My dad sent me this article: "Where Having It All Doesn't Mean Having Equality" from The New York Times a couple of days ago.
I've written about how perplexing French femininity was to me while living in France. French women are the ultimate gate keepers of a traditional notion of femininity and yet, employment rates for women in France are among the highest in Europe and so are birth rates. This article from the Times addresses exactly these seeming contradictions. It sites that France is number 46 on the World Economic Forum's gender equality report list - dragging behind its European neighbors, and countries like Kazakhstan and Jamaica (and the US). And despite high employment rates, French women earn far less than their male counterparts and work far more hours in the home and with their children.
The article opens citing the state-paid program designed to rejuvenate women's vaginas after birth - a series of guided exercises with practictioners to make women both ready to make love more quickly and have more children. It sounds outrageous, but it is consistent with the idea that women are expected to be both objects of desire and vessels of the next generation. France, like everywhere else, is part of a demographic battle but neither femininity nor laborers should be the casualties of that struggle.
The article also addresses the most pressing issue in the post-feminist game in my opinion: men. While women may generally be granted more rights and occupy larger spaces in the employment/political world (albeit token at times), men, largely, haven't budged. The article sites that even when there are institutional means of taking time off for childcare when children are young, the only people who take advantage of these provisions are women. Women spend the majority of the hours outside work on housecare/childcare, whereas the hours spent by men on these activities is nominal in comparison (even when both individuals put in the same hours at their jobs). France does have phenomenal infrastructural support in terms of things like childcare, but that does not account for how work gets distributed after-hours.
The ending sentence of the article is a quotation from a Geneviève Fraisse (philosopher), "We had one revolution, now we need another one - in the family." (Her reference is not to the feminist revolution, of course, but to 1789). And, with this statement, je suis d'accord. Couldn't agree more completely. This is the heart of the issue - not whether women should work or shouldn't work, not whether babies should go to daycare, but that feminism (to me) is about changing the geography of responsibility in the home and the possibility of expression for individual people, regardless of whether they are male or female.