On August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment was officially ratified, bringing fruition to the women’s suffrage movement and acting as a platform for modern day feminism. Since that time, commonly known as feminism’s first wave, women’s rights movements have progressed. During the early 1900s, suffrage was a primary concern of feminists. Today, though, the issue is quite literally closer to home – family life.
Neil Gilbert’s book, A
Mother’s Work: How Feminism, the Market and Policy Shape Family Life,
discusses the modern family and the choices faced by women today in terms of
motherhood versus an occupation. He begins by prompting the question: is
motherhood in decline? Articles appeared in newspapers all across the nation,
talking about an “opt-out revolution”, or the story of women choosing to stay home
and raise families instead of pursuing a career. Gilbert claims, however, an
assumption that women are choosing family over work is misplaced.
He continues on by talking about the effects of capitalism on motherhood, addressing both a literal and what is known as a “psychic” income, the latter being any non-material changes that result from motherhood. In addition to this cost-benefit analysis, he asks the reader to consider feminist expectations. What is the true meaning of independence? Privilege, choice, and material possessions are all subjects that are broached, which prompt a deeper consideration of how our society affects our families.
To tie this back to voting, the issue of “family friendly” policies is one worth noting. Gilbert concludes his book that different policies may be conducive to certain lifestyles, but not others. Controversies such as day care are discussed. Ultimately, Gilbert encourages a new perspective on the pro-family debate—he advocates consideration for alternatives for balancing work and family life. He cites family/work policies of several other countries, saying that ultimately, women need to educate themselves and seek the changes that they desire.