Hypocrisy is the watchword when it comes to any journalistic attempt to praise government-funded anything nowadays. Government-funded programs for mothers and children are no exception. Feminists in America seem to feel the only way to relate to pregnant women and mothers in this country is to nag them about how great their European counterparts have it. Hopping on that bandwagon, Joanna Valente comments in Kveller that “French Moms Have it Way Better Than U.S. Moms …thanks to the government.”
Of course, she starts out with the fact that French women get 16 weeks of paid leave and an income-based government stipend per child. Daycare starting at six weeks of age runs on a sliding fee scale to make it more affordable. The French, known for their cuisine, somehow provide mothers “access to chefs” to prepare healthy meals for children and introduce them to new foods in a “scientifically proven” way to reduce pickiness. Can it possibly get any better than this?
Feminists, however, can’t help but patronize women who choose to stay at home with their children. No matter how hard they try to present themselves as advocates for women, they still manage to depict stay-at-home moms as bonbon eating slugs:
Since school starts at age 3 (and it’s free), moms have more time to do stuff for themselves. After the three years of preschool ends, kids also stay late at school, until about 6:30 p.m.–which means moms can work if they can/want to, volunteer, pursue a hobby or passion, drink apertifs or eat fromage with friends, pursue the art of amour, and look chic etc. Because moms are people too, not just round the clock workers.
That’s right, you’re a person not just a mom. You shouldn’t have to spend your whole day taking care of children when you could be drinking wine with friends.
Valente based her commentary on European birth statistics showing that French women have, on average, 1.96 children. She begins and ends her research there, carefully glossing over the on-the-ground realities of being a working mother in France. Writing for Slate in 2013, Claire Lundberg describes being grilled about childcare arrangements while interviewing for a job in France. The depth of questioning is something an HR manager in America wouldn’t even think to go near, lest they get sued for discrimination in the hiring process. Lundberg cites that France stinks when it comes to gender equality in the workplace. Like many other nations offering paid family leave and government subsidies for children, women taking advantage of those benefits (particularly the time off) wind up missing out on career promotions and salary raises in the long-term.
The reality is, as Lundberg notes, the French government rewards women who devote their lives to motherhood versus career. Women who give birth to four children get medals from the government. Why? Because they’re sustaining the nation. They’re guaranteeing France’s survival. In other words, Valente the feminist is defending a government policy designed by men to use women’s reproductive abilities to benefit the State. Where’s the feminism in that?
What’s more, where’s the feminism in bowing in gratitude to government policies for what in actuality is a woman’s inherent biological right? Since when do women have to thank the government for making it possible for them to conceive, bear and raise children? A government, mind you, in which women are grossly underrepresented to boot? That’s not equality, that’s enslavement.
Does America need to become a more family-friendly nation again? Absolutely. But placing a woman’s reproductive rights into the hands of government isn’t the way to do it. Brainwashing women into believing they can’t have children because the government won’t send them a paycheck isn’t only absurd, it’s abusive.