Amy Sandberg: Turning the clock back on women
By Amy Sandberg
Several weeks ago Marissa Mayer was named CEO of Yahoo. Shortly after her appointment, Mayer announced she was pregnant, making her the first pregnant woman of a Fortune 500 company.
Cause for celebration, right? Not so fast. Even though Yahoo showed what Mayer termed “evolved thinking” around news of her pregnancy, Mayer nevertheless felt compelled to reassure investors by issuing the following statement: “My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I’ll work throughout it.”
Anyone who has ever had children, knows from experience that caring for a newborn is a full-time job. So either Mayer won’t “work through it,” or else she will be delegating childcare to someone else. I make no judgment either way, but why did she feel the need to deny the obvious?
Also, consider the brouhaha over two women in uniform photographed while breast feeding their babies. They were criticized for being “unprofessional” and bringing dishonor to the uniform. The official line of the National Guard and Air Force was that they were wrong to use the uniform to promote a cause, but who takes that statement seriously when the federal budget allocates $26.5 million per year to plaster National Guard logos on race cars?
A women working full-time who has a baby subjects herself to criticism for taking time off. However, if she doesn’t take time off and manages to care for her child the best she is able while working, she subjects herself to criticism for dishonoring her uniform, not to mention she will also be criticized for being a bad parent who has shortchanged the mother-child bonding process. Sounds like a lose-lose proposition.
Still not convinced that the clock has been turned back on women? Consider that some states require women to submit to medically unnecessary vaginal probe ultrasounds before they are allowed to get an abortion, a legally protected medical procedure. A woman’s access to family planning counseling, i.e. the ability to control when and with whom she gets pregnant, is also under siege with cutbacks in funding for Planned Parenthood and criticism of Obamacare contraceptive benefits.
Women still don’t earn the same pay as men for equal work — even after you factor in the leaves women take to do the trivial work of having children and raising families.
The latest assault on yours and my intelligence and the female gender comes from Representative Todd Akin, who suggested last weekend that in cases of “legitimate rape” a woman’s body has ways of keeping her from getting pregnant — therefore eliminating the need for legal abortions in instances of rape.
Add to all this, Donald Trump’s remark that “women just don’t get it,” and perhaps you can understand why it feels to me like we haven’t progressed all that much since Salem.
I would agree with the Anne Lamott, author of the brilliant “Operating Instructions”— one the best parenting memoirs ever — that aging white men have such terror and contempt for women’s bodies that they haven’t bothered to learn about them. However, if I said that I’d be accused of being a femi-Nazi, because, you know, feminism and Nazism go hand in hand.
Pay attention, women! Especially young women. Hear what is being said over your (pretty little) heads. And once you’ve heard it, be heard yourselves. Understand your rights. Exercise them. Vote. Speak out. And, most importantly, don’t let the opposite sex, the government, or the machine define womanhood — which is, in case you’d forgotten, the same as personhood.
Sandberg works in the book publishing industry. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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