Current Events,  Family

Who owns feminism?

There has been a bunch of talk lately about Linda Hirshman’s articles about feminism and elite women. I wasn’t going to write about this just because everyone else is doing it but it just irks me too much to stay quiet about.

I am the very embodiment of Hirshman’s elite woman. (I’m going to take a moment to bask in that. I’ve never considered myself elite before.) I went to college not for a liberal arts degree but for a science degree. Then I went to a professional school with every plan to take my work “seriously.” Had you told me at that time that I would be living the lifestyle I am now I would have laughed in your face. In fact I had a friend in school who listed her career goals as getting married and having kids and I laughed at her.

So what am I doing now? Voluntarily working part time (and I don’t have kids). Why am I doing this? Because my mental health is more important to me than money and I married a person who makes enough money so that I have the option of working part time. This makes me a traitor to feminism.

According to the article feminism is not about choice as we have been told. It is about doing what these people think is best for us. It is exchanging the strictures that they said patriarchy places on women for the strictures that they will place on us. They don’t seem to see the irony of this.

I find this article both hysterical and sad. The author interviewed several women whose marriages were announced in the NY Times. She was distressed to find that most weren’t working full time a few years after marriage. One she says didn’t even want to talk to her because she was making pies with her kids. Let’s see. What sounds like more fun? Being belittled for your lifestyle choices by some stranger on the phone or making pies with your kids? I don’t have kids so I don’t know this firsthand but I’m going to guess making pies.

So what does she think is the problem?

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.

Really? Nothing like announcing your bias right up front. If you believe that family is bad then obviously you are going to think that it is unfulfulling. Personally I’d rather be seen as being more successful in my home life in than my career. Isn’t that pretty much the standard definition of a “good person?”

Women who want to have sex and children with men as well as good work in interesting jobs where they may occasionally wield real social power need guidance, and they need it early.

That’s right. Brainwash them and for god’s sake start it early! Homeschooling is sounding better and better.

What’s something they should be taught?

Marry young or marry much older. Younger men are potential high-status companions. Much older men are sufficiently established so that they don’t have to work so hard, and they often have enough money to provide unlimited household help.

Right. Be a good feminist and hire lower class women than you to do all the work that it would be too demeaning for you to do yourself. Think I’m reading too much into that?

…the expensively educated upper-class moms will be leading lesser lives. At feminism’s dawning, two theorists compared gender ideology to a caste system. To borrow their insight, these daughters of the upper classes will be bearing most of the burden of the work always associated with the lowest caste: sweeping and cleaning bodily waste. ….They have voluntarily become untouchables.

We all know that there are no women in the untouchable class, right? At least none that we need to consider in a discussion of feminism. This all leads back to Nio’s discussions of class in feminism.

The final part of the articles says that it is not enough that these women and their families seen happy. They aren’t doing their part for society. Feminism means having to be miserable for the greater good? Ooooh, sign me up!

I think that this woman is so entrenched in the power structure that she claims to not like because it is male dominated that she can’t see that there is another way. I want a life that is not judged on how much money I make or what my job title is. If that makes me a traitor to my sex so be it but I don’t think it does.

For another good perspective on this see What if I’m not wasting my JD?


  • Marjorie

    Thanks for the link! One thing that really got me about Linda was her assumption that the woman at home was cleaning. Where did she get that idea? My breadwinning DH is the one who vacuums, not me. My house is a mess.

    I also heard the unspoken implication she made about class– ‘elite’ women should be tasking ‘less elite’ women with the chores they are too good to do, the chores Linda derides. She’s not a feminist, she’s a classist.

  • Pewari

    I’ve written on this myself before – being a university-educated stay-at-home mum I’m obviously a first-class traitor to feminism. I do think “have it all” ends up being having nothing – both me AND my husband have downsized our lives and expectations and neither of us are making the most of our education – but hey, we’re enjoying our lives and we only get one shot at that, right?

    But then, silly me, I thought feminism was supposed to be about *choice*…

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