times, a woman had a far easier time raising children if she could find a man who'd pay many or most of the bills.

Bedfellows Make Strange Politics

From a woman's point of view, the main question is who's going to pay her way?  Finding a husband was the traditional method, but that made her more than a little dependent on her husband.  If he died or ran off, she'd be at risk of starving.

Although taxpayer-funded programs for poor relief have existed since colonial times, aid was restricted to destitute widows - that is, to women who had been married and who'd lost their husbands through no fault of their own.  After women got the vote, they tried to increase these programs to ensure that a woman with children would be cared for regardless of whether the man she chose died or turned out to be a no-goodnik.

The Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) law, which is what most people mean by "welfare," was passed as part of the Social Security act of 1935.  From the beginning, aid was available to children whose mothers had never been married.  Over time, eligibility was expanded to cover more and more people.

What we think of as the modern feminist movement got underway in the 1960's.  Women felt that they'd been ruled, or exploited, or dominated by men for long enough.  Laws were changed to make divorce easier.  The New York Times reports that all over the world, the easier divorce becomes, the more marriages end in divorce:

Separations and divorces have steadily risen in this traditionally Roman Catholic country [Italy] since divorce was legalized in 1970. In 1995, 158 of every 1,000 marriages ended in separation, and 80 out of 1,000 in divorce. In 2009, the last year for which statistics are available, the numbers had reached 297 separations and 181 divorces per thousand, according to Istat, the national statistics agency.

Couples stayed married as long as the law enforced marriage commitments by forbidding divorce but started separating as soon as divorce became legal.  The old saying "Two can live as cheaply as one" has been demonstrated as divorce becomes more common and divorced people end up worse off.

Italian courts continue to make mothers the primary caregivers while fathers bear the financial brunt of the separation. Critics say the law, as it is applied, favors women, whose participation in the work force has steadily grown, reaching 46.5 percent, according to Istat. Still, more than half of women who are separated also see a decline in their economic conditions, Istat said.

Divorce is also expensive.  Another Times article observed:

... divorce is big business these days. In the United States alone, estimates of what might be called the divorce industry range from $50 billion to $175 billion a year, depending on what costs are included. (Lawyers, after all, are only the beginning.) More than 1.2 million people in the United States filed for divorce in 2009, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the National Center for State Courts.

Given all the money spent on divorce and the common reduction in living standards women suffered after divorce, it's unsurprising that the women's movement followed the pattern of other special-interest groups and started worrying about getting their hands on more and more taxpayer money.

As politicians are happy to vote for programs which give money to blacks, Hispanics, small business owners, women-owned businesses, Indian-owned businesses and other pressure groups in return for votes, feminists are offering support in return for money spent on "women's issues."

When women first started moving into the work force, working women criticized stay-at-home moms.  One Obama supporter even said that in choosing to stay at home and raise her sons, Mrs. Romney had never worked a day in her life.

On the other hand, it's becoming obvious that children whose parents both work don't do as well as children whose mothers work at raising them.  Children without a father in the house do worst of all even when the mother gets enough money from welfare to spend most of her time at home.

The Mommy Wars

The argument between women who criticize non-working mothers and women who feel guilty about abandoning their children has led to a conflict known as the "Mommy Wars."  The issue is whether the feminist movement had harmed children by urging mothers to bottle feed and force children to sleep in convenient patterns so that mothers can go to work.

Some mothers have come to advocate "attachment parenting," an intense mothering style with on-demand feeding, sleeping in the same bed, and other demanding activity.  Opponents claim that attachment parenting undermines gender equality because it forces fathers out of any significant role in parenting and because intense mothering is incompatible with a woman having a job and earning a living.

The Times discussed the Mommy Wars, saying "The conflict is not one between motherhood and feminism, but within feminism itself."

This is the conflict between economic policies and social institutions that set up systematic obstacles to women working outside of the home — in the United States, the lack of affordable, high quality day care, paid parental leave, flex time and so on — and the ideologies that support those policies and institutions, on the one hand, and equality for women, on the other hand.

Probably without intending to, the Times makes it clear that feminism has become just one more cost-shifting pressure group.  Look again at the list of "obstacles to women working outside the home."  Working women need "affordable, high quality day care, paid parental leave, flex time and so on."  

"Affordable, high-quality day care" is a code phrase for wanting someone else - the government, the employer, anyone but the woman - to pay for it.  "Paid parental leave" wants the woman's employer to pay the cost of her adapting to having chosen to have a child.  Parental leave imposes large costs on organizations that offer it - the remaining workers either have to do more work or help a temporary replacement adapt to what has to be done.  "Flex time" may be convenient for the worker, but it often makes it harder to coordinate workers to get the job done.

Who Pays?

Every single one of these "women's issues" involve shifting the cost of a woman deciding to have a child to someone else instead of to her husband.

The Times makes it clear that feminism is all about power:

The problem is also that under current social, economic, and cultural conditions, no matter what one chooses, there will be costs:  for stay at home mothers, increased economic vulnerability and dependence on their spouses, which can decrease their exit options and thus their power in their marriages; for working mothers, the high costs of quality child care and difficulty keeping up at work with those who either have no children or have spouses at home taking care of them, which exacerbates the wage gap and keeps the glass ceiling in place.

Has the Times forgotten that choices have always imposed costs throughout human history?  American society tries to pretend that we can make choices without suffering any consequences, but that's simply not true.  A woman who decides to have a child out of wedlock can go on welfare, but her children will suffer from not having a father in their lives.  Society will pay both the cost of the welfare and of the probable wreckage of the children's lives.

Stay at home mothers are dependent on their husbands which "can decrease their exit options and thus their power in their marriages."  Homemakers don't have their own income, so they have fewer exit options and less power.  Has marriage changed to be about "exit options" and power, not about serving one another?

Women who spend time and emotional energy raising their children have trouble competing with men and with women who don't have children.  How are we supposed to make up for this?  Pay women to have babies?

Long ago, Scragged pointed out that government boils down to only two questions: 1) who says and 2) who pays.  In a sense, the feminist emphasis on shifting costs of birth control, child care, abortions, and more convenient work arrangements from women to society at large is an admission that women can't earn enough to support both themselves and their children.

The unarguable fact that women in fact can not support themselves while raising children at least means that feminists are more honest than politicians who lead other groups.  Black and Hispanic leaders argue that blacks and Hispanics are so inferior that the only way they can survive is to elect politicians who'll give them taxpayer money.  Big businesses claim that they need tax breaks, export financing, and other benefits to complete in world markets.

The problem is that if every group - blacks, women, Hispanics, American Indians, big businesses, small businesses, and who knows what else all try to shift their costs to someone else in return for voting for friendly politicians, who is left to pay the bills?

Lee Tydings is a guest writer for Scragged.com.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Lee Tydings or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

"Opponents claim that attachment parenting undermines gender equality because it forces fathers out of any significant role in parenting and because intense mothering is incompatible with a woman having a job and earning a living"

No.

Opponents claim that it builds super-dependent, coddled, bratty, spoiled toddlers who turn into miserable self-entitled tweens, teens and young adults.

Opponents also claim that it is *hellacious* on the mother's time and energy - so much so that she is incapable of having more than than one or two children and incapable of taking care of her home. If you know any Attachment Parenting parents, as I do, this is self evident. They are horrified at the thought of having baby # 2 because it's inconceivable how you AP more than one kid until the first one is 6 or 8 years old. A well-rested mother is a good mother.

Opponents also point out that Dr. Sears - the buffoon who created the AP movement - has never studied the data in any scientific way or even attempted to. His entire position is built on speculation about social behavior.

Some *liberal* opponents say that it undermines gender equality, but that's an insignificant argument for those that understand the issue. There are plenty of other legitimate criticisms to use.

Attachment Parenting is a horrifically-stupid practice and young parents should run in the opposite direction.

PS. For those that are interested, the opposite direction is "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" (http://amzn.to/MEO6HU). A sensible useful approach.

June 6, 2012 8:56 AM

So the solution to the problem is to have the government take over the necessity of having children to continue the race. As in so many SciFi stories, our children will be "decanted" and raised by robots so that women and men can be free of such drudgery of diapers and crying babies. One day the supervising computer will decide that the worthless, self indulgent humans can be discontinued.

June 6, 2012 10:53 AM

Is attachment parenting just another way to be a Tiger mom?

June 6, 2012 1:03 PM

@FredF

No, exactly the opposite.

The Tiger Mom thing is about strict, old fashioned discipline where kids learn a lot of things through tough love. Chau's book was interesting and amusing (and quite profound).

AP is the polar opposite. Kids' desires are satisfied at every turn. You give them food the second they ask, any time of day. You let them sleep with you, how they want, when they want, any time of day. (Or let them stay up if they don't want to sleep). You don't "wean them off" things like nursing or child food. It's basically the Montessori version of parenting.

AP parents are super-duper friends to their kids, feeding every desire as soon as they appear. This creates ultra dependence. Dr. Sears claims, incredibly, that this leads to a LACK of dependence later in life. Normal parents are still scratching their heads trying to figure out why.

June 6, 2012 1:12 PM

Makes sense. I heard the Tiger mom's kids are doing pretty well in college, which requires independence and inner discipline. Nobody gets that from having every wish granted, look at welfare....

June 6, 2012 4:19 PM

AP is just another example of liberal academics crashing into real life: all theory and no positive results in the real world.

Dr. Markham is a big AP advocate. She talks about it here:

http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/attachment-parenting/Pros-and-cons

Sounds wonderful, right? Except for all the contradictions.

"Set limits" but don't "be strict".

"Helps me see the situation from the child's point of view" yet "need to impose responsibility that the child doesn't understand".

"Happy and rested mom" though AP inherently creates the exact opposite.

"All children need to feel the attachment connection" yet "every child is different and can't be parented the same way".

"Kids raised with harsh discipline tend to be more rebellious" and then "strict parenting creates children who don't question authority".

Which is it?

Normal PC post-modern reasoning, end to end. It sounds good until you start noticing all the contradictions.

Also...

"Research shows..." is a lie. There is no research. Dr. Sears, Dr. Markham, et. al have virtually no data. It's like the "strict parenting leads to angry, dissatisfied adults" stuff. They quote their own social theories or their friends quoting friends. The click-through's return to home.

Only the elites can afford the criteria. In very narrow circumstances with financially independent parents, who each are able to spend large amounts of time with the children, you see some success. Regulars can't afford that. And I would argue that it doesn't work even for the elites unless you define "success" the way they do.

June 6, 2012 4:53 PM
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