Tag Archives: childcare

Women Athletes: Have a Baby, Take Your Chances with Your Career


Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams, two new moms

Debbie says:

Employers have long resented the fact that women in the work force have this inconvenient habit of having babies, which seems to take time, energy, and focus away from important things like making money for your company. No surprise: sports, which are certainly big business, have the same problem.

In February, I blogged about Serena Williams’ narrow and self-propelled escape from life-threatening complications of giving birth, and the higher risk faced by all black women.

Now that Williams is back on the courts, Lindsay Gibbs at Think Progress is shedding light on how women athletes are treated after having babies. After the tennis powers-that-be announced that Williams would have to enter the tournament unseeded (i.e., as if she had no tennis victories to her credit), critics up through and including Ivanka Trump complained:

The outrage cycle was effective. Wimbledon seeded Williams No. 25 for the Championships — not high enough for the liking of many, but far better than nothing — and the U.S. Open announced that it would change its seeding protocol to account for pregnancies. Behold, the power of Serena! Mission accomplished, right?

Well, not so fast. Because when it comes to maternity rights for professional female athletes, seeding for top players isn’t even in the top half of the list of their biggest concerns. And the outsized focus on Williams’ seeding folderol could end up distracting attention from the biggest problems that pregnant athletes face.

Gibbs acknowledges that seeding is important, after she lays out three issues which have more negative effect on more women athletes:

1) maternity leave and/or salary for women in team sports (deeply insufficient) and for women in individual sports (nearly nonexistent).

Just last week, Stacey Lewis, a two-time major champion on the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association Tour (LPGA), made a landmark announcement: One of her main sponsors, KPMG, is going to pay Lewis the full value of her contract while she is off of the LPGA Tour on maternity leave. Believe it or not, this is the first time this has happened in LPGA Tour history.

2) child care provisions: “Many individual teams have very family-friendly atmospheres, but that is not the same as actually assisting with child care.” Apparently, to cite one major inequity, men’s tennis has better child care than women’s tennis, because more men historically have travelled with their families.

3) protected ranking, which should be handled differently for maternity leave than for injury.

Women like Stacey Lewis, like tennis player Victoria Azarenka, and like Serena Williams, who are willing to compete for what’s fair off the golf course or tennis court as well as on it, have a long challenge ahead of them. Fortunately, the same competitive drive that makes for great athletes can make for great world-changers. Watch these women, and women like them, make sports a better place for new mothers.


Some November Links

Debbie says:

I have a really rich collection of links from the end of October:

If you were living under a rock somewhere, you might have missed the (shocking! horrible!) news that Renée Zellweger had work done on her face.


Jessica Goldstein at Think Progress sums up a sensible feminist reaction, with links to various news stories.

If we’re going to perpetuate an entertainment industry that fetishes female youth and rejects everything else, we don’t get to trash talk women who choose to alter their looks through whatever means are at their disposal. We’re the ones who created a social and professional environment that is inhospitable to any other path.

We built that world, and now we also have to live in it.

You can find a related feminist analysis from Sarah Kliff at Vox.


In a stunning medical breakthrough, “after 19 months of treatment in which cells from his brain were transplanted into his spinal column,” Darek Fidyka (who had sustained severe spinal cord injuries) “has recovered some voluntary movement and some sensation in his legs. He’s continuing to improve more than predicted, and he’s now able to drive and live more independently.”

Undeniably exciting, and many folks who are immobile after spinal cord injuries are undoubtedly trying right now to figure out how to get into the trials. At the same time, it raises the question of the value of walking, as we discussed here in July.


I want to see Skin Deep, Carleton College’s new body-positive nude magazine. What a great idea! Sabrina Kenelly at TC Daily Planet has the scoop:

The student publication has three requirements for submission. First, they must have no clothing in the picture. Second, the picture must be submitted with the consent of everyone photographed. And third, the photographer cannot be oppressive; in order to combat and draw both racial and gender lines that are seen as problematic. …

Co-editor-in-chief Kyle Schiller said he hopes that the publication will raise awareness to issues such as fat and slut shaming. “I’ve spent too much time worrying about the food I eat and the clothes I wear,” he said. “I want to wear what feels good and I want to eat what I love.”

Schiller said he wants the publication to shock people, but in a way that’s body and sex positive. Body image issues and sexuality issues are taken for granted, he said, and things like fat-shaming and slut-shaming promote “a very real system of abuse.”

Apparently, Beloit students are also publishing a sex-positive erotic magazine. Is this a trend?


And what happens to nude models 40-60 years later? Noreen Malone and Nadav Kander did an in-depth set of current photographs, with interviews and a related article for New York Magazine with former Playboy centerfold models, from 1954 through 1979.


Here is Laura Aldridge, Miss February 1976, now 59 years old.

I was surprised by the commonalities they found among the women:

All the women in these pages—who went on to become journalists, entre­­­preneurs, real-estate agents, and sexagenarian nude models; who married, divorced, and, in one case, gave birth to a Victoria’s Secret supermodel — say the Playmate title imbued them with a sense of confidence that seems more of a precursor to the sexual freedom of third-wave feminists than related to the objectification and degradation that their contemporaries saw in the magazine. “I think everyone who walked in that door to be a bunny girl or Playmate knew what they had,” says Cole Lownes. “They may not want to admit it, but I think they knew [their power].”

Presumably, not all Playmates would agree, but it’s still interesting that ten of them share this feeling so strongly.


The ever-insightful Annalee Newitz rants about the question of whether or not insurance coverage for frozen ovum is a feminist victory.

Why are we freezing women’s eggs, but not investing in the technologies that would take us beyond this primitive and unsatisfying solution to the underlying problem? And by “underlying problem,” I mean the way we still demand that women choose between work and children….

I think women should be demanding something more than frozen eggs and artificial wombs. We should be demanding that our workplaces provide childcare during working hours. I’m not talking about Google’s super-elite, super-expensive on-site preschool bullshit. I’m talking about CHILD CARE FOR EVERY WOMAN AT EVERY COMPANY. Sorry to go caps lock on you, but this solution to the work/child problem is so simple and so effective that I’d like to see it emblazoned across the sky.

If you look at it from this perspective, Apple and Facebook’s egg-freezing policy starts to sound a lot like a guy who just wants to get laid at a party. It’s weirdly focused on the fertilization part, and not the part that matters.


Lesley at xojane offers a good, clear article on fat jokes, sparked by Andy Richter’s quick comeback to  Chelsea Handler, when she asked him (but not her thin guest) if he floats a lot in the ocean, and he said,

“Why, do you sink?” Waits a beat. “Might be that cast-iron heart.”

Most of my links are found through Feministing, Feministe, io9, Shakesville, and Sociological Images. For this group, Lynn Kendall found both the Playmates feature and the fat jokes piece, and Kerry Ellis found the Vox take on Renée Zellweger.