Sciencewomen

My revolution looks like this…

i-9dc84d4d9156dccb30d5f62466b4219a-swblocks.jpgThere’s quite the discussion going on over at Dr. Isis’s house about different approaches to feminism and how the actions and choices of mothers and others do or do not conform to particular feminist philosophies. I made a comment early this morning that perhaps wasn’t clear enough about where I thought the current US societal set-up fails us, so I tried again this afternoon:

I fervently hope that there could be a better way than having a woman work a “man’s job” (in my case, science professor) and then come home and work a second “woman’s job” (mother, cook, housekeeper). How many times have both Isis and I [not to mention all the other mommy-scientist bloggers] written about being sleep-deprived? about being forced to make hard choices between our science and our families?

…and I ended up starting to lay out what current utopia looks like. Here’s the heart of what I said:

My revolution looks like having all employers/professions respect that all people have lives outside of work by offering real, financially-feasible part-time, telecommuting, flexibility, paid maternity leave, etc. My revolution looks like having both parents combine to fully and equitably distribute household responsibilities. My revolution looks like having communities structured around supporting families and respecting the earth, maybe through dense developments with shared division of childcare or outside-maintenance. My revolution looks like having affordable and available local, organic food, even if I have to do some of the work to raise it (because my job allows me time to do that, see above). My revolution looks like communities that are truly built in a way to reduce dependence on cars and encourage families to get outside to walk and play.

These are just my off-the-cuff thoughts and, given more time and energy, I could add more items and more detail. But, Minnow’s naptimes are finite, laundry needs to be done, and revisions need to be finished, so instead, I’ll ask you. Does your revolution look anything like mine?

Comments

  1. #1 Alex
    December 27, 2008

    What do you think a part-time faculty position would look like? Presumably it would involve better pay than most adjuncts/lecturers get, but a lighter research burden than full-time faculty in Ph.D.-granting departments. How would graduate students be supervised? How would lab space and equipment funds be justified for groups that have fewer students?

  2. #2 Alex
    December 27, 2008

    More questions:

    Would your post-revolutionary community have more organic food if it’s grown by part-time volunteers or by people who specialize in growing organic food and know all the ins and outs from years of intense experience?

    What if some people freely choose to run research groups as full-time jobs and get a competitive edge over part-timers on making discoveries first, getting grants funded, etc.? How should universities handle that?

  3. #3 Zie
    December 27, 2008

    To repeat what I said on Isis’ blog: I LOVE your revolution. I’d like to know where I can join!

    And to add. I envision part time faculty positions having a clock that ticks proportionately as fast as the fractional time of the position. So if the person was 50% time the (tenure, promotional etc) clock would tick at half the speed. Then Alex’s issue of full timers getting an edge over part-timers wouldn’t be a problem. People would be expected to be at the same place when their “clock” chimed 3 or 6 or whatever, but it might have taken a longer time to get there.

    And I suspect that in reality, part timers might have to share labs. So benches 1-3 could belong to part time faculty member A and benches 4-6 to part time faculty member B (both on 50% appointments). I would hope both A and B could have their own office space though :-)

    As a reality check: I have only ever seen one part time faculty position advertised in my broad area. Although the fact that one has been advertised means it’s possible.

  4. #4 Sicilian
    December 27, 2008

    I love your utopia, but have a few more thoughts. I have wondered if I am my own worst enemy. When I raised my girls, fathers did very little in the way of helping. If we allowed fathers to really share the load, it would make life for us much easier. Of course, this would mean that they too would have the ability to adjust work schedules so that they co-parent.
    Somehow my life was a reflection of the way my parents raised us. When there is one bread winner the other half is picking up the household duties and children duties. I failed to take that into account, and worked myself ragged.
    Oh well it is done, but I do relate to what you are saying.
    Ciao

  5. #5 Kim
    December 27, 2008

    I’m totally there. (Actually, I really am there – I’m part-time this spring, because I wouldn’t have after-school childcare otherwise. Though my husband is working full-time, and as his career has advanced, our pre-parenting equitable split of housework has disappeared.)

    I would add that, in my utopia, the productivity of part-time faculty would not be judged as if they were full-time. (Advise half the students, write half the papers, receive half the grant support – don’t expect full-time research productivity.) I know some (well, at least one) half-time faculty who are superstars (given the institution, teaching load, etc). But most of the time, it doesn’t work that way.

  6. #6 Maria
    December 27, 2008

    Phrases like “outside of work” and especially “my job allows me time” do not appear in my revolution, because in my utopia, the distinction between working “outside of the home” for pay and doing unpaid labor in the home or for the community is not considered an important one. My revolution also does not talk much about “both parents”, because it supports wildly diverse household, child-rearing, and resource-sharing arrangements among extended family, chosen family, and communities.

    My pragmatic incremental policy changes look an awful lot like your revolution, though.

  7. #7 D. C. Sessions
    December 27, 2008

    If we allowed fathers to really share the load, it would make life for us much easier.

    “Allowed” is such an interesting choice of words.

    Not to sugar-coat the situation, but there’s a good bit of truth in the stereotype that men don’t carry their share of household and family duties.

    What’s really hard to tell is how hard we (collectively) have made it for men to escape from that stereotype.

  8. #8 ScienceWoman
    December 27, 2008

    My pragmatic incremental policy changes look an awful lot like your revolution, though.

    Fair enough. And your revolution sounds pretty darn good too. Perhaps with further polishing of my thinking and writing our revolutions will start to sound more similar.

  9. #9 Dr. Free-Ride
    December 27, 2008
  10. #10 ScientistMother
    December 27, 2008

    where do I join up? I love both yours and marias revolutions.

    DCS – Yes I do think we have not made it easy for men to escape the stereotype. Though many of us (men and women) are trying to facilitate the change.

  11. #11 D. C. Sessions
    December 28, 2008

    SM:

    Yes I do think we have not made it easy for men to escape the stereotype.

    I’m not even going that far. I really meant, “It’s hard to tell.”

    I know how hard $EX_WIFE tried to enforce her ideas of “who is DCS” on me; I know how hard $DAUGHTER’s social circle lean on her to enforce their ideas of who she is; I know a little of how hard other friends and acquaintances find it to escape from ill-fitting roles.

    I also know that in many, perhaps most, cases people internalize those roles. At least sometimes knowingly.

    Bottom line: men who let an inequitable burden fall on their wives might — or not — be to blame. Just as women who shoulder that inequitable share might — or not — be doing a disservice to themselves and their husbands (and children!) by being reluctant to share the load. Humans don’t lend themselves to simple black-and-white generalizations [1] like that.

    The best I’ve come up with is a handful of rules, such as “give people a chance to do the right thing.” I try to view myself in a very skeptical light, and I try to give others the benefit of the doubt — and I know I don’t get it right very often, so it pays to be humble. Which, those who know me will tell you, doesn’t come naturally.

    [1] At least if we’re honest. Doesn’t keep us from trying.

  12. #12 dave
    December 28, 2008

    As a single male working a full-time day job while trying to also do school part-time and not having time to do little things like keep my apartment in decent shape on top of that, I am completely in support of your revolution, especially if it means I get to work a 3/4-time day job and have time to do a proper job of everything else I’m trying to do. (If it means I can get fresh food in single-person quantities and/or if people stop thinking I’m crazy for not having a drivers license, that would be a very nice bonus.)
    As far as household responsibilities… if my hypothetical future wife is also working full-time, I rather hope she’ll force me to pick up my share of housework (though I have a short list of things I’m going to insist that that share includes and excludes); but if there are children involved, I’d rather treat kids+house as a full-time job of its own, and it would take a lot to convince me to pick up that one. (I’m not going to rule it out completely, but if my hypothetical future girlfriend tells me she wants both kids and a career, I plan to tell her to marry somebody else.)
    For perspective: My mother was a full-time mother (of six kids, twelve years between the oldest and the youngest), and my father worked full-time and hardly had any involvement in taking care of kids+house. Everybody involved seems to be happy with that, so try to leave some room in your post-revolution world for people who prefer it.

  13. #13 E
    December 29, 2008

    This fits in generally with comments that others have made. I talk quite a bit with my husband about the fact that change comes faster when those with ‘power’ ask for it – here, often male workers. We’re from two very different countries but this issue looks very similar both places. It seems that, to add to the revolution, employers’ assumptions about paid-working women need to be challenged. Men who are parents need to request flexibility and reasonable hours and leave as often and as insistently as women do in order for subtle and not-so-subtle injustices, imbalances and prejudices working women face to change, at home and in paid work. I think that kind of equality of requesting could go a long way toward change.

  14. #14 Alan
    December 30, 2008

    Speaking as a father of two adult children who worked 60hr weeks to raise them single-handedly through their teenage years.

    The thing I dislike most about your revolution is that it seems everybody has to do something for you. I do not hear you saying what you will do for others in return.

    The other thing I dislike is it gives the false hope that anyone (male or female) can have kids without it profoundly changing their life.

    You entitled to talk about whatever kind of revolution you want but considering the number of children on the planet working 16hr days picking over rubbish dumps just to survive, you’re “revolution” sounds more like “let them eat cake”.

  15. #15 Nat C
    December 31, 2008

    Sorry, but if you are feeling sleep-deprived and making hard choices it is your own fault. Either get your lazy ass partner to help you, have one person watch over the children full-time or pay for the nanny.

    If your idea of fun is working all day long and then going home to do the dishes that is your own problem. I have better things to do.

  16. #16 makita
    January 1, 2009

    When I graduated a few weeks ago (yeah!), my adviser told me “You know, all this time you had to work so hard, doing double duty as a scientist and a mother, you should have had a wife.” I think that about sums it up.

  17. #17 Nat
    January 2, 2009

    Let me just assure everyone that “Nat C” doesn’t speak for all Nats.

  18. #18 Lab Rat
    January 3, 2009

    I have a slight issue with Dave here. I may be reading it wrong, but his words keep rearranging themselves into: ‘If I want kids, I’d want my wife to stop work and look after them.’ Which is Not On and Not Necessary.

    There are lots of families out there with two full-time workers and kids. It can happen. It seems to me that all Sciencewomans ‘revolution’ involves is making that easier. In fact, to paraphrase: “My revolution involves two people being able to both work and bring up kids. And eat organic food.”

    That shouldn’t have to be a revolution!

    “If your idea of fun is working all day long and then going home to do the dishes that is your own problem.”
    Urm. Yeah. mine is. Spend day in lab, spend afternoon sorting house out, spend evening infront of TV with Certain Special Someone, spend weekends having fun.

    Sorry Nat C, that’s my revolution. =D

    lol at other Nat! =D sweet.

  19. #19 Courtney
    January 4, 2009

    Speaking as one of those kids who grew up with two parents working full-time, it can be done. It requires organization, and allo-parenting in the form of baby-sitters, but it does work. I never felt that my parents weren’t there for me because they worked. And the house got cleaned – with the kids’ help.

    Seeing as how my mother was a Child Protective Services worker, and learning from her work experience, just because a mother stayed home is no guarantee of good child care. My mom said the worst cases of malnutrition were in the “best” neighborhoods, because the trophy wives never kept food in the house. She actually had kids on her caseload with ricketts, from wealthy families and no one noticed because their families had money.

    In my ideal world, those who cared for children would do so as a job, and choose to do that job because they liked caring for children. And like any difficult job, they would be respected for their skills, and well-educated in their field.

  20. #20 ecogeofemme
    February 2, 2009

    I was clearly influenced by this post when I wrote my contribution for the Feb Scientiae. Thanks for sharing good ideas!

  21. #21 Katherine
    July 12, 2009

    I agree with Dave when he says parenting + housework is a full time job, but not the rest of his tone (which very much sounds like… nevermind). The problem as I see it is that society wants people to either parent or work, and doesn’t really allow much in the way of reasonably well paid part time jobs. If I wanted to do half the hours of my current job, my employer would have to hire another person to do the other half of my job. In my revolution there would be enough people out there that want to work an unusual amount of hours that it should be pretty easy to fill half or 1/4 of a job without it beign an issue, so that I could do half the parenting and slightly less than half the housework (the kids will be helping!)

    If I decide to have kids that is. Maybe if I don’t have kids I’ll work less anyway, so I can have more free time :)

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