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Melissa Harris-Perry Interview on Motherhood in US Politics

This interview with Melissa Harris-Perry over at thinkprogress.org might be interesting to some Groupthinkers.

The whole thing is worth a read, but I found these bits particularly refreshing.

On the consequences of the idealization of a very narrow kind of motherhood:

"Our societal norms still push the notion that able-bodied, beautiful, white women in their 20s, who are married to wealthy white men, who choose not to work outside the home while their children are young, who bear their own biological children without assisted reproductive technology, and who lose all their pregnancy pounds within weeks of giving birth are the ideal imagination of motherhood. We reproduce this fantasy of perfected motherhood in many ways throughout our culture and this version of "mother" is powerfully etched in the mindset of too many policy makers.

Deviations from this ideal are empirically the norm. In other words, there are far more moms who do not fit this profile than those who do. Women are having children later in life. They're becoming moms without marriage. Women of color have higher birth rates than white women. Same-sex couples have more opportunities to become parents. More American families than ever before are employing reproductive technology to bear children.

But the social, cultural, and policy preferences for the idealized middle-class, white, heterosexual mom generates real consequences. Many conservative policy makers lay claim to the truism that young children thrive when their mothers are full-time parents, then support policies that force poor, unmarried mothers to work outside the home rather than devote their full attention to child reading. It's a contradiction that suggests poor women should be punished for becoming mothers rather than having the opportunities that more economically secure mothers enjoy. Disparaging language about "anchor babies" or state laws that bar adoption by same-sex couples are emblematic of the painful contradictions between our discursive celebration of motherhood and our anti-mom policy environment."


Harris-Perry's recommendations for a truly pro-mother politics:

"I suspect the greatest opportunities for meaningfully addressing parental, and especially maternal, workplace challenges will rest in the low-wage workers campaigns and the ongoing efforts to extend labor rights to domestic workers. Women with young children are concentrated in low-wage sectors of the economy. There are a few policies that could make massive improvements in the lives of these women: (1) universal health care that is not attached to employment; (2) universal paid maternity leave for 12 weeks and universal paid paternity leave for six weeks; (3) universal Pre-K for four-year-olds; (4) raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour; (5) substantial infrastructure investment that connects poor communities with job-rich environments via safe, inexpensive public transportation; (6) legal requirements for wages and working conditions for domestic workers who provide childcare and home care service; (7) the restoration and extension of SNAP benefits; (8) access to affordable birth control, family planning counseling, comprehensive sexual education, and abortion; (9) marriage equality so that same-sex couples can enjoy existing parenting rights obtained in marriage; and (10) aggressive tax incentives for businesses that institute a variety of parent-friendly policies."



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