More analysis required in career debate

To the Editor:

As a female graduate of Yale, I was disturbed by Louise Story’s New York Times article on college women and motherhood.

First, let me say that I do not question or judge the veracity of the statements made in the article — being a stay-at-home mother is both an honorable and important choice. However, it does strike me that although these young women’s conclusions about their life choices may turn out to be accurate, the reasoning underlying their current pronouncements is flawed. It is simply not true that the difference between children whose mothers stayed at home is “obvious”; that men are inherently absolved of the responsibility to balance work with parenthood; or that women today face a binary choice between either work or family.

It was truly disheartening to see women who obviously had the ambition and intelligence to end up at the schools they now attend (one of which I am proud to say is my alma mater), communicate such feelings of powerlessness. If the generations of women’s struggles stood for anything, I would think they stood for women’s intrinsic power — for women’s entitlement and ability to be masters of their own destinies. The fact that some of the choices facing women today may be complex or difficult to make does not mean that we do not have those choices. It means only that we must be diligent in our self-analysis, deliberate in our analysis of our society, and fierce in our protection of our right to live a life of our own design. Hopefully it is only their youth and inexperience that prevents these young women from seeing the vast opportunities that lie ahead, as well as their own power to strike a balance between their many options.

Finally, I was struck by the lack of analysis of the racial and class implications of the discussion in this article. Society has been debating the nature of “true motherhood” for generations, and the dialogue has always been inextricably tied to race, ethnicity, and class. Thus, to suggest that a woman who does not remain at home with her children is necessarily sacrificing their happiness or well-being is a moral judgment afforded only those of a certain privilege and espoused only by those of a certain ignorance. Such an assessment of motherhood, removed from the context of race, class and other issues that necessarily inform women’s choices, is both irresponsible and uninformed, and would be offensive if not for the obvious youth of the women making the assessment.

Brooke Richie ’99

Sept. 22, 2005


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