As a mom of three working from home, it is not lost on me the challenges moms face today, juggling kids, home, and work. Since the pandemic hit, the delicate balance of juggling so much was revealed, as the removal of school, childcare, and visits to the library became the removal of central Jenga pieces holding up a hard-earned balance. It’s no surprise given the stresses on moms that the pandemic has seen far more women lose jobs than men, and particularly moms.
But also as a working mom in America, it is not lost on me the benefits I experience thanks to the feminist foremothers who paved a way for me to earn income, open a bank account, and buy a house, to provide for my family. While not all women relate to the term feminist, the gains that have allowed women so many options we enjoy today are undeniable. But for many women, the concept of bearing children is still a challenge to reconcile with the growing workload.
This week among our articles, Public Discourse editor Serena Sigillito explores the gains of feminism in America and how the movement experienced a split for those who thought the challenges of motherhood should be optional, even for women who are already pregnant. Forty-eight years ago, Roe v. Wade made elective abortion legal in all fifty states, a court decision that some feminists lauded as a gain for women. But for some, this made it easier to leave women holding the bag of the burdens of childrearing, since it could be said, it was her choice.
An indirect impact of this mindset can be seen in an insecurity many women feel—that, in contrast with more openly recognized achievements, caring for one’s baby, family, or any loved one isn’t productive enough. Alexandra Davis reflects on her own struggle with this in an essay titled “A Refreshing Lesson on Achievement, As Taught by My Baby.”
In another article this week, Grace Emily Stark explores another angle of women’s reproductive challenges today, with a growing number of women targeted to sell use of their wombs in surrogacy. While we’ve come very far in the realm of women’s empowerment, times of economic challenge reveal how even these gains can be fragile, and how the protection of women’s dignity and rights are an ongoing responsibility of a just society.
The cultural conversations about women's dignity, rights, and motherhood are increasingly complex. We hope this week's contributions provide helpful considerations to move the conversation toward true respect for all women.