succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Born to be a Breadwinner?

In today's NY Times M.P. Dunleavey worries about being the sole earner in her household.

So when my husband asked me the other day, “Did your concept of ‘equality’ ever include supporting the family?” I had to admit that my answer was no.

She admits to being afraid that she'll be the primary wage-earner forever, occasionally wishing that her husband earned a good living, and "chest-tightening" pressure when it comes to bills and life insurance. Certainly that last one is understandable - having primary responsibility for supporting a family is a high-pressure role, regardless of gender. But I wonder how many women out there would agree with Ms. Dunleavey that their concept of equality hadn't included supporting a family. Maybe it's a generational thing? It is entirely possible that I'm just a freak, but I have always planned on being the primary (if not sole) breadwinner in my potential future family. I do one day hope to grow up, get married, and have kids. And I hope he has a flexible enough job, or no job, to be the primary stay-at-home parent. I know those particular details may be a pipe dream, but my grown-up fantasies have always included me paying the bills. In fact, back when I was dating Dan, and thought he was The One, my future fantasy of the two of us was me working at some government or consulting gig and him drawing comic books and designing video games, mostly from home. Then again, part of what ended up not working about us was his insecurity about our respective 'status.' Even if he could believe that I was happy, and I could believe that he was happy, friends and strangers alike seemed unable to suspend their disbelief, or to keep their mouths shut (more than one person said, to my face, that I could 'do better.' What's that even mean??). So perhaps being personally prepared to be the breadwinner, or not, as the case may be, isn't enough. Perhaps one needs some extra innoculation against the inevitable societal pressure to fulfill one or the other role.

Here's a hypothesis, with absolutely no data to back it up. I wonder if this will turn out to be a generational thing. I wonder if since more of us are waiting longer to get married, and are spending more of our early adult years living alone or with non-intimate roommates, if that will better prepare us for more flexible roles in a marriage? Yes, of course, being responsible for a family is different from taking care of yourself (AWB always said she cooked way better for PC and I than she ever did for just herself) but it seems if you've spent a decade or more taking care of your own bills and insurance and running your own personal one-man/woman household, then perhaps it doesn't seem so far-fetched for either gender to slide into more rationally distributed lists of responsibilties within the familial household? Isn't some sociologist somewhere working on this?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

More Links

NAPW gets a mention at RH Reality Check, MilbyDaniel has a re-cap, and Fabulosa Mujer is blogging for choice.

Belated Blogging - NAPW Summit Day Two

Managed to catch the last speaker at the luncheon plenary; unfortunately, did not manage to catch her name. She asked some tough, and, I think, important questions about reproducing: Just because you long for a child, does that make it [your desire to have a child] legitimate and limitless? Is it selfish to desire a biological child, and to spend vast amounts of money on assisted fertility, when so many children need to be adopted? And lastly, an important reminder - We're making revolutionary families everyday; sometimes by necessity, sometimes by choice. Can we envision new policies that fit the familes we truly have?

Can We Ensure the Health and Humanity of Pregnant Women When Violence Is So Pervasive in Their Lives?
Featuring Peggy Brown, Jodi Hinds, Julie Burkhart, Dr. Sheryl Heron, and Sara Ainsworth. The first speaker made the statement that the legal and medical community exercise a certain amount of power and control over women, with which I agree, but can't the same be said of men? Don't those two communities simply exert a certain amount of power and control over people?

Ainsworth spoke about a troubling issue - Can a rapist have parental rights, if a rape victim becomes pregnant and chooses to carry to term? The answer, though emotionally disturbing, is of course. And especially, but not only, when the rapist is a partner or husband. The FBI and CDC report that one in six women are raped in their lifetimes. One in six. How many women do you know? The CDC estimates that 32,000 women every year are pregnant from rape, but this number is prone to a large amount of error since it is estimated from the number of reported rapes and a 5% chance of intercourse resulting in pregnancy.

Why do rape victims choose to carry to term? Some do in fact choose to, but others are simply stymied in their attempts at abortion - the Hyde Amendment prevents federal funding for abortion, but includes a specific exception for rape and incest. However, some states require proof, which women are either unable or unwilling to produce ("privacy is like oxygen to rape victims"). And more than 30 states have no state-level funding for abortion.

So, a woman either chooses or is forced to carry to term. Ainsworth then went through three scenarios:
1) married to rapist - parental rights are automatically awarded in every state, these rights are very, very difficult to terminate, and many women don't want to terminate them
2) intimate relationship with rapist - there is a paternity process during which the man must prove he is the biological father, these rights are also very difficult to terminate (Ainsworth has personally seen two cases with legal counsel that were able to successfully claim that despite the genetic link, it was in the child's best interest to terminate parental rights, since, you know, the dad is a rapist)
3) adoption - mixed bag - some states allow adoption with no consent or notice (obviously troubling and problematic for the non-rapist fathers out there) and some states require proof of rape (such as a police report) to side step consent or notice.

According to the Teen Parent Project, 66% of women in abusive relationships have experienced 'birth control sabotage', versus 34% of non-abused women. Now, certainly, that 66% is upsetting, but 34% of women in allegedly non-abusive relationships have experienced birth control sabotage?! Call me crazy, but I'd file that sort of behavior under abusive.

Dr. Sheryl Heron had a task for all of us, but primarily for those of us fortunate enough not to be touched by violence in our current relationships, because we are in a comfortable enough position that, hopefully, it isn't scary or dangerous to ask our doctors to ask us about violence in our lives. Each year about 324,000 pregnant women are battered by their intimate partners, making abuse more common than gestational diabetes or preeclampsia. We screen for the latter two, why not the former?

And Sid, sorry, but your state's got some work to do - Alaska is #1 in the nation for incidences of domestic violence, and has six times the national average occurance of child sexual abuse (this from the moderator, Peggy Brown, Executive Director of Alaska Netowrk on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assualt).

Ignoring Millions of Women, Millions of Children: How the Debate About Abortion and Maternity Care Ignores Issues of Pregnancy Loss and Infant Mortality
I have to confess, I was irked when one of the speakers complained about a lack of research into infant mortality and then failed to mention PRAMS at all. But I was overwhelmed when one of the women (I believe it was Linda Layne) told the stories of her multiple miscarriages (seven or eight, I think). And she's right - we've spent the weekend discussing how to empower women to be more knowledgeable about labor and the choices involved in the birthing process, but no such progress has been made regarding pregnancy loss. Certainly, no pregnant woman wants to consider that possibility. But it is a possibility, and a very real one, if this stat is to be believed (no reference, sorry) - the chance of miscarriage during the first three months of pregnancy is 1 in 5 (?!). And yet no one talks about it. No one offers information on what your body may go through, what options you may have (hospital? emergency room? stay home?). Layne has identified a gap that many, many women fall into, and it's time we started offering them some better resources.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Linkity Links

Oh, and here are some re-organized links to other bloggers covering the summit (pretty much shamelessly copied from AWB). And thanks to all the other bloggers out there linking to me! It's fun to watch the counter spike.

Angry Black Bitch has several posts up - about choice and race, travel upheavals (there and back! she's due some seriously good travel karma!), birthing debates, and pre-summit-pallet-prep
Jessica over at Feministing has general thoughts
Pandagon has the summit kickoff, first day, and blogging for choice
Brownfemipower has the first day, Loretta Ross, second session of the day, young women's empowerment project, midwives of color, and immigrant women's reproductive health
a bird and a bottle has updates, bits and pieces from day 1, and Dorothy Roberts
BitchPhD has first day impressions and this lovely piece about pregnancy.

In much the same way, that single pregnancy brought home to me why abortion rights--and all the associated rights of access, education, and options when it comes to birth control and reproductive health--matter so very much. Pregnancy, as I have argued before and will undoubtedly argue again, is NOT a choice. It is a fact of life, if you are a woman.

Now, thanks be to Margaret Sanger, we can choose to avoid pregnancy. I love the pill, and Norplant, and IUDs, and VCF. But none of those are guarantees. Not having sex with men isn't even a guarantee, since, dios mio, you can't guarantee that a man won't, someday, decide to have sex with you whether you will or no. And, as many women know to their sorrow, you also can't get pregnant if your body won't, for whatever reason, cooperate.

NAPW summit Day One revisited

I forgot one of my best pages of notes! During "How Might You Be Prosecuted" Jill Morrison presented some of the legal bases for various case against pregnant women, as well as some of the legal protections that exist but are frequently not enforced. She mentioned a Supreme Court Case (Robinson v. California, 1962) in which the court found that "punishing addition is the equivalent of punishing an illness, and being ill is not a crime." Which reminded me of something one of the women said on Thursday - in telling of her experience with addiction she said she'd been told all along that it was a disease and nothing to be ashamed of and just something she needed to deal with. After working in the field and being exposed to a more diverse community of addicts she slowly realized that pretty white girls have a disease. Other people, people of color or poor people, have other problems, but not a disease. Not something that deserves treatment, but rather, something that deserves punishment.

But back to Morrison's point. So being an addict isn't a crime. And being pregnant isn't a crime. And yet, in many states, attempts are made to pass laws and bring convictions that imply that being pregnant and an addict is a crime. Which is a violation of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution since that would indicate that pregnant women do not have the same rights as everyone else!

Additionally, McFall v. Shimp (1978) established that you have a right to refuse to help others, even if such refusal means they will die. And you have the right to refuse treatment for yourself, even if doing so means you will die (Mons v. Public Health Trust of Dade County, 1989). And again, being pregnant is not a crime. But being pregnant and refusing medical treatment (such as, say, a c-section) is a crime! Once again, violating the 14th Amendment.

And now for something a little different

I'm not ignoring the two links two lovely gentlemen sent me regarding organ ownership and teen-pregnancy respectively, and I'm only slightly avoiding my pages of notes from day two of the NAPW conference. But I have surfaced from head-cold-hell just enough to get back to my other daily grind (classes start this week) and so instead of an actual post I direct you to Barbara Ehrenreich's latest post about minimum wage. The entire thing is certainly worth a read, but here's the punchline:

There is no moral justification for a minimum wage lower than a living wage. And given the experience of the 29 states that have raised their minimum wages, there isn’t even an amoral economic justification either.

(the U.S. Senate is considering a bill to increase the minimum wage right now!)