Follow the links below to read the articles to which readers have already
responded. If you would like to join the conversation, send us an email. We'd love to hear from you!
"The Lie We Love,"
by E.J. Graff, Institute Associate Director and Senior Researcher, Foreign Policy, Nov./Dec. 2008. At news stands October 28, 2008.
"Do Women Count,"
by E.J. Graff, Institute Senior Researcher, Brandeis University Magazine, Spring 2008.
"Is Your Daughter Safe at Work?" by E.J. Graff, Institute Senior Researcher, Good Housekeeping, June 2007.
"The Mommy War Machine," by E.J. Graff, Institute Senior Researcher, Sunday Washington Post Outlook section, April 29, 2007.
"The Opt-Out Myth,"
by E.J. Graff, Institute Senior Researcher, Columbia Journalism Review, March/April 2007.
by E.J. Graff, Institute Senior Researcher, The Boston Globe, Sep. 3, 2006.
"The Skinny Pink Paycheck Syndrome," by E.J. Graff, Institute Senior Researcher, Los Angeles Times, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2006.
"Too Pretty a Picture," by E.J. Graff, Institute Senior Researcher, The Washington Post "Outlook" section, Nov. 25, 2005.
Responses to Our Work
- "The Lie We Love," Foreign Policy magazine, Nov./Dec. 2008.
- "Is Your Daughter Safe at Work?," Good Housekeeping, June 2007.
- "Moms Who Work: Myth and Reality," Demos forum, June 28, 2007.
- "The Mommy War Machine," Washington Post, April 29, 2007; and to E.J. Graff's April 30, 2007 appearance on NPR's Talk of the Nation discussing her research.
- "The Opt-Out Myth," Columbia Journalism Review, Mar./Apr. 2007
- "Too Pretty a Picture," Washington Post, November 13, 2005.
NOTE: All emails posted with permission. Where noted, names or locations have been deleted.
I very much enjoyed your talk today at Demos and was inspired to come after reading the piece you wrote for CJR. In particular I wanted to thank you for acknowledging how many of us who leave our jobs for a few years after our children are born do not view ourselves as "opting out."
Rather, we are making a decision to, in the short term, focus on our babies while finding alternative ways to remain engaged intellectually, and bring in some cash as well. It's been such a black and white debate where it sounds like the choices are stark (i.e., Linda Hirschman and Leslie Bennetts), as in, you either go back to work immediately or you've opted out. While some of us will likely go back to our former fields of work, others have discovered new interests and directions because we did take some time off and are finding ways to pursue them professionally.
New York City, New York
Responses to "The Mommy War Machine," Washington Post, April 29, 2007, and to
E.J. Graff's appearance on NPR's Talk of the Nation:
Thank you for discrediting the Mommy Wars! This concept has irritated me for years. I have one son, almost 17, and have worked 24 hours a week since he was 11 weeks old. I have never felt any tensions with friends, neighbors, or coworkers who have stayed home full time, or worked a different schedule from the one I have elected. If any other mothers I know have disapproved of each other's work/home choices, they never uttered a peep.
Thanks again for your engaging and spot-on piece.
Silver Spring, Maryland
Guilty as charged. I'm a staff writer at the [major metropolitan daily] and I've been writing about the Mommy Wars, or variations thereof, for years. Not because I wanted to, but because my editors told me to.
I always thought it was overhyped, except in a few places where there was some real posturing going on. For example, stay-at-home moms in [town deleted], an affluent suburb, wanted school PTO meetings to be held during the day while working moms wanted them at night. And you had former Sen. Rick Santorum's wife Karen doing the whole holier-than-thou stay-at-home mom thing, which annoyed a lot of people. Good article!
—Name and location withheld on request
Thank you for writing the op-ed in today's Post! I can't believe the editors decided to publish it. I remember feeling incredibly angry when I read "The Opt-Out Revolution by Lisa Belkin, especially after reading Susan Faludi's "Backlash," which pointed out the campaign by the media to make moms feel guilty for working and pit women against one another on this issue... The media needs to stop starting and perpetuating cat fights and the decision to print your views was a good start (kudos to the Post on this!)... Thanks for voicing what so many of us have been thinking.
Thank you for writing this article. I could not agree more. I... spent many years in newsrooms... in those newsroom circles of editors and reporters who are just trying to [justify] their day’s salary. I have never encountered a real live woman treat me or anyone else differently or badly because of the choices we’ve made. If anything, they’ve been nothing but supportive and empathetic. Well said!
Right on! In the '60s, I wanted badly to go back to work—I am not a homebody—but my husband refused to allow it—on the premise that our taxes would increase at a faster rate than our combined income (nonsense!!). Now, at the age of 72—I haven't lost the desire to be in the saltmines—I work for a woman who would dearly love to be able to afford to be home with her two small children. I work for this woman because I consider her a dear friend. I still love working. So much for the Mommy Wars!
Santa Fe, New Mexico
I applaud your article in The Washington Post on "The Mommy War Machine." I see so many articles pitting us against each other and it is just not so. I am 37 years old and we are definitely a generation that is in "different life phases." That sums it up perfectly! I do not judge someone who works and I do not feel judged because I stay at home with my three children... As friends and women, we support each other. I get so angry when I see the media try to make it become an issue... Sometimes, the "grass is greener on the other side," but isn't that with everything in life? Thank you so much for an article that more accurately reflects what really is going on with mothers today.
The increase of hours worked and more expensive child care [are] what one would expect by the rules of supply and demand when more women went in to the work force... However, workers still earn more controlled for inflation than they did when less women were employed. There is a "mommy wars" and it is based on the degradation of housewives and the glorification of the workforce. Men have been hating their jobs for centuries...
What an intelligent, balanced and common sense look at these so-called wars. Each adult, single or partnered, has to figure out what's right for them (regardless of the hyperbole and media messages) as you point out. And most do... My sense is that a tremendous majority of parents, women and men, do a pretty good job of trying to do the right thing for all concerned...
I'm married. Have a dyslexic 16 year old son. Both my wife and I work. We split down the middle cooking, cleaning, doctor appointments, helping with homework, etc. We have many personal friends who also have figured out what they perceive to be a fair division of labor, duties, income generation, etc... [Y]et I keep reading that men don't do much around the home or in their children's lives... Like men don't get or understand the need to be more balanced between work and family... These stereotypes of "men" don't jibe with my personal experience today. Too many fathers I know go to their children's school plays, sporting events, parent teacher conferences... for fathers to continue to be portrayed as a group that don't get it...
Anyway, great article.
New York City, New York
I appreciated your article in today's Outlook section. It's the kind of piece that begins to move us closer to a dialogue about the solutions and best practices that can give women better, more tenable choices. The article did, however, miss what nearly all of the articles that tackle the subject miss: Middle class black women, who could choose to stay home, asked and answered many of these questions in the late 19th century and remain, largely, ignored in this media-driven, non-debate debate.
I've been married nearly 14 years, have three kids, and have been a Post reporter since 1995. My momma worked and had three kids, her momma worked and had four kids, etc. In 2005 I wrote "I'm Every Woman, Remixed Stories of Marriage, Motherhood and Work," an examination of modern womanhood that was part memoir, history lesson, and cultural critique...
One day, perhaps, we'll have another movement where women move beyond their own doorways and make themselves heard on some of the big post-9/11, post-civil-rights, post-Katrina, post-modern issues of the day. I know a generation of black women who are looking forward to others catching up.
—Lonnae O'Neal Parker
Many thanks for your fine rebuttal to all of the alleged, media-produced "mommy wars" in our midst. Every time I read a review of the books you mention I sigh and wonder—who IS fighting these wars? I don't see them anywhere. And you support my gut feelings with statistics too! Instead of wars, I see (and have been a participant in) wonderfully supportive communities where moms who work and moms who do not work help one another without angst or jealously. What we need are books that address the degree to which the US lags behind other countries in maternity leave and/or holding positions for women to return to. Again, many thanks!
Kudos! Thanks for Sunday's insightful essay. I DO wish that a writer would point out the fact that most black working moms certainly don't have much "choice," given the average net worth of even middle-income black families. And historically, economic considerations have compelled most of America's black women to work for pay (even if that meant staying home with kids but taking in laundry/ironing, etc., on the side).
...I am glad to see an article like yours in the paper. I am a stay-at-home mom/sometimes freelancer and I had a career as a lobbyist and in politics for over 20 years. I do not feel discriminated against because I stay at home nor do I discriminate against those who work. I believe that most of the women I know that have made these choices have the same feelings. I also am very fortunate to have a supportive mate who helps with childcare at every step. He would have gladly stayed home had I wanted to get that next pressure-cooker of a job. I have consciously made the decision to do what I do knowing that I cannot do it all...We don't have as much money as some dual-income families but we are fine. Someday, I may want to work more than 15 hours weekly and when that time comes, I hope that there will not be too many impediments.
Having just heard you being brilliant on [Talk of the Nation], I can't find your Washington Post article. PLEASE, PLEASE put it on your Brandeis web page for me to share with my many agreeing friends. BRAVO! BRAVO TO YOU!
North Hampton, NH
(proud mother of daughter who just did her MA at the London School of Economics in Gender and Justice issues focussing on unpunished domestic violence in UK and USA)
Good job on NPR! They should have kept you on longer. My question was (and is): Why does the media continue this false conflict besides marketing and selling papers? How and who benefits from keeping the myth going? Any why do we put up with such sloppy journalism from these esteemed media outlets when we wouldn't on other topics?
One experience I had says a lot. I was 6.5 months pregnant and lost my job. I interviewed and was offered another job. I made it very clear that I needed to have 6 weeks off in 2.5 months. As the delivery neared, some of the men at work were very hostile and complained that I had "lied" during the interview. When I pointed out that considering pregnancy in a hiring decision was unlawful, they defended themselves by saying that they thought I deceived them into thinking I was just overweight.
Three years went by; I worked hard and was promoted to assistant director and became pregnant again. An article was circulated (curiously bypassing me) about how much money businesses spend on professional development for women, only to have them quit and stay home with their children...all that profit down the drain. I recirculated the article with a note: "Better the employee becomes a stay-at-home parent than they go to work for the competition and the money is now used against you." A far more common practice, I think.
Thank you so very much for speaking up, and best wishes for the work you are doing!
Rose Marketing & Consulting
St. Paul, Minnesota
I caught your appearance on [Talk of the Nation] yesterday (4/30), and would normally not have paid much attention, being effectively childless. However, I was very pleased to hear you and your [callers] mention the next phase of the mommy dilemma—the eldercare years. After supervising my father's care at every level of need up until his death in 2002, I moved in with my mother, who turned a venerable 100 years old last November.
I predict that conflicts within families over eldercare will soon overtake the stresses between strangers over child rearing choices. It certainly has torn my family apart... Thank you for acknowledging those of us laboring invisibly in the trenches.
I felt like Lucy Van Pelt yesterday as I was driving along listening to TOTN. I kept wanting to raise up my arms and shout YES! THAT'S IT! and have Meredith Viera et al. tumble over like Charlie Brown. Great op-ed piece and great discussion. I don't know how connected you are with the so-called mommy blog community, but there have been raging debates over this very issue, with most of us gnashing our teeth over the failure of editors and producers to address us as grown up people with grown up issues.
Thanks from this part-time paid worker, part-time underpaid writer, and time-and-a-half mom of three.
Little Rock, Arkansas
I have one more reason why no one is buying the books—none of us have the time. We barely have time for reading the mail, much less a book. I wish Oprah and the other new programs (not that I watch them) would focus on how to help parents be better parents, not telling us what we are doing wrong.
[I am part of] a great supportive group of about 1300 women with children (stay-at-home and working moms together) in the Boston area. We have discussions on everything from nannies to play groups to dealing with work-life decisions. For the five years it has been active, there have been no flames, no recrimination, nothing. Just support, advice, and kindness—and a lot of humor about what it is like to be a mom today in the city.
Keep up the good work.
I really liked your WP article and the Talk of the Nation appearance... I worry that if the issue is always framed around the idea that 'of course, Mom wants to be at home', then that hurts job prospects for women as a whole. I'm applying to be the executive director of [an organization], and their perception of me as a 'mom' is in the back of my mind.
I heard a great comment from someone on the Today show several months ago... The guest pointed out that the heated comments from moms on both sides were really meant to validate their own choices. Because of the anxiety around motherhood in the middle and upperclasses trying to do everything perfectly, we're always afraid we made the wrong decision. After hearing that, I've really been able to step back. And—as you point out—there really isn't a war.
Thanks for your article.
Great article. Why buy a book on Mommy Wars, when 95% of businesswomen don't even think (or care) that there is a war going on? I'm the CEO of the Downtown Women's Club and I have brand new survey results that support your article about the lack of interest in the "Mommy Wars." Our survey of 650 businesswomen asked what they thought of the "Mommy Wars." The top answers:
1. I really wish women would stop fighting each other and instead work together
2. I don't like the term "Mommy Wars" and don't see a war between the two
3. My schedule is too busy for me to even meet stay-at-home moms, let alone have a war with them
4. I don't have kids so not really aware there is a Mommy War
5. I resent the advocates for stay at home moms who are on the road hawking books while nannies raise their children.
Last on the list? Only 2% stated that stay-at-home moms make them feel inadequate.
—Diane K. Danielson
And from the blogosphere and online news world:
- Bag and Baggage, "Mommy Wars Media Created?" Denise M. Howell
- Cookie Magazine - First Feeding, "Media Hawks the Mommy Wars"
- //, "From Common Ground," onepercolated
- Current San Diego, "The Mommy War Debate"
- BuzzFlash.com, "Sell-Abrating Motherhood," Lucinda Marshall
- Blog of a Bookslut's Journal, "E.J. Graff points out something obvious," bookslutter
- Confessions of a Jersey Goddess, "Get your head out of the sand," Nordette
- Rancid Raves, "Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Off to Work I Go," Cagey
- Fussbucket, "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful," Stacey
- Adventures in Parenting, "Are the Mommy Wars a Myth?" Jenny Blackburn
- MsJD, "Mommy Wars: a problem of the privileged," KHernan881
- Jodifur, "Let's call an end to this war," Jodi
- FridayPlaydate, "My advice would be to start drinking early," Susan
- Literary Mama, "The Mommy War Machine," Amy Mercer
- The Point, "A Mommy War Truce?", Anne Morse
- JobMom, "The Real Feminine Mistake: Perpetuating Mommy Wars," Charlene Prince Birkeland
- Work+LifeFit, "Mommy Wars RIP?" Cali
- ToddlerPlanet, "The Day After," Whymommy
- KellyMom.com, "Put a Binky In It: The Mommy War Machine," Elizabeth
- RoadtoKona, "The Mommy War Machine," ferrellk
- TailRank, "The Mommy War Machine"
- BlogHer, "Yeah, I'm sick of the mommy wars too..." Nordette
- Strollerderby, "The Mommy War Machine: We're Being Played," Melissa Summers
- Wall Street Journal Online - The Juggle, "Are the Mommy Wars real?" Sara Schaefer Muñoz
- Our Bodies, Our Blog, "Make Truth, Not War," Christine Cupaiulolo
- Writes Like She Talks, "Validated on national public radio re: media makes up 'mommy wars,'" Jill
- KoloaGirl, "Graff Gets It Right"
- NOW Read This, "The Mommy War Machine"
- Girlistic, "Finally someone who gets it"
- DotMom, "DotMoms Daily"
- BeenThere, "Washington Post does a good turn with the mommy wars," Emily
- PunditMom, "There IS no war"
- Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness, "Respecting the Right to Choose," Florinda
- Amanda_Mary, "I heard Graff on Talk of the Nation today"
- CVille Words, "The End of the Mommy Wars?" Elizabeth
- Washington Post - On Balance, "Upsetting the Stay-at-Home Mommies," Leslie Morgan Steiner
- Rising Hegemon, "Girl Stuff," Attaturk
- News Harpoon, "The Bogus Mommy Wars," Tamadhur
- ThinkGirl.net, "The Mommy War Machine," Sarah
Responses to "Too Pretty a Picture," Washington Post, November 13, 2005
Regrettably, the sexual harassment you describe is not at all uncommon in Federal civil service ranks. I worked for the Department of the Interior at its headquarters offices in Washington for about 24 years prior to retirement. I was an Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist with responsibilities that included investigation and adjudication of complaints alleging sex discrimination and sexual harassment. What I witnessed did not reach the degrees of degradation described in your article, it certainly opened this white boy's eyes to situations faced by too many women in the workforce.
—Charter Wells, Jr.
Hi, my name is Serena, and I live in [state]. You are right that it is so much more than..."fanny patting." I broke into heavy construction in 2001, and it has been arduous and exhausting trying to prove my worth over and over again. I am constantly aware that I can't risk participating in a hostile work environment. As a woman I am setting the precedent of what is acceptable conduct towards female co-workers. So I'm all business, and my union has made me the shop steward for all 96 carpenters and pile-drivers on the [major public works project]. Some of us make it; but we box and struggle to the top. I appreciated your article.
I almost never buy a newspaper. There is nothing new or interesting in the paper to read. I'm a 51 year old male. I received a free paper this morning when I filled my car with gas at the neighborhood convenience store. Your article "Too Pretty a Picture" was great. I would buy and read newspapers if they contained relevant and socially informative articles like the one you authored today. Pass this on to your boss; maybe this will help you to improve the content of your publications. People do still want to know the the truth and without your revealing article I would have had no knowledge of such matters (the real inside truth). Thank you. This is the kind of article that I will have my 12-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son read.
Thank you for your column on "North Country" (which I have not and do not plan to see). But don't assume that "pink" paychecks provide protection from sexual harassment, particularly given the continued segregation of women in lower-paying jobs.
Ma'am: I just wanted to take a moment and write a quick thank-you for your editorial on the film "North Country." As a woman in the military living in a blue-collar factory town, I have heard and witnessed many tales of sexual harassment. In fact, my husband left his job at [company] (a very similar mill to Eveleth Taconite) because of the pervasive atmosphere of—how shall I say —"maleness." I believe there are only one or two women working in the mill, which employs hundreds of men. At one point I joked to my husband that I would apply for a job there just to annoy all the men, and the color instantly drained from his face.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Good article! I am a woman scientist in my early 50's. I was fired from my first job in 1983 (field R&D with a pesticide company) for not sleeping with a project manager. It nearly derailed my career—after 10 years of college to earn a Ph.D. I stuck it out and ended up after 2 years of working temporary jobs as a scientist for the government. At least the jobs I have had in public service have been free for the most part of sexual innuendo, though not well-paying: and I have stayed working in my field (it's remained about 5% women from the 1970's to the present).
It has been a tough struggle, but I made the decision during the two years of unemployment that I was going to stick around and be a burr in the fur of the establishment so there would be a future for women in my field (essentially I was going to hold the door open for the next generation of women with my head if necessary!). I have seen many young women come through grad school in my field and I hope they stick it out.
Most of the women of my generation have quit the field. I don't blame them. But I do feel—and I have made an effort to demonstrate by 25 years of action—that this won't go away in our society unless women make it go away. Nobody said it would be easy, but I had no idea it would be this hard. It's going to take more than one generation for any worthwhile change to really occur... nobody ever counts on the backlash.
We have a program here at NC State Univ., WISE (women in science and engineering). The program is for undergraduate women majoring in science and engineering. The students live in one wing of one of the residence halls—trying to promote them forming their own network to promote and support each other. The program coordinators arrange for other women in science and engineering to come in and talk to the group on various subjects. I sure hope the program helps them get a little extra preparation for what is out there in the real world.
—Dr. Janet L. Shurtleff
North Carolina State University