What about women?
Last week, columnist Fish Stark argued that marriage and families should play a central role in the way Yalies plan for the future (“Love and marriage,” Feb. 7, 2017). He worries that Yale students “conceive of work and family as dichotomous forces” and expresses concern that the desire to wait until a less busy time of life will prevent students from becoming “engaged parents and thoughtful spouses.” It’s true that at Yale human connection often gets sidelined in the pursuit of prestige. However, Stark forgets that women often must think of work and family in practical and sometimes oppositional terms as we plan for our futures.
Women handle the challenge of work-family balance every day, even at our age. Young women face real stress in their relationships and family plans as they navigate a workplace that hinders paid maternity leave, equal pay for equal work and flexible scheduling. Many of us do not have partners with whom we wish to spend our lives at this point. Many of us may not want families at all. Many women made their mark on history without engaging in traditional family building; Jane Addams and Pauli Murray come to mind.
Moreover, the burden of raising families still falls primarily on the shoulders of women. Mentors have asked me, on hearing my plans for medical school, “Have you thought about when you’ll have children?” The column’s call for Yale to “offer as many workshops on building healthy relationships and families as it does on building impressive resumes” ignores the networks of advice and support that women have carved for themselves from necessity out of the patriarchal reality of the modern world.
Two societal forces are at work here, which I suggest has more nuance than the column implies; forces parallel to the strictures that label women as either “sluts” or “prudes”. On one hand, all women are assumed to want children, and are considered unnatural if they do not. On the other, women who work find intense obstacles to having families through systemic workplace inequality.
It is further proof of the gendered burden of families that Stark’s column looks past these issues, even in his legitimate happiness. Women consider not only the pay, prestige and fulfillment of jobs and grad school programs. We must also consider their flexibility, the timing against our biological clocks, whether or not to freeze our eggs to keep our options open, whether we’ll ever be able to have kids in the first place if we want to be secretary of health and human services. Calls to focus more on our future families than our hopes for work and prestige ring hollow for women. Men nearly always do not have the same worries.
Erika Lynn-Green is a junior in Hopper College. Contact her at email@example.com .