What might be terribly wrong, as far as I am concerned, is that women seem to have become primary breadwinners during a time of decline in real income among the middle class. The loss of manufacturing and industrial jobs has been accompanied by the breadwinner role being assumed by women, who are paid less than men for the same work. Everything gets harder for everybody, except for the extremely wealthy, who have done very well in the last few decades. In other words: wreck the country, give it to the African American guy to fix; wreck the economy, give all the crappy jobs that are left to the women.
Dobbs and Erickson (but not Williams) subsequently appeared on Kelly's show, smiling over-broadly throughout their dressing down as naughty boys. After castigating the two men for their positions--Erickson had claimed that women are more nurturing and that therefore children suffer when mothers work and Dobbs wanted to talk about single parent families--Kelly cited a number of studies (calling them science, even!) that refuted their opinion-based assertions. She finally called them "stand up guys" (a favorite Bill O'Reilly term) for coming on her program and taking the heat.
So Kelly, a working mother, defended herself and, by extension, all working mothers. That's good, right? Or, perhaps, good for her? The dust up was an immediate response to these new statistics on family income patterns, but I'd like to consider the deeper implications of continuing (ad nauseum) to frame this discussion in terms of moms and babies, rather than addressing, oh, say, the gendered and racial dimensions of deindustrialization and the recent recession; the widening structural income inequality in the US; the defunding of public education and the lack of support for families; and the dismal prospects for developing economic policies and institutions that address the problem of securing gainful (dare I say meaningful?) employment for the US population in general. The recession has gutted the middle class in unprecedented ways, yet persistent high unemployment rates among poor and minority populations are nothing new. There's a lot to talk about here.
At out peril, we return to this pseudo-scientific ground zero of women's 'natural' capacity to nurture and men's rightful place in the workforce ( a travesty after 50 year of second and third wave feminism, frankly). This discourse may showcase the bitch-wow factor of post-Palin pulchritude, which Kelly seems to have inherited from the former Alaskan semi-Governor after Ann Coulter skittered off the rails into Rush and Beck territory. Perhaps the Koch brothers and their ilk will invite Kelly to run for office to rescue the Republican brand (or as Frank Rich called it, The Stag Party) from the zealots who sank the party's chances with women voters in the last election.
Or maybe she's more effective Right where she is--confronting the bad boys like a pretty grade school principal but never moving beyond the question of what's best for the kids, 'cause that's what moms are all about, right?. It's the same framing the right has successfully used in their campaign against women's choices around abortion and contraception: fetuses and babies are everywhere in evidence while women are sidelined as barely minor characters in the dramas of work and life. And our popular culture has bought into this obsessive babiology, from the overpriced pram to the Kardashian-West ultrasound. Sure, babies are cute. Now can we talk about economic and social policy?
What's equally disturbing is the reminder that generations of men and women seem to have been raised in the shadow of what Susan Faludi called backlash way back in 1991 and feel empowered to sound off with impunity about subjects they know nothing about. Lou Dobbs, born in 1945, is a relic: I just have to write him off. Erick Erickon, however, was born in 1975--38 years ago today, in fact. Happy Birthday Erick. .
Erick earned a BA and a law degree from Mercer University in Georgia, an institution that offers a major and a minor in Women's and Gender Studies. It's hard to know if that program existed when Erickson attended school there, presumably in the 1990s. But guess what: even taking one WGS course helps one learn to address issues of gender from a logical, systematic, and yes, scientific perspective, rather than from a position of uninformed opinion and self interest (Dobbs and Erickson) or defensive anger and self interest (Kelly--who began with this bizarre statement to Erickson: "who died and make you scientist in chief?"). Academic programs in Women's and Gender Studies are increasingly under attack these days due to incorrect assertions that WGS majors don't get jobs--they actually do at my university!--but political motives are undoubtedly at work. It's time to use budget cuts to get rid of the humanities, the practice of which, as Leon Wieseltier eloquently put it in his recent commencement speech at Brandeis, has become a form of social dissidence. Sadly, evidence does not seem to play a large role in the discussions on Fox (that is not new, but it is still regrettable) or in the decisions being made at public universities across the country and in the state legislature of North Carolina, for that matter.
Yes, Megyn Kelly did a service by referencing actual studies that showed children in families where mothers work do just as well as other kinds of families. Predictably and tediously, Erickson countered her with the Right's party line, one that Fox commentators frequently have taken to the bank: studies, science, and academia are all politically motivated, so you just have to trust people like him. Trust Erick, who briefly served as a city council member in Macon, Georgia (he resigned during his first term to take a radio job in Atlanta) and proposed dissolving the Macon police force in order to avoid a move toward unionization.