opting out April 29, 2007Posted by sindhub in class, college, feminism, in the news, motherhood, new york times, opting out, stay-at-home moms.
There was yet another op-ed in the NY Times last week about the recent ‘phenomenon’ of college-educated women with bright career prospects who instead choose to ‘opt out’ and become full-time mothers. What I thought the author was basically saying was that we need to inspect the current socioeconomic system and why it makes it so hard for motherhood to be compatible with many careers as they’re set up now, as well as why women are still expected to be ‘superwomen’ who go above and beyond what their husbands do.
So I was surprised by the Letters to the Editor in response to this article. All of them came from women, many from women who opted out of the workforce and chose to stay at home with their children. I thought some of their letters were just positively dripping with hostility… one of them basically accused the author of being a bad mother because she didn’t stay at home with her kids. I found it really frustrating that none of them questioned why it was them, the wives and mothers, who stayed at home, and not their husbands. One letter tried to legitimize the right to ‘choose.’ But I think the idea of choice brings us back to one of the central questions of cultural studies (and of feminist debate): Can you really choose when your options are limited (e.g. their husbands most likely wouldn’t have chosen to stay at home, and also the recent news about the pay gap), even if you don’t realize it?