First it was the national conversation around birth control, which brought us the absurd photographs of a mostly male, mostly white group of senators debating contraception was a necessary part of insurance coverage. Next it was the Ann Romney/working moms vs stay at home moms debate.
This week we've got the gratuitously sensational TIME cover of Jamie Lynne Grumet breastfeeding the largest three year old I've ever seen, and an outcry over Dell's choice of Mads Christensen, a notoriously misogynist "inspirational" speaker to give a speech at a partner event in Copenhagen.
It seems no matter where you look these days, we are being drawn into a discussion about women's choices, women's work, women's parenting, women's competence.
What's difficult to discern, though, is whether we are looking at an escalating war on women or whether we are looking at some major confluence of interests attempting to distract us from the very real problems facing us as the international financial crisis deepens and governments, corporations and families find themselves in a desperate struggle to pay the bills.
I made a new friend this last week. She just moved here from Arizona. She remarked today how nice it was to talk to people here in the Tri-Cities because so many people were bottom-line happier than people in Arizona. "People up here have jobs. They have income. They're not, as a whole, struggling the way people down in Arizona are doing. Its horrible down there, and everybody is depressed and miserable. Its so bad you don't even want to talk to anyone there."
Is there a conspiracy to sidetrack us from some of the most important national conversations we will have in the last thirty years in this country or are we really so on the rails about women and their roles as parents and workers that we feel compelled to engage in this type of debate? Are these conversations about women being started by women? Because they are certainly being carried on by women.
Lets start with birth control. The real debate isn't over whether women should have access to birth control, because let's face it, we really DO want to live in a world where families do better economically, and statistically they do when women have easy and affordable ways to manage their fertility. The real debate, the one that the contraception issue effectively distracted us from, is over how health care should be managed in this country.
I want everyone to have access to affordable health services and to affordable insurance, if that's what they want. But what we've ended up doing is giving even more power to the big insurance agencies, requiring everyone to carry health coverage on plans that are broad-based rather than a la carte, and the only people who are going to profit from this are the insurers. Health care reform should have begun with removing insurance conglomerates and their power over our health care choices from the playing field entirely. Medical services cost far more than they ought to for a variety of reasons having to do with liability coverage and mandates from insurers.
Patients ought to have the ability ot choose medical coverage that provides benefits for the services they need, and basic preventive health care should be so affordable that people don't need to have an insurance plan to obtain it.
Drug prices should be based on what the competitive market will sustain, not what prescription drug plans will cover. The price of birth control pills, particularly generics, would decline pretty immediately in such a market, as would the cost of other methods of controlling fertility, such as IUD's and implants.
I don't even feel like I should have to discuss whether its better to be a mom who has a job outside the home or a mom who manages her home and family or has a job that she can perform from her home. Most women don't have a choice in this regard, and most families who make the decision to have one parent stay at home make great sacrifices financially to do so. The majority of families don't have the easy luxury of having one parent not work. Even so, a man or woman who spends their days managing a household isn't separated from the economics of the real world and real business.
A mother homeschooling her children and performing most of the tedious chores involved in keeping a house running is a busy woman. She is engaged, she is productive, she has to manage her family's time and finances. A mother who is working a job outside the home also has to manage time and finances. Lets not even get into the plight of single parents, shall we? Because single parenting is its own special hell at times.
Yes, some people have a greater income and therefore a real choice about whether or not one spouse becomes a full-time household manager. And? Life's not fair. I'm not going to waste time worrying about what my reality is not, and I'm not going to waste time debating with you on who is a better mother or what you think a stay-at-home mom does or doesn't have to add to debate on the national debt. WE ALL LIVE HERE, PEOPLE. This problem belongs to all of us, and if this economy fails, we are all going to suffer. It won't help much to be a billionaire if your billion dollars will buy you nothing more than a six-pack and a pack of hamburger buns when the dollar has imploded.
To be continued.