Monday, June 19, 2006

The Wrath of Stay-at-Home Moms

Linda Hirshman, attorney and feminist extraordinaire, responded in Sunday's Washington Post to the internet firestorm ignited by her November '05 American Prospect article on the failure of feminism.

As a self-appointed phiolospher for the modern woman, Ms. Hirshman believes it is her role to tell people how to live their lives.

[I]'m a philosopher, and it's a philosopher's job to tell people how they should lead their lives. We've been doing so since Socrates. And yet, even though I knew the Greeks made Socrates drink poison, the reaction to my judgment took me by surprise. It turns out that was what people really hated: the judgment. That working women have the better life.
It wasn't just in the American Prospect that she told women to keep the faith of feminism. In a Good Morning America interview Ms. Hirishman told us in no uncertain terms that stay-at-home mothers live uncomplicated and utterly unfulfilling lives.

In times past, such pontificating would have been praised and gone largely unchallenged. But the times they are a changin'. Enter an old voice in a new media- the mommy blogger. Needless to say, Ms. Socrates wasn't thrilled with our arrival.

The mommyblogs vilified me as a single, childless, bitter loser; the feminists claimed women weren't quitting; and a chorus of other voices didn't care what I said -- criticizing women just wasn't allowed. A handful of political thinkers did concede that I had raised the biggest issue left for feminism -- justice in the family -- but it was definitely a minority report.

I doubt that an article in an elite policy magazine would have become one of the most talked about and e-mailed pieces of social commentary in recent years without the Internet. Before, a controversial article would have generated letters to the editor, and maybe some follow-up in other traditional media. The Internet enables people who would never have passed that narrow gate to add their voices, it makes the voices expand exponentially -- and there's never a down moment.

But it wasn't just any voice that passed through the narrow gate that flustered our feminist friend. It was the fundamentalist voices that got to her the most.

I learned something people really need to know. The aggressive domesticity is not coming only from a bunch of women who can't manage all the demands on their time. Time and again, when I could identify the sources of the most rabid criticism and Google them, male and female, they had fundamentalist religious stuff on their Web sites or in the involuntary biographies that Google makes possible. A lot of the fundamentalism behind the stay-at-home mom movement is overt, such as the letters worrying about my soul that appeared after the head of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary suggested his followers chat me up. But a lot of it is covert, such as the identity of the authors of manuals disguised as tips on frugal housekeeping, but actually proselytizing women to stay home, as the Bible suggests.
So let me see if I have this right. It's okay for Ms. Hirshman to preach the gospel of Betty Friedan. But let a bunch of uncomplicated, unfulfilled, stay-at-home moms blog the Truth of Jesus Christ and share tips on housekeeping; and she gets her legal briefs all twisted and labels us "aggresively domestic?" Oh, please!

Or could it be that the "queen bee" of the working woman has been dethroned by a growing number of little bees busy in the blogosphere and she doesn't like it? Today, the voices of stay at home moms can be heard by anyone willing to click over and read what we're saying. And for the first time in a generation, women are hearing another side to the story and she feels threatened by their buzz?

So what's a courageous, independent feminsit to do when faced with such criticism?

Well. There was no chance that I was going to shut up. I'm retired. If I'm not going to raise hard questions for women, who will? So I did what any sensible person would do when exposed for the first time to the unmediated content of the Internet. I stopped reading it.
Well, bully for you, Ms. Hirshman! Join the club. We've been tuning you and all the other "femi-vangelists" out for a quite a few years now. Remember, that's what got your dander up in the first place and caused you to fret over the failure of feminism.

As elite educated women, we've betrayed the cause. We've stopped reading and believing the baseless, self-absorbed feminist philosophy. Instead we've gone back to the Truth and are making the choice to stay home and have a baby. (Maybe even more than one!) And making matters even worse, we're daring enough to tell others the good news too. You may call that "aggressively domestic." I prefer to call it, "fundamentally feminine". And while we're busy raising our children, we're raising a few hard questions of our own. After all, if we don't, who will?

So preaching the same old tired message of discontent isn't going to work anymore. Unlike generations past, women don't have to rely on the narrow minded media to get the Truth out. Everyday we're publishing mini manifestos of our own. I think you referred to that as a samizdat. Slowly women are catching a vision, one blog at a a time, for what their heart told them was true all along - being a wife and mother is the most lucrative career around.

And to my fellow mommy blogger, let me encourage you. The next time, you think your writing is all for naught, keep on blogging. You never know, Ms. Hirshman may feel courageous again one day and read your blog. But even if she doesn't, I know there are others, lurking in the shadows of the blogosphere reading and wondering if they can make the choice to stay home too. And finally there are sensible voices shouting from the unmediated Internet saying, "YES YOU CAN!"

Note: You can read my personal story of choosing family over career in my follow up post, Here's to you, Linda Hirshman.

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