Maclean’s Article about Dutch Women: Class and the Welfare State

Last week Macleans ran an article by Claire Ward, “The Feminism Happiness Axis: Are Dutch Women Powerless, or Simply Smarter Than the Rest of Us? The article can be found: The first thing that I find most interesting is the immediate connection to feminism with work, family life and happiness. I’m so thankful that feminism has made my life complete and I embrace my politics head on, but why must the media make the knee jerk connection to cookies, family and feminism. While I enjoy cooking and especially baking, it has nothing to do with my feminist politics. This is where we see how strong stereotypes are about the alleged man-hating, mother, children hating, angry feminists. If I had a dollar for every feminist I met like this, I wouldn’t have a dollar.

The media needs to get clued in to the fact that feminists comment or write about institutions that have not given women a fair shake. Nowhere in Of Woman Born does Adrienne Rich say that she hates mothers (like herself) or that she hates her children. No. Her classic book is a wise, provocative rumination about the institution of motherhood and the lack of choices that women have or had for her generation. It’s not quite as sexy to say that we feminists are cultural critics or public intellectuals. No, it’s easier (lazy) to say that we hate men and that we judge other women for “opting out” of the workplace. The opting out discussions typically miss the inclusion of a class analysis and how women who can opt out have class privilege thanks to their partner’s income. Likewise, there is an assumption that these women are opting out forever, when some are taking time off to raise their children until primary school. Like most issues, there is so much here.

Getting back to the Macleans article, though, what is really missing is a class analysis. I’d also like to see an immigration/refugee and race analysis, as well as the basic demographic analysis. There is more to this study and our understanding of what is going on for women. I want women to feel happy–happy in the home, workplace, parliament, congress, farm, university, etc. But, I want a full picture of what this will take. And, I do not want to see the scapegoating of feminisms. If we want to point fingers, we have to look in the mirror. We have to also think about what constitutes success.  And, we have to look at social welfare programs, education rates, leadership rates, and so much more. This is a rather detailed, important conversation that it going to sell lots of magazines!

What Macleans has artfully done is offered data from an interesting study and spun it about feminism-blaming and guilt. Here, we have a small country with a strong welfare state. This is not a fair comparison to the US or Canada for that matter. As  social scientist, I want to see the study and I want to see demographics disaggregated and then compared to other nations. This study offers us food for thought and no more. But, alas, the spin cycle is whirring.