According to the New York Times, “few people realize that getting pregnant can mean losing your job.”
Ah, that old chestnut. Where the word “people” automatically refers to “men.” Women are acutely aware that a pregnancy can send their lives sliding out of view. From the moment they first begin having PIV women understand that a pregnancy, wanted or not, will drive a tank through their holiday plans, their promotional opportunities, their ability to go to college, their chances of success at a job interview, their ability to save up for a deposit on their own apartment, in other words, through their lives… This is one reason, of course, why abortion is so important: women need to have the ability to mitigate the snowball effects of pregnancy on their lives.
But apparently women aren’t as aware as they should be that pregnancy can affect their job prospects or get them fired. The NYT reports on Patricia Leahy, who was fired for handing her employer a doctor’s note requesting that she refrain from climbing ladders:
” In 2008 a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled that her firing was fair because her employers were not obligated to accommodate her needs.”
The reasoning behind this ruling is that “pregnancy is not a disability,” a statement which is definitely true in the radical feminist sense that, given the right circumstances, women’s bodies are beautifully designed for pregnancy and birth. It is also true that midwives have fought long and hard against male-centred medical institutions which insist on treating pregnancy in humans as some sort of absurd pathology, and which have historically forced women into accepting unecessary and humiliating medical procedures. “Pregnancy is not a disability” was the banner used by women when they refused to be tipped up in the lithotomy position (feet up in stirrups), given an enema, pubes shaved then drugged. It was the motivation behind a birthing movement which focused on women’s needs, rather than on the male-centric view of “all that matters is a healthy baby” i.e a healthy “product” produced by the birth machines.
But anyway, it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that “pregnancy is not a disability” has now been turned on its head and is being used against women by a male-centric bureaucracy. In Brooklyn the term has somehow transformed in meaning to “pregnant women should work as hard as any woman, man, ox or carthorse”, because employers view pregnant women as slackers, a sort of drain on society that are not to be accomodated for in any way:
“As a result, thousands of pregnant women are pushed out of jobs that they are perfectly capable of performing — either put on unpaid leave or simply fired — when they request an accommodation to help maintain a healthy pregnancy. Many are single mothers or a family’s primary breadwinner. They are disproportionately low-income women, often in physically demanding jobs with little flexibility.”
It’s also not a surprise to learn that even if a woman does keep her job during her pregnancy, she could just as easily lose it after the birth; this is a general fear harboured at the back of many pregnant women’s minds. But the New York Times manages to include this information in the bracket of stuff “people” might not necessarily know;
“Women who are forced early into unpaid leave are set back with lost wages and, when they return to work, with missed advancement opportunities. Women who are let go don’t just lose out on critical income — they must fight extra hard to re-enter a job market that is especially brutal on the unemployed. Worse yet, they often confront a bias against hiring mothers with small children. “
Thankfully legislation has been introduced by State Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, a Democrat from Sullivan County, who propose that reasonable accommodations be made for pregnant women in the workplace. But the law has not yet been passed and it remains to be seen whether it will. If places of work don’t understand that pregnant women should be offered a seat when they’re tired, it serves to remind us that the women’s movement has not even reached first base. Employers would do well to remember that without pregnant women they’d be nothing more than a spot on their father’s pants.