We Changed the Conversation

By Estelle Sobel Erasmus

Nothing struck more fear into some women’s hearts than the oft-posted photo of a group of elderly male politicians caucusing in Washington to decide on the rights of our bodies. Aside from the politics of what they were trying to do, there were no women present at that meeting of the males. It is as we were invisible.

So, this time when the politicos again came a storming at our door, in the guise of the old and tired, “Mommy Wars”, after Hilary Rosen made an inappropriate comment about Ann Romney, “never working a day in her life,” instead of getting divisive we changed the conversation.

We changed the conversation to one of issues not “pass the tissues”. We demanded that government take note that women are 50% of the electoral vote and asked them to stop treating us as a special interest group; we insisted that policies be enacted to support women and mothers; to provide paid family leave, paid sick days, quality and affordable child care, fair wages and end the war on women.

And make no mistake, this is a war on women.

In October of this year, a new ruling to the credit card act Regulation Z went into effect via the Federal Reserve Board and the ruling prevents a woman from getting a credit card in her own name based on her partner’s salary, even if she had a good credit rating prior to making the decision to stay at home. The new rule states that “credit card applications generally cannot request a consumer’s ‘household income’ because that term is too vague to allow issuers to properly evaluate the consumer’s ability to pay. Instead, issuers must consider the consumer’s individual income or salary.” Translation: the partner making the income will need to co-sign if you want a credit card and aren’t working for an income. Shocking, right? This sets women back one hundred years. This also means that women and mothers in abusive relationships have one more layer of control to fight against (and one more way they can be made to feel unequal in the relationship).

Debra Levy, a past Board President of Mothers & More first wrote about the issue back in March 2011 in a guest post on Kristin Maschka’s blog. Kristin is a former Director of Mothers & More and the author of This Is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today which redesigns the concept of “ownership of income for the breadwinner of the family” to that of ‘shared income, based on contributions, paid or unpaid from the members of the family”.

The title of her post was: “Stay-at-Home Moms SHOULD be Mad at the Feds“.

Following Debra’s post, Tara Brettholtz, president of the Board of Directors of Mothers & More, and Gina Earles, the CEO of Mothers & More wrote a letter to Dr. Elizabeth Warren at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last year expressing their concerns about the ruling. The letter was also sent to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.

There was no response.

“Since over 80 percent of women in our nation have children by the time they’re 44 years old, this means the majority of women in our nation are disadvantaged by discrimination at some point in their lives,” As Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner on her blog on www.MomsRising.org.

These are alarming statistics. If we don’t see and shout our value to the world, we will remain invisible, and our work of caretaking, and supporting society and our community will remain invisible.

So who will help women and mothers? If you are looking toward established mainstream journalists, yes, somewhat, but look again. It is the bloggers who will bring forth a new generation of politically involved women (and we have to be involved, it’s a matter of our survival). These woman and mothers in the trenches know what is at stake. Bloggers are giving motherhood and the invisible work of motherhood a voice heard like never before in the history of our culture (since Gloria Steinem, my idol, created Ms. magazine).

Make no mistake. We are in a revolution. At stake: our value, our survival.

I will be working in the next few months and years on ways to give women a voice in government; a voice “around corporate America” policy, and a voice on the national stage. I will be providing tools and specific tips you can follow on how to create the change in your life that you want to see in the world.

In the meantime, there is much work to be done. Join Mothers & More,  which touts the value of a mothers work whether paid or unpaid, provides opportunities to connect with like-minded women, and offers chances to give back to the community and economically disadvantaged women through advocacy efforts like Power of the Purse. You can also check out www.MomsRising.org,  which highlights the issues and provides links to letters you can sign that go straight to policy makers;. Pay attention to bills on the table that will take away your rights and write to your local congressperson via writing to the United States House of Representatives.

Will you join me?  Rise up and be heard. Together women and mothers are powerful!