Taking advantage of the department by having babies– the nerve!

Posted: November 10, 2010 by Jender in assumptions about mothers

I am a graduate student in philosophy, but this story is about my undergraduate department. While I was there I found them nothing but supportive and encouraging. I thought it was a very female-friendly department. However, recently, I was talking to a graduate student from that department and found what he said very disturbing. He went on a long, angry rant about how everyone in the department, including himself, were very frustrated with one of the few female faculty members for having two babies close together and taking two maternity leaves.

This female professor had waited until she got tenure to begin having children. This, no doubt, made it necessary that she have two children in a row, if she wanted to have more than one at all. She had quite likely sacrificed starting a family earlier, so that she could focus on work and meet the requirements for tenure. Yet, despite this, the attitude toward her was that she was ‘taking advantage’ of the department by having children after receiving tenure from them.

The grad student I was talking to went on to argue that women should have to choose between having kids and being professors. He next argued that if women get maternity leave, everyone should be allowed to take the equivalent amount of paid time-off for anything they please – e.g. going on a vacation. He didn’t see why women should get any ‘perks’ like maternity leave, when having babies was clearly their choice. When I tried to explain why I found this an upsettingly sexist view, he said that as a philosopher one cannot dismiss any view because it is ‘sexist’. He said that he, a true philosopher unlike me, cared only about how convincing an argument was, and not about being ‘politically correct’.

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