6.17.2006

Linda Hirshman on how to lead your life

I want to comment briefly on latest article (Unleashing the Wrath of Stay-at-Home Moms, Washington Post, June 18, 2006), and it’s complaint about the ‘backlash’ she has received from stay-at-home moms, and particularly bloggers.

Two examples from her article are enough to illustrate why she has not earned much support from the majority of women:

“[I said]...women who quit their jobs to stay home with their children were making a mistake. Worse, 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.”

First of all, believing that you are in a position to judge the choices of others is at the very least patronizing, not to mention delusional. Her job versus children view of the world lines up nicely with patriarchal thought in its devaluation of child rearing. Child rearing is for dumb, uneducated human beings who can waste their useless time on it, which is why we don’t honor it, and why, if you are a worthy human being, you should be out in the world taking risks (that are socially recognized and approved, of course). Still wonder why Hirshman isn’t getting the respect she feels she deserves?

I have followed Hirshman’s articles in various forums, and the negative reaction she elicits comes not only from stay-at-home-mothers, but also from working mothers, fathers, and even her academic peers. The reaction is not, as she states, “because standing up for staying at work is the big taboo”. It is due to her arrogance at dictating what women should do, how they should do it, and how they should feel about their choices. It is because of her narrow-mindedness in believing that there is one definition for everything in life, and that conveniently she is the author of that universal dictionary. In fact, I’m not surprised that she considers that “a philosopher's job [is] to tell people how they should lead their lives”. (Philosophers take note: Hirshman has just ended centuries of debate concerning your role in the world.) Though she may deride and criticize anyone who disagrees with her opinion, it is her mandate to impose her view of life on you. How philosophical of her.

Finally, Hirshman’s feigned shock at the responses she has garnered is a poor excuse for an article. But hey, we all know that to sell books, even bad ones, you need to create media buzz. And like Ann Coulter, what better way than by using aggressive, reductive and insulting language? With statements such as this, is it any wonder people get upset?

“Much worse than the roofing-and-barfing and salvation crowds, though, were the relativists, who criticized me for trying to give feminism some context and boundaries. My favorite was the woman who dissed me for defining feminism and then said, "Supporting other women's choices is the very essence of feminism, at least as I define it."”

Really Hirshman, such writing “is not worthy of the full time and talents of intelligent and educated human beings.” And by the way, though you say little about the relativists' arguments (just enough to scoff at them), I think they may be on to something. Try listening. It's worth the risk.

2 Comments:

Blogger Mrs. Coulter said...

Nicely said! Thanks for adding another voice to the chorus, not that she cares what we think...

6:04 PM  
Blogger Jen-Jen said...

Yes, well, said. Not only that, but let's also think about the classist statement that childrearing is not for "intelligent" people -- for one, if they are so unimportant, why have children? As if people who are paid less are worth less. As if we should leave our children to be raised by the lowest people.

9:42 AM  

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