The Ideology of Motherhood
- Pages: 6
- Word count: 1341
- Category: Motherhood
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“Women make up almost half of the American workforce and families rely on women’s salaries to make ends meet: women are the primary or co-breadwinners in almost two-thirds of families in the United States (A Better Balance 2019).” Yet women still face many conflicts between their responsibility to work, and their pregnancy duties. In 1978, The Pregnancy Discrimination Act outlawed discrimination against pregnant women, and established that pregnant women in the workplace have to be treated the same as non-pregnant workers, and be provided with the same benefits (NationalPartnership 2017). However, even with the protection from the PDA, “nearly 31,000 pregnancy discrimination charges were filed with the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission… between Oct. 2010 and Sept. 2015 (NationalPartnership 2017).” These statistics prove that the PDA is not enough to improve working conditions for pregnant women. Some pregnant women are denied accommodations for pregnancy including: allowing them to sit instead of stand, restricting the weight they can lift, or allowing them more frequent bathroom breaks. Knowing all of this information, it proves that the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is needed now more than ever.
The goal of the law is “to eliminate discrimination and promote women’s health and economic security by ensuring reasonable workplace accommodations for workers whose ability to perform the functions of a job are limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition (House Rept. 2417).” The workplace is a huge barrier to many things pregnancy related including rates of breastfeeding. Research shows that supportive state laws regarding pregnant women, correlate with higher rates of breastfeeding, yet by 2009 only 23 states adopted any laws to encourage breastfeeding in the workplace (Murtagh, Moulton 2011). Public Health Proffesionals need to take a greater stance and fight to improve the laws put in place for pregnant woman in the work place, which is exactly what the PWFA is trying to accomplish. If women were more supported to breastfeed during work, then breastfeeding rates would rise. Breastfeeding is great for children, and yields important short and long-term health beneifts for childrens cognitive developmet, and their overall health(Murtagh, Moulton 2011). The beneifts don’t stop there because breastfeeding is also beneficial for mothers, and is associated with “higher productivity and lower absenteeism for breastfeeding mothers and has additional benefits for society (Murtagh, Moulton 2011).”
Essentialism means that the roles of a person are stablished prior to their existence and is pre-determined. In the case of motherhood, an essentialist would believe that all women have innate qualities, that push them towards having children and being maternal. They also believe that women are biologically destined to be responsible for childcare and household duties. However, motherhood is an institution, and therforere cannot be biological or innate. Motherhood has a set of pre-determiend ideals, and traditons that women are expected to be comfortable with, yet it remains very difficult for them to challenge those ideals. Adrienne Rich in Of Woman Born, explores the dark side of motherhood that people don’t enjoy talking about. She begins with excerpts from her own journal entries, where she writes about her concerns for her ability to be a good mom (Rich 1976). She argues that she loves her children so much, but its hard because society places impossible expectations on mothers to always be the “perfect mother”. She continues to explore essentialism and how society relies on women to get pregnant and assume all child related responsibilities. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is trying to improve the lives of women who are not allowing society to isolate themselves, and instead are choosing to participate in the professional world. Rich talks about mothers who are resisting the oppressive institution of motherhood, that calls for women to leave the workplace once they have kids. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will make it easier for women to challenge the institution, by “clarifying that employers must take reasonable accomdations for workers affected by a known limitation related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions (NationalPartnership 2017).” With this law, employers won’t be able to fire pregnant woman because of their medical needs after pregnancy.
The PWFA does not use dualism to frame the act, however I think society uses dualism when treating pregnant women in the workplace. They label pregnant women as not being able to work, and some employers don’t want to give them the reasonable accommodations they need to continue providing income for their families. Society makes it harder and harder for a woman to succeed in the workplace and emphasizes that she should spend most of her time at home caring for her children. A mother today needs to assume many roles and do all of them perfectely. Douglas and Michaels discuss in their book “The Mommy Myth”, the problmes they have with the myth, and how it is an ideology that women cant achieve. They discuss “New Momism”, as the myth of the devotion of motherhood, that it is a 24/7 job that should be effortless for women (Douglas Michaels 2004). I think the PWFA is challenging “The Mommy Myth”, which argues that women should devote all their time to their kids and do it with ease. This lawmis focused on pregnant women going to work, so right away its challenging the ideology that women need to devote all of their time to housework and kids. It also challenges the aspect of effortlessness. Women cannot just bounce back from being pregnant and go back immediately to doing everything they were doing pre-pregnancy. Even though many women are able to work through their pregnancies without any accomodations, some of the women who need accmodations are fired unnecesssairly, when minor adjustments would have allowed them to keep working (NationalPartnership 2017). If you were a “good” mom you may have just stayed quiet, and worked through your job, and then returned home to complete your household and child care duties. “New Momism” is a myth because women cannot be 100% devoted to motherhood all the time.
An ideology of motherhood is that women should do as little work as possible while pregnant to insure the baby is safe, and to not possibly harm the baby. However, given that majority of women are the breadwinners of their household, and primary caregivers for their family, it’s not a possibility for them to stay home while pregnant. Surveys have shown that in 2011, 62% of pregnant and new moms were in the work force (U.S. Census Bureau 2011). Ideologies are evolving, and therefore the law needs to evolve with it, and that’s where the PWFA comes in to protect women who continue to work while pregnant.
This law gives pregnant women the power because they will no longer have to fear getting punished for asking for accomodations. The PWFA is trying to avoid situations like the one that occurred to Floralba Fernandez. Swarns dicussed this in her article “Placed on Unpaid Leave, a Pregnant Employee Finds Hope in a New Law” in the New York Times. Floralba Fernandez asked her employer is she could avoid heavy lifting during her pregnancy, to make sure she doesn’t risk a miscarriage(Swarns 2017). She was then sent home on unpaid leave and denied any accomodations. Women should not have to choose between supporting their family economically, or the health of their baby.
This new regulation may create some problems for employers. They are going to have to make adjustments and modifications to scheudels, equipmet, and rules. For example, an employer who has a policy of not allowing food, or drinks in the office may have to modify that rule for pregnant women. They also will need to add things in the office such as stools, or extra seats, and reeasign duties that preganmt women cannott perform. Employers will also no longer be able to fire a pregnant women for requesting accomdoations or force her to take unpaid leave. The PWFA is a step foward in the right direction, towards ensuring that no woman needs to choose between her job and a healthy pregnancy.