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Truth about gender issues

Dan Hicks | Friday, January 21, 2011

Dear Mr. Easley,

Your column, “Liberated Woman’s Theology” (Jan. 20) in Thursday’s Observer does a better job of showcasing your ignorance of gender studies and feminism than making a strong argument for stay-at-home motherhood. For one thing, feminists in general have never thought being an involved and devoted parent is a bad thing. This is why many (I’d suggest, almost all) feminists think men (at least, most of the ones with children) should be involved and devoted parents — not just breadwinners, but real fathers.

Feminists have, of course, criticized stay-at-home motherhood. Notably, you don’t take up any of these criticisms. For one, the classic, Betty Friedan-era critique of stay-at-home motherhood was more about the forced exclusion of women from the trades and professions than motherhood per se. It’s one thing to choose to become a stay-at-home parent. It’s quite another to be told your whole life — or, shortly after your husband returns from WWII — that it’s the only thing you’re good for. By ignoring this critique, you mischaracterize your feminist interlocutors. For another, a stay-at-home parent, by definition, is economically dependent on her or his partner. This is fine so long as the family stays together. But divorce leads many former-stay-at-home mothers years behind in their careers and job experience. In part for this reason, about 30 percent of families headed by unmarried women are below the poverty line (US Census data). By neglecting this criticism — and, indeed, claiming that the consequences of divorce are not significant — you reveal your ignorance of well-established economic facts.

Fortunately, there is hope for you — and anyone else who’s interested in but ignorant of gender issues. I’m co-teaching Introduction to Gender Studies this semester, and we still have open seats. We’d be more than happy to have you join us.

Dan Hicks

graduate student

Philosophy and Gender Studies

Jan. 20