As an (over-)analytical, career, married and childless woman progressing in a mostly desirable career path, I feel compelled to dissect some of the legislation coming out of the escalating Republican War on Women.
First, we frame. Is the goal here marginalizing women because God said Men First!, increasing what is believed to be a dwindling birth rate, moving America forward in innovation and jobs, ensuring that Americans become blue-collar workers while intellectual jobs stay abroad, something not mentioned or a combination of the above? What is the desired end result of passing laws that punish miscarriages, abortions, birth control, equal pay, female career choices and being a single, working mother?
So, if an unmarried woman wants to have sex, she cannot have birth control and must be married. If a married woman wants to do the same, she, too, has no access to family planning. Following that, should she get pregnant, she has to bring the fetus to term to avoid jail time and is allotted little to no maternity leave and equal pay when she returns to work. The time she spent giving birth to that beloved fetus and recuperating from the strenuous experience is not then something to be valued by society, but an opportunity to penalize a woman for having successfully used her uterus for what God intended, something men cannot do. We want you to have children, but you had a child, therefore no longer qualified to earn what your husband or other male peers do. Leave alone the primacy of the unborn fetus but not the actual born child itself.
Then comes the disconnect. This is happening at the same time that gender parity is increasingly more important in the workplace because of heightened recognition that women do the same work as men here and there are only so many of all of us. The pool of qualified professionals grows smaller. Therefore, issues like fair maternity leave as well as equal pay and promotions are being identified and addressed in corporate America (at least in companies like mine) and it is known that the company that makes benefits more attractive to men and women alike gains the competitive advantage.
Of course, we still have a long way to go. Childbirth, for instance, will one day no longer be considered a short-term disability or long-term career kneecap and the dinosaurs of government and industry who don’t come to terms with this will be left behind to die. (Or they’ll buy themselves politicians and get government subsidies to stay afloat, but that’s not truly sustainable as we’ve repeatedly seen.)
As far as the conservatives go, let them see how far this plan to address low birth numbers or uppity women or whatever alongside the dire national need for qualified workers goes. If most of this War On Women legislation sticks, we’re going to end up with unmarried, childless, working women (tapping into a birth control black market) and equally smart and qualified women simply dropping out of promising careers to stay at home and raise children. Either way, we end up doing less with less and we lose.
Of course, none of this has anything to do with the increase in stay-at-home dads. Or, gasp, shared responsibility. Those men must not really value their paychecks.