Poor Linda R. Hirshman! She wrote an article for the American Prospect dissing stay-at-home moms–and moms who work part-time, moms who work from home, moms who volunteer their time instead of sell it, and moms who choose low-stress, lower-paying jobs in the nonprofit sector so that they can spend more time with their children. Indeed, every kind of mom except the mom who chains herself to the 60-hour-a-week, stellar-salary corporate ladder was the object of Hirshman’s withering scorn in this article. Her most pointed contempt was directed at female graduates of Harvard and Yale who…dare to have babies after graduation and drop out of the workforce to take care of them! The cows!
Gee, I wonder why.
As Hirshman herself described her article:
“I said that the tasks of housekeeping and child rearing were not worthy of the full time and talents of intelligent and educated human beings. They do not require a great intellect, they are not honored and they do not involve risks and the rewards that risk brings.”
Happy Mothers’ Day to you, too, Linda!
Hirshman is down on what she calls “choice” feminism. That’s the kind of feminism that says a well-educated woman is entitled to choose what kind of life to lead and permits her a wide variety of lifestyles with which to implement that choice. She can get married or stay single. She can choose to climb the corporate ladder in a tireless quest for a bigger paycheck–or she can decide it’s not worth it, and that making a nice home for one’s breadwinner spouse and spending time with one’s children may not “require a great intellect” but yield genuine fulfillment and contentment.
Instead of “choice” feminism, Hirshman believes in no-choice feminism. Every woman should marshal herself into a career, and then stay there for life. She should allow herself exactly one child, no more, so the little ones’ insatiable demands won’t distract her from that briefcase full of Very Important Papers. Taking care of the house? Hey, just let it get dirty enough, and your husband will pitch in and do that elusive 50 percent of housework that feminists have been trying to badger men to do since the dawn of feminism.
Naturally, readers weren’t wild about these propositions. especially female readers, especially female readers who thought that the compromises they’d worked out between career and family suited them fine. They recoiled. They wrote refutations. They said mean, cruel things about her on the Internet. One of them even used the F-word!
How dare they? The cows! Didn’t they know that she, the great Linda R. Hirshman, is a philosopher, a former professor at Brandeis, while they were merely, in Hirshman’s own inimitable words in the Washington Post….”the mommy bloggers.”
Yes, “the mommy bloggers, out there in cyberspace documenting their lives for one another. (My favorite example is the benighted soul, pregnant and renovating, reporting daily on her roofing and her barfing….”)
Those stay-at-home moms are thick as posts, aren’t they?
And believe it or not, many of these “mommy bloggers,” these barefoot dimwits touting babies and home improvement, profess–horrors!–religious beliefs. I was fascinated by this sentence in Hirshman’s Post article:
“Time and again, when I could identify the sources of the most rabid criticism and Google them, male and female, they had fundamentalist religious stuff on their Web sites or in the involuntary biographies that Google makes possible.”
Ah, the ultimate argument ad verecundiam: Your opponent goes to church on Sunday.
“Even institutions that don’t present themselves as coming from the world of revealed religion turn out to include an impressive percentage of religion scholars, students of divinity and advisers to the Vatican. Brad Wilcox, the most visible ‘family’ scholar on the Family Scholars Blog of the Institute for American Values , is revered in the world of religious culture for his writings about how evangelical Protestant husbands make their wives happier than other guys, even though they won’t wash a dish. He also wrote a long article about how the Catholic Church is right to forbid the use of birth control.”
Actually, W. Bradford Wilcox is, like Hirshman herself, an academic at a respected university, the University of Virginia, where he teaches sociology. The “writings” to which Hirshman is referring consist of his article in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, Social Forces, co-authored with another U.Va. professor, Stephen L. Nock. The article analyzed data from a massive study of American families conducted by the University of Wisconsin during the 1990s. And yes, the Wilcox-Nock analysis found that women in traditional marriages–where the husband is the main breadwinner, where the wife has primary responsibiity for the household, where the couple attend worship services together regularly–actually report being happier than wives in the each-tub-on-its-own-bottom egalitarian relationships that feminists tout.
Now, here comes the personal part. I myself belong to “the roofing-and-barfing and salvation crowds,” as Hirshman calls us. I wrote an op-ed piece this past March for the Los Angeles Times not only praising Wilcox’s study but–uh-oh–daring to poke gentle fun at Hirshman. I said this:
“In an article in the American Prospect, scholar Linda R. Hirshman advised new brides to employ behavior-modification techniques on their husbands: ‘If women never start playing the household-manager role, the house will be dirty, but the realities of the physical world will trump the pull of gender ideology. Either the other adult in the family will take a hand or the children will grow up with robust immune systems.'”
Furthermore, here is what the Times bio said about me:
“Charlotte Allen, author of “The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus,” co-edits the InkWell blog for the Independent Women’s Forum.”
Google this! By the way, I am very proud of that book, which was recently praised by both Anne Rice in her “Christ the Lord” and Harold Bloom in his “Yahweh and Jesus.”
But I’ll let Cathy Young, certified non-religious libertarian writing for Reason, have the last word:
“And, by the way, to deride parenting as a demeaning task unworthy of an intelligent adult is not a good way to encourage men to become more