Linda Hirshman thinks women should make their careers — not children — their first priority. Mothers should work, whether they want to or not, and limit themselves to one child. Her new book is called Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of The World. Gosh, I love manifestos. Don’t you?
Slate’s Meghan O’Rourke frames Hirshman’s argument in less patronizing terms: The right choice for one woman may have repercussions that limit the choices of other women.
Unlike others, she is willing to come out and say, in no uncertain terms, that the luxury of making our own decisions as if they had no larger implications isn’t ethical at this point in time. If that makes feminism unpopular, so be it; but shying away from persistent inequality by invoking the language of “choice,” she observes, is hardly feminism. If you buy her argument, then even if you find it hard to leave your baby at home, and even if you find the workplace sometimes less-than-fulfilling, it’s important—to society as a whole—that you work. This sounds extreme, but of course it’s the lesson every man is taught when he’s a boy: Your responsibility to society — the way to become an adult — is to work.
Carrie Lukas on Independent Women’s Forum is a choice feminist who’s unimpressed with Hirshman’s arguments. But she too credits Hirshman with honesty.
. . . Hirshman breaks with much of the modern feminist movement by explicitly condemning women who assume the role of traditional housewife. Most mainstream feminists have at least sought publicly, though likely with some private distaste, to project a moderate face for their movement by advocating respect for women’s choices, whether that means employment inside or outside the home. Such “choice feminism,” in Hirshman’s account, has undermined women’s true advancement; she instead wants women to work together to change that core unit of patriarchy, the family.
There’s lots of back and forth between Institute for American Values bloggers and Hirshman at Family Values Blog.
In Commentary, Eric Cohen writes about the growing number of European, Japanese and American women deciding to have one child or none at all.