It was common practice to punish women for being mothers while holding a job. It still is.
Because we’re the only gender with wombs, women hold an odd place, even in modern-day culture. We’re expected, if not required, to bring children into the world above all else, even when pregnancy isn’t wanted, is inconvenient, or is dangerous. But once we’re pregnant, or mothers — or even women of child-bearing age — we become suspect in the workplace.
Suppose we have children whose needs might come first? What then? How does that jibe in a profit-motivated system where worker bees are required to work their asses off in order for their employers to make buckets full of money? What has to come first, the job or the kid? In this system, it’s the job. It’s always been the job.
I have no idea if Elizabeth Warren planned her pregnancy way back when she was a teacher, but I do know for a fact that she could be fired once her pregnancy began to show. I also know for a fact the reason for the firing would never be listed on paper as “pregnancy”.
The ignorance of those GOP “fact-checkers” looking for a record of Sen. Warren’s claims — that she was fired for having a child — is astounding. There is no record. Of course there is no record.
When I was a kid in school in the 1940s and 1950s, our female teachers were always known as “Miss”. If they were married, we couldn’t know it. If they became pregnant, we couldn’t know it. Why not? Because, while male teachers could have families and could even talk about them, female teachers had to appear asexual. No one wanted impressionable children to be thinking about female teachers having sex.
They had dress codes. They were walking, talking text books with no life outside the classroom. When one of them suddenly disappeared in the middle of a semester, we weren’t told they were on maternity leave, we were simply told a new teacher would be taking their place.
When I was in high school in the early 1950s, two of our teachers were married to each other. That was so unheard of we never stopped talking about it. To us it was kind of…delicious. And subversive.
But it wasn’t just teachers. Women with children were discriminated against in every work place. Women with children were a liability. Their loyalties would never lie with their jobs as long as there were children at home. Children get sick, they need care, they need nurturing. They are a distraction when the clock is ticking, the work piles up, and their employer makes demands that require a Hobson’s choice.
It’s never easy for mothers to put their best into outside jobs. Women with good paying jobs can afford good child care. Women with crap jobs paying too little aren’t so lucky. But every mother faces those days when their jobs demand their attention but their children need them even more.
Women need to be mothers first. That’s a fact. It’s also the excuse employers make to keep women down. Women have always been behind men in work pay, and the reason, often spoken out loud, is because women can’t devote as much time or attention to their jobs. Never mind that not all women are mothers, or that not all women still have children at home. They’re shoved into the same box because it’s convenient — because god forbid men ever have to acquiesce to the notion that women might be their equals.
You may have noticed that no woman has ever been President. It’s a big deal every time a woman wins a job over a man, no matter the title. Being a woman in a “man’s job” is a liability that we should have gotten over long ago, but there are still far fewer women in government than there are men. That isn’t going to change until attitudes change, and as long as the GOP holds the cards, that’s not likely.
When it comes to motherhood, America is a bastion of hypocrisy. Half the people in our country think there’s nothing wrong with forcing women to carry a fetus to term, sending the message loud and clear that their own ambitions will always have to take a back seat to motherhood.
At the same time, there are forces working inside our government to take away any protections families, including single mothers, might need to care for their children. Cuts in everything from health care to food stamps to housing allowances makes the children of those struggling families vulnerable. Our government refuses to take care of the children born to women who have few or no resources. Our government refuses to even see them.
But that will all change if a woman becomes President. Can Elizabeth Warren break that glass ceiling? Or Kamala Harris? Or Amy Klobuchar? The question now is, are we ready for a woman president?
I know. It’s a silly question. Of course we’re ready. We’re long past ready.
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(Cross-posted at Medium/Indelible Ink)