Letter to the Barnard Bulletin, Zena Shapiro, December 14, 1971

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Z64/A 5%/24P?KD 275 Central Pafiik West New York, N. Y. 10024

December 14, 1971

To the Barnard Bulletin:

Even before the onslaught of wumen's liberation I had been perplexed again and again by endless testimonials to partu time motherhood and the enriching effects of women's careers on the whole family's life; but it was reasonable to dismiee this as the personal bias of those who chose to be articulate in these pages. There was, on the other hand, a plaintive note in response to a questionnaire quoted in a recent issue expfessing the wish that Barnard would be more accepting o f woman's role as wife and mother and admit that education can be an and in itself. Now t«at the prevailing modes of our culture are conspiring to downgrade motherhood I begin to feel fincreasingly involved in the question of Bnrnnrd's role in

educating women.

Though, for a variety of reasons, I have never been active

in the college community, I surely value my years at Barnard as an opportunity for growth, development, and exploring identity. I am concerned that this atmosphoro be preserved and expanded

in directions which will truly meet the needs of new generations of students ratheri than content itself with responding to

demands for an immediate sort of relevance.

In this context I would like to offer some excerpts from an d§hkfl@ by William V. Shannon which appeared in the New York Times of July 14 and in which, to my mind, Mr. Shannon points

up some striking aspects of the problem: "Having no clear idea

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whqt values they wanted to transmit or what goals they wanted

their ciildren to reach, intelligent woman found motherhood

just a :13 boring set of repetitive tasks. They began to flee from their children and Join the men in the "real" outside world...

To diminish the importance of motherhood and to deny its unique responsibilities is only to generate more guilt and confusion. Rather than exile the mother from the home, the effort should

be to draw the father into it and into a more active family role."

In our complex and greatly fragmented society how many young puoéle do, in fact, have the opportunity to see a child born, suckled

and "hand-reared” by its mother? In an age when we are so concerned with ecology, with the uninterrupted natural cycle

of our environment, should we not invest some effort in helping young women to deal with, explore and experience the functions

granted by nature rather than deny and avoid them?

There are many ironic dimensions to the liberated woman's flight from home and the close relationships embodied there, especially striking in an era when our culture is going to such devious ends to find intimacy, when encounter methods and all manner

of social manipulation dominate the scene. Young women, aft the flhighest levels of our culture, have been pushed, st one time rather subtly, now, more and more openly, to scorn the simple human fulfillment involved in mothering. This, allegedly, in the name of the greater social good. D. W. Winnicctt, the eminent British pediatrician and child psychiatrist, in his introduction to "The Child, The Family and the Outside World",

remarks: "I am drying to draw attention to the immense

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3. contribution to the individual and society which the ordinary good mother with her husband in support makes at the beginning,

and which she does through simply being devoted to her infant.”

It is time for women's colleges, which have been, traditionally, at

the forefront of the movement toward careers For women, projecting

this as a value in itself, to initate another trend: one which emphasizes the dynamics of human relationships (the mother~child relationship

being the most primary of these) and encourages young women to develop their natural capacity for mothering, accepting the fulfillment of

this aspect of identity as e basic venue for mother, family and

the world beyond. it is time for men as fiwell as women to challenge

the values of the "real" world, an authority which demands measurable performance within a highly structured framework as compensation for

the investment of time and money represented by an academic degree.

Hopefully, it is the element of perbéhal commitment which motivates the educational process and directs it toward a search for values, giving meaning to the experience itself. In this sense the concept of educatiofihe an end—in-itself can be profoundly relefant to issues of life style and quality of life, particularly consistent with the ee1f~fulfilling character of motherhood. I would like to see Barnard deepen its View of

education for w.men in these directions.