Maternity leave (not for me, but still) demonstrates just how sexist capitalism is. This becomes very clear in publishing where schedules are reinforced by incentives (instead of paying properly) for meeting agreed-upon deadlines. If an author gets pregnant while writing a book—not an unusual situation—it can throw shockwaves all through a book’s schedule from production all the way back up to editorial. Why? Because incentives are on the line. It’s possible to counter with what if an author falls sick? Or dies? Yes, these happen too, but pregnancy isn’t an illness and isn’t infrequently a biologically constrained event—there is an age at which it ceases to become an issue. So incentives, which are based on schedules drawn up before an author conceives, put the capitalist machine into a tizzy.
If employers didn’t rely on incentives, but paid better wages, this could make the issue less acute. The entire system is devised from a male perspective. Sickness and death do occur from time to time, but the invariability of a schedule (which ironically takes about nine months) is based on a view that doesn’t account for the somewhat likely event of a pregnancy. I often think about this. The corporate structure was made by men, for men. We now give lip-service to equality while refusing to change the masculinist structure that underlies it. By doing so the valuable contributions and improvements that women might make are kept under the standard business model. No wonder it feels like we’re stuck in a rut.
Societal change is generally slow, and that conservative tendency preserves our property and our means of making a living. If we gave women more prominence in leadership I would hope that this would start to change. The male-oriented viewpoints of the capitalist entrepreneur, the stolid religious leader, and the halls of government, and even education, are reluctant to let people think differently. We want to move forward, but we’re afraid of losing what we have. This is why the conversation needs to widen. Maternity leave reminds us that some things are more important than work. Care for a helpless human being is something nearly all people would support. It’s when they grow up that society feels it can safely ignore their needs. We need a mother’s wisdom here. Every time a pregnancy sets publication schedules in a frenzy I ask myself why we have to rely on incentives beyond just being the most human that we can be.