If you’re pregnant and you know it, quit your job *clap clap*

May 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

I picked up the New Straits Times this morning, and felt my serene Sunday vibes melt into a frothing foam of red-hot anger. There was a letter to the editor written by one Marisa Demori, the same Marisa Demori whom I’ve seen write in before not just to the NST but also to The Star and The Sun saying how maternity leave only incurred losses for employers, and how women who wanted to have babies should just go… collectively procreate on an island and raise their island babies away from the hardworking capitalists on the mainland. Or something to that effect, anyway.

Today’s letter can be found here, and if the link somehow disappears in the future, I’ve also scanned it and included the visual below:

Below is my response to that damned letter. I’ve sent it to the NST, but on the off-chance that they don’t print it, I’m putting it up here as well:

I refer to Marisa Demori’s letter dated May 30, 2010, titled “Maternity leave: Better for pregnant women to resign.” In the interests of clarity, I’ll assume from the name that the writer is female.

Ms. Demori has suggested that a woman, once pregnant, becomes delicate, and hence should resign from her job because “even the best work environments present some hazards and this will affect the health of both mother and baby.” This seems to be me rather ludicrous. That’s like telling someone not to ever walk on the road because a car might potentially hit them someday, because even the best cars are potential hazards. Pregnancy is a fraught condition for many women; yet it also a regular one. The normal “hazards” of everyday life can prove risky for pregnant women, yet we do not encourage them to sit on their beds and remain in their rooms for the entire 9 months of their pregnancy. There are ways in which women manage, control, and work around their immediate surroundings while pregnant – and this includes their career. Just because a woman is pregnant does not render her “unfit to perform her duties.”

Secondly, Ms. Demori seems to be an unthinking worshipper at the altar of capitalism. Capitalism is a system; human beings are the factors that make the system work. We do not bend ourselves to fit the system; the system must be altered to fit human needs. The last time I checked, women constituted half of the population. As mothers, they produce the labour that goes into the economy. I would venture to say that people are indispensable, Ms. Demori, and that no job or system is.

Thirdly, while there is a glimmer of reason in Ms. Demori’s argument that women be paid a pension for housework, it is also an indication of further myopic thinking. It will be great if we could come up with solutions to provide socialised child-care and housework so that both men and women who choose to have kids will not have to bear the burden of child-raising (an important goal for society at large, to be sure) on their own. However, I don’t see our hyper-capitalist government becoming rabidly socialist anytime soon. In the meantime, maternity and paternity leave is the only humane and viable solution for the masses of workers who have to juggle both a career and child-raising, be it within a traditional nuclear family, or in different circumstances. While the work of raising children and keeping a home is full-time work, it has no value within a capitalist system. It has been relegated as a “woman’s duty” because the conditions of power in our society are still very male-centric. I would assume that if men bore babies and did the housework, housework would have become a paid (and industrialised) “career” a very long time ago.

I suggest we stop trying to fit women into this grand, overarching human plan that is seen from only male perspective. (And as Ms. Demori has shown, it is not only males that are capable of being myopic and sexist.) It’s time we saw the world, and the solutions for its myriad problems, through the perspective of women AND men. What seems radical will perhaps start to make more sense, and solutions will seem achievable. Until then, viewpoints like the one propounded by Ms. Demori must continually be questioned, and regarded with suspicion. Human beings have a right to live within a system that fulfils their needs in the broadest possible sense, Ms. Demori. So to that end, I agree with you that “women should be reasonable” – and ask for as much as they want.


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