Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Wrong Poster Girl

When ABCNews decided totally scrap the idea of a male/female co-anchor team for its World News Tonight program and hire Charlie Gibson as a solo performer, lots of folks thought "what's up with that??" Yes, we knew something would happen as a consequence of Bob Woodruff's awful ordeal but we thought they'd at least keep Elizabeth Vargas.

Turns out that Vargas, however, is pregnant. Which raised a whole lot of eyebrows when it was also announced that she was stepping down from the anchor's spot...

Now, if you've got a bunch of friends who are going thru that whole baby-thing right now, you may have heard the story of at least one of them getting laid-off from her job during maternity leave. Even The Wall St. Journal has reported that since 2001 there's been a rise in pregnancy discrimination claims (along with age discrimination claims).

So when the news got out about Vargas radically unpopular decision, theories and accusations began to fly that she'd been laid off like so many of her lower-on-the-foodchain sisters for having the temerity to get pregnant. NOW and two other women's orgs readily jumped on the Save Elizabeth's Job bandwagon.

Right cause for a high-level-careerist poster girl. Wrong poster girl, however....

Yes, Vargas is stepping down because of her unexpected pregnancy, but it is of of her own free will and not because she was laid-off by the network And even if she doesn't return to ABC:
"I've been told by other networks, if it doesn't work out here, there will be opportunities elsewhere... . Those kinds of conversations take place all the time. It's a very small business. We all know each other."

Okay...so, Elizabeth Vargas has decided that, in the best interests of her health and her family that it's best that she step away from her career right now--and THE MAN is not making her do it. Heck, she's even got a network so she can on-ramp again...

But let's get another perspective on this: perhaps the whole idea of climbing the career ladder, for a lot of women, actually pales in comparison to staying at home with their kids. And if that's the case, and they've got the money and on-ramping connections to do it without much consequence, then perhaps NOW and everyone else should back off and let them do it.

Yet I remain amazingly perterbed at feminists' jump-to-conclusions. Perhaps there needs to be some serious soul-searching on the part of feminist orgs and their own attitudes towards women who stay home, as well as towards women who don't bear children. It seem, IMHO anyway, that it's great if you want to play the role of superwoman and have the baby and have the career and even do it by yourself (because, naturally, men suck), but if you make a choice--whether it's to bear a child and stay home, or not bear a child and have a career--you somehow don't count, and are even a traitor to the cause...

Perhaps feminism nowdays is more caught up in trying to make women conform to what a certain political dogma believes women should be, and not who women really are. Maybe Elizabeth Vargas should be the poster girl for a woman's right to make up her own mind about her own body and her own pregnancy--free of causes or banner-waving or anything like that.

Still, if feminists are *really* concerned about women being laid-off during their pregnancies, they should be concentrating on helping women who truly have faced discrimination during their pregnancies. It shouldn't matter if a woman is a celebrity--feminist orgs should be investigating discrimiation claims and test cases across socio-economic boundaries, rather than waiting around for some celebrity to be their poster girl--and getting their knickers in a bunch trying to help her.

Because when it comes down to it, the high level career chicks have the *option* to stay at home--but a lot of women in our Wal-Mart Economy do not and cannot. Economic necessity, not career choice, is often what compels a woman's choice to keep working through and after a pregnancy.

It all comes down to social class, folks...it always does...

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