I was recently sitting in one of my Journalism and Mass Media courses “interviewing” one of the female faculty here on campus who is a professor in the JAMM major, and something struck me as she spoke. During the “interview,” she spoke about the fact that female journalists find it hard to get ahead in the industry not only because of sexism within it, but also because being successful as a journalist while also having a family is extremely difficult. She said that because it’s incredibly difficult to be a journalist and report on breaking news if you have children that need to be taken care of and can’t travel freely. Now, since I want to be a successful journalist while also having a family, this concerned me. It made me think that there is the possibility that I will have to give up one for the other.
Maternity leave has been an issue women have been fighting for at least five decades; most likely even before feminism really took root in the US during the 1960’s. Paid and unpaid maternity leave has been basically non-existent to the full extent it should be here in the US ever since women joined the work force; usually a woman would have to use sick leave, vacation days, paid leave, and unpaid leave to have the right amount of time after the birth of their child. And if their superiors, in whatever job they worked in, didn’t approve of the amount of time it would take for the female worker to be off, they would fire her as soon as she learned she was pregnant. Women throughout working history have been subjected to consequences just because they are the carriers of children in the natural process of life.
Not having job security and not being sure if I can support a child while on any kind of leave is scary to me, and I’m sure is also scary to many other women who are trying to have professional job opportunities. Also, having to take the time away from work to raise a child, or maybe even having to quit a job is scary as well because we spend so much time working toward that degree to get that job. For me, these fears hold me back in wanting to have the family that I wish for as well. It is also frustrating to think about how some corporations and organizations may decide to hire a man over a woman due to the fact that a woman may ask for maternity leave upon pregnancy. I want to be able to have both of my dreams, professional and familial, without fear of losing the other.
However, what I’ve noticed after reading up a little online, is that the issue of maternity leave is now getting addressed not because women finally broke through, but because men want paternity leave. And while I’m all about that, it also frustrates me that once again the only time anything gets solved is when a man complains about it. I was speaking with one of my sorority sisters as we walked home from class about how giving birth is hard and painful, and I made the comment that if a man had to give birth, doctors would have already discovered a way to make it painless and she completely agreed with me. I think that says something about continued sexism in society because women have been battling issues like maternity leave for decades, but no one takes it seriously until a man says something.
But even with the developments on “family” leave, it still seems as if most places here in the United States do not take it seriously. I think that it is still considered a woman’s problem, so if it’s a woman’s problem, then companies will just continue to hire men over women, fire women who decide to have families, or not provide women with chances to have both professional and family based goals. It’s as if women are still being told that they cannot leave the domestic sphere completely; even if you try, if you decide you want to have children, then you will be shoved right back into the same expectations that have been around since the beginning of the patriarchy.
It seems as if I will be punished in this world either way because unless things change, I will have to choose my career or my children. This doesn’t seem fair to me; does it to you?
Over and out- Lauren