“Shouldn’t you be at home with your baby?”
A friend was asked this question during a job interview today. She told him it was illegal, and left. She cried all the way home.
Then she reached out to our online parenting group for support. Earlier she had queried us about mentioning her (legal) need for breast pumping accommodations.
We all cautioned her, “No! Wait! It could be used against you.”
I, too, had a job interview today.
I almost canceled it. My ex-husband drops my daughter off with me at 7a.m., so I can take her to school at 8. Her school doesn’t have before-care, and he supposedly has to get to work very early.
Like the boy who cried “wolf,” she has been crying “sick” every morning.
For a moment, I felt helpless, and just about lost it. How can I possibly consider a full-time job when I have children, who sometimes are really sick, and sometimes are just disruptive, little, needy, anxious, monkey wrenches in the gears of life?
In a panic, I firmly told her I had a job interview and it was important. I asked her, “Don’t you want me to be a good mommy and have a good job so I can take care of you?”
“Can’t I just go with you?”
“No! It’s like a test! It’s a big deal!”
Somehow, I got her to school. I was able to go interview for a job in worksite wellness, during which I talked about how important it is to value employees, provide flexible schedules, support breastfeeding, healthy eating, physical activity, tobacco cessation, etc., all with an eye toward health equity and social justice.
Yesterday, I attended a screening of MissRepresentation, a documentary about how sexualized media images of women and girls contribute to a limited perception of the roles we can play, the jobs we can hold, and are especially damaging to young girls.
Video games, reality T.V., advertising, movies, other T.V. shows, social media, and even calendars, show barely-clad women everywhere we look. Even female action stars are basically dressed in lingerie, which is particularly practical for fighting bad guys. It’s all about capitalism–selling stuff to 18-34 year old males.
News media feature hyper-sexy journalists. Office holders and public figures who happen to be women are constantly scrutinized for their physical appearance by shock journalists.
This diminishes our sense of “political efficacy” and is linked to less engagement in public life: both voting and office-seeking. It’s harassment. It’s sexist, and it’s pervasive.
This all teaches girls their worth is dependent on looking and behaving like the Girls Gone Wild.
And it teaches boys that’s what girls are for. With teens spending an average of ten hours a day consuming media-10 hours!- it is inane to argue media images and messages don’t impact their sense of what is normal and right.
I don’t want my children growing up thinking this is all okay. I don’t want my daughter or my sons to feel silenced when girls are being harassed or worse. I don’t want them to think that’s the natural order of things, that girls are just eye-candy to scroll through on your phone or stare at on a calendar on the wall…. or in person. That it’s harmless fun, like the recent rape in Steubenville, Ohio, that was filmed, sent around the internet, and blamed on the victim by the rapists.
Like my friend on her job interview, a state representative on yesterday’s panel discussion of MissRepresentation shared how male politicians from both sides of the aisle discouraged her from running for public office, because, they said, she was breaking a promise to her children.
She shared how difficult it was to pass legislation that redefined rape to include sexual assault of a woman who is incapacitated by alcohol or drugs. Many male legislators complained this would make it really hard on young college men, at parties with all those pretty girls. What if they had been drinking too?
Just sit with that for a moment.
I thought, if drunk drivers can be convicted for killing pedestrians or other motorists, surely drunk men can be held responsible for sexual assault.
We still have very far to go.
I suggested that my friend contact the organization that sponsored yesterday’s film discussion. They advocate for family-friendly laws like paid family leave, and need stories to demonstrate the need for policy change. What her interviewer asked was illegal, sexist, and discriminatory.
Alone, sometimes we can feel so very helpless.
But, together, we can support each other and find the strength to speak up for change.