In January 1915, Miss Henrietta Rodman, President of the recently-formed Feminist Alliance, was interviewed by the New York Times about her idea for a “feminist apartment house.” The article begins with the line: “the care of the baby is the weak point in feminism.”
In the article, Rodman explains how a communal living situation would ease the burden of the working mother by relieving her of the “four primitive industries of women—care of house, clothes, food, and children” at a price that the average family can afford:
For the children, there are nurseries and playgrounds and schoolrooms on the roof. Montessori teachers and expert attendants are to be in charge. All the cooking for the entire house will be done in a large kitchen in the basement, and the meals will be served to the tenants from electric service elevators. Family mending will be done by a trained staff, the laundry work will be in charge of another trained staff, and so also will the sweeping and dusting and tidying up.
Rodman goes on to say that, “…the baby is the great problem of the woman who attempts to carry out the new responsibilities of wage earning and citizenship.” In other words, the “problem of the baby” is the problem of the modern working mother being pulled in two directions as she attempts to meet both the requirements of a career and the needs of her family.
The “problem of the baby” has plagued feminism from its early days and still serves as a challenge to feminist-oriented women—those that reject full-time motherhood in favour of mixing motherhood with a job or “career.” These are the majority of women.
The feminist apartment house never caught on, but a less extreme communal solution was offered: daycare. For the working woman who can’t afford a nanny, or who simply prefers it, daycare is the answer to the problem of the baby.
Whether one locates the origins of daycare in Communist Russia or in the Industrial Revolution, daycare became an essential plank of feminism’s campaign to liberate women from the home.
The image of the serene, cheerful full-time housewife of an earlier era no longer exists, nor does her counterpart, the career woman who inevitably becomes a frustrated, unhappy spinster. Feminists of the latter part of the 20th century put an end to women having to choose between motherhood and a career, and instead, insisted that she could “have it all.” Daycare was essential to this.
While feminists have been talking about daycare since the early 1900s, the movement didn’t have the will or the capacity to lobby for it until the 1970s. Included in the first set of demands made by the National Organization of Women (NOW), the lobby group set up by Betty Friedan and other liberal feminists in the late 60s, was publicly-funded daycare centres.
In 1970, Friedan spoke about, “The question of child care centers which are totally inadequate in society, and which women require, if they are going to assume their rightful position in terms of helping in decisions of society.”
The problem of the baby is a problem only of modern woman; it is a consequence of feminist ideology, and is not one that is natural to womanhood. Babies aren’t a problem of womanhood, but a biological, central fact of it. Before feminism individual women certainly bore or got rid of unwanted children who were viewed as a problem, but babies weren’t an official problem of being a woman until feminism. Feminism insisted that women have a career to be “fulfilled,” and having a career clashes with having a baby, hence the “problem of the baby.”
Feminists of the “having it all” generation have turned the problem of the baby on its head, however, and have made the harried working mother a cultural heroine. The working mother physically and emotionally pulled in two different directions is the dominant image of the modern woman, and it is a celebrated image. The character of Kate Reddy in Allison Pearson’s popular novel, I Don’t Know How She Does It (2002), is an example of the glorification of the woman who “has it all.” Selfishness has become a virtue and the working mother is a prime example. The ultra-busy working mother may act like a martyr, but she is not making a sacrifice of herself for a just cause. The martyr is the talented woman who gives up her career to care for her family.
There are many reasons one could cite as to why mothers shouldn’t drop their children off at daycare every day. It is a dehumanizing, collectivist solution. It is bad for a child’s development. It is part of the nasty web of feminism our society is ensnared in. However, the main reason why daycare is bad is because it is wrong. It is simply wrong for a woman to choose her own life over the life of her child, to put her own fulfillment and desires before the needs and good of her child.
Indoctrinated by feminist and other ideologies as we are, arguments about right and wrong that require a belief in objective truth to understand are lost on many people. Here is another reason though, why a woman shouldn’t drop her child at daycare: it is only because of feminist ideology that the working mother and daycare have become so common. It is not because society has achieved an advanced degree of progress or enlightenment, and it is not because women have achieved their long-quested after status of “equality” and “freedom.” It is because feminist ideology has enslaved women by turning them against their natural, maternal instincts and feelings, and turned them into imitators of men. The brainwashed masses of women now choose to hand their children over to strangers everyday while they take up their place as one of the many cogs who populate the modern workplace.
Carolyn Graglia’s critique of feminism, Domestic Tranquility: A Brief Against Feminism (1998), includes this anecdote from her own experience of becoming a mother:
In my own case, I never intended to cease working for more than a few months, having planned to give birth to my first child during an extended summer vacation. I never did return to the workplace on other than an occasional, short-term basis. I had always thought my children would be raised by nannies so that I could continue pursuing what seemed my settled and agreeable destiny as a lawyer. Yet, when the first wave of queasiness signaled my pregnancy one morning, I was overwhelmed by a sense of spectacular accomplishment. The professional achievements I had known paled into insignificance—instantly and to my utter surprise. Dressing for work, I foresaw with epiphanic clarity that I would not continue working after my baby was born. The passage of time only reinforced the realization that, absent dire necessity, I could never devote my best personal efforts to what now seemed the much lesser task of market production and leave to surrogates the care of my baby who had become the paramount obligation of my life.
Graglia writes that her response to motherhood is not what she thought it would be. She had thought her response would be in accord with what feminism teaches women: “…that maintaining the primacy of her workplace commitment is precisely the reaction women must cultivate as the only appropriate, even healthy, response to motherhood.”
Most women, unfortunately, seem to lack Graglia’s wisdom. Or is it merely common sense? Or does acknowledging the reality of motherhood require a much greater task: breaking the bonds of the false ideology in which feminism has enslaved women.
Yet, despite the greatest efforts of feminism to override reality, women continue to butt heads with it. Even with the solution of daycare and nannies and the glorification of the harried working mother, the problem of the baby remains.
Why does the problem of the baby remain in our feminist-oriented society? Because feminist ideology does not deal in reality, and the reality is motherhood requires 24/7 attention to and care of one’s child. Motherhood requires 100% of a woman’s time and energy. Motherhood is not a job that can be delegated to someone else, it involves a duty and responsibility a woman has to her children. In a metaphysical sense, motherhood requires for a woman to decrease, while her child increases—this is stymied if she is trying to fulfill herself with outside interests.
Daycare is merely one prong of the feminist solution to the problem of the baby. The overall plan is to remake the workplace, and in turn the world, to accommodate the working mother.
Graglia describes the plan:
Having launched its movement claiming the right of women—a right allegedly denied them previously—to enter the workplace on an equal basis with men, feminism then escalated its demands by arguing that female differences require numerous changes in the workplace…Thus, having taken women out of their homes and settled them in the workplace, feminists have sought to reconstruct workplaces to create “feminist playpens” that are conducive to female qualities of sensitivity, caring, and empathy.
The qualities that are the most likely to make women good mothers are thus redeployed away from their children and into workplaces that must be restructured to accommodate them. The irony is twofold. Children—the ones who could benefit most from the attentions of those mothers who do possess these womanly qualities—are deprived of those attentions and left only with the hope of finding adequate replacement for their loss. Moreover, the occupations in which these qualities are now to find expression either do not require them for optimal job performance (often they are not conducive to professional success) or were long ago recognized as women’s occupations—as in the field of nursing, for example—in which nurturing abilities do enhance job performance.
Feminists no longer talk about breaking through the “glass ceiling,” and we all know the statistics about more women than men now receiving post-secondary education and entering professions like law and medicine. We are constantly bombarded with images of women doctors, lawyers, CEOs and politicians. Feminists are concerned though with what Anne-Marie Slaughter calls the “Great Stall”: despite women’s educational and professional achievements, they still don’t equal men in leadership positions.
For feminist ideologues there are roughly two approaches to this “problem.” One is the totalitarian solution of setting quotas, and then there is the more nuanced approach of changing the way we live and think. The latter approach is more disturbing because it is amorphous in its tactics and effects. On a concrete level, it involves calls for better maternity leave, subsidized, on-site daycare, and flexible work schedules. On another level, it calls for changing the way we think about the very nature of men, women and family. It is a step toward the eradication of distinct femininity or womanhood and distinct masculinity or manhood.
Feminists despise the traditional family model of the man as breadwinner and the woman as housewife, and much of their work over the past 100 or so years has been to eradicate this model. While they ignore that men are more suited to breadwinning and women are more suited to mothering, they blindly insist that men can be housewives and women can be breadwinners. They are interchangeable. As Rodman prophesized in the 1915 Times article, sex differences, what we now call gender differences, would become much less apparent: “My prophecy is that men and women will be much more like each other, mentally and physically, both approximating a type far higher than the distinct sex types of today.”
It has been pointed out that the “Great Stall” exists because women take time off to have children and therefore lose their momentum on the ladder of career success, never to regain it. When they return to work after maternity leave it is difficult to get their footing back. The answer feminists propose: change the ladder. Instead of seeing the “Great Stall” as a logical consequence of being a woman, in the name of “equality” feminists deem it unfair and demand the system, i.e., men, change to eradicate it. The most effective way to alter the corporate ladder to suit working mothers? Graglia describes it as “reconstruct[ing] workplaces to create ‘feminist playpens’ that are conducive to female qualities of sensitivity, caring, and empathy.” And guess who has to adapt to working in these “feminist playpens?” Men. And guess how? By suppressing their masculinity.
So caught up in ideology feminists are, that instead of addressing the reality of womanhood and motherhood, they seek to remake society into a utopian matriarchy where women rule and hand off responsibilities they don’t want to subservient men or staff, particularly in the home. Not unlike the feminist apartment house, in this women’s utopia mothers would never feel the clash of work and motherhood, for the system, i.e., men, would support them in finding the perfect “work-life balance.”
As feminists and their co-conspirators strive toward their utopia, the fallout piles up around them. Yet feminism has triumphed to such a degree already that women are protected from the fallout. It’s men and children who suffer. Women don’t want to have their life constrained by the responsibilities of children and home, so they constrain others, such as their husband or employer, and the child himself. Men, out of a mixture of love and fear, comply. Children, who are totally dependent on their parents, don’t have any choice.
A persistent myth surrounding the topic of the working mother is that these women have to work for economic reasons.
As Suzanne Venker and Phyllis Schlafly write in their book, The Flipside of Feminism (2011), the argument that married women must work because two incomes are necessary in these economic times is a red herring:
The spin sisters make it sound as though modern women are victims of the economy, as though most mothers want to be home but can’t be. Yet nothing happened to married mothers to drive them in to the workforce—the way the death or unemployment of a spouse might. Feminists created an environment that demanded it. “All the income growth in the U.S. since 1970 has come from women working outside the home,” wrote Bridget Brennan in Why She Buys.
Note the date: 1970. That’s when feminists began waving the flag of liberation. Before then, American families lived differently. They owned one car, one television, and one stereo. Their houses averaged two thousand square feet; their children shared bedrooms; and a typical vacation might include camping. Then American women joined the workforce, and their incomes slowly created “a new norm.”
Today, the average home has 38 percent more square footage; kids have their own rooms; each member of the family owns his own cell phone and iPod; televisions are in many rooms; toys abound; and a trip to Disney World is considered a rite of passage. How did this happen? Employed mothers caused a dramatic change in lifestyle. Families can afford posh lifestyles because both parents are producing an income….Therefore, to say dual-income families are a necessity is misleading. Parents are working to support the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed.
Most people think that the necessity of a dual-income is an economic fact. They don’t realize that it is feminist propaganda. In Domestic Tranquility, Graglia explains that economic necessity is a more acceptable argument to use when feminists ask for subsidized daycare than is a woman’s self-fulfillment and independence: “The proposition that working mothers should be subsidized is surely more compelling when economic necessity forces them into the workplace than when they willingly enter to achieve self-fulfillment and independence from men.” Feminist ideologues and their co-conspirators are nothing if not clever. The wool has been pulled over our eyes.
Although Rodman doesn’t mention it in her interview with the Times, there is an underlying assumption that the women who will live in the feminist apartment house will restrict the number of children they have in order to have the career and the life they want, regardless of how much domestic help they have. At the time the article was published, 1915, fertility rates were already in decline and that decline has steadily continued to today. Fertility rates are said to be determined by trends in marriage, economic development, cultural norms, and women’s education, employment, and access to contraception.
The relationship between these last three factors is: women restrict the number of children they have by using contraception in order to become educated and to use that education in a “career.” If contraception fails or is not used properly, or is not used at all, they have easy access to legal abortion. Feminists campaigned for the legalization of contraception, and feminists campaigned for the legalization of abortion.
This is the darkest side of the problem of the baby: abortion. Along with daycare, abortion was one of the earliest demands of liberal feminism in the 1960s. While the idea of reforming abortion law in the U.S. in the mid-20th century did not originate in the feminist movement proper, liberal feminism embraced the campaign for the full repeal of abortion law and made the call for legal abortion one of its essential demands. It is precisely because of the so-called problem of the baby that legal abortion as a woman’s right became a central plank of feminism. Babies tie women to the home and place them in a position of dependency—unacceptable to feminists! Control over their own bodies and reproductive capacity is essential to women’s dignity and freedom (i.e. their ability to earn their own paycheque and not have to be dependent on a man), says feminism.
With legal contraception and abortion, and the childcare options of daycare or a nanny, a woman is fully armed against the problem of the baby. She has a full array of “tools” at her fingertips to ensure that she and her aspirations are never dragged down by having to look after a child. The “tools” give her full coverage: if she plans ahead she uses contraception, if she doesn’t plan ahead adequately she can get an abortion, and if she doesn’t want to abort she has daycare. The modern woman is free of the baby in as much as is possible. The problem didn’t require a feminist apartment house, other “solutions” were implemented.
But is she really free? No, contraception, abortion and daycare only give the modern woman the illusion of freedom. She is truly a slave to feminist ideology and she has pulled her children and husband into this enslavement with her. The problem of the baby will always plague feminism because feminism rejects the truth about women—they are essentially, primarily mothers and because of this they are very different from men in their capacities. Women will only be free when they accept themselves as they are with the full implications of womanhood, that is, women are mothers, and mothers don’t have time for careers.
During the Times interview, Rodman says that the feminist apartment house will allow women to carry “the full responsibilities of womanhood…home making, childbearing…wage earning and citizenship…” The interviewer, however, points out that, “…the feminist cannot carry what she considers her full responsibilities unless she has some other women to help her; while she tends to wage earning and citizenship, some other woman must tend to her home and children.”
When Rodman says, “The bringing up of a child is the greatest creative work of the average man or woman,” her interviewer counters, “And yet you feminists demand that it be turned over to employees…”
Ideology and pride are blinding, and feminists are full of both. Women like Graglia, however, who are immune to feminist indoctrination and aren’t afraid to speak truthfully about their sex are rare. And so, feminists are given free rein to insert their ideology ever further into the workings of society, degrading womanhood and denying its essential truths.