Welcome Madeleine Kunin (MadeleineKunin.org)(blogs-ChesleaGreen) and Host Amanda Marcotte (Pandagon.net)

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

The New Feminist Agenda: Defining The Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family

Madeleine Kunin certainly knows from women and work. She’s been the governor of Vermont and the Ambassador to Switzerland. Before all that, she did her time as a journalist, a college professor, and an activist. She’s seen the feminist movement go through many permutations, and in her new book The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family, she details out her vision for where feminism should go next. Kunin argues that the movement hasn’t paid quite enough attention to the family, and specifically advocating for policies that allow women (and men) the ability to balance their work lives and their family lives in our hectic, work-focused world.

This book was tailor-made for policy wonks who want to know not just what policies bring the best outcomes, but what political strategies work best for getting those policies into place. Having raised kids of her own, Kunin believes that the current American approach to work forces nearly all women, across class lines, to make compromises and fight unnecessary obstacles to achieve their career goals—or even just to keep food on the table. She recommends that feminists treat the work-life balance issue as seriously now as we have always treated the abortion issue, for the same reason that women’s liberation cannot be fully achieved without finding some way to make sure it can accommodate the demands of family life.

Right now, the United States by and large has abysmal policies when it comes to child care, education, flex time and family leave. Our economic system still assumes workers are men who happen to have housewives standing behind them, taking care of their personal lives and especially raising their children. While conservative forces may support this on the grounds that this is the way they believe it ought to be, Kunin suggests that we instead approach policy with a firm eye towards reality.

In reality, very few families live with the “Leave It To Beaver” lifestyle. Many families are headed by single or divorced parents, for one thing. Even in families centered around a married couple, stay-at-home motherhood is rarely an acceptable solution for their domestic needs. Many families need two incomes to survive, and frankly, many women get a little stir crazy if they can’t leave the house and work a paying job. Our policies need to reflect the world we live in now, not the one that conservatives wish we lived in.

Drawing on the experiences of other nations and of states within ours, Kunin argues that better policies around labor and family can be achieved. The employer class will fight any innovation that gives their employees more power and control, even in cases where their fears of economic loss are demonstrably overblown. Kunin simply believes that we have to go around their objections, and accept that angry capitalists are just the price of doing business when you’re fighting for progressive ideals.

Reading her book makes me optimistic that these are fights we can win, if we’re willing to try. Policies that give more power to employees to manage their family lives may seem initially like a feminist innovation, but since the needs of workers and family cut across many different lines, we can build a strong and diverse coalition. It may even be possible to get some conservatives on board with these ideas, as long as progressives highlight that better family policies help children as much as their mothers.

With that introduction, I’d like to welcome Madeleine Kunin for questions and comments below. Thanks for coming and sharing your ideas with us, Madeleine!

92 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Madeleine Kunin, The New Feminist Agenda: Defining The Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family”

BevW May 13th, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Madeline, Amanda, Welcome back to the Lake.

Amanda, Thank for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Amanda Marcotte May 13th, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Thanks for having us! Welcome, everyone. Welcome, Madeleine.

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 2:02 pm
In response to Amanda Marcotte @ 2

Delighted to be on Firedog Lake, Mother’s Day, and the day I have a great book review on the cover of the New York Times

Elliott May 13th, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Hi, Welcome to the Lake and Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers.

Wow, is this ever a discussion that needs to be had. Thank you.

And Amanda’s point about reality and the world conservatives long for – so true.

Amanda Marcotte May 13th, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I’ll start with the first question. I think we all agree that more flex time, affordable child care, and other pro-family innovations would be great for families and for women. Where do you think, Madeleine, the best place to start advocating for these policies would be?

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Mothers are revered but public policy does not make it easy for us to be both good mothers and good providers, especially hard for single mothers, that’s what I write about in “The New Feminist Agenda, defining the next revolution for women, work and family.”

Amanda Marcotte May 13th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

I think when you begin with the framework of “mothers”, people tend to think of things like noble sacrifices and paying women in flowers and cards. It’s really hard to get us past that to talk about things women really need to be mothers and workers. How do we smash the sentimental framework and get a real discussion going?

cmaukonen May 13th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

But isn’t this a subset of the same fight we have been having for over a hundred years ? That if you are nor a rich white Anglo Saxon male, you get the royal shaft.

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

The best place to start is flextime because some enlightened businesses are already doing it because they realize that flexibility allows them to attract and retain talented and experiences employees. Ideally we should have a law like England and Australia, called The Right to Request, which allows workers to ask for flexibility without fear of being fired. Both parties negotiate a resolution and if that doesn’t work, they go to a tribunal. In most cases,
everybody wins.

Amanda Marcotte May 13th, 2012 at 2:10 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 8

I’m not a big fan of despondency as a political tactic, cmau. In reality, women and minorities have made tremendous gains in the past century, leading me to believe more are possible.

Elliott May 13th, 2012 at 2:12 pm

And it’s books like this and the associated discussions that open more eyes.

Amanda Marcotte May 13th, 2012 at 2:13 pm

One of my big concerns about the focus on flex time, Madeleine, is the fact that it naturally fits better with white collar, professional jobs that are a lot of desk work that can be done at home or on an irregular schedule. How do flex time policies work to include working class people, who often have jobs that require clocking in and out and hourly wages?

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 2:13 pm
In response to Amanda Marcotte @ 7

I think sweet sentiments are lovely, especially on Mother’s Day, but they don’t help to pay the rent and pay for groceries. We have to become more realistic about the needs of working mothers and the challenges they face. The good new is that Feminism has created a revolution in the number of women in higher ed–60% of undergraduates are women and they make up half the workforce. But society remains stuck in the old family portrait where Daddy goes to work and Mommy –wearing an apron–waves him off and two perfect children are on either side.
We need both the private sector and government to acknowledge the new family portrait where both parents work or one parent is the sole provider.

cmaukonen May 13th, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Did not mean it as despondency, just same struggle – different jerseys.

yellowsnapdragon May 13th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Perhaps the place to start is not “mother”, but “father”. If we had social requirements that men attend PTA’s and run bake sales, stay home with sick kids, help with homework, etc., changing workplace flex time and orher issues would be much easier.

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 2:17 pm

You’re right that it’s harder, but not impossible. It depends on how you define flexiiblity. It can be shorter hours or a shorter week and for a short period of time, such as right after the birth of a baby. The advantage to the employer is that people given the chance to work flexibly are much more likely to return to work full time.
They are grateful for the acknowledgment of their stressed lives are loyal, and more productive as a result.

cmaukonen May 13th, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Just took my bread out of the oven. Looks good. :-)

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Today’s fathers are different than the previous generation of “Mad Men.” They want to spend more time with their kids, there is more co-parenting, and ideally there should be both maternity and paternity leave, as many other counties provide. If only the mother gets leave, an employer may not hire her, but if both genders get it, there is a more level playing field.
In my book I interview some stay at home dads, who are not “Mr Mom”. It’s no joke for them, it’s a great opportunity to bond with their children.

Amanda Marcotte May 13th, 2012 at 2:21 pm

In your book, you emphasize that this is an issue where large and diverse coalitions can be built, including ones with conservatives! I certainly hope that’s true, but have found most conservatives resist policies that help working parents precisely because they don’t believe it’s best to have two parents working. If current policies push women out of the workplace and into the home, the argument goes, it’s better for the children. How do you respond to concerns that day care and other aspects of the working mother life are bad for children?

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 2:21 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 17

I, too , enjoyed my bread baking days. Wonderful smell and a great sense of accomplishment.

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Whether mothers should stay home or go to work is the wrong question for most mothers. Most do not have a choice–they work because they are essential wage earners for the family–they can’t afford to stay home.
Whether child care is good or bad, depends on the quality of the care.
The best, totally certified child care in America is run by the Department of Defense–they see it, rightly so, as a question of national security. If they can do it, why can’t we organize high quality child care for all those who wish to have it. They do it in France, not just for low income parents–over 90 percent of French parents use it.
Unlike in US, providers are trained and certified in early ed, just like teachers.

yellowsnapdragon May 13th, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Exactly. When dads are responsible for more at home, there will be more flexibility at work. And mr moms deserve a lot of praise for doing so much hard work while simultaneously losing a lot of status.

Amanda Marcotte May 13th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

In the beginning of the book, you have strong criticism of the feminist movement for focusing on abortion rights to the detriment of concerns such as these. Obviously, reproductive rights is a serious concern, so it’s not that feminists care about it that’s the problem. It’s that we don’t take as broad a view as we should. Why do you think abortion rights dominates the debate about women’s roles, to the point where it drowns out other concerns?

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 2:29 pm

On Mother’s Day it’s a good time to talk about the wage gap between working mothers and non-mothers. I describe that in my book, The New Feminist Agenda” that this wage gap is bigger than that between men and women.
Often mothers are not hired or promoted because employers think that mothers will not work as hard, or even need to work as hard.
We have to narrow that gap too.

Elliott May 13th, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Tasty, too!

bigbrother May 13th, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Gloria Stienem and others in the early 1970s along with grant writers started Tittle 9:

Title IX is a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972, Public Law No. 92-318, 86 Stat. 235 (June 23, 1972), codified at 20 U.S.C. sections 1681 through 1688, U.S. legislation also identified by the name of its principal author as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. It states (in part) that

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…
—Title 20 U.S.C. Sections 1681-1688


Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was written in order to end discrimination based on religion, race, color, or national origin, the act also energized the women’s rights movement, which had somewhat slowed after women’s suffrage in 1920.[1] While Title IX is best known for its impact on high school and collegiate athletics, the original statute made no explicit mention of sports.[2]

In 1967, President Johnson issued a series of executive orders in order to make some clarifications. Before these clarifications were made, the National Organization for Women (NOW) persuaded President Johnson to include women in his executive orders.[1] Most notable is Executive Order 11375, which required all entities receiving federal contracts to end discrimination on the basis of sex in hiring and employment.

The fact that equal funding gave an equal footing for females changed a lot of attitude. The Russians have long reccognized these needs. Many corporation provide maternity leave, child care and other support fot working mothers. Please forgive my copy paste. I am for equality.

Amanda Marcotte May 13th, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Feel free to pop in with questions of your own, FDL readers! I know I’ve got tons, but we want to hear from you, too.

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 2:32 pm

We are in an unusual time where we have to fight to hold on to what we have–access to safe, legal abortion and affordable contraceptives, and help in fighting against violence against women. At the same time we have to move forward on family/work policies like paid family leave.
The good news about this bad situation is that young women are receiving a wake up call that tells them they cannot take for granted the policies that my generation fought for. So we may have fresh recruits.

BevW May 13th, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Madeleline’s post from May 10th

Same-sex marriage

Posted on Thursday, May 10th, 2012 at 6:57 pm by Madeleine Kunin

If anyone still clings to the belief that social change is impossible in this country they have to think again after President Obama’s announcement yesterday that he supports the right of gay and lesbian Americans to marry.

Yes, support for gay marriage has been growing among young people, but the country remains deeply divided on the question, evidenced by the North Carolina vote in favor of a constitutional amendment that bans both civil unions and marriage.

When I was Governor of Vermont in the 1980′s, neither same-sex marriage nor civil unions were on the table. I was applauded by the gay community for initiating an official state liaison with a gay organzation. I also spoke at Vermont’s first Gay Pride Day, and received some praise but intense criticism for showing up. (MORE at link)

CTuttle May 13th, 2012 at 2:33 pm

…If we had social requirements that men attend PTA’s and run bake sales, stay home with sick kids, help with homework, etc…

*heh* Not having ran a bake sale, but, baked for ‘em, I’ve done all the above, myself…! ;-)

Aloha, Madeleine and Amanda…! Mahalo for this most timely Book Salon…!

Wouldn’t fighting for ‘living wages’ (i.e. raising the minimum wage, to say $20+/hr)be more equitable and productive for Women(and Men) in the long run…?

Happy Mother’s Day to all…! *g*

Knut May 13th, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Governor Kunin,

Have you read Nancy Folbre’s work on the Value of Children? She goes into a lot of detail on the systematic underinvestment in children and ‘caring’ activities. One of the insights for me that came out of reading her work is that the systematic repression of women’s rights was a way of keeping a captive labour force to perform indispensable ‘caring’ functions, which range from caring for the very young to the very old. Other countries have adapted to the changing place of women in the economy by providing publicly financed substitutes; the United States has not.

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 2:35 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 26

I write about Title 9 in my book. It changed the lives of high school and college women–my generation did not play sports–no one encouraged us or provided the resources. But I suspect we have to be alert to protect Title 9 too.

Amanda Marcotte May 13th, 2012 at 2:35 pm

While it’s incredibly diverse country to country, your book argues that a lot of Western Europe is way ahead of America when it comes to maternity and paternity leave, flex time, and other policies that help out working families. Why do you think the Europeans have a better handle on this than Americans? What’s wrong with us?

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 2:37 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 30

I agree with you completely, besides, they might enjoy it too. To give men credit, more men, like my own sons, are doing much more “fathering” these days and are happy to do it, but they have a hard time to find the time too.

CTuttle May 13th, 2012 at 2:39 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 26

I had the pleasure of meeting Patsy Mink on several occasions, and, voted to keep her in Congress…! ;-)

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 2:40 pm
In response to Knut @ 31

I spoke with Nancy while writing this book, but not read all her work. Women have been the caregivers not only for children but also for the elderly, the sick and the disabled. If we could form a real coalition–reaching beyond women–whether they see themselves as feminists or not–and the elderly and the disabled-I believe we could get the message across for change.

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 2:41 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 35

Patsy Mink was great, I met her too in the early days. She did a lot or women.

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Many of the Scandinavian countries developed family friendly policies in the 70′s and more recently, England, Australia and European countries have gone much further than we have. Only 4 countries do not have paid family leave–Papua New Guniea, Somalia, Liberia and the U.S also Swaziland. Strange company indeed.
Why are we different”
We have a strong sense of individualism, as suspicious of government, and believe in American Exceptionalism.
Other countries see the value of bringing up children as healthy productive adults. The beat countries like Norway, have a child poverty rate of 3 percent. The U.s child poverty rate is 20!
That is a high price to pay for individualism–one that we will all pay in the future as more poor children will be unequipped to be self supporting aduts.

BevW May 13th, 2012 at 2:47 pm

What are some of the questions you receive from young women at your lectures? How are they phrasing the questions?

Do the feel betrayed or angry that they have to fight to keep what rights they had when they were born?

BevW May 13th, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Today’s NYT Book Review

Family Way
‘The Conflict’ and ‘The New Feminist Agenda’

Published: May 10, 2012

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 2:51 pm

A young woman told me at a book talk yesterday that she was glad that I used the word “feminist” in my title”The New Feminist Agenda.” Maybe that’s a sign that a new generation of feminists is surfacing.

I think they are both shocked angry. They resonated with Sandra Fluke, for example, when she was called a slut by Rush Limbaugh.

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 2:52 pm

I’d like to know what young women are thinking who are following this. What do you think?

mzchief May 13th, 2012 at 2:53 pm

What if women forsake the inhospitable, bank-captured C-corps and 501cs in droves and instead formed constellations of B-corps and cooperatives (quick visual here)? I’m thinking that this would open up a host of opportunities for everyone. Thoughts?

Amanda Marcotte May 13th, 2012 at 2:55 pm

My sense is that the word “feminist” doesn’t drive people away as much as it used to. That said, Madeleine, I was a little surprised that you put the word “feminist” in your title. Your argument is that these issues are about a lot more than women’s liberation, and in fact they should be sold as common sense policies for existing family structures. Do you worry that using the word “feminist” will distract people from the fact that these are solutions for everyone, not just women?

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 2:56 pm

At the beginning of the women’s movement some women’s banks were formed, I think one survives but they had a hard time making it.
I think we have to continue to stress reforms on Wall Street and the banking system for everyone to prevent failures like that recently announced loss of Morgan Stanley. Instead, Republicans, including Romney want to repeal Dodd Frank.

BevW May 13th, 2012 at 2:57 pm

You have a chapter on Building A Coalition – how to unite women. Do you suggest Marches and Protests?

bigbrother May 13th, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Madeline…what a treat to have you here! The 20% child poverty rate reflects in our high prison population. So if funding is transferred to household support for parents there should be a savings on the public balance sheet for reduced prison populations. There are many social impacts too, aside from saving $40,000 per inmate…money that could be better spent preventing. How much we spend on wars is a resource decision that takes away from the efforts you champion. Some points to comment on?

masaccio May 13th, 2012 at 2:59 pm

It seems to me that women don’t think of themselves as having group issues, unlike the LGBT community, which is able to work as a group on the issues that unite them and ignore the issues that divide them.

You don’t see Republican Gays strenuously working against gay marriage or ENDA, and neither group self-identifies when they fight about economic issues where there are vast differences between the parties.

Republican women fight against anything that smacks of liberalism on issues that are exactly the same for them as for Democratic women, issues like flextime, equal pay for equal work, day care and so on.

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

I did have a lively discussion with my publisher about using the word “feminist” in the title. She won. But, I think it attracts as many people as it may turn off. I hope people pay attention to the subtitle too: “the next revolution for women, work and family.”

Feminists have often lead the way on these issues, but we need a broader constituency to implement them.
I am pleased by the response to the book’s message so far–most women have felt conflict between their work lives and their family lives and are looking for answers.

Dearie May 13th, 2012 at 3:03 pm

massaccio@48: wow….you made me think. I wonder how many who work-outside-the-home actually identify as Republicans? That’s a statistic I’d love to see.

I remember when I became a social worker and took a job in juvenile corrections. My boss said, “You can’t be both a Republican and a social worker…..it makes no sense.” That was in 1988. It woke me up.

mzchief May 13th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Hmmm … I’m think financing for women’s endeavors also need to come from cooperatives (credit unions) rather than banks as banks take away control of the operation in the exchange.

Amanda Marcotte May 13th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Heh, should have guessed it was a publisher vs. writer struggle. It’s true that it probably got more high profile attention from media outlets that love how polarizing the word “feminist” is.

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 3:04 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 47

Absolutely right. Long term studies–40 years–have shown that very poor children who had high quality childcare were shown to have lower incarceration rates, higher employment rates and more stable families. Investing in good childcare is not only about test scores–it creates life long social skills like being alble to finish a task, focus and communicate.
We made such an investment with the GI bill of rights at the end of WW II, and it created the middle class, we have to do it again, for our children to save the middle class.

HotFlash May 13th, 2012 at 3:05 pm

In general ‘women’s work’, whether child bearing and raising, housework, nursing, teaching, secretarying (is that even a word?), whether formal, or informal (ie, done as a spouse, child, parent or volunteer) is often undervalued and underpaid, and sometimes not paid at all. The gaping holes of affordable child care and maternity/paternity leave are just the tips of the iceberg, and the US has yet to address even the most basic changes that will allow women to be equal partners.

One thing I find amusing (or horrifying) is that the US approaches so many of these issues as if no one had ever encountered them before. For instance, in Canada where I (thank the Great Bea) reside, we have 19 weeks *paid* maternity leave for the birth of and the early nurture of/bonding with a child, plus 17 weeks *parental* leave, available to either parent, and including parents of adopted children. I don’t say that that is the ideal, it could be better still. But we have had that for nearly two decades and it hasn’t killed us. We have Eqwual Pay for eqMeanwhile our neighbours to the south still seem to think “Babette she take ten minutes rest, then finish scrub the floor.” This is really primitive, folks.

Canada is relatively enlightened, but it could still be so much better.

For instance, if one partner decides to work and the other to stay at home “homemaking’, why can’t the working partner opt to pay for the stay-at-home spouse’s unemployment insurance and as well as pension and health benefits? If a spouse is divorced (ie, unemployed)then s/he can get unemployment benefits. Seems not only fair but totally obvious to me.

One of the things that strikes me about US policies and laws is that they are so *mean* to people.

Amanda Marcotte May 13th, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Madeleine, what do you think of the idea of mandatory paternity leave? I’ve seen it routinely suggested as a way to focus people on the fact that this is a men’s issue as much as a women’s issue.

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 3:10 pm
In response to masaccio @ 48

We have to try to find a way to get common ground–not easy in this polarized environment. These issues are not necessarily liberal, they are family issues. My ideal would be to recapture the phrase “family values” from the right–where it means everything from being against same sex marriage to the NRA, and have a discussion about values that strengthen the family, beginning with good pre natal care. Once again a recent report revealed that the U.S
has one of highest premature birth rates in the developed world.
Can we agree on changing that?

HotFlash May 13th, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I am *totally* not Madeleine, but as a student of human nature, I would expect that *mandatory* paternal leave would be a great way to create paternal hostility.

What are they thinking?

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 3:12 pm

I think it was the right decision, though my point is, this family/work is not exclusively a feminist issue, but we need feminists to rally around it.

HotFlash May 13th, 2012 at 3:14 pm
In response to masaccio @ 48

Just little old me thinking about this, but it seems to me that many women go all chameleon absorb and reflect the values of their partners. I will go further and say that the weaker the woman, the more complete the colour-change. As E-chan would say, YMMV.

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 3:15 pm
In response to HotFlash @ 54

I had not heard of that happening elsewhere. In most countries that have paid family leave there is a tax like unemployment tax that pays for it. The two states, California and New Jersey, that have implemented it, have a temporary disabilities act that pays for it.

bigbrother May 13th, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Chapter One is about failed expectations. Can you write a piece of legislation that address these esssential issues and have a coalition in congress foster the bill with the Presidents backing? You have the skills and connections!

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I don’t think we should have mandatory paternity or maternity leave. This should remain a choice. The paternity leave in other countries is “use it or lose it.” If it is made attractive enough, with substantial pay, more people will use it.
The US has unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act, signed by Bill Clinton. The problem is lot of people can’t afford to use it. When you have a new baby, or someone is sick, your expenses go up, a terrible time to give up a pay check. Paid family leave (the amount varies) is the only practical answer if we want mothers to be able to bond with their babies, and not have to give up their jobs in doing so.

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 3:20 pm
In response to HotFlash @ 57

I agree. Legislation should be about “opportunity” not about being forced to do something you don’t want to do.
But most fathers I suspect, would be thrilled to take some paternity leave, if they could afford to do so.

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 3:23 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 61

You give me more credit than I can accept. I think we need a strong grass movement to let politicians and the President know that the public is behind these policies We have to require that lawmakers respond to our questions about family/friendly policies and hold them accountable.
We have to encourage enlightened business people to speak out on why they have policies, like paid leave, and that it is part of doing business and improves the bottom line.

Amanda Marcotte May 13th, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Paid family leave seems like a real pipe dream on a national level right now. The Democrats had to, for understandable reasons, prioritize passing health care reform, which meant that paid family leave was waaaaay down on the priority list. Now Republicans are in office, so we can kiss this goodbye for the foreseeable future.

Do you believe, in light of these facts, that attacking this as a federal issue might not be the best idea? What kind of alternatives would you suggest?

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Yes –the outlook is bleak,but we can’t give up. We must change the debate to force politicians to address these questions. Democrats haven’t put this on their agenda either–if they did , or if Republicans did, they would be surprised to learn that this is the best way to win the women’ vote. This election is going to be determined by the women’s vote—as they feel attacked by the” war on women.”
Why not put quality affordable child care on the list?
The other route, is the state route. I go into some detail on that in my book. Connecticut just passed a paid sick day law for service workers. A bill in Congress is not getting any traction. The CT law is now highly popular. We have to start somewhere.

Dearie May 13th, 2012 at 3:29 pm

As an old timer who first attended a feminist meeting in 1973 in Cincinnati (of all places!) what I saw happen was the feminist movement highjacked by issues that did not apply to most women. There was a big turnout that night….but I did not see a middle group of women coalesce. I was a middle class stay at home mom, and I felt completely pushed aside. I’d like a new feminist movement appeal to all women, whatever their status. We share common needs and everyone should be able to find a place. Perhaps it will be more inclusive this time around.

My own daughters are having completely different experiences of acceptance as working mothers. And, yes, they could use some help in the childcare department.

bigbrother May 13th, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I peeked in the book at Amazon is is surely a must read…less than $10.00 on Kindle!

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Be sure to read today’s New York Times, Book Review, “The New Feminist Agenda” is on the front cover.

Book Tour – http://www.madeleinekunin.org/BookTour.htm

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 3:31 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 68

Thrilled that you call it a “must read.”

Amanda Marcotte May 13th, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Obviously, the biggest obstacle to improving conditions for working families is the business community, which mostly resists anything that empowers labor, even if they don’t have evidence that it will hurt them. How do you suggest activists and politicians approach this obstacle?

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 3:36 pm
In response to Dearie @ 67

Working moms and stay at home moms should not be divided or pitted against each other. When finances permit, when and whether to stay home or go to work, is a very personal decision. The media loves to write about the Mommy Wars, but realistically, most mothers spend part of their time as mothers at home and another part at work.
The hard part is that society has made it very difficult to stay at home, unless a partner or spouse earns income large enough to single handedly support the family.
My hope is that women can unite on these issues, because they are pro-strong family issues. The future of the American economy depends on our being able to achieve better family/work policies.

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Yes, the business community has opposed policies like paid sick days and paid family leave. They also opposed unpaid family leave which is now law. The US Chamber of Commerce –one of the wealthiest lobbying constituencies–has to be countered by mobilizing women and men to speak up and make the argument that these policies are not “job killers” but “job creators.”
I find it interesting that global companies which do business abroad in countries that have these policies, seem to make a profit when they have to provide their employees paid family leave because it is the law. If they can provide that for workers abroad, why can’t they do the same at home?

masaccio May 13th, 2012 at 3:40 pm

I realize that the issues I identified aren’t liberal. They are class issues. Rich people don’t need those things, they just hire people to do whatever they want done. It’s the rest of us who need collective action and legislation to insure that the collective action will be enforced.

I doubt that people who are seriously into right-wing politics are able to see common ground with anyone but those who agree with them. That’s true of women and any other affinity group. Except LGBT people. How did that happen? What can we learn from the success of the LGBT community?

bigbrother May 13th, 2012 at 3:40 pm
In response to BevW @ 46

Good question…and salute for this great Salon…you really are amazing.

Dearie May 13th, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Madeleine@72: I agree! My point was that in 1973 women did NOT unite….stay at home moms/housewives were looked down on and marginalized. I would merely hope that there is more awareness this time around and that women, whatever their status, are encouraged to work together for the benefit of all!

And there IS a mommy war going on. Witness the cover of TIME magazine with the pretty woman breastfeeding the young man in camouflage pants. (Could they be more brazen in stirring up problems?!)

Amanda Marcotte May 13th, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Recent data from the Census shows that contrary to the image of the stay-at-home mother as a middle class woman whose husband makes enough to support the family on one income, many stay-at-home mothers are living in poverty and have very little education. They don’t have jobs because child care costs more than they could reasonably earn, so they live very hard and marginal lives.

What policies should we look to in order to relieve the burdens on these women?

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 3:45 pm
In response to masaccio @ 74

Yes, the LGBT community has had enormous success in changing people’s attitudes –and it happened in a very short time. The President’s endorsement personally for same-sex marriage is a landmark–he couldn’t have done it without the activism of many people who “came out” and turned out to be a member of the family, co worker, or friend.
They also were able, sometimes, to cross party lines. What can we learn? We have to focus more clearly on what is needed, we have to raise the money to get our voices heard, and we have to educate the public about the high prices we are now paying by ignoring what most families need to say strong, caring and solvent.

Dearie May 13th, 2012 at 3:46 pm

And how do we draw most women into a concerted effort to help each other? Who is doing this? How are they doing it?

bigbrother May 13th, 2012 at 3:47 pm

The US Chamber and their local member affiliates may have more women than men members…certainly many working mothers. Maybe a local lobbying campaign. Hit them in their membership pockets.

Amanda Marcotte May 13th, 2012 at 3:49 pm

For those interested in this topic, Up With Chris Hayes covered it extensively:


Sadly, they didn’t have Madeleine as a guest. I hope they return to this topic with Madeleine instead of Katie Roiphe.

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 3:50 pm
In response to Dearie @ 76

The media clearly likes sensationalism and dismisses the daily issues that women struggle with. Another issue of Time featured “Women are the Richer Sex.” Hmmm. what about the majority of women stuck in poverty?
Newsweek had a cover story about “Working women’s fantasies of submission.” Now, really?
When you think about what that implies, it’s shocking. Women can’t be strong leaders, they want to be dominated–and that’s what they think about?

I don’t think Time even wanted to encourage breast feeding, just sales.

Dearie May 13th, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Madeleine@78: I do not think the LGBT reached success in “a very short time.” It was, in fact, the lesbian community who highjacked the feminist gathering in Cincinnati in 1973 and drove us ‘housewives’ off. I don’t want to deny the LGBT community one bit of support, but I won’t forget that the feminist movement in my town went awry over one group’s agenda. It took 40 years to get some success for the LGBT community……and 30 states have now voted to avow that marriage (which should be left to religion) is one man/one woman. If we’d all worked together, I think we’d all be farther along.

BevW May 13th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon discussion,

Madeleine, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and the need for New Feminism.

Amanda, Thank you very much for Hosting this Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Madeleline’s website and book

Amanda’s website (Pandagon.net) and books

Thanks all, Have a great week. Happy Mother’s Day to all.

Next week:
Saturday – Paul Krugman, Sunday – Kip Hawley (TSA)

If you want to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

In researching my book, I was surprised to find that out too–these poor women stay home because they don’t have the skills and they can’t find affordable childcare. The answer is education and access to good chidcare. When I was Governor I started a Reach Up program that provided education and childcare, and every once in a while meet someone who benefited from the program and got a new life. That is what welfare reform should be.

Amanda Marcotte May 13th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Thank you! Thank you Madeleine!

Dearie May 13th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Thanks, Gov., for the book and for sharing your thoughts with us today! I look forward to readiing your book and sharing it with my daughters.

CTuttle May 13th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

One quick fix could be lifting the 5 yr. lifetime cap on AFDC benefits that Clinton imposed with his ‘Welfare Reform’ fiasco…!

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 3:58 pm
In response to Dearie @ 79

Your question is the right one. I think we may have to change some of the words we use which polarize people–and for the short time avoid divisive topics. For example, if we could agree on access to good prenatal care, it would be difficult to argue against that.
Recently in Nebraska, the anti abortion legislature and the anti abortion governor debated funding of prenatal care for illegal immigrants. The legislature passed it, the governor vetoed it, and the legislature over rode his veto.
Why? They believed it would have been more expensive in the long run to deny prenatal care because more babies would end up in intensive care.
The lesson–there can be agreement on some things, and let’s build on that.

Madeleine Kunin May 13th, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Thanks for the experience. Lots of good comments and questions.

Enjoy the last hours of Mothers Day,

CTuttle May 13th, 2012 at 3:59 pm
In response to BevW @ 84

Mahalo, Gov. Kunin, Amanda, and Bev, for another great Book Salon…! *g*

Elliott May 13th, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Thank you!

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