Updated: Feb 25, 2021
A New York Times' op-ed blames feminism for the failures of patriarchy. Here's why I think that's an unfair characterization of feminist childcare gains.
Note: This post comments on Kim Brooks' op-ed "Feminism has Failed Women" published in The New York Times on 12/23/20. Read it here
In her essay, “Feminism Has Failed Women,” Kim Brooks argues that feminism has changed little for mothers and their access to childcare. And I agree with her that we are still stuck in a world where “we charge forward, every mother for herself, each of us laser-focused on our own career and our own nuclear family’s security.”
I don’t agree that this impossible and unsustainable situation is the fault of feminism. Brooks claims that feminism meant “cheering on women trying to gain status in this broken system.”
In the late 1960’s and early 70’s, feminism meant a carefully organized and wining battle for universal, government-funded childcare. In 1971, after years of lobbying, letter-writing, and individual women testifying about their own struggles to both work and care for their children, a bi-partisan Congress passed the Comprehensive Childhood Development Act. (It would have provided community childcare centers for the entire nation.) And Richard Nixon was poised to sign the bill. He was persuaded by Pat Buchanan, a dedicated upholder of “family values,” that the bill would weaken the family, and even worse, would result in the “Sovietization” of American children.
We worked hard to get this bill passed. Feminism has always considered childcare a major and important goal. As one reader of “Feminism Has Failed Women” wisely noted, to blame feminism for the current dismal lack of childcare is like blaming the civil rights movement for the fact that systemic racism still exists.
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