When IWF was newer and a conservative-leaning women's organization was still something of a novelty, we were constantly asked what we thought women should do with their lives.
We always responded that women should do what they want to do with their lives.
Unlike radicals in the feminist movement, we weren't into any kind of straight-jacket and felt that it was up to the individual woman to make their own choices about professional attainments and motherhood.
Well, and now comes Jennie Gaffigan, wife, writer and producer for her comedian husband Jim Gaffigan, profiled by Ashley Crouch at the newly-hot Acculturated blog.
She has made some interesting choices, including the choice to remain in the background, which is not going to win her points with more radical feminists:
After marriage, Jeannie relinquished her life in theater and became fearlessly dedicated to furthering her husband’s career. She was the writer behind many of his most famous hits: “She channeled her comedic sensibilities into Jim’s voice, helping cultivate his brand as a father, a die-hard food enthusiast, and an all-around genial guy. While Jeannie worked in the background, Jim became the king of the clean comics,” the Times noted. Although she allowed her own career to take a backseat (read: “gave it all up”) for her husband, Jeannie offers modern women a lesson about what it means to have it all.
“Behind every good man is a good woman,” the saying goes. While some might find this flattering, to many modern women, this is an irksome idea, a relic from a past where women lacked opportunities equal to men. Why should the woman be behind the man? Modern women out-distance men in many areas, graduating from college at higher rates, out-earning men in most jobs, and getting married at a record-high age of 27.
Most of my friends in New York City are single and ambitious. We secretly huddle in booths and confess that we are afraid of commitment. We thrive on being independent, pursuing our careers, traveling the world, writing a book or two; after all, we are encouraged to Lean In. Conversely, women who desire to stay at home and raise a family face shame for “taking up space” in elite Ivy League universities or getting an MBA or medical degree. In pursuit of equality, our culture seems to encourage women to pursue complete autonomy instead of acknowledging the value of men and women pooling their resources.
But–and here's what matters–Gaffigan is pleased with her choices. Despite being in the background, she is also influential:
Many people think that to have influence, they have to be the public face of something. But often, the face is merely the talking head for the committees, speechwriters, advisors, and hosts of people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to advance the message. As Jeannie Gaffigan said, “I’ve been able to have complete creative fulfillment in this relationship without being the front person.”
If we had a better understanding of the value of all types of roles—including the less-public ones—we would put less pressure on ourselves to conform to society’s expectations. Women would feel the freedom to maximize their unique potential in whatever unique situations in which they find themselves. As Stephen Covey counseled, we should operate within our own “circle of influence” to be the most effective.
This is precisely why Jeannie Gaffigan is a role model and a breath of fresh air for modern women. When asked why she gave up her career, she says, “I’ve also been able to have five kids. . . . [I]f I had said, ‘I need to go my own way,’ I would have taken the resources away and split the resources, instead of pooling the resources. . . . I care more about Jim’s career, his material, more than anyone else in the world except him. We’re on the same team, and we’re going for the same thing.” As Jeannie Gaffigan illustrates, influence can be found anywhere, even at home with the kids.
Crouch presents Ms. Gaffigan as a role model for modern women.
We agree though, being IWF, we believe that there are many, many role models for modern women.