Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Choices Women Make

Here is a classic example of holier-than-thou genderism that should lay to rest any lingering doubts you have about contemporary feminism’s aims for the American family. Linda Hirshman laments the fact that many college educated women still opt for a family life. Or, as Hirshman puts it, "opt out" of her plan for them. She claims that feminism has not been “radical enough” in changing America because it has not yet been able to have an impact on the choices women make regarding family life. Turns out, according to Hirshman, feminism has not yet “reconstructed” the American family.
Conservatives contend that the dropouts prove that feminism “failed” because it was too radical, because women didn’t want what feminism had to offer. In fact, if half or more of feminism’s heirs (85 percent of the women in my Times sample), are not working seriously, it’s because feminism wasn’t radical enough: It changed the workplace but it didn’t change men, and, more importantly, it didn’t fundamentally change how women related to men.
Well, isn’t it interesting that Hirshman would declare that her fellow sisters must change in order for her to realize her dream of a feminist utopia. This comes, of course, from her own negative view of family life and, I suspect, her own mixed (to say the least) feelings about bearing and raising children. All of you women out there are supposed to think like Linda Hirshman, or better yet, stop thinking and let her do your thinking for you!
Here’s the feminist moral analysis that choice [author’s note: “choice” in this context refers to a woman’s choice to raise a family, not choice to have an abortion] avoided: The family -- with its repetitious, socially invisible, physical tasks -- is a necessary part of life, but it allows fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than public spheres like the market or the government. This less-flourishing sphere is not the natural or moral responsibility only of women. Therefore, assigning it to women is unjust. Women assigning it to themselves is equally unjust. To paraphrase, as Mark Twain said, “A man who chooses not to read is just as ignorant as a man who cannot read.”
That’s funny. Pretty much every woman I have known has experienced a strong draw to having children, and then to being with them after they are born. They describe an instinctive need to make and maintain a nest for them. Plans to quickly return to work made before childbirth are often changed once mother sees baby. Hirshman claims that this is not natural and, I suppose, a “social construct.” But, plenty of evidence suggests otherwise.

Linda goes on to provide advice as to how to acquire and maintain a powerful job in the private or public sector. This includes going to a good college (more than 50% of college students are female now anyway - any lingering doubt that the unfriendly atmosphere created for boys in public schools is not by design?), advice on which high earning majors to choose, and advice on finding a job that provides “power” and good finances. She advises women to do all of this in order to increase their bargaining power within their domestic relationships. Isn’t it telling that genderists like Hirshman only see relationships in the context of money?

Next, she provides advice on the type of husband to find. The ideal choice, of course, is a liberal husband. According to her calculation, he would be enough of a wet noodle to allow the woman full control. (And, I thought “control” was a bad trait of the so-called patriarchy). No partnership there. Other options include a much younger man, who she says will not have the financial power in the household and will therefore need to subordinate himself to the wishes of his older wife. A much older man can also be a possibility, since he will have more time on his hands for child-raising and might even come with the financial capacity to hire domestic help. The worst option on Hirshman’s list would be a man slightly older or of the same age.

Linda even gives advice on the number of children a woman should have:
If these prescriptions sound less than family-friendly, here’s the last rule: Have a baby. Just don’t have two.
She believes a woman should have just one child, because that dreaded second child could draw her back home to "unfulfilling" work as a plain old mother.

Hirshman lambastes women who choose to devote themselves, even temporarily, to families, which “allows fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than public spheres like the market or the government.” According to Hirshman, women that choose to do so are hurting all women.
Worse, the behavior tarnishes every female with the knowledge that she is almost never going to be a ruler. Princeton President Shirley Tilghman described the elite colleges’ self-image perfectly when she told her freshmen last year that they would be the nation’s leaders, and she clearly did not have trophy wives in mind. Why should society spend resources educating women with only a 50-percent return rate on their stated goals?
Well, it is frustrating when the entire world does not cooperate with your efforts to reconstruct the American family into your vision of a feminist utopia, isn’t it Linda? Better to have government force compliance, no? Especially when women are not cooperating because their priorities are not, like Hirshman’s, based on hate and anger, but rather love and family.

And, remember ladies, your interest in your family is just a “regime” within the patriarchal construct of “family.” Your love of your children is not an internal response, but rather something imposed on you from the outside and by the patriarchy.
We care because what they do is bad for them, is certainly bad for society, and is widely imitated, even by people who never get their weddings in the Times. This last is called the “regime effect,” and it means that even if women don’t quit their jobs for their families, they think they should and feel guilty about not doing it. That regime effect created the mystique around The Feminine Mystique, too.
I find it doubtful that the women who stay at home to raise their own off-spring find it bad for them. But, missing in Linda’s coldhearted assessment and recommendations for extending genderism into the home is consideration of the children. Parents love their children and that love and desire for their children to succeed in the world is the primary reason they make sacrifices, yes even career sacrifices, in order to raise them.

Sorry Linda, but I’m afraid that you will not be able to convince many people to cease doing what you find so deplorable. They find it natural, while your deconstructionist aims are anything but.

Hirshman should be more widely read though. Not because she provides a prescription for a healthy lifestyle, but because she reveals the motivation behind so much of the destructive social policy that underlies laws such as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The real agenda in such laws is to "deconstruct" and then “reconstruct” the American family, by encouraging women to view their husbands and male partners as both alien and part of a conspiracy of female sublimation through violence, while attacking men with the blunt instrument of the justice system. Oppressive government, it seems, is always the answer.

With so many women behaving so, well, domestic, Hirshman must be cheering now that Congress has officially reauthorized VAWA - the genderists’ chief weapon for attacking the family “regime.” Some minor progress was made by groups representing the interests of fathers and men, who were successful in getting a few words expressing gender neutrality into a law expressly made for the graduates of Women Studies programs. But, the VAWA infrastructure is still an instrument of Hirshman’s war.

And, men and fathers will continue to feel the oppression of hateful people like Hirshman for the choices that women make.

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