Thursday, August 17, 2006

If women don't care, who will?

Interesting, if not somewhat distressing, post in the Australian Mercator that asks "if women don't care, who will?", suggests that there has been a 'decline in female altruism' and the 'feminine ethic of service'.

"This feminine ethic of service, marked by attentiveness to the person and concern for their integral (moral and cultural as well as physical) good, is the great contribution women can make to professional life and the workplace in general. To grasp this is to see a solution to the work-life dilemma. Once 'life' -- relationships in the family, with others -- is understood in terms of mutual service, work finds its proper purpose and place."

Who said women are the only ones who care? Shouldn't this "ethic of service" apply to both sexes?


Carolyn Moynihan said...

Of course women are not the only ones who should care but, as I wrote in the article, they are ones best placed to model and teach this ethic of service to others -- to their husbands and work colleagues, to their own children. The family is the first school of virtue and there the mother sets the pace.

Emilie Clemmens said...

You and I may agree, Ms. Moynihan, that women on average are, perhaps, better at nurturing and setting examples of social service than men. However, your article seeks to blame feminism for the retreat of women from these careers. Frankly I think you’re falling into another well-trod stereotype: women blaming other women for all their problems.

I don’t blame feminism—I blame the way our cultures prioritize “nurturing” work. The work of mothers, teachers, and nurses in the U.S. and many other industrialized nations is utterly undervalued, both financially and in terms of prestige and honor. Feminism is not responsible for this. Women wanting careers outside the home is not responsible for this. And to ask women to simply accept mothering or other nurturing work as valued is not “a solution to the work-life dilemma”. A profound cultural shift is needed to, for starters, help teachers or stay-at-home moms pay the mortgage these days.

And I do believe men can and should participate in nurturing work: my own husband has benefited greatly from time spent with our daughter and from understanding the diverse aspects of caring for a home. (He often tells me he’s jealous that I get to spend more time with her than he does.)

I have a good friend—a man—who gave up teaching high school science to stay at home with his son. His wife works as a scientist at a prestigious East Coast lab. They are both very happy with the arrangement. Look what feminism hath wrought!