Category Archives: Mama w/ Pen

Mama w/ Pen

Mind The Financial Literacy Gender Gap

6736150457_cfef124c1cThere’s a terrific chapter in financial journalist Helaine Olen’s new book Pound Foolish that debunks popular myths around gender and money fueling the personal finance literature aimed at women. Think women are less financially literate than men? According to research by Annamaria Luardi, a professor of economics and accountancy at George Washington University and the academic director of the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center, men and women are both woefully financially illiterate. Think women aren’t as good with money? Research suggests that being made to feel that way may be the larger problem here.

My daughter and son are only three and a half. But I’ve been thinking a great deal about how girls learn money—or rather, about how we don’t. As the recent Pew report shows, a record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 now include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family. Our daughters are growing up in a world where they will be expected to be breadwinners, just like our sons.

But what are they learning, early on, about money, and how it works?

I sat down with Robin Patinkin, CFA, CFP®, a Principal with Cedar Hill Associates, LLC, an investment advisory firm serving high net worth individuals, families, and foundations. Over a large helping of watermelon in a Chicago apartment high up in the clouds, Robin and I discussed myths and realities around financial literacy and young girls.

Robin has over a decade of experience in investment management and financial planning with a comprehensive understanding of family interests and issues. Working intimately with clients as well as raising two sons and a daughter now in their twenties, she’s an expert in guiding individuals through financial life decisions. She’s something of a trailblazer herself, having majored in business in the 1970s (a time when few women did) and later going back to earn an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management with a concentration in finance at age 45. She became a CFA charterholder, along with her eldest son, in 2012. She’s frequently called upon as a panelist, speaks on a variety of financial issues, and acts as an expert witness in divorce cases.

Here’s how our conversation went down.

DS: You’ve raised two boys and a girl.  Did you notice any differences in the ways your children took interest in money?

RP: Yes. When each child turned ten years old, I had my first conversation with them about money and investing. I gave each an opportunity to invest in a stock they would understand at that young age as a consumer, and then we followed the stock together. There seemed to be a higher interest from the boys. That was the first signal.  Later, when they were in high school, as part of the Illinois state public school graduation requirement, they each had to either take a consumer education course or pass an exam. Academically, my children are all very similar. My sons passed the exam with very little, if any, studying.  Yet my daughter, who found the material uninteresting, asked for my help. I sat down with her and explained everything in the book page by page. She didn’t pass. We were both surprised.

DS: This story sounds like the stereotype. As a woman in the wealth management industry, how did this make you feel?

RP: A few years ago, I heard Marie Wilson speak about White House Project research that found a clear division in knowledge and acumen between boys and girls concerning financial literacy when they hit high school.  This is the very age at which my children took the exam. As you can imagine, here sits a mother who herself beat the stereotypes, was one of the few women majoring in business during the 1970s, and viewed herself as a role model who had knocked down the barriers, I thought: how can this be happening with my daughter?  I started to question what I had done wrong.

DS: What would you tell a mama like me to teach her preschoolers about dough?

RP: Now is the perfect time to start. Even Sesame Street is incorporating financial literacy in their curriculum. I would begin with the basics: put a piggy bank in the bedroom. Show them money, physically. Take them on a field trip to look at currencies of the past. Talk about bartering—use their toys—and explain how the money system developed.  Go to a coin shop. When they’re a little older, perhaps even take a trip to the US Treasury in DC. Teach the basics of saving, spending, and giving. And don’t be afraid to really talk about money. There are many wonderful children’s books that teach what money is. One of my favorites is called The Go Around Dollar, by Barbara Johnston Adams and Joyce Audy Zarins. It takes a dollar bill and dissects what every symbol on it means. It’s important to start the conversation young: “Mommy is saving this for our vacation. Mommy is spending this on food.” Play games with money. When you’re in a store, have children count the change to make sure it’s correct. Money, at a young age, can be fun.

As your children grow, add different parts of financial literacy into the conversation. It’s important for parents not only to role model, but to talk about it. So at an early age, it’s about charity, saving, spending. Children have different personalities and will exhibit varying feelings about these things. As they get older, you build in more about your personal lives: your spending, your saving habits, good debt/bad debt, things that worry you. Talk about how we work to earn money and where the money goes. Do a field trip to a bank, explain credit cards and their use, define what an asset is. When the news is on, if there’s a financial term mentioned, define it for your children right there. Use the moment, whenever and wherever you can.

DS:  In Pound Foolish Helaine Olen writes, “[T]here’s a fine line between making the [personal finance] industry more friendly to women and overtly condescending to them, and frankly, it is a line few have managed to tread successfully.” How do you think parents can be cognizant of occasional differences in attitudes between boys and girls around money, without condescending to the girls?

RP: I assumed, because I was in the business, that my children would understand equally, and there was no need to put effort into educating them differently at all.  In retrospect, I probably should have spent additional time with my daughter, who seemed less engaged, thus piquing her interest more around money and investing. I should have realized back when she was 10 that another approach was required to interest my daughter on the subject. Selecting a stock wasn’t the right fit. One size does not fit all.

I often think about what I should have done differently with my daughter, and why her financial competence was less than her brothers’. I wonder if there was some sort of emotional hook or mode of presentation that I should have employed to involve her more in the conversation and learn the lessons. I could have offered her baby steps, assignments, and tasks in a simple non-threatening way.

DS: Your daughter is currently 23. What do you do now?

RP: Marie Wilson’s presentation was a trigger for me. I am now, and have been for the past few years, making a concerted effort to get my daughter up to speed. In her early years in college, my daughter started overspending. This was not intentional by the way, but more from a lack of understanding. So I then set the stage. My husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to put money aside to support college expenses, something so many American families struggle to fund. She had a credit card, her own checking account, and was given a reasonable monthly amount to live on. We covered tuition, and she was responsible for everything else. She learned how to budget and pay bills. She caught onto the lessons of personal finance she hadn’t yet somehow received.  She’s now moving into her first apartment after college and working her first grown up job.  She’s empowered, with me in the background still coaching, but she’s as responsible now as the boys.

DS: It’s been exactly 50 years since President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law yet women still make $.77 to the male dollar, prompting a renewed look at a legacy unfulfilled. So much of the problem, of course, is structural. But do you think an additional problem is that girls and women need to “lean in” more to our own financial education, or that the financial literacy industry isn’t effectively leaning out to us? Are we doing a good enough job teaching our girls, and are the methods employed successful?

RP: I think we’re failing on both accounts. There are outliers of success, and we can’t group all girls into one category. Yet I do believe these discrepancies in financial literacy are a problem across race and class. From my personal observation and experience working with girls, women, boys, and men, I suggest there is much to do. Yes, there are improvements since my college days, when there were few women in business, but the stereotypes persist, especially in much of the personal finance literature. I strongly believe it is our duty as mothers and fathers to recognize this shortfall and focus on the issue of financial literacy for our daughters, our sisters, our mothers, and ourselves. And it’s important for women like myself, in the industry, who have the education, the understanding, and the acumen, to work with our colleagues in the industry to combat this dilemma. My ultimate goal for my daughter—as for all our daughters—is that she pursues her career dreams and ambitions while living a life of financial freedom and independence, so that should a crisis take place, she is not destroyed.


Add your thoughts to the conversation, and be sure to check out Olen’s book. Is there a financial literacy gender gap, and if so, to what extent is the problem structural in nature? To what extent can parents and teachers play a role? Got questions for Robin? Feel free to leave them in comments here.

Mama w/ Pen

Girl w/Pen Joins The Society Pages

6251499620_dab1f2b75cWe’ve made the society pages!  No, not those society pages.  These ones.

For those of you know us already, the only thing that’s different, really, is our url.  Our content will remain unchanged. For those who are meeting us for the first time, allow us to introduce ourselves—and what we’re doing here.

Girl w/Pen is a group blog dedicated to bridging feminist research and popular reality. We publicly and passionately dispels modern myths concerning gender, encouraging other feminist scholars, writers, and thinkers to do the same. We’re a collective of feminist academics, crossover writers, and writers who have left the academy to pursue other thought leadership forums and forms.

Like researchers and writers themselves, blogs grow up, evolve, and shift shapes.  Such has been the story of Girl w/Pen, which began in 2007 as a way for me to keep friends and family posted as I hit the road on book tour. The name, Girl w/Pen, came in a flash, an easy way to describe myself at the time—an academic transitioning to an identity as a writer in a different realm.

Girl quickly became girls (I know, I know, women—but it was the youthful blogosphere, right?). When I started giving workshops on translating academic ideas for trade, participants of my seminars contributed guest posts.  Some became regulars.  Other fellow travelers followed suit, coming in and out as interests and workflow allowed.  In 2009, we decided to turn GWP into a full-fledged group blog, with a full roster of columns, and the name stuck.  Though admittedly anachronistic, our name continues to speak to the writerly journey many of us have taken, are on, and aspire to, as we put our thoughts to metaphorical paper, raise our collective voices, experiment, bridge research and reality, rabble rouse, and inform.

GWP has become a true interdisciplinary forum, enriched by its range.  Our current lineup of columns includes:

Bedside Manners (Adina Nack): applying the sociological imagination to medical topics, with a special focus on sexual and reproductive health

Body Language (Alison Piepmeier): Because control of our bodies is central to feminism. (“It is very little to me to have the right to vote, to own property, etc., if I may not keep my body, and its uses, in my absolute right.” –Lucy Stone, 1855)

Body Politic (Kyla Bender-Baird and Avory Faucette): A co-authored column on queer bodies, law, and policy.

Girl Talk (Allison Kimmich): truths and fictions about girl

Mama w/Pen (Deborah Siegel): reflections on motherhood, feminist and otherwise

Nice Work (Virginia Rutter): social science in the real world

Off the Shelf (Elline Lipkin): book reviews and news

Second Look (Susan Bailey): a column on where we’ve been and where we need to go

Science Grrl (Veronica Arreola): the latest research and press on girls and women in science & engineering

Women Across Borders (Heather Hewett): A transnational perspective on women & girls

We’re delighted to be teaming up with The Society Pages, where we join an active and far-reaching multidisciplinary blogging community, supported by publishing partner W.W. Norton.  When we first started looking for a home, TSP was the first that came to mind.  Major props to Adina Nack for suggesting it, Virginia Rutter and Heather Hewett for seeing it, Lisa Wade and Letta Page for brokering it, Jon Smajda and Kyla Bender-Baird for so beautifully executing it, and Doug Hartmann and Chris Uggen for having the vision in the first place—and for welcoming us in.

Here in our new neighborhood, you’ll find long-established and esteemed blog neighbors like Sociological Images, Thick Culture, and Sexuality and Society—blogs that in many ways share our DNA.  You’ll also find here roundtables, white papers, teaching resources, and Contexts magazine. Everyone here is invested in bringing academically-informed ideas to a broad public, to speaking about society with society—just like we’ve always been.

Those of us thinking in public about the way feminist research informs our surroundings and shapes our world look forward to settling into our new digs.  As ever, we invite you to join us.  We welcome your comments and critiques, your follows (@girlwpen) and your shares.  We welcome pitches for guest posts. We’ll keep evolving, enriched by our TSP neighbors, and by you.

We’re honored to be here, and to be a part of your society. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch, and let us know what you think.

Mama w/Pen: Introducing…Tots in Genderland

Tots in Genderland is a multimedia experiment in thinking aloud, and in community, about the gendering of earliest childhood.  I’d love it if you’d join me.

Here’s how GWP readers can get involved:

1.  Watch my TEDxWindyCity talk Born That Way?, which brings to life key research about the gendering of earliest childhood. Taking us through a personal journey peppered with blunders and epiphanies, I challenge us to move beyond pink and blue and learn something new about gender from society’s smallest experts: our kids. Please leave a comment, post on FB/Twitter, and pass the link on. (It just went live – tonight!)

2.  Take the Born That Way? quiz below and test your Gender + Tots IQ.  (The answers are in the talk.)

3.  Post a photo of a young child breaking, or upholding, gender norms on the Pinterest board Tots in Genderland. Email me to join this board and pin freely – deborah(at)deborahsiegelwrites(d0t)com

4.  Visit The Pink and Blue Diaries for random musings on gender, parenthood, writing, and life — and add random musings of your own.

5.  Suggest a site to add to the Tots in Genderland Community Well by emailing me at deborah(at)deborahsiegelwrites(dot)com

Ok, you’ve read to the bottom.  Huzzah!  Ready for the quiz? I bet you GWP readers will know the answers.  Heck, some of you even wrote the books.  Have at it:

Test Your Gender + Tots IQ

1. Children rarely have a firm sense of what “gender” they are until they are how old?
a) 1 year
b) 2 years
c) 3 years

2. This past holiday season, which country produced a toy catalog featuring a boy cradling a doll and a girl riding a race car?
a) the US
b) Sweden
c) France

3. True or false: In a study of 120 pregnant women conducted shortly after amniocentesis allowed women to learn fetal sex, those knew they were carrying females described their fetuses movements as gentle, quiet, and rolling while those carrying males described kicks, jabs, and a saga of earthquakes.

Answers: in the talk.

Oh – and I launched a new site. Everything’s moved over to here:  Thanks so much for being in this all with me, dear GWP community.  I’ll see you there!

Quick Hit: Navigating the Pink Ghetto, Spilling Red Ink


In this town of writerly goodness, every once in a while an event rolls around that I feel I just can’t miss.  Still trying to line up a sitter, but damned if I won’t be there.  If anywhere near NYC this Monday night, I strongly encourage you to hightail it to this panel too — which features members of my awesome authors’ group, and the founder of The OpEd Project, the organization I work with. Here’s the schpiel:


New America NYC in collaboration with the Invisible Institute


Navigating the Pink Ghetto


JUNE 11, 2012 6:30 8:15PM

Topics around gender politics, family issues and women’s health are crucial mainstays of journalism, so why do issues pertaining to women get sidelined? And how can so-called “women’s topics” get an intellectually sound, politically savvy hearing in a media world that often wants a soft focus on hard issues? Hear from tough women journalists spilling red ink on pink topics, and how they manage the gender divide in serious ideas-based reporting.



Senior editor, Slate
Contributing writer, The New York Times Magazine
Author of a forthcoming book about bullying, Sticks and Stones, to be published early next spring

Author, Origins and Brilliant
Contributing writer, TIME magazine
Contributor, NPR’s


Author, The Starter Marriage and The Future of Matrimony, Pornified, and Parenting, Inc.
Features editor and children’s book editor, The New York Times Book Review


Founder and CEO, The OpEd Project

Author, Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked


See you there!

QUICK HIT: GWP mamas team up to call out faux mommy wars

We’ve teamed up!  Deborah Siegel (a.k.a. Mama w/ Pen and our very own Girl w/ Pen founder) and I have collaborated on an OpEd on Elisabeth Badinter’s new book, The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women.  We agree with some of her arguments, but take issue with others.  Our call?  Let’s move past all the mommy wars and focus on the real needs of U.S. mothers.  Read more over at

On a personal note, I cannot think of anything I have done this past year that has been as gratifying as working with Deborah on this piece.  Two is definitely better than one!


Join the #MothersSpeakOut Blog In – Mother’s Day Edition

THIS SUNDAY, MAY 13, 2012 — Mother’s Day in the United States — women everywhere will simultaneously post this letter to their blogs, websites and Facebook pages, to honor the work of Mothers around the world.

YOU ARE INVITED TO ADD YOUR VOICE. To join our Mother’s Day Blog-In simply,

1. Copy & paste this letter on your blog, Facebook or Google+ page.

2. Add your name and links to your site, work or organization in the comments at

3. Tweet, share and post the link to your letter using the hashtag #MothersSpeakOut

We also invite all mothers to post a comment or image about their authentic, true reality as a mother — ones that they don’t often see reflected in the mainstream media.

* * * * * * *

Together, Mothers Are Powerful.

Last month’s furor over the remarks of political pundits and candidate’s wives launched a flurry of conversation among mothers.

Mothers have a voice of their own to add to the discussion. Authors, activists and others have been writing and identifying the issues raised this political season for decades, and women have been listening, again and again.

It’s time for mothers’ own voices to be heard.

We are a bi-partisan coalition of women’s organizations, experts, and writers who have diligently worked on bringing mother’s issues into the mainstream political discussion.

Some of us are advocates, and some are community organizations. Many of us are authors and experts about mothers’ lives as well.  All of us recognize the value of a mother’s contribution to her family, both the paid and unpaid work that women do.

Our message is simple: all mothers need more support.

This Mother’s Day we want to get the word out about our ideas, our work, and our priorities. We offer the following list to provide resources for real information and places for women to gather for intelligent discourse on the many problems — and solutions — to the issues facing mothers and families.

We offer this list as an alternative to the tired and cliched coverage of mothers in the mainstream media.

Please join your voice with ours this Mother’s Day. Together, Mothers are powerful.

* * * * *


Author, The Price of Motherhood

Co-founder “MOTHER: Mothers Ought to Have Equal Rights”


Past President, Mothers & More


MAMA W/PEN: Hack Female Style

I’m thrilled to bring you this guest post from the co-directors of a poignant new film about impending, ambivalent motherhood that opens this Friday.  Spread the word! – Deborah

Greetings – we are Annie Howell and Lisa Robinson, guest bloggers for Mama w/Pen. We’re here because our film, SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS opens Friday, May 11 in New York City, then moves on to over ten cities nationwide. It’s a story about technology and self-expression, love and major life changes. Here’s the synopsis:

When technophile Sarah Sparks (Anna Margaret Hollyman) becomes pregnant, her uncertainties about motherhood trigger an impulsive road trip to the source of her anxiety: her long-estranged mother living far away and off-the-grid.

So, yes, our movie features a female tech-head protagonist, and that choice often has us thinking about gender and technology. The New Yorker this week features an article on youth hacker George Hotz, who at 17 was the first person to decode an iphone in order to use his existing data plan. George describes hacking as such to New Yorker writer David Kushner:

“It’s a testosterone thing,” he told me. “It’s competitiveness, but it isn’t necessarily competitiveness with other people. It’s you versus the system. And I don’t mean the system like the government thing, I mean the system like the computer. ‘I’m going to stick it to the computer. I’m going to make it do this!’ And the computer throws up an error like ‘No, I’m not going to do this.’ It’s really a male thing to say, ‘I’m going to make you do this!’ ” (“George Hotz, Sony, and the Anonymous Hacker Wars” by David Kushner, May 7, 2012.)

Is “I’m going to make you do this!” really, um, exclusively male? Granted this is one statement by one individual, but it’s reflective of an idea that’s clearly permeating our culture: that technology is more or less for the boys.

And on to film directing ….

In 2004 The New York Times ran an article by Nancy Hass that praised the number of women working in Hollywood as producers but included a sidebar about women directors that expressed some surprising assumptions. (“Hollywood’s New Old Girls’ Network” by Nancy Hass, April 24, 2005.)

The Dean of USC Film School, Elizabeth Daley, said this to Nancy Hass:

“There are talented girls who want to do this, but so far they haven’t done what the boys do – band together and sacrifice everything to make a small film,” she said. “It’s those films that eventually find their way into the hands of studio executives looking for the next hot young thing.”

And there’s more:

“Young women are less likely to get support, both financial and emotional, from their parents,” Ms. Daley added. “In my experience, parents of girls aren’t as eager to give them their life savings to make a movie,” she said.

A former studio head, who did not give her name in order to protect relationships, said: “The fact is that to be a director you have to be unbelievably ruthless…. They have a cold streak that most women I know don’t have and don’t want to have. They are both artist and commander, and they have a maniacal vision that precludes them from caring about anything but the film.”

Apologies, but denying all women the right to a natural-born cold streak, a maniacal spirit and the right to be, well, bossy – “I’M GOING TO MAKE YOU DO THIS!” — is only relevant if we allow these ridiculous stereotypes to continue to circulate.

Hack female style! And direct movies. We went to a film school wherein half of the class was female – and those women brought to their craft everything unique about themselves, and certainly got their movies made. Filmmaking is as varied in methodology as are the stories that any one individual wants to tell. Our story is about a woman and her love of machines … and how she comes undone in a transition toward parenthood. Watch the trailer here – and hope to see you opening weekend at Cinema Village!

—Annie Howell and Lisa Robinson, co-directors


QUICK HIT: Six Reasons I Think Gender-Reveal Parties Are For the Birds

Crossposted at The Pink and Blue Diaries.

I honestly think parents judge each other too much. So far be it for me to judge the expectant parents in yesterday’s New York Times article, “A Boy or a Girl? Cut the Cake”. But let’s just say, as a researcher, if I were going to judge the concept of a gender-reveal party, here are 5 things I might say:

1. The stat in the article regarding the percentage of people who find out the sex of their fetus through amnio or ultrasound is at odds with other stats I’ve read. The percentage is more like up to 80, not 50.

2. Gender – and therefore gender stereotyping – begins in utero. How do we know? Because in 1986, around the time that amniocentesis first allowed pregnant women to find out fetal sex, sociologist Barbara Katz Rothman asked 120 pregnant women to describe the movements of their fetuses. “Women who’d learned they were having a girl gave answers such as ‘very gentle, slow, more rolling it seemed than kicking,’ ‘moderate, reassuring but not violent,’ ‘quiet in the mornings and afternoons,’ ‘lively but not excessively energetic.’ Mothers who knew they were carrying a boy described ‘many somersaults and very vigorous movements,’ ‘rolling from side to side and little kicks and punches up and down,’ ‘a constant jabbing under my ribcage,’ and ‘a saga of earthquakes.’ Tellingly, the responses of women who did not find out the sex of their fetus showed no such stereotypical patterns.” (Lots more about this in Annie Murphy Paul’s meaty chapter on sex and sex selection in Origins)

3. This story about gender-reveal parties is the antithesis of last year’s stories about Pop and Storm – kids whose parents didn’t divulge their child’s sex, for months after they were born. I wonder what that says about us as a culture, or a zeitgeist, in terms of how we feel about young children and gender.  Thesis, antithesis, anyone?

4. I realize that finding out the sex is a threshold moment. It’s the thing that makes a pregnancy feel real. Sex transforms a fetus from an abstract “it” into a specific “he” or “she.” But don’t most enlightened parents these days act with shock and glee regardless of which sex is announced? So why all the fuss?

5. Shouldn’t we be a tad more concerned with “Who will it be?” than “What will it be?” in the end?  I’m mean, if I’m going to get all lofty about it and all.  And why, for that matter, are these called “gender-reveal” parties and not “sex-reveal” parties, which is what they actually are?

Lastly, a personal story:

When I was mentally preparing for the great reveal, lying on the table waiting for my ultrasound at week 20, I thought back to my grandmother who was pregnant with my mom and her twin sister back in 1941. Grandma Pearl, an orthodox Jew, assumed she was carrying boys—or, rather a boy. She didn’t even know she was carrying twins until the doctor suspected a second heartbeat in the seventh month and ordered an X-ray. My grandparents didn’t bother picking out girl names. Their sons would be David and Jonathan. When David and Jonathan turned out to be baby girls, my grandparents ended up naming them after two Catholic nuns who took care of my grandmother on the maternity floor: Sister Rita and Sister Renee.

I’m not sure what all this means, but I find it damn funny somehow. I mean come on, it was an act of irony destined to make even a stern Old Testament God crack a smile.

PS. Did anyone else find the photo below incredibly creepy?

MAMA W/PEN: Long Way Baby, or Maybe?

I’m SO late to the table on this one (as usual these days) but hey, I’m still a mama with a pen.  And I couldn’t refrain from weighing in.

Every few years, the question—“who’s the next Gloria Steinem?”—seems to recycle itself in the mainstream media.  But it’s media, and not the women’s movement, that abhors a vacuum.

In “Gloria Steinem, a Woman Like No Other” (New York Times, March 18), Sarah Hepola is at it again.  The piece, while thoughtful in many regards, has a logic problem. Feminism is a living, breathing movement, always in evolution.  To name a sole leader now is like trying to push a tree back into a seed.  I’m pretty sure Gloria–a reluctant spokesperson herself, famously anointed by a media hungry for stars–would agree.

Hepola is right to note a lack of a singular voice, or face, today.  But there has never been unity in the women’s movement, and look what feminists have accomplished.  To be sure,  “two feminists, three opinions” might not be the most effective formula for a movement intended, among other things, to effect legislative change.  Still, feminism has since become, for many, as much culture as cause.  That signifies progress, you could say.

Yet progress, more generally, seems to be what’s really at issue.  Perhaps more compelling than the question of the movement’s public face is one more fundamental: Have we come a long way, baby, or just maybe?  It’s a question I find myself pondering daily.

As the Times article rightly points out, the Komen kerfuffle and Limbaugh’s most recent slur are simply the latest in a steady stream of events demonstrating the need for continued vigilance and response on the part of those who care about women’s health and well being, not to mention advancement.  For better or worse, the questions our feminist foremothers asked are ones younger women are asking still.

In my opinion, we need more focus on the unfinished work of feminism–for there is so much left undone–and less on the question of the movement’s brightest star.

MAMA W/PEN: Occupy (Working) Motherhood, Redux

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post for The Forward titled “Occupy (Working) Motherhood, Anyone?“, which generated a, shall we say, interesting comment.  The post began like this:

Susan B. Anthony was born 192 years ago today; we share a birthday. I am 43. The late great suffragist once said: “Our job is not to make young women grateful. It’s to make them ungrateful so they keep going.” Much of my Jewish practice these days is about gratitude. But in light of our shared birthday this week, I’ve decided to dwell on some serious ingratitude.

I grew up in the 1970s listening to “Free to Be You and Me,” and singing joyfully that “Mommies Are People.” Who would have guessed, now that I’m one of those people, that the dilemmas my own working mother struggled with would become mine? In middle school, when I’d call home sick my mom would try to talk me into returning to class, so that she wouldn’t have to leave work or find a sitter. I’m pretty sure that’s what I’d do, too….

The post ends with the following birthday wishes:

1). Affordable quality childcare, paired with a change in the cultural expectation that women’s careers are expendable. That ingratitude is owed to President Nixon, who vetoed the Comprehensive Child Development Bill. That piece of legislation would have provided a multibillion-dollar national daycare system that would have circumvented much of our struggle.

2). Workplace structures and a society transformed to allow for the fact that workers have families, too. Though we’ve made progress, we’ve still got a ways to go. Ingratitude to employers who put paternity on the books but support a culture that makes The Daddy Track anathema to all but the bravest men. And why does it have to be a track, after all? Haven’t we learned that the women who opt out eventually, in various ways, opt back in?

3). A future so bright on the work/life satisfaction front that neither my daughter nor my son will have to write this kind of post.

(You can read the full post here.)

The comment in question was in response to the wish for more affordable (meaning, yes, subsidized) childcare.  It went like this:

“By ‘affordable,’ I assume you mean ‘subsidized by others outside my family.’ Thanks, I’m spending enough on my own kids (and my wife chooses not to work outside the home) without having to subsidize your parenting choices.” -morganfrost

Now, there’s nothing I appreciate more than when, just as I’m considering a response, the perfect retort pops up in my Inbox.  In this case, a number of folks emailed me comments directly, though they experienced technical trouble posting them on The Forward’s site. Here’s what some of them said:

“‘Affordable’ means ‘subsidized by all of us.’  We need to have a society where people can have children AND careers without having to face too many impossible choices.  My career isn’t optional–it’s what pays the bills in my family.  The same is true for my husband’s career.  So we must have childcare, and we’d prefer that it be quality childcare, because our child–like EVERY child–deserves to be well cared for.  This should be a value that our entire country embraces and will help to support.” -Alison Piepmeier

“Susan B. Anthony did her job well. I’m glad you make the point that childcare should be subtracted from parental income, not maternal income, one of my pet peeves.  what matters most in a relationship, I think, is not necessarily that domestic/parental tasks be divided evenly but that each partner respect the other’s contributions, whatever form they take.  That’s harder in a society that, for all its talk of ‘family values,’ makes childcare the responsibility of individual familes.@morganfrost, relax. We’d like fewer predator drones and bank bailouts, not a crack at your piggybank. And keep in mind that your wife has a choice that many do not.” -Ashton Applewhite


And hey, morganfrost’s comment also inspired a wonderful post by Cali Yost over at Forbes, titled “Think You Don’t Benefit Directly from Childcare? ‘WIIFMs’ That Will Change Your Mind”.

So thank you, morganfrost.  You inspired some great stuff.

And thanks Alison, Ashton, and Cali.  I get by with a little help from my friends.