Are Stay at Home Moms "Letting Down the Team?"
- Friday, February 24, 2006
Beyond Hirshman's data, research indicates that far more women than men drop out of the workforce to take care of their children. In addition to this, recent research indicates that women with graduate or professional degrees are only slightly more likely to remain in the workforce after having children than women with only one year of college. "When their children are infants (under a year), 54 percent of females with graduate or professional degrees are not working full time (18 percent are working part time and 36 percent are not working at all). Even among those who have children who are not infants, 41 percent are not working full time (18 percent are working part time and 23 percent are not working at all)."
From Hirshman's perspective, it only gets worse. "This isn't only about daycare," she admits. "Half my Times brides quit before the first baby came. In interviews, at least half of them expressed a hope never to work again. None had realistic plans to work. More importantly, when they quit, they were already alienated from their work or at least not committed to a life of work."
The very fact that these women turned their back on promising careers seems virtually inconceivable to Linda Hirshman. When a female MBA expressed her lack of connection with the men at her previous workplace who got so excited about making deals, Hirshman observes all this with incredulity.
In Hirshman's view, all this simply proves that the feminist revolution was not revolutionary enough. In other words, the revolution that opened the workplace to women did nothing, in her view, to fundamentally reshape marriage and the family power structure. "Why did this happen? The answer I discovered--an answer neither feminist leaders nor women themselves want to face--is that while the public world has changed, albeit imperfectly, to accommodate women among the elite, private lives have hardly budged. The real glass ceiling is at home."
Thus, the problem of "the unreconstructed family" is the concern of Hirshman and many of her fellow feminists. Hirshman, retired as a distinguished visiting professor at Brandeis University, had previously taught academic courses on subjects such as "sexual bargaining." Infused with the ideology of radical feminism, she now argues that the entire pattern of gender relations must be revolutionized.
"Great as liberal feminism was, once it retreated to choice the movement had no language to use on the gendered ideology of the family. Feminists could not say, 'Housekeeping and child-rearing in the nuclear family is not interesting and not socially validated. Justice requires that it not be assigned to women on the basis of their gender and at the sacrifice of their access to money, power, and honor."
Clearly, what she argues that liberal feminism was unable to propose, she now intends to take up as her central argument. She clearly believes that housekeeping and child-rearing are not interesting and should not be socially validated.
In her appearance on "Good Morning America," Hirshman attacked the notion that women can feel fulfilled and validated in the calling of motherhood. As the ABC report indicates, "Hirshman says working is also a matter of feeling fulfilled. She doesn't buy into the arguments of many homemakers who say taking care of the family is the most fulfilling thing they could imagine." Hirshman's response is a demonstration of breathtaking arrogance. "I would like to see a description of their daily lives that substantiates that position," she said. "One of the things I've done working on my book is to read a lot of the diaries online, and their description of their lives does not sound particularly interesting or fulfilling for a complicated person, for a complicated, educated person."
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