Children: The Lady Tamer
Via Feministing, this article from the misogynist British paper the Daily Mail isn’t surprising,* but it is interesting in its retrograde tactics. In the U.S., at least, anti-feminists are at least attempting to couch their arguments in faux concern for human beings’ well-being. They either argue that second class citizenship should be embraced by women for our own good, or they argue that women’s equality can’t be tolerated because men, being fragile babies, can’t take it. And, of course, one should be forced to bear children against your will for your own good, and if you disagree, you must hate children and life itself.
But this Daily Mail article takes an old school tact—women should have children against their will, not because babies and lightness and life, but because child-bearing is an effective mechanism for controlling women. No, I’m not kidding. The argument is that employers should prefer mothers to non-mothers, for the same reason you’d want to get a dog that’s already been to obedience school over one who still jumps on people and sits on the furniture. If you don’t see a difference between women and dogs, this argument shouldn’t bother you, but being wild leftist feminists here at Pandagon, you can be assured we’ll argue that women aren’t dogs, nor are children choke collars.
It was welcome news, therefore, to discover this week that I am not alone. Research conducted over six years shows that far from bosses and colleagues always being suspicious of a working mother, the opposite is becoming true: it is the childless woman who is regarded as cold and odd.
As a result, it is these single-track careerists who are increasingly likely to be vilified, refused jobs and denied promotion because many employers believe them to lack what the study calls ‘an essential humanity’. And I know exactly what they mean.
I’d like to see any actual reference to this supposed study—a name, a link, anything. But without it, I’m afraid I’m going to have to call bullshit. Anyone who’s had a job knows that it’s actually mothers who tend to face discrimination, and while it’s not fun to be treated like the single, childless lady who has to cover for mothers tending to sick children (something male colleagues get asked to do less, I’ve noticed), the ugly fact of the matter is this gives you an unfair advantage, as you come across as the one who goes the extra mile around the office. I’ve worked in a lot of different environments, but one thing I’ve noticed across the board is that single, childless women get promoted a lot faster than mothers, and this is true even in environments where the bosses try to be conscientious of not discriminating. You just have more opportunities to shine if you aren’t being distracted by a family. Many women I’ve seen make sure to get the job they want in place before they even think about getting married, and women who put off child-bearing into their mid-30s for this reason are just being smart about what obstacles they really do face.
But in this topsy-turvy article, motherhood is somehow an advantage.
It’s not the mothers, for a start, who are going to turn up late and hungover after a night on the razz; they’ll have been up, dressed and alert for hours, having cooked a family breakfast and delivered their children to school. On time.
It’s not the mothers, usually, who run the office bitch-fest.
They’re not there to compete for the attentions of the male executives; they’re there to get out of the house; they’re there because they genuinely enjoy some adult company; and they’re there because they have mouths to feed other than their own and shoes to buy for someone else’s feet.
Perhaps weirdest of all these weird assertions is the implication that childless women don’t enjoy adult company. I’d argue that’s why I’m childless—I not only enjoy it, but I prefer it immensely to the company of children, and don’t want children getting between me and spending time with other adults. (This is a personal preference, and no judgment on people who feel otherwise. So put down your keyboards.) I’m also impressed by the contradiction between the idea that mothers are more desiring of adult company, but less likely to be gossips. Since gossiping (or bitch-fest, if you will) is a function of people trying to engage their peer group, I’d think those who were highly motivated to engage would gossip more. But we already knew that Carol Sarler is just making shit up to bash childless women. After all, there’s only one message here: She prefers mothers, because mothers are housebroken.
Check out this illustration:
Intended to insult the childless, what it does as well is insult mothers, by implying that they’ve been transformed, through the miracle of childbirth, into soulless automatons. Also note that Sarler thinks that giving birth means the end of you as a sexual being—only the childless flirt with male colleagues in her world. Once you have children, single or not, you’re off the market in her world. Presumably all men, whether they’re married or not, parenting or not, are open to flirting.
I enjoy the entire subgenre of articles intended to bully women into having children, but this might be my all-time favorite. She pulls out all stops, including openly calling the childless not-human. (Only women, again, need to have children to be admitted into the human race.) But rarely do you see this anymore, where women are openly told to have children not because children are great, but because you’re a wild animal who needs taming. Good luck with that strategy, Carol. I have my suspicions this is less aimed at women, and more written so grumpy old men can nod vigorously about how terrible women are, and how much it takes to turn them from wild animals to domesticated appliances.
*Because if you don’t make note of this, at least one commenter will say, “What? You’re surprised?”