Well, here I am posting again without reading the whole thread, but...
A few thoughts about the history of feminism in the U.S. (hoping my grad US history seminars will come back to me accurately
Since about the late 19th century, there have been 2 varieties of feminism. You might call them 'maternalist' feminism and 'equality' feminism. It's actually historically inaccurate to call maternalism 'feminism'--feminism is associated with equality, while maternalism or the 'woman movement' is associated with emphasizing women's *difference,* mostly associated with childrearing and nurturing -- and trying to create a society in which these are actively supported. Feminism is about creating equal access to education and careers, and NOT essentializing women as mothers and caregivers.
As you might expect, feminism has long been a middle- and upper-middle-class white woman's movement (since, like the men in their social class, these are the women who most realistically could get higher education and a career--they don't have to work in factories and until not that long ago would have had maids and housekeepers). Maternalism was much more inclusive--though still typically led by middle-class white women reformers.
(It's interesting to note that some of the European countries with the longest-running maternalist policies (like paid support to families or to mothers) were actually the most traditional. Germany, for instance, started actively supporting families with worker's insurance and other social programs in the late 19th century because they wanted women to stay home.
But in the U.S., social programs that support mothering became associated so strongly with single mothers and 'undeserving' welfare cases in the 1960s that we now think of such social programs as ANTI-family. Here, the policy has been for government to NOT support motherhood and children, because it is seen as DISCOURAGING father-led families. The social programs we do have, like Social Security, were originally and deliberately designed to keep women from becoming economically independent. We have totally detached public financial support for mothers and families here from the 'family values' rhetoric, which assumes that the best way to 'support' families is by NOT involving government but instead keeping everything private. Conservatives usually show no awareness that things like national health insurance, a much higher minimum wage, and year-long paid maternity leaves might actually work to KEEP mothers at home.)
Anyway---on feminism. The question "Is AP compatable with feminism?" is actually a really historic question that has been debated in one form or another for more than 100 years, if you think of AP as being 'maternalist.' And the way American feminism often goes, AP is actually NOT very compatible.
Another way to think about it. Since the 1970s or so, there has been 'difference' feminism and (again) 'equality' feminism. 'Difference' feminism celebrates what are usually considered 'female' attributes--intuition, caregiving, being close to nature. 'Equality' feminism, on the other hand, sees all these as being socially constructed cultural myths that actually support patriarchy. (How convenient that women are naturally closer to nature. That means, among other things, we don't actually have to give their science and math education much thought, or worry about the fact that there are almost no women engineers or computer scientists or, er, any occupation that actually structures the way the human world currently works.)
It all makes me a bit boggled, because I have been so strongly on BOTH sides. I have now started to reach the conclusion that we can be both, and also that this is not really the true issue. The REAL issue is getting men to expand THEIR social roles--and expand them a LOT. We need to insist that men care for their own babies and small children at least half the time, and we need to get women into decision-making roles that will alter the structure of work, law, education, manufacturing and retailing to allow the necessarily flexibility for EVERYONE to be able to care for small children.
The problem is that AP is almost entirely a women's movement. It needs to be a men's movement too.
But because AP is so intimately connected to the ONE thing that women get praise for in our society, I think we are loathe to share it sometimes.
It's why I think some SAHMs don't really WANT their husbands to care for the kids. What would the woman who feels her whole identity is centered on her AP motherhood say if her husband said, "Hey, *I* want to stay home with the kids half the time, OK? and you can get a job for when I am home"? It's like, "Dude, you get to run the world, and now you want this too???" But what would it be like if both moms and dads identified themselves as both 'mothers' and as active participants in the outside world? I think things would look pretty different.