by Roberta L. Wilson, Bainbridge, WA
Ramy Khalil’s article on abortion summarizing the wave of feminism in the ’60s and ’70s captures the excitement of the movements of my youth. I benefited from the gains the movement brought, such as the availability of the pill and abortion, which were legalized just as I graduated from high school. Because I could control my reproduction, I got an education, developed a career, and did things that I would have never done had I bore children as a young woman. I feel gratitude to the women and men, socialists and others, who forged these changes.
I think some women, however, including me, have mixed feelings about the gains. Rather than expressing a very human desire to facilitate the next generation, some of us spent years working for corporations instead. In contrast, my mother chose the decidedly anti-materialistic approach – she stayed at home with us, even though she had married later and had been a working woman. The work world could not compete with her desire to raise children, despite suffering economically and otherwise for the decision to stay home.
Still, I chose to “stage” my life, as have other women of my generation. So, you find women going through tortuous hormonal and fertilization attempts because they want to have babies later than when nature says is good for you. Many other women, though, want to have it all – relationships, babies, careers – all at the same time. That’s why they’re so exhausted and why the gains women made are sometimes reconsidered.
If I had a radical program to support women, it would be (a) the right to free abortion – not to mention universal health care, (b) the right to equal pay for equal work, (c) free child care for those who want it, but most important, (d) allowing one parent to stay home with their children for five years so that the child has a good start and the adults are not exhausted. Not 3 months, not one year. Five years.
It would give men, as well as women, the opportunity to be the stay-at-home parent. It might result in more nurtured and kinder kids and adults. It would result in communities that have the benefit of adults who are at home but available to serve the wider community. Instead, we had a women’s movement that sometimes lacerated the desire to be at home with young kids and encouraged day care over parent care.