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In March, Sarrah Le Marquand of Australia wrote a controversial article titled “It should be illegal to be a stayathome mum”. Marquand claimed that “only when the female half of the population is expected to hold down a job and earn money to pay the bills in the same way that men are routinely expected to do will we see things change for the better for either gender.” According to Marquand, feminism isn’t about women being able to choose their path in life. It’s about equality. And the only way women will ever be equal is when society gives up “restrictive gender stereotypes” and forces workforce participation on women whether they want it or not.
Le Marquand didn’t come up with this idea by herself. It was actually the recommendation of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). A recent OECD report about relative employment rates and advanced economies concluded that every single able-bodied adult should be a wage earner in the workforce. Stay-at-home-mothers represent “untapped potential” for the workforce and because they are not participating in the workforce, these mothers are creating “potentially large losses to the economy”.
Le Marquand’s vision of female workforce participation as the great gender equalizer is not new. Neither is the notion of the working mother as the secret weapon in the economic growth of nations. It has been the dream of feminist social engineers since the early 20th century, especially northern European social engineers, and forms the foundation of United Nations gender equality goals such as Planet 50-50 by 2030.
A look at the origins of an ideology
From its inception, the United Nations has been about the work of social progress and turns to experts for leadership in pursuing progress in gender and racial equality. One of those experts was Alva Myrdal. Alva and her husband, Gunnar, are credited with creating the modern Swedish welfare state, which prides itself on democratic, pragmatic, cooperative rationality, and relies on absolute conformity on the part of its citizenry for its success. In Sweden, they unselfconsciously refer to these experts as social engineers – those who can implement a utopian society providing the greatest degree of happiness through rational planning. (Etzemüller, T. (2010). Alva and Gunnar Myrdal: Social Engineering in the Modern World)
The Myrdals advocated the radical emancipation of women from the home as the means to a prosperous, egalitarian state. Children should be indoctrinated and adults re-educated regarding marriage and family life. Women must work outside the home and child-care should be outsourced through government programs. For a time, Alva also advocated the use of forced sterilization in creating the ideal Swedish citizen. Forced sterilization was legal in Sweden from 1935 until 1976. In reality, Alva’s opinions regarding female emancipation were just a reflection of her own dissatisfaction with conventional marriage and childrearing. Nevertheless, her opinions formed the basis for the modern-day Nordic model as well as United Nations goals for gender equality.
Gender equality vs. motherhood
Within its first year, the UN established the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Held annually, CSW is a conference dedicated exclusively to gender equality. Much of what the United Nations advocates in championing the rights of women is good, such as equal opportunity in employment and education, but what began as a vision to expand the rights of women, has become a campaign to denigrate traditional values, demean stay-at-home motherhood, and champion abortion as the means to realizing that vision. Because UN leadership believes that gender roles impede women’s progress, culture and tradition, including religion, are identified as obstacles to social reform as they perpetuate those roles.
At the 2017 CSW an effort was made to include language in the Commission’s document that referred to unpaid care as a “burden” placed on women. In true Nordic fashion, the goal is to coerce countries to have unpaid care and domestic work usually performed by mothers “reduced and redistributed” to “national care systems,” or in other words, the government. There is a concerted effort by the social-engineers at the United Nations to diminish the work that mothers do within their families because it is hidden and unpaid, calling it “unskilled”.
Social reformers give lip-service to the impact that a mother has on the life of her children and the well-being of her family, but they undermine that impact by suggesting that the daily, unpaid work that a woman does in caring for her family is time better spent elsewhere and work better “redistributed” to other paid laborers, that the kind of daily care women give to those they love is a burden of which women need to be relieved so they can more fully contribute to their communities and economies. Defining that work as a burden demeans not only those who perform the work, but those for whom the work is performed.
Author Cheri Loveless and University Professor Kathleen Slaugh Bahr call that kind of unpaid tending of home and kin “family work”. Loveless and Bahr argue that it is through “family work” that members not only demonstrate their love for one another, but actually learn to love and respect each other as they participate in the “everyday, ordinary, hands-on labor of sustaining life that cannot be ignored–feeding one another, clothing one another, cleaning and beautifying ourselves and our surroundings,” and includes the work of “caring for the sick and tending to the tasks of daily life for those who could not do it for themselves.”
Instead of focusing on the life-sustaining and enriching nature of this work, those with influence have focused on the unequal distribution of family work and its lack of financial reward – paid work is the bottom line in determining value.
What do women want?
Many claim that women’s unpaid work harms a nation’s gross domestic product – women who participate in unpaid work are unable to meaningfully contribute to society. Melinda Gates, philanthropist and wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, believes that women need to be freed from the burden of unpaid work, so they can “spend more time doing paid work, starting businesses, or otherwise contributing to the economic well-being of societies around the world. The fact that they can’t, holds their families and communities back.” Such a blanket statement not only ignores the reality of family economics and the production of wealth, but also belittles the impact of unpaid family work in the shaping of strong families and strong communities. Melinda Gates and her social-engineering compatriots believe they represent the desires and needs of the majority of women, but studies indicate most women do not want to be freed of the “burden” of family care.
According to a 2014 Pew Research Study, since 1999 there has been a 26% increase in the number of mothers with children who stay at home. Despite the rise in the numbers of working mothers since the 1960s, 60% of Americans believe that children are best cared for by a parent at home and 68% of U.S. non-working mothers prefer to stay home with their children. In fact, over 54% of U.S. working-women with children under the age of 18 say that they would prefer to be home with their children, and over 60% of mothers prefer taking care of their children to paid work even though they find childcare more tiring. This preference for home and family is at the root of the so-called gender wage gap.
Is there a gender pay gap?
Every year, feminists, politicians and media observe Equal Pay Day – the date dedicated to reminding women that they earn less than their male counterparts. The problem is, there really isn’t a problem after all! According to the latest U.S. Department of Labor study, women earn 77 cents for every dollar that a man earns. It turns out that those alarming statistics don’t tell the whole story, which is buried deep in the report.
Women make less, not because of institutional discrimination, but by choice. Women generally choose different, lower-paying, occupations. Where men choose work in physically demanding, construction and transportation fields, women choose administrative work. Where professional women choose to work in education and health care fields, men choose higher paying computer and engineering careers. Women are also more likely to work part time and interrupt their career to have a family.
In a recent survey of Harvard Business School alumni, 37% of female MBA graduates say they plan to take time from their careers to have a family compared to 17% of female graduates two generations ago. When you factor in these choices that women make regarding home and work, there is only a 7% wage gap, which may exist for many reasons short of discrimination.
For instance, men tend to work more hours per day as well as weekends and holidays, and women are more likely to take time off to care for children and family members. Feminists claim that these are unfair burdens placed upon women, but 94% of those who have reduced their hours or taken a significant amount of time off from work for family are glad they did so. Women’s willingness to forgo career and income, for some period of time, for home and family, suggests an innate difference between men and women.
The vaunted “Nordic Model”
Feminist theory, however, describes gender as a social construct – and men and women can only be equal when they are the same, so despite women’s success in the workplace and the fact that women often prefer and choose caring for children and family over paid work, we hear an incessant drumbeat that these life-choices are a burden that hold women back and harm the well-being of society. The highly vaunted Nordic model is the gold standard at the United Nations: free education, free healthcare, generous, guaranteed pensions, individual tax systems instead of a household tax to encourage workforce participation by mothers and, in theory, boost economic growth.
For instance, in Norway, workforce participation by mothers is encouraged and subsidized with government-funded programs like daycare. Initially, GDP does improve, but the growth is far from robust. Since 2008 Norway per capita GDP has been an anemic 0.56% compared to a U.S. GDP of 16% over the same period and the forecast for 2017 is projected to be 0.55%. Once female work-force participation levels out, which it will due to below replacement fertility rates, GDP will shrink. Female labor-force participation does not produce long-term economic gains.
How does all this impact me?
UN conference documents like those generated at the Commission on the Status of Women, although not binding upon participating nations, are nevertheless an important influence in shaping international law. Administrations often implement goals found in UN declarations through executive action. Judges in U.S. courts also have relied on international documents in their deliberations. (Thompson vs. Oklahoma) This process of implementing non-ratified international law is called soft-law. It ensures the implementation of policy without regard for legislative authority.
When it comes to ideology, facts that don’t square with worldviews mean little to social engineers in general, and the United Nations, in particular. The UN’s lofty goal of absolute, 50-50 equality between men and women in education, the workplace and government does not square with the life-choices of most women.
There is much that is good in the goal of gender equality, such as educational opportunity and broader career and life-choices. But the means used to make those goals reality, which trickle down to all of us through soft law, ignore the real differences between men and women; differences that should be embraced, not denigrated. They ignore the real desires of women to care for home and family, and most of all, they harm children and their families. And that’s something we should all be concerned about.
You can find United Families International at www.unitedfamilies.org and on Facebook.