Monday, July 13, 2009

Female Machismo

(Apparently there is no good feminine corollary for machismo, for better or worse.)

Three stories.

Story Number One:

When I was pregnant with Baby Y a supervisor, upon learning that I was a just say no to drugs in childbirth kind of lady remarked, You know, you don't have to prove anything. (His wife apparently had a similar idea with her #1 and then gratefully went for the epidural with #2 and #3.) Frankly, the side effects ("disadvantages") of an epidural scare me more than the contractions.

But then, once Baby Y was born, I had to be honest with myself. I wanted to prove something to myself! I like to think that very little in ordinary life can break me and wanted to put that theory to the test. (Life 0, MaybeMBA 2)

Story Number Two:

Typical conversation with stay-at-home moms (particularly the wives of classmates ... no offense to the lovely partners I have met).

Her: I don't know how you do it!
Me: Oh, I have lots of help. It's not too bad.
Her: I could never do that!
Me: ... [well, you could ...]

Story Number Three:

While searching online for a completely unrelated subject, I came across a BabyCenter forum thread venting about the smug superiority of women who birth "naturally". As if luck were just the differentiating factor ...

The Point:

Don't forget to distinguish between can and want. While I firmly believe that it is highly improbably that women will ever be fully represented in all portions of public life, this does not mean that you, dear blog reader, cannot achieve extraordinary things on the professional and personal front. Women will not be fully represented in public life because they do not want to. (My earlier post was to explain why this was quite reasonable.)

Bertand found (no, I'm not quite done with this study yet!) that the labor supply of women with higher earning spouses was more flexible in response to the birth of children than that of women with lower earning spouses. Intriguing ...*

You can "have it all" but you might not want to.
It's a choice.

Human beings are designed to prefer the path of least resistance. Almost every woman (there are genuine exceptions to the rule but they are a true minority) can give birth naturally, but most (in this country, at least) do not want to.** Same thing can be said of parental labor force participation.

*Her initial interpretation was that this indicated lack of discrimination as it seemed inconceivable that employers would be discriminating more against women based on spousal earnings. However, many of us were pleased to hear her acknowledge in a Becker lunch, that this could reflect the fact that women with higher earning spouses had more choice in response to discriminatory attitudes/practices and could more easily drop out of the labor force to get away from it.
**It's my understanding that epidurals are used quite rarely in most parts of the world, including countries which suffer no lack of babies being born ... and mothers surviving the experience.

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