Are Stay at Home Moms "Letting Down the Team?"
- Friday, February 24, 2006
Get that? Hirshman is telling America's moms that their work is fundamentally unimportant, uninteresting, and fundamentally unworthy of any "complicated" and "educated" person.
Women who stay at home with their children, turning their back on promising careers, "are letting down the team," she asserts. They are rejecting the very feminist ideal that the radical ideologues have adopted and they are undermining the cause of all women, in Hirshman's condescending view.
Make no mistake--Hirshman does not want women to have any real choice in the matter. "Choice feminism" is an abysmal failure, in her view, because it validates what should never be validated--motherhood.
Her answer? "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. Step one is simply to begin talking about flourishing. In so doing, feminism will be returning to its early, judgmental roots. This may anger some, but it should sound the alarm before the next generation winds up in the same situation. Next, feminists will have to start offering young women not choices and not utopian dreams but solutions they can enact on their own. Prying women out of their traditional roles is not going to be easy."
There is more. Hirshman argues that allowing motherhood as a choice is "bad for women individually." Hirshman is ready to tell young women that they have no inherent right to choose a status lower, in Hirshman's view, from what they should seek and demand in the public sphere.
"A good life for humans includes the classical standard of using one's capacities for speech and reason in a prudent way, the liberal requirement of having enough autonomy to direct one's own life, and the utilitarian test of doing more good than harm in the world. Measured against these time-tested standards, the expensively educated upper-class moms will be leading lesser lives."
This is stunning stuff. In Hirshman's view, a woman's choice to deploy her "capacities for speech and reason" as a mother is not prudent or acceptable. Beyond this, she seems to demonstrate an inherent dislike for children in general, and infants in particular. She accuses stay at home moms of "bearing most of the burden of the work always associated with the lowest caste." She identifies these tasks as "sweeping and cleaning bodily waste," and condemned mothers who were described in a press account as "vigilantly watching their babies for signs of excretion 24-7" as "untouchables" by choice.
The very fact that "Good Morning America" devoted two segments to Linda Hirshman and her attack on motherhood is a significant cultural development. Of course, the ABC program included voices that opposed Hirshman's arguments, but these arguments were considered newsworthy nonetheless.
Without doubt, Hirshman is speaking for a sizeable percentage of the cultural elite when she argues that "an educated, competent adult's place is in the office." In the view of so many, the office and the professional workplace are the arenas where real life is lived and important work is done. The thought that motherhood could be a higher calling than law, medicine, finance, or any number of other professions is completely beyond her comprehension. Indeed, she sees the very logic of motherhood as undermining the entire feminist project.
Thus, when she argues that stay at home moms are "letting down the team," she means to shame young women out of motherhood and back into the workplace. At the very least, she argues that mothers should have only one baby so that they can return to the workplace in short order.
The Christian response to this article must be a combination of refutation, amazement, and affirmation of motherhood. Hirshman's article and media appearances can serve to remind us all of the unspeakably high calling of motherhood and to the sacrifices that so many women make, day in and day out, to the raising of children, the nurture of the home, and the shaping of civilization itself.
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