I find myself so much in earnest these days, April Fool pranks can tweak me by the nose every time, it seems. So I confess: when I first came across the Huffington Post piece that’s the occasion of this Occasional Thought of mine, I first took it for a satiric take on the state of women’s lives and rights in the USA. Then I read the article – missing the “LOL, happy April Fools’ day” at the bottom of the text — and got really incensed. The joke of it being on me, of course, as I realized almost at once.
Except that I kept having this niggling feeling, a sense at the back of my mind that something really is amiss about the article, after all, that satiric as it is, the very targets of its satire are themselves a bit off, and disturbingly so.
What’s disturbing about the piece is the picture it gives of what Huffington Post and its writers think would be signs of “gender parity” in the USA. The picture is no doubt accurate since this self-declared progressive-mainstream publication decided to carry the piece at all. It’s what it consists of and what it leaves out that makes me worry.
Consider just the omissions:
- Not a word about fully paid parental leave of at least 12 months, although 24 would be far more reasonable and better for the kids. (Why do Huffies seem to think 5 months is more than enough? Is that really the age at which children are deemed psychologically, maturationally ready to enter kindergarten?).
- Not a word about fully funded, user-free, top-notch professional day care centers in every city and town in the country sufficient in number to care for all the kindergarten-aged children in the USA whose parent(s) work outside the home.
- Not a word about eradicating old-age poverty and the disproportionate toll it takes on women.
- Total silence about ensuring equal and equally good health care for all the women in the USA, i.e. health care equal in quality to that available to men and equal in quality across the different class and income-brackets women occupy.
- Ditto about passing the ERA.
The sad thing is that Americans have (as have we, in Canada) stopped having a sustained public conversation on any of these topics, that too many of our conversations, as the readers’ comments to the Huffington Post article show, have instead devolved to inane quips about movies that glamorize sado-masochism instead, and that we can’t even bring ourselves to ask what kind of a society we want to sustain or create, what kind of social, economic and political arrangements would make it a society women can honestly say is worth living in and contributing to.
Interestingly enough, it’s a male reader who points this out, if only indirectly, by bringing attention to the actual content of the article in question:
And there you have it: Why this focus on how unfair the top 1% of women have it?
Feminism as I know and support it was never about the top 1% — and it was never about women exclusively. It still isn’t. It’s about the logical and fair extension of the ideals of democracy, including economic democracy, the great ideals of universalism and human rights, to include the 51% of our species that is female. Would that the parts of the mainstream press which profess themselves progressive — as Huffington Post does — remembered that and kept it firmly in mind.