Roughly 15 New York City childcare centers are scheduled to close as of July 10th. On April 21st, thousands of parents and advocates marched across the Brooklyn Bridge in protest.
NYC officials claim that the areas where the closings will take place are no longer in need of as many services for low-income families. However, Jerry Chiappetta, Executive Director of the Court St. Day Care Center in Cobble Hill, says that he was told his center would be closing because of high operational costs, including rent and maintenance.
The official’s argument ignores the fact that many who cannot afford to live in these areas are in fact the ones working in the areas, and many utilize childcare in the area where they work, rather than where they live. Chiappetta says that although the make-up of the neighborhood has changed, those his center serves has not.
Parents and directors are frustrated and widely believe that condos will be built in place of the current centers. Ten of the fifteen centers scheduled to close are in “up and coming” areas such a Cobble Hill and Prospect Heights.
In addition to the estimated 2,000 children who will be without childcare, hundreds of employees will lose their jobs. Between the childcare workers who will lose their jobs and the mothers forced to find new daycare arrangements, thousands of women are in a losing position with the proposed cuts.
So where is the outrage?
The women’s liberation movement of the 70s was about much more than sexual liberation and equal pay. “Free 24-hour childcare on demand” was an early slogan of the feminist movement and many feminists envisioned a country full of childcare collectives and other free services for parents. It was much more than idealism, the movement for public childcare got so far that a comprehensive childcare bill was passed by Congress in 1973, only to be vetoed by President Nixon.
So why didn’t the fight continue? In the bold and poignant book The Mommy Myth, Susan J. Douglas and Meredith W. Michaels site the feminist backlash of the 1980s, a backlash that demonized working mothers. The 80s were a time of severe backlash against women and against feminism, and we are still suffering the consequences.
White men including Pat Buchanan, George Bush Sr., Stom Thurmond, Phyllis Schlafly (she receives honorary white-male status in this case) and the other powers that be were so successful in their battle against the bill and in their feminist witch hunt that their opinions soon entrenched themselves in the psyches of Americans. If you recall, the 90s were filled with constant stories about the dangers of daycare centers, and stories about the benefits of stay-at-home moms for children. It did not take long for the struggle for public daycare to be forgotten. (For more about the backlash against mothers, I highly recommend The Mommy Myth.)
And so here we find ourselves, in 2010, with hard working moms deciding between food and clothing for their families and daycare costs, between their dreams and their bills. Where is the support for families? Where is the concern for the well-being of these 2,000 children?
If childcare access is not a pressing issue for feminists, I don’t know what is.
Do you think the expansion of childcare services is an issue feminists should begin to champion more?
Janice is a Virtual Assistant, aspiring doula, and long-time feminist activist with a passion for women's history, nonfiction, nature, and wearing flowers in her hair. She is the Founder of The Feminist's Guide, a women's history travel website, which can be found at www.thefeministguide.com.