Thursday, 15 January 2009

Maternity beef

I never intended to write some sort of Feminist Manifesto from the Pants, but much like this article last month, the row over French Minister of Justice Rachida Dati's decision to return to work five days after giving birth has provoked some thoughts on the subject.

French women have a right to four months of maternity leave, but this right has never been applied in practice by female ministers. A proposal to replace them with a deputy for a 16-week interim period has been well received, after many criticed Dati's actions. Dati has a full-time nanny who can assist with childcare night and day, but no help from the father whose name she has never disclosed.

Let me just say that I think that maternity leave is a right every women should (but unfortunately doesn't) have, but to make it manditory to replace her in light of "protecting working women against themselves" is downright sexist. I have no beef with the proposal for a replacement deputy as long as it is presented as an option that she is free to take or leave. I've never thought about this before, but in The Netherlands maternity leave is manditory. If you would want to return to work earlier then you simply wouldn't be allowed to do so until six weeks after giving birth.

Now I understand that these laws are in place to protect women. You can't be pressured to come back to work sooner when the leave is manditory. But what if you wanted to? I have seen some friends after they'd just had babies and don't think I ever would, but I also understand where Dati is coming from. She is the Minister of Justice for Pete's sake, she has important shit to handle, and I would greatly appreciate it if everyone would just shut up and let her do her job.

She is a grown woman who got pregnant and decided to keep the baby. Entirely her business. She wants to raise the kid allone and won't share the father's name. Entirely her business. She has the resources to pay for a full-time around the clock nanny who helps her out whilst she goes back to work. Again, entirely her business.

If she had taken a longer leave or asked to be temporarily replaced that would also be fine with me. Just leave her alone already!


Jeremy Feist said...

I think there is a double standard when it comes to maternity/paternity leave. Who's to say that a woman can't work after delivering a baby if she can find a suitable care taker? Or who's to say that a father wouldn't want to spend some time with his new child? Seriously, work, don't work, it doesn't matter as long as the baby and the parents are healthy and happy.

Pants said...


Mike said...

The maternity leave was just an excuse for an attack. It seems that French politics still revolves around Louis XIV's court intrigues, and Dati has been out of favour for some months.