Thursday, November 02, 2006

Rewriting the so-called "Opt-Out" Narrative

From Broadsheet on "Here's some good news: I think we may be witnessing the official "opting out" backlash. Not that the droves of women who've left the workforce are rushing back to work -- the truth is that women aren't leaving the workforce in droves, and those who do leave the workforce are often responding to economic pressures...."

At the Motherlode Conference we talked a lot about unwrapping the oversimplified "Opt-Out revolution" story to more accurately reflect the forces that are shaping women's lives. Joan Williams' is widely regarded a leading expert on this topic. Her work is referenced in the Broadsheet article, and I second their suggestion that you read her new report, "Opt Out" or Pushed Out? How the Press Covers Work/Family Conflict. This though, well-researched report is coauthored by Williams and published through the UC Hastings College of the Law.

I also want to acknowledge Judy Stadman Tucker of the MMO for highighting Williams' work, and for providing ongoing coverage of these issues, including Heather Hewett's article, Telling it Like it is: Rewriting the "opting out" narrative.

In MojoMom blog news: I am experimenting with blogging using tools. Digg allows you to vote for stories you find most relevant. The site is unfortunately skewed toward technology stories but it has a lot of cool potential for social/informational networking.

Visionary upstarts Emily McKhann and Cooper Munroe are starting a social networking site for Moms called The Motherhood and I hope they will install a digg-type function. That would be create an amazing intellectual resource for the whole motherhood movement.

In the meantime, you can click on "read more" to access the Broadsheet article that I Dugg for this post, or click on "Digg story" to Digg this post itself.

read more | digg story


Anonymous Grrrlfriend Jess said...

I agree that there is much more to be written in this area. I also think that there is great value in talking this out with mothers and for developing the language we need to discuss all of the issues that are nowhere near convered in the "Mommy Wars" rhetoric. In my personal interactions with moms, I often get the sense that many of us feel that the options are horribly restrictive. Essentially, you have no choice but to work or to stay home (also known as the old "I HAVE to work vs. I don't want ANYONE else taking care of my child" debate) which doesn't cover the emotions or logistics of motherwork and otherwork at all. Thanks for keeping the convo going!

ps - It was great to briefly meet you at The Motherlode after you presented and I am very excited to meet you here to keep the issues alive and well!
Jessica Ashley
(Grrrlfriend Jess)

1:41 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

Thanks for writing, Jessica. Yes, we need an ongoing conversation on this topic. It takes a while for these ideas to gain traction, especially when one is trying to get a complicated message through to a media machine that trades in easy soundbites.

I highly recommend Joan Williams' work. I've just finished printing out the 67-page report to read.

I hope to see you next year at the ARM conference. I, too am overwhelmed right now with re-entry shock, but it feels like an excellent event for a yearly recharge!

1:56 PM  
Blogger PunditMom said...

Thanks for the info on the Joan Williams report. I have interviewed her in the past for a story on women attorneys and she is so thoughtful. I can't wait to read this new report.

When I get to Staples to get more paper, I am going to print it out!

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Sherry Sullivan said...

Really a revolt against bad company practices not a revolution

Lisa Mainiero and I did a 5 year study of over 3000 US professional workers' careers. Yes, women opt-out of companies for childcare reasons. But it is much more complex that what the media would have us believe. They are opting out because their jobs are boring, they don't have advancement opportunities, they aren't being paid fairly, and a host of other reasons. And while they do opt-out they also opt-in.

If you are interested in learning more about our research, please visit our website at We have a family friendly audit as well as a great deal of other information.

Sherry Sullivan, Ph.D

6:09 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

Hi Sherry,

I am psyched that you've found my blog. I just ordered your book from Amazon yesterday and I am really looking forward to reading it. I know the landscape is complicated and I am eager to learn the results of your research.

I like to turn the whole "opting out" question on its head. I hope you'll go back and read my March 31 blog posting called Secret Agent Woman. I reject the entire framework of opting out, preferring to think of myself as an entrepreneur, artist, and "mother of (re)invention."

9:49 PM  

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