Yesterday, Judith Warner, best-selling author and denizen of Washington, D.C.’s most expensive neighorhood, complained in the New York Times (registration required) that, as far as her own life was concerned, she felt just as oppressed as Betty Friedan did when she wrote “The Feminine Mystique” back in 1963:
“[F]om the vantage point of a young woman coming of age in the mid-1980’s, the world that Betty Friedan depicted – a world in which a married woman couldn’t get a job without her husband’s permission, couldn’t open a checking account and couldn’t get credit in her own name – seemed like ancient history.
“And yet, five years ago, as I settled, for the first time, into a life where I worked minimal hours, spent maximal time with my children and was almost entirely dependent on my husband’s salary and health benefits, ancient history became a current affair. I lived surrounded by women whose lives were much like mine, and the sentences that swirled around me on the playground stirred memories of thoughts and phrases I’d read long before.”
Uh-huh. (See my “Judith Warner, America’s Best-Compensated Whining Housewife,” Feb. 8.) Warner also wrote:
“The fact is, no matter how time- or sleep-deprived they are, working women today do upwards of 70 percent of household chores for their families. The gender caste system is still alive and well in most of our households. After all, no one really wants to do the scrubbing and folding and chauffeuring and mopping and shopping and dry-cleaner runs. (I’m leaving child-minding out of this; in a happily balanced life, it doesn’t feel like a chore.) Once the money for outsourcing runs dry, it’s the lower-status member of the household who does these things. It is the lower-status member of the household who is called a ‘nag’ when she repeatedly tries to get other members of the household to share in doing them.”
Naturally, some InkWell-reading “low-status” members of their own households had a few thoughts of their own on Warner’s boo-hoo about how tough it is to live in an upper-crust urban enclave with the mortgage payments coming out of your husband’s mega-salary. Here’s K.C.:
“Re ‘the world that Betty Friedan depicted – a world in which a married woman couldn’t get a job without her husband’s permission’: What state actually had this law on the books? My mother who’s 78 and her sister who’s 88, have lived all of their lives in Montana and South Dakota, and both of them think this is horse-whooey. They both always worked, for money, as well as on the family ranch. And did both my grandmothers. They’re my role models, not some bored Long Island housewife.”
Yes! Why is it that the richest and most successful women are the ones who complain the loudest about how miserable their lives are? And I never heard of laws forbidding women to hold down jobs without their husbands’ say-so.
And here’s D.H.:
“Oh, for cryin’ out loud. Marriage is teamwork, not competition. If you are looking at your marriage in terms of who has more ‘status,’ then you are not a team. And as for emptying the dishwasher, that’s why you have children.”
Yes, again! And I don’t understand the current taboo against putting your kids to work around the house. It’s sure what my mom did. Children are perfectly capable of loading the dishwasher, folding the laundry (and doing it, for heaven’s sake! How hard is filling up a washing machine!), setting the table, emptying the trash, making their beds, helping with the vacuuming, and generally learning that life is not a bed of roses and that it takes work to maintain the kind of clean, properly functioning household in which everyone likes to live. If you’ve got able-bodied children and you’re still doing 70 percent of the household chores, there’s something wrong wth you.
Finally, H.S. e-mails to comment on our posts on the Danish anti-terrorism cartoons, which have led to mass-burnings of the Danish flag by, um, Islamic terrorist sympathizers around the world (see The Other Charlotte’s most recent post on the subject, Feb.8):
“In Beirut and Burma, I don’t think the wives have been home sewing flags like Betsy Ross. Who supplied the flags of Denmark, $20 per flag, to thousands of illiterate males around the world? Who gave the signal to let the arson games begin? It doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to note the tremendous planning, packaging, delivering, notification, and staging involved in what we have just seen. I hope that Inkwell and others will attempt to identify and expose –and accuse– the masterminds. Perhaps the governments of Iran and Syria?”
Hmm, does make you wonder how spontaneous those riots really are.