Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Do Feminists Hate Their Children?

It would appear so.
Yesterday I received in my e-mail a plea to sign a petition in support of a new law in the making, which will make daycare costs tax-deductible for working women here in Israel. At first sight this would seem to me like an excellent initiative – I am a devout feminist, and I am all for woman’s rights, the more the merrier. I remember that I even tried to persuade my wife to marry in a civil union because of the awful discrimination against woman in Jewish marriage laws (we ended up having a beautiful Jewish wedding).
Anyway, this law seems to mean that women would be free to go to work without having to bear the full brunt of the expense of daycare for their children.
However, the thing about freedom is that it always has two sides – you are free to do something, but that means that you also have freed yourself from something else, and in this case, feminist are apparently trying to free themselves from taking care of their children.

I tried to find something about this in English but I couldn’t so I’ll be translating from the Hebrew article I found in Yediot Ahronot – the secular radically left propaganda sheet which happens to also be the most popular daily in Israel (in case you were wondering where the Israeli public actually stands). The issue is treated extremely favorably, as expected. The problem seems to be that women with children who do not make a lot of money find that all of their income goes into daycare – and they are no better off than before when they stayed at home and took care of their children. For instance, an anonymous parent is quoted as saying:

“…when my little one became five months old I realized that if I go back to work, pay 4000 ns for daycare and another 700 ns for a tzohoron (afternoon daycare? How is this translated?) for the older daughter, then everything I make will be put into daycare, and it is not worth it to me to go back to work. Since I did not want to stay at home I decided to work part-time. This way, although I do not have any money left at the end of the month, at least I will be here to receive my child when she gets back from the kindergarten”
The rest of the article deals with the financial effect of the law, admitting that it will cost a lot, but that on average each qualifying family will receive a benefit of about 600 ns (a month, I guess), and also with the long way ahead of “us”. According to a representaitive of the Israeli Women’s Lobby who was quoted profusely in the article, the ideal law is the one enforced in Scandinavia where the benefit goes to the husband or wife, depending on the income of either (on a side note – no opponent of the law was mentioned or quoted, which is par for the course here).
At the end, another mother is quoted as expressing the desire that the law should be expanded to include children over the age of five, since they too need daycare, and that way, any woman who wants to work while her children are young may do so.
The main paint of the article is that encouraging women to get out of the house and work is considered good and beneficial to society. I have no objection whatsoever to that. I just object to the implication – that staying at home and raising your children is unworthy of the average member of society.

Feminism Against Children
Throughout the article a representative of the Israeli women’s lobby is interviewed, and it is clear from her views and those of the women’s lobby (Hebrew site here) that they do indeed accept fully the patriarchal convention – that housework and childrearing are inferior and unworthy of anyone who takes himself seriously. This is typical of the feminist movement, which in many cases, is fighting for the right of women to express their own masculinity. Again, I do not object, but the movement should be called masculism, not feminism – there is nothing feminine about adopting wholesale the values of patriarchal society (feminism will be the subject of a future, detailed post. here i'm just ranting a bit).

The last point, and the one thing that really hurts me about this law and the way people are talking about it is the absolute, complete disregard for the people who are most affected by the law – the children who are being abandoned by their parents.
Yes – abandoned.
I do not know any other way to put it. I mean, if you go to the trouble of having a child, but when he is only a few months old you are already so sick of him that you can’t stand being around him and you must escape somehow from this situation, even if only for a few hours – then why the hell did you bring this child into the world in the first place, and second – why not admit that you are simply not mentally fit to raise the child?
I have seen this phenomenon around me several times – people marry, have children, and then, after a month or two, or five – as the case may be – they don’t want anything to do with them, and they do everything they can to avoid contact with their children – they shuttle them off to daycare, hire a nanny, send them to an endless stream of extracurricular activities, or simply scream at them when they are too tired to give their children the attention they need, which all have the net effect of
1 – exhausting the child
2 – preventing any intimacy between the child and his parents

Now, how does a child feel when his parents do not want to be with him? When they do not want to raise him? Does he feel wanted? Loved? Taken care of? I doubt it. Will he grow up to be a self-confident, creative, contributing member of society? Not likely. Eventually, in some way, society will foot the bill for the wounds his neglecting parents inflicted on this child.

Feminism was correct in stating that a woman has a right to live a full life, but the movement has made two awful mistakes – it has never extended that right to men nor fought for it – men too deserve to be able to choose from the full range of human activities including especially – parenting and housework – and second – most of women’s “achievements” have come at the expense of their own children, who are now considered a hindrance, a chore, an obstacle to be overcome – perhaps with the help of the state, or the broader family (grandparents and so on).
One would hope at least that the women who behave this way towards their children are satisfied with their lives but in my own experience that is not the case – they just end up bitter, confused and empty, after losing themselves and their children.
Finally, in case you were wondering, I did not sign the petition. In my view raising children properly means that the parents must dedicate the time and energy necessary to do so – both of them, mind you. Just as there are many women who wish to express their own masculinity, and do so successfully, I am sure there are men who would like to express their own femininity and stay home and take care of the children and so on.
My point is – raising children is important work, it is also hard and challenging work, and it should be recognized as such by the state. Housewives, or househusbands, as the case may be, should be seen as people who are working hard and contributing heavily to society and they should be compensated in some way. That, in my view, would be true feminism. But, until that happy day comes, we’ll have to be content with the confused post-modern feminism, which takes from thehelpless newborn child, and gives to the childish, irresponsible "parent".


mother in israel said...

Yes, tax breaks should be given to parents of young children to do with as they please. I take care of my own children; don't my husband and I deserve the tax break just as much because of the income we are losing by staying home?

mother in israel said...

I linked to you and added some more comments.

ora said...

What a horrible article :(. I can't believe that the woman they quoted actually works a part-time minimum job only in order to get away from her son each day. And people thought this was completely reasonable!! Maybe because of the stereotype that a stay-at-home-mom is actually stuck in the house all day long with no interaction, who knows. Anyway, very sad, and how awful for the kids whose mom works so hard just to get away from them. Also, thanks for including dads in your analysis, my dad was stay at home and it worked out wonderfully for all of us--so many people forget that's even possible.

westbankmama said...

Thank you for this post. I work part time in the evenings as a mikveh lady, I occasionally work as a babysitter for other's kids, and I sometimes get translating and writing work on a freelance basis - all in order to be home for my kids. I have been doing this for the past 17 years, since my oldest was born. I still insist on being home, even though my youngest is 10, because he comes home from school at 1:30 three days a week, and 2:30 the other two. This is incredibly hard on us financially, but my husband and I agreed that it is important for one parent to be at home. I have received a lot of reactions from career women in Israel - most of whom either pity me ("oh, the poor thing, she must not be able to get a REAL job") or who put me down as a prima-donna ("I wish I could afford to stay home, but we absolutely MUST have my salary" - while she dresses much better than I do, the family takes a week long vacation every summer, and they maintain two cars - not to mention the high cost of babysitting for her kids). We could really use the tax break for kids - but here it is only available to working WOMEN - my husband can't take them off his taxes, which are considerable. And, as you point out, women working long hours and leaving their kids to others for so much time is very detrimental to the children.

To be fair, though, there are quite a few women who manage to work part time (if they are lucky to find a job with flexible hours) and be there in the afternoons, and this can be good for both child and mother. And, don't forget, every woman who stays at home with her kids is not an angel either, and this doesn't automatically make her a fantastic parent. After a full day of taking care of toddlers, I used to "lose it" many times!

Tamiri said...

I did love reading this. Thanks for putting into words what other people (if you can call stay-at-home moms "people") think. I would like to note that I find it far worse in the Dati Israeli society (i.e. Mom works, therefore she is) than in the Dati U.S. society. At least there Mom feels guilty a lot of the time, even though she really must work to compensate for outrageous tuition bills and those Florida vacations. Here, you ought to be guilty if you ARE with your children and DO stay home and clean your own home. Pathetic. I want a tax break too, on my husband's salary.

mother in israel said...

tamiri--I find the datiim here are so much more conformist than the hilonim. The hilonim have been exposed to many different lifestyles, they go to chu"l more, etc.

Jerusalem Joe said...

WBM - i am sure that not every stay at home parent is also a suitable one. what is important in my view is that parents give some thought to this issue - like you and your husband did. treating children like they were baggage kills me.

Tamiri: stay at home mom are definitely people - most likely even good people.

tafka PP said...

Joe, this move is being brought about solely because increasing numbers of people can't afford to either stay at home or go out to work without government help. Perhaps you'd like to consider that they are freeing themselves from the financial no-go situation currently perpetuated by the existing system, as opposed to "their children"? Although I realise that wouldn't make as good a title to a post...

Aside from that, I fear you aren't that famililar with the Israeli femininist movement. Yes, their language can occasionally smack of the 1970's, (wherein they first found their voice in Israel) but that doesn't delegitimise their struggle- I'm suprised to find -a "devout feminist" like yourself is making presumptions about the movement based upon the interpretation of language in one article about one issue. As for patriachal values -where exactly in the article or on the website do Shdulat HaNashim decry they choice of a woman to stay at home?!

Perhaps you didn't realise that unlike their more western counterparts, Israeli feminists are *still* working to break basic, shameful stereotypes rife in Israeli society. I hope you will engage in some local research about the movement before you write your future post.

a mother in israel said...

tafka, you wrote--
Joe, this move is being brought about solely because increasing numbers of people can't afford to either stay at home or go out to work without government help.

So give everyone the benefit so they can have the choice of staying home or going out to work. Why force mothers to go out to work, which is detrimental to children especially in the weaker sectors, simply in order to get the benefit?

Jerusalem Joe said...

Tafka -
i am not assuming anything about the movement. i am talking from years of experience, from feminist literature, from studying with and under feminists, from friends who are feminists. do not forget there are many prominent feminists in the media, in academia and the arts, and from my experience, personally as well as in their public statements, the attitude is the same as expressed in the article - a woman choosing to work instead of raising her children and being a housewife is protrayed as heroic, while stay at home moms and housekeepers are definitely looked down upon, and certainly no one in the feminist movement is fighting for the right of women to raise their children and get paid for it, or at the least - get some tax relief.
if you have a different experience - why don't you share it with us, instead of assuming i have no idea what i am talking about?
isn't that what your fight is all about - fighting harmful presumptions?
i would love to hear about a section of israeli feminism that embraces and values traditional roles alongside new ones for women as well as men. i simply have not seen it yet.if you know something - share it and i will gladly learn from it.

tafka PP said...

MotherinIsrael- I've gone over the article again to see if I missed something, but I can't see any evidence of anyone "forcing" mothers to go out to work. And there are other benefits available for people in "weaker sectors" as you put it which aren't available to the educated women that this policy appears to be targeting. Not that I think either of those are sufficient!

Joe- I didn't mean to insult you. Bear in mind that most of the activity carried out by the feminist lobby in Israel doesn't make the press- just the "juicy" stuff. And further, what you are referring to is more in line with "post-feminism"- Unlike the US, Israeli society is still somewhat unwilling to incorporate the basic feminist norms we took for granted wherever we lived before: Even though the law is technically in place, it is a slow process, so I would venture that your expectations about the movement are a little unrealistic. And while you may consider the media to be biased in favour of feminism, that is not how it is widely perceived. Also, bear in mind that the Israeli feminist movement is comprised of many different organizations and bodies fighting on many many issues of importance for women and women's rights: Go onto "Giving Wisely" and see how many non-profits are operational in the field. And, I have no problem saying that some of those issues seem more important to me than others- it is all a question of personal priorities. Maybe now I have explained a little more you can see why I was taken aback that a proclaimed feminist wrote a denigrating post based on an perceived implication in an article about one single issue.

a mother in israel said...

Tafka--You implied that the poor financial situation means that mothers need to go out to work. If they need extra help because someone has to care for their small children, they will only get it if they work. Why shouldn't they get it if they stay home?

I agree with you that there are other benefits for weaker sectors. That's why I don't support the law. This law only benefits educated women who go out to work, and I'm sorry but feminists need to think about children too, who generally do better the more they have a parent at home. What about extending maternity leave to six months? That would be a good use of government money. If fathers want to take it I have no objection.

Either all mothers of small children should get a cash benefit (not a tax deduction, because that favors the rich), or at-risk families should get them. It shouldn't davka be the richer, more educated couples who get a tax break. It galls me that the mothers who choose to work and are earning will get one and those who don't, and are not earning, get nothing.

a mother in israel said...

To clarify, I meant that the women are forced to go out to work in order to get the tax benefit. They can't get it if they care for their own children.

And your mention of the word "educated" shows your agenda. Why should educated women get more tax benefits? They already have more earning potential.

tafka PP said...

Mother - "Shows my agenda"?! Sorry, I don't know what you mistake me for. I have no "agenda"! I simply found this piece offensive. Especially as I am a feminist and I care about children. And
by the sounds of it, so are you- in fact we don't seem to be disagreeing much here. So please don't invent an "Agenda" for me! Thanks.

Karma said...

Um hello middle class borgeoises (I know that I spelled that wrong thank you) having no realization of how difficult it is for some families to raise children in Israel. Some families don't have the option to not have two incomes. Also, what about fathers working? How is it that when women are working, they're abandoning their children BUT when fathers are working, they're just bringing home the (kosher) bacon. Maybe the question should be (instead) "Do Men Hate Their Children?"

And I agree with Tafka.

Jerusalem Joe said...

Hello Karma!
i'm glad to hear from you.
as for your comment -i will try to clarify the post:

first - of course i know how difficult it is here - believe me, i do!
the point i made was this - why do you encourage and subsidise only one option - the woman working - and not any others - for instance the woman - or the man - staying at home? i expressed my anger that the feminist movement is directing it's energy towards only one goal, at the expense of the others, and also without giving due consideration to the effect this may have on the children.

" what about fathers working"

the feminist movement has rarely dealt with the problem of men's relationship to their children - again, like i pointed out - a bad mistake.
if the law they were pursuing would include men - a subsidy for men staying at home - then there would be a point in such a title, but they are not.
one big problem is the national insurance - if a man works and pays it, then his wife is covered automatically, but if my wife works and i want to stay at home and raise the kids - then i have to pay national insurance seperately. why don't feminists fight to change that law?
if we do that (and a few other income tax related changes) then at least we would have a level playing field, economically speaking, and each family could make the choice best suited for it's members, male and female - and their children.

finally - the subject of "do men hate their children" is an important one and i will be addressing it in the future. western society has a big problem here.
but again, the article i was refering to does not even mention men, the proposed law does not mention them, and niether do the feminists quoted in the article or on the israeli feminist site itself.
so is the problem the title of my post, or the direction the feminist movement has taken, consistently for many years? what has the feminist movement done to change women's prejuduce against men who do like children, and care for them, men who cherish the family, like housework, and express their feelings?
If women want to be free to work and express themselves outside the house, they must be willing to relinquish or at least share their traditional female duties and hand them over to the men in their lives, or else they will be saddled with everything, they will hate themselves, their children and their men, and they will become bitter and disappointed. don't tell me you don't know woman like that.

Karma said...

Yes, clearly the problem is feminists. Even though these are societal issues, somehow if a feminist takes a stand without rectifying all of the problems in the world, the world's problems are her faults.

Jerusalem Joe said...

i am really sorry that you are taking it this way.the post was about a problem i see in the feminist movement - and there are a lot of problems.
should we not talk about them?is there no room for improvemnt?
you sound so bitter - why?

i would not be talking about the feminist movement at all if i did not think it has done a lot of good, and can still do more.

Karma said...

Really? Calling the feminist bitter as a response? That's brilliant really. Never been done. OR perhaps I'm not willing to accept this overly simplistic dregery about feminism - which isn't really a movement so much as a group of movementS. There's a lot of diversity within feminism.

By the way, nice look. But, I am sad that you put up the ads - although understandable I guess.