Saturday, October 03, 2009

Losers (by Phila)

In response to the survey that Echidne discussed a few days ago, Mona Charen says it's not surprising that stay at home moms tend to have lower incomes and fewer opportunities:
We knew that women with lower levels of education and skills make the decision to raise their own children rather than seek a low-paying job that would barely cover the cost of childcare. That's not news, and it's not stupid either.
These women aren't "stupid" for staying at home once they realize that they can't break even by working full-time, let alone get ahead? Good to know. Hooray for the land of opportunity.

As if that weren't diabolical enough, Charen cites survey results that suggest many working mothers would like to spend more time with their children, but can't afford to, as evidence that women's throbbing biological urges are trumping the false consciousness of feminism:
Only 28 percent of full-time working mothers rated their parenting as a 9 or 10 on a 1-10 scale, compared with 41 percent of part-time workers, and 43 percent of at-home moms. A strong majority of working mothers (60 percent) say they would prefer part-time work, but only 24 percent achieve this....

Is it so threatening to acknowledge that when women have small children at home, they are less likely to want an 80-hour-a-week job?
It's not threatening at all; it's logical. What's threatening is the idea that this says something about the essential nature of women, as opposed to people who have to work themselves half to death in order to get by.

I love the part about asking overworked mothers to rate their's a bit like breaking people's ankles, and then asking them to rate their ability to dance the Charleston. It'd be interesting to see how stringently fathers who work full-time assess their own abilities; my guess is that they might not be quite so hard on themselves. (As always, what's ignored in this argument is the extent to which fathers are at liberty to "opt out" of basic household responsibilities women's work.)

Tellingly, Charen objects to focusing on the working poor because it suggests that "only losers stay home with the little ones." Since these "losers" have no real choice in the matter, their so-called decisions can't really be presented as opting out. Therefore, to understand what the statistics are really saying, we need to ignore these outliers, and refocus our attention on the wealthier, more educated women whose choices actually matter.

The reason they matter is not just that they have money, though that certainly helps. In wingnut-speak, "educated" tends to mean "indoctrinated with unnatural ideas like feminism." If your goal is to detect the rejection of cartoon "feminist" values among uppity career women, it doesn't make much sense to look for it among the disadvantaged.

The best part is, the fact that some women can afford to stay home magically becomes an argument against childcare programs that might enable "losers" to acquire more education or additional skills, and possibly even escape poverty.
Perhaps the true source of anxiety about so-called "opt out" moms is that they tend to undermine a key liberal shibboleth; that the state must provide "quality" childcare in order to do justice to women. If even well-educated, high-earning moms who can afford the best daycare choose to stay at home instead, it rattles.
Sure. If some high-earning moms choose to stay home, even though they can afford the best available childcare, why on earth would anyone want to provide affordable childcare to women who are working 80 hours a week? Let alone to losers who are below the poverty line? If our best and brightest have no need for childcare, what possible use could it be to their social inferiors? Having chosen the "traditional" option from an untraditionally wide range of possibilities, their lives instantly become an object lesson to the underclasses: biology is destiny, and you can't "do justice to women" by expanding their access to childcare, or paying them a living wage, any more than you can do justice to goldfish by housing them in a birdcage.