The main argument posed by Lisa Belkin in “The Opt-Out Revolution” revolves around the multi-faceted issue of women’s involvement and presence in the paid work sector. Belkin argues that the issue of the unequal representation of women in full-time, full-year careers is a culmination of the impact of the maternal wall, the nature of the “stalled revolution”, and personal life “decisions” made by women. Throughout her work, Belkin addresses the tangible reality of the maternal wall and it’s impact on women’s ability to climb the corporate ladder, as well as the obstacles it creates for women seeking to re-enter the workforce post-childbirth. Belkin elaborates on the “stalled ...view middle of the document...
In her work, Belkin draws upon Sarah Ambsay’s studies of how there is biological evidence that women’s brains respond differently than men’s while thinking or feeling. While this view may seem radically essentialist, Belkin quotes several women including Jeannie Tarkenton - “I think some of us enjoy [...] the stereotypical role of female/mother/caregiver” (Belkin 2003) … “I think we were born with those feelings” (Belkin 2003), Tarkenton asserts. There is evidence that these biological, neurological differences could lead to correlating differences in life choices, but to use these as a comprehensive explanation for the stalled revolution would be radically essentialist and ignore the roles of sociological and environmental factors.
The feminist response to the biological explanation for the stalled revolution negates the theory with the idea that “Biology is not destiny” (Belkin 2003). This idea is pivotal; turning the biological differences between men and women into an overarching belief system is dangerous because as previously stated, it does not account for sociological or cultural explanations of segregation of gender in the workplace. In a sociological or environmental context, there is an implied obligation for women to conform to socialized gender roles. The socialization of these gender roles in young women works to counteract the progress that the feminist movement has made in recent years. Consequently, the impression of Generation Y females is influenced by the notion that personal sacrifices must be made, as a woman, in order to excel in the workplace. Likely in part to socialization, and possibly in part to biology, women are implicitly given the role of mother/caregiver with the expectation that their role as mother trumps their role as a member of the workforce.
In a way, the stalled revolution is correlated to the maternal wall. While an increasing number of women are obtaining educations, which should theoretically lead to increased promotability and higher level job placement, the maternal wall negatively impacts a woman’s promotability and development of her professional career. The stall that a majority women encounter within their individual careers when having a child translates to a more significant, widespread stall affecting the entire workforce - hence, the “stalled revolution”.
Mainiero and Sullivan (2005) develop the “kaleidoscope model” as a means of explanation for the “opt-out” revolution:
“Like a kaleidoscope that produces changing patterns when the tube is rotated and it’s glass chips fall into new arrangements, women shift the patterns of their careers by rotating different aspects of their lives to arrange their roles and relationships in new ways. Women’s careers, like kaleidoscopes, are relational. Each action taken by a woman in her career is viewed as having profound and long lasting effects on others around her. Each career action, therefore, is evaluated in light of the impact such decisions may...