Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Blaming "Them" when it is "Us"

If I ever get into a debate with Dave, I'd better be stone cold sober with about a weeks worth of sleep behind me. In this post, Dave skewers Raphael so neatly, that Raphael still doesn't know he lost the debate before it began.

That being said, I'm going to wade in here. Raphael makes the causal correlation that feminism and its resulting liberation of women, has resulted in the decline of the traditional family unit. I can see that link, and even agree with the causal theorizing. But it is a major error to place blame or fault at the feet of the feminist movement.

It isn't the fault of feminists, the "Them" of Raphael's argument, that women desiring to enter the workforce coincides with a declining birth rate. Its "Our" fault as society in that we place a higher value on paid employment than staying home and raising kids. We placed such emphasis on the "breadwinner" that the mother raising the children was deemed second best, menial labour, not real work worthy of a real man. Is it any wonder that women wanted the freedom to enter the workforce?

If anyone destroyed the "traditional family" it was the men who praised the work they did while looking down at the work that women did as mothers. I fully agree that society would benefit if more families had one parent that stayed at home. Long-time readers know that this is my situation; my wife stays home and is raising our kids. However, my role as "breadwinner" is a support role. To provide the economic security for my wife to do the more important job of parenting. While my role is important, its value is in how much financial freedom my wife has to be a mother.

Lets face it, when I die, no one is going to remember how hard I worked, or how well I did my job. My career and whatever legacy it is making will die with me. I am just one cog in an economic machine where I can be easily swapped out when my value to my employer declines. But my kids can only truly have one mother, and one father. As parents we are not so easily replaced. And how we parent our kids will create an enduring legacy in how our kids grow up and enter society on their own, and start their own families. They are my epitaph, a living testament to the person I am and strive to be. And the lions share of the work done moulding my sons will have been done by my wife, and the greater credit is and will be hers.

It is not right or fair to assume that the woman must do the child raising. But we can choose to start celebrating the parent, and to raise in esteem those that do make parenting their career choice. If we do that, maybe more men as well as women will choose to stay home and focus on parenting. And if you believe in the value of the stay-at-home parent, isn't that truly what its all about?


Raphael Alexander said...

I'm surprised you think this is a refutation of my article. I agree with your post in almost every way. Although I would say that you generalize in your statement that men "praised the work they did while looking down at the work that women did as mothers". My grandfather was never that way, nor as far as I know my great-grandfather. Your situation is the kind of familial investment I am talking about, valuing that over the, as you say, fleeting career.

Catelli said...

I'm not refuting the central thesis that there is a link between the rise of feminism and the decline in children. That part I agree with. That's the focus of my post.

But I do think your post was heavy on the causal side of the relationship. Feminism is a result of the consumerist/careerist mentality that valued a citizens contribution to the GDP more than the work of the parent. We still see that in our tax system, employment statistics (I think my wife is categorized as unemployed but I can't find an official statement from Stats Can on the categorization of the stay-at-home parent), and other numeric measurements. As a citizen my wife is almost a non-person.

Well I'm simplifying too, not all aspects of feminism have to do with finding jobs. Women just weren't (and sometimes still aren't) treated fairly in many aspects of life. Feminism has had a much larger role and I still think focusing on the employment/family thing really diminished the strength of your argument to support your theory.

Feminism itself has nothing to do with the declining birthrate, the causes are more abstract than that.

Raphael Alexander said...

I appreciate your critique, and I can accept that the totality of my statement of feminism being a causal decline of all the points I mentioned was asking for trouble. Had this post been something more carefully considered I think I should have weighed my own criticisms a little more carefully.