Feminism is for mothers

Dear Dad,

I’ve noticed a disturbing pattern in the news lately: Pregnant women and new mothers being discriminated against in the workplace.

A silhouette from profile of a pregnant belly.

A pregnant woman shouldn’t have to surrender her career.

It started last month, when I read the story of Stacy Ehrisman-Mickle, an attorney whose request for a continuance because she had an infant was denied. Ehrisman-Mickle, an immigration attorney, requested continuances from three judges so she could have a six-week maternity leave with her newborn child and still fulfill her duty as a lawyer and serve her clients fully. Two judges granted that request. The third, however, not only denied her request for a continuance, but scolded Ehrisman-Mickle when she brought the baby to court and the baby began to cry, as babies are wont to do.

As if this case isn’t upsetting enough, a couple weeks ago, a pregnant lawyer, Deborah Misir, says she was shouted at and ridiculed when she asked that a trial be delayed because of her high-risk pregnancy. Misir says the judge’s refusal to allow her request forces her to choose between possibly losing her child or letting her client down. It’s a very literal choice between work and family, and neither option is suitable.

In a case that echoes almost too closely Misir’s story, Rep. Tammy Duckworth is being denied her request to vote in Congress by proxy. Duckworth, an amputee and Iraq War veteran, is eight months pregnant and her doctor has instructed her not to travel. She requested to vote long-distance, but House Democrats say allowing her request would mean they would have to allow everyone’s request to vote by proxy. Unfortunately, this means Rep. Duckworth is being denied her voice in our government because of her decision to have a child.

This is the very real dilemma women are faced with every day: work or family. And while it’s not easy to balance both, it’s even harder when institutions and those in power actively restrict women’s ability to do their jobs because they are choosing to have children. As Amanda Marcotte wrote in her piece on Rep. Duckworth,

Duckworth may be in an unusual position, but the experience of losing esteem and power at work because you got pregnant will feel awfully familiar to all too many ordinary women. Particularly since pregnancy is seen as a “voluntary” condition, it becomes very easy for employers to deny rights and guilt trip women for needing even the smallest accommodation.

As a woman, I shouldn’t have to be forced to choose between my career or my kids. Ideally, my employer would empower me to be a good parent, and by empowering me to take care of my kids, I would be better able to focus on my job while at work.

In the administrative parts of your job, Dad, I am sure you’ve had to work with pregnant employees. I know how much you value parenthood and can’t imagine you’d behave like these judges or politicians. I imagine that cooperating and communicating with pregnant employees helps build a better work atmosphere, and more positive, productive office. I hope in the future that others become aware of how valuable women are in the workplace, and that pregnancy doesn’t have to hold any worker back.

But for now, I’m just hoping for success for Ehrisman-Mickle, Misir and Duckworth, three




2 thoughts on “Feminism is for mothers

  1. My question would be, what would happen if a similar health-care situation occurred for a man? If a man had requested continuances because of surgery or a heart attack or the like, would he have been granted them? Likely so. Would a man have been allowed to vote by proxy because of health constraints? I don’t know the answer, but if the answer is “no,” it is unacceptable that Rep Duckworth is not allowed the same.

    Thanks for bringing these to light. I had read about the first case you describe. I didn’t know about the other two.

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