Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
INTRODUCTION: FEMINIST PHILOSOPHY AND THE IDEOLOGY OF MOTHERHOOD
In the first four chapters of this book, I discuss two stages of reproductive labor, pregnancy and birth, which are available only to women. I turn now to a third stage, childrearing. This form of reproductive labor is still predominantly performed by women, both as unpaid and as paid caregivers. However, it is a kind of labor that can be performed by men, and one that not only can be but is undertaken by men, many as unpaid caregivers of their own children and a few as paid caregivers. In this chapter I examine the impact of the ideology of motherhood on the provision of childcare, an ideology that we have seen to have pernicious effects on women's experiences of pregnancy and birth. I approach childrearing from a perspective informed by the ethics of care, which also influenced my ethical analysis of pregnancy. As was the case in my study of pregnancy, an ethics of care perspective considers the needs and interests of caregivers and care receivers and considers questions about who gives care and how caregiving work is allocated. I begin my discussion in this chapter with an analysis of motherhood, but this leads to a much broader focus on childcare work in general, paid and unpaid.
Feminist philosophers have presented sharply contrasting analyses of motherhood. Shulamith Firestone in the Dialectic of Sex (1970) argued that women cannot be free until the biological family is entirely eliminated.