|Posted by Elle Latham on March 10, 2013 at 5:25 PM|
Linda Hirshman states in “Homeward Bound”, an article that explores the phenomenon of elite women leaving the workplace for the “Second Shift” at home where they are resigned to do housework, that women are doing themselves a disservice by becoming stay-at-home mothers (Hirshman 1). She claims that the rising numbers of women giving up on their careers is holding us back. In response to this article, David Brooks submitted his op-ed piece “The Year in Domesticity,” in which he calls Hirshman wrong and denies that women should value their work life over their home life. While Hirshman uses statistics and elite mother interviewees to prove her point, Brooks takes a far more basic and emotional approach to the subject. He claims that people who cherish time at home with their family hold those memories nearer to them than they do memories of work. He also states that “a child’s IQ, mental habits and destiny are largely shaped in the first few years of life, before school or the outside world has much influence” (Brooks 1).
When reading the two articles, one can easily jump to the conclusion that one person is right and the other is wrong. While one could definitely make a case for the latter, for each author, there is certainly a bit of gray area when it comes to the issue of elite women choosing to exit the workplace in order to raise their children full-time at home. Both authors make valid points for their respective arguments. Hirshman says that elite women are wasting their degrees by abandoning their careers, while Brooks counters that the power is in the home, not the office (Hirshman 1).
In comparing these opposing views on this issue, one can’t help but identify more with what Brooks brings to the conversation. Although he doesn’t utilize as many facts and reacts emotionally rather than logically, what he is saying in “The Year in Domesticity” is a little bit easier to justify than what Hirshman is saying in “Homeward Bound”. While she makes solid points about how women and men are conditioned to do certain things from birth and how women feel guilty for pursuing a career after having a baby, it is completely off the mark to suggest that women should limit the amount of children they have to just one child because it hinders the woman from continuing on her chosen career path (Hirshman 1). Where are we, China? What part of that statement doesn’t come off as totalitarian? Brooks doesn’t touch on that statement quite enough but he does point out that neglecting a child can result in angry children who grow up to hate the parent that abandoned them (Brooks 1).
In addition to Hirshman’s unbelievable tolerance and preference for a parent abandoning their child that is raised by nannies on retainer, she seems to think choosing your choice confines a woman to a life of working for money and letting money rule their lives (Hirshman 1). Contrary to what Hirshman believes, some women don’t like to work. Does that make them horrible people who are making their gender look bad? Surely, having the choice to choose means that a woman can choose to be a stay-at-home mother or pursue whichever workplace role she so desires while also caring for her children. That’s the beauty of choice. There’s more than one option. If women want to stay at home and live happily ever after with their families, they shouldn’t be unfairly judged for going against their own sex and being complacent with doing so. That is their right. It is everyone’s right.
David Brooks’ detractors will say that he veers off track near the end of his piece when he claims that “men and women are wired differently” and men are “interested in things and abstract rules while women are interested in people” (Brooks 1). They are right. It is a generalization that doesn’t belong in the op-ed but it is clear that his point is men and women were given differing gender roles and they mostly adhered to those roles prescribed to them by their parents. He also states that good parenting is essential to our society’s development and we should all start to accept how powerful parenting is (Brooks 1).
Hirshman does her best to malign these elite mothers for their poor decision-making, but what the reader comes away with is a woman attacking other women for the choices she thinks they shouldn’t have made. One can’t help but wonder why does Hirshman care so much? How do these womens’ decisions affect her personally? Why can’t she just let them be?
In conclusion, while both argue vehemently for their differing viewpoints, David Brooks is the one with the more sound argument as tenuous as it may be. He really hits the nail on the head when he writes that Hirshman is presenting an “unapologetic blast of 1970s time-warp feminism” (Brooks 1). This statement could not be more accurate. He is spot-on when he criticizes her antiquated views of what feminism should be. The last thing we need, as women, is another woman telling us what to do, how to think, and how to live our lives. Hirshman would say that’s progress. But is it? Is that what we have been fighting for all these years? We as women, should be hopeful about our future, because as much as Hirshman would have us believe there are not enough powerful women in the world, the reality is that there are far more women in power today than there were in her heyday. She may not acknowledge them but they are there. They are CEO’s (Meg Whitman of HP, Denise M. Morrison of Campbell Soup, and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo, for example), movie producers (Diablo Cody, Kathleen Kennedy, and Nina Jacobson), television producers (Alex Borstein, Tina Fey, Elizabeth Meriwether, and Amy Poehler), directors (Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Coppola, and Callie Khouri), etc. The list goes on and on and on. Now, that’s what I call progress.