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And now I open the can of worms.

There's a topic that just won't die in the online community, one that in the past I've vowed not to touch. It rhymes with blommy boars. And I really hate the entire concept; it turns my stomach, mainly because I think there's no real argument being presented, just a conglomeration of stated and re-stated opinions about something that ultimately isn't going to change and doesn't really matter. It perpetuates stereotypes about women as whiny, emotional weaklings who can never be pleased, which is ironic, considering the underlying argument that some form of "woman-empowering feminism" is fueling the entire debate.

I should clarify that my understanding of feminism differs from that of most contemporary interpretations. I don't accept it as "power for women" any more than I would see equal rights for any minority as "power for minorities."* In other words, I think there is a difference between equality and power to the level that I think many past and present feminist activists have pushed the concept. The question of whether or not women truly have "equal rights" is a complex one, one I'm not educated enough to fully address. I can say that class culture plays a huge role in answering this question, but I think that makes a bigger statement about Western societal structure than "feminism" per se. Most arguments that women still have a struggle ahead of them to gain equality are steeped in middle and upper class cultural examples - corporate and educational opportunities, salary ranges, job performance expectations. And there are doubtless untold improvements that could be made in all of these areas - I don't dispute that at all. I simply don't see the ultimate goal of the feminist movement to be a flip flop of the power structure such that the masculine, patriarchal rule somehow has to "make up for" the centuries of mistakes made during human social development by accepting some type of "defeat" or surrendering to some science fiction notion of domineering female rule. Let's just make things right and move on - equally. That was the whole point originally, at least as I understand it.

Having said all that, I almost puked when Elizabeth Vargas reported that the U.S. is one of four countries world wide not to offer a national maternity leave program (and in many countries, also paternity or just more generic parental leave) during the 20/20 airing of her post-maternity leave return. People, the other three countries are Lesotho, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea. Just to give you a sense of scale in terms of resources and commitment to infant and child health, those countries have infant mortality rates between 50 and 90 infant deaths out of 1,000 births, as opposed to the U.S.'s rate of around six deaths out of 1,000 births (and actually, that infant mortality rate is among the worst of the "civilized" Western nations, but that's an entirely different post).

If we're going to have those things that rhyme with blommy boars, if we're going to spend our time debating something about motherhood, it should be over this issue, and it shouldn't be a debate between mothers, it should be a debate between citizens who are parents and the government which represents its citizens. For the moms who choose (or are financially obligated) to work (as are 71% of mothers in the U.S.), there should be absolutely no question over their ability to manage their lives both as employees and as people who happen to be mothers of children. A further point I would make here, one that is consistent with my stance on the feminist movement and its goals, one that is consistent with my ire surrounding the blommy boars, is this: the accommodations given to mothers who care for children should be extended to fathers as well. The biggest problem I've had with the blommy boars is that they place all credit, responsibility, and angst over child-rearing squarely on one parent's (mom's) shoulders, furthering a.) the notion that child-rearing is "woman's work," b.) the stereotype that fathers and husbands are marginal and sometimes even incompetent figures in their partners' and children's lives, and c.) the idea that the blommy boars have reason to exist.

In terms of parental roles, I would see the feminist movement as most successful when mothers and fathers are debating issues of maternity, paternity, and parental leave plans, flexible work schedules, safe and readily available day care options, and across-class accommodations to ensure that children born in the U.S. are born into a society where raising and educating them are among the understood top priorities, and not a side show, a burden to be dealt with and treated as a "women's issue." At that point, if they are truly concerned with the state of the children at the core of these arguments, the blommy boars will cease to exist. This is an issue concerning parents, not just mothers, not just women. When that is the general mentality, and the mentality is not that there is a relevant debate about whether or not parents should work (let's ask ourselves how realistic that argument is, anyway) then feminism will have succeeded.

*When John read this, he pointed out that people have different definitions of "power" - many see the absence of choice as powerlessness, meaning that with the success of the civil rights and feminist movements, formerly powerless individuals gained power. I think this is true. The way I'm defining power for my point here, though, is more that of a power structure. "Equality" between men and women or "equality" between majority and minority ethnicities (in the true sense of the word "equality"), then, would successfully remove the power structure in place, since all citizens, all humans would be on the same "level."