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.

Right from Hirshman's article is this fundamental error. She presumes that when feminism let up on it's shrillness and radicalism, that a generation of women were lost and therefore, to save future generations from losing their way, a return to shrillness and radicalism is a bitter medicine that society will have to swallow. The problem with her viewpoint, is that the women she feels lost their way actually consciously revoked the path chosen by their predecessors when they saw those women's life situations.

She also writes:

So the first rule is to use your college education with an eye to career goals. Feminist organizations should produce each year a survey of the most common job opportunities for people with college degrees, along with the average lifetime earnings from each job category and the characteristics such jobs require. The point here is to help women see that yes, you can study art history, but only with the realistic understanding that one day soon you will need to use your arts education to support yourself and your family.

OK, I'll stake out the bold position here that women who major in art history aren't operating under the delusion that there is a thriving employment market for their skill set. I don't really think that NOW will change women's perspectives on college major by joining the Bureau of Labor Statistics in publishing job prospects data.

I'm about to slit my wrists here but no one is talking about so-called social engineering or forcing anything on anyone. What is being discused in the Hirshman article is how to equip young women in a more practical way to make choices that will bring them more traditional power.

Look, Hirshman's endgoal is to create a society along some radical feminist ideal. She's right to emphasize that change is brought about by personal choices, so I'll retract my argument about advocating that coercive policies be mandated for enterprises for that is beyond the scope of her argument. I'd be interested though, in knowing her position on such coercion when her stated tactics fail to bring about the result she dreams about.

Except that the choice is much more limited for women

I disagree. I think the choices women have are different, not limited. The Hirshman's of the feminist movement assign much lower valuation to the opt-out choices that women make and assign too high a valuation to the opt-in path. Nicole Black makes this argument much more persuasively than I ever could.

(In reality if MOST men have a particular expectation, that is going to limit dating pool and also make it harder to convince any given man to live in a way that is different than the status quo.

Hey, if some women want to up-end society, then they should expect to find the number of co-revolutionists to be rather limited in number. What I find offensive is that rather than make the sacrifice themselves, they want to force soceity to bend to their whims and escape all the costs of the social revolution that they advocate for.

As for marrying down, I think that that would be a stellar strategy for feminists to adopt. Leave the alpha males to the traditional women and progressive feminists can target the guys who like to shower once a week and can boast of their accomplishments in the realm of Doom or Quake or their antics that resulted from the last time they scored some good weed. These guys are in desparate need for girlfriends!


"I can't emphasize to you enough how strong the biological urge is to care for your kids--and women, like it or not, have a stronger drive in that arena than men--especially with young infants."

Nicole, I disagree with this. My own biological drive told me to bury my sreaming baby in a sack in the backyard (fortunately, I ignored it), while my husband was the nuturing one. I had many male colleagues who wished they were able to take extended paternity leaves when their children were born, and who describe a physical ache when being away from their babies....and yet feel as if they have "no choice," and have to keep on working. TangoMan, do you see a problem there? I do.

And also, "... if you choose a career over family, good luck finding anyone to care about or for you when you're old and ailing." Having children is no guarantee of having caretakers in your old age. Anyone who has ever done work with the elderly knows that institutions are full of lonely people with grown children, busy living their own lives. That`s the sad reality for many.


TM, you are flat wrong about the relative living standards of the U.S. vs. Sweden. However, since it's largely OT here, I'll be happy to provide the appropriate analytic perspective to whatever numbers you'd care to put up at your site. (Hint: there are non-numeric aspects to the equation.) ;)

Somewhat relatedly, TM, you are also wrong about efficiency and egalitarianism being at opposing ends of the spectrum. There may be occasions where these values compete, but there are also occasions where efficiency and equality share one end of the spectrum, and the power structure as it exists is at the other. (Hint: there's quite a bit of difference in measuring efficiency on a per dollar basis and measuring it on a per person basis. You might do well to bear in mind that the purpose of the economy is not to make all the little dead green presidents happy, but to make the living people who use them happy.)

Much as it pains me to say it, though, I think TM's point about 'natural limits', on the other hand, has some conceptual validity. (As a practical matter, it is arguable whether we are even close to those limits.) But to amplify, take our current society but remove men completely. Let's just say that somehow, women who are fertile and want to become mothers can become pregnant, but none of the other women do. I think it would be inevitable that the mothers would not be able to devote as much time and energy to their careers as the non-moms, and the non-moms would be disproportionately represented at the upper echelons of the political and economic institutions in that world. It does not seem to me that this is prima facie unjust. Indeed, I could see how rules created to combat this disproportionality would unjustly affect the life enjoyment possibilities of women who were involuntarily infertile. After all, women don't have to become mothers if they don't want to. Women who become mothers do so because they find it gratifying to do so, given the other options available.

Of course, I'm painting this scenario in black and white, but my actual opinions on the matter are more grey. It's certainly in society's interest that children be raised in nurturing environments, and family-friendly work policies would therefore give moms a better foothold to the upper echelons than they would have otherwise — adversely affecting the competitive edge of the non-moms — but I think this would be a justifiable approach in what is basically a difficult balancing act for society.

I think this is relevant when you re-introduce men into the scenario and certain folks start into blaming 'teh patriarchy'. Though there are certainly men who are vastly superior parents than the average woman (and women who are vastly superior career achievers than the average man), I would expect that sociobiologically, men as a group would gravitate a bit more towards the 'attainment of power' and women as a group would gravitate a bit more towards finding satisfaction in being nurturing and empathetic parents. I don't know exactly how big of a tilt there would be, sociobiologically speaking, but I think it unlikely that the 'upper echelons' would be split 50/50, all other things being equal.

However, when you throw in the fact that boys are raised to be competitive, are involuntarily infertile (i.e. can't readily become single parents of their own children), and are generally selected for being mates on the basis of their competitive abilities (as opposed to being selected on the basis of their nurturing capacity, empathy, or inclination to share domestic duties), and I think you have a recipe for a society in which the upper echelons of power will be fairly disproportionately male without necessarily concluding that women have been unfairly handicapped. Indeed, Feministe cited a study that indicated, "Much of the 'wage gap' is in fact a baby gap. Karen Kornbluh notes that women without children make 90 percent of what their male counterparts earn, but working mothers earn less than three quarters of what men make."

HF, you make much of the expectations placed on women about assuming primary role domestically, but fail to mention what expectations are placed on men by society as a whole, and by women. Men are much more strongly motivated to succeed in their careers … indeed, unlike women, men really have little choice in the matter. I would certainly like to live in a society that put a higher value on mutual nurturing than competition, but in all honesty I see precious little acknowledgment of this fundamental issue as it impacts men at the major feminist websites I visit (Pandagon, Feministe, IBTP, etc.). In fact, I think the phrase "outright hostility" would not be far off the mark, and their snarks are often little more advanced than the borderline insults that TangoMan himself occasionally makes here.

The Happy Feminist

Ballgame, I think you are absolutely correct that MEN stand to benefit from changing expectations because it frees up men to be more family-oriented. This is extremely important.

The reason that women are focused on here is that the key problem Hirshman has named is the relatively small numbers of WOMEN in powerful positions.

We COULD also focus on the problems faced by MEN who would prefer to leave the fast track and focus on their kids. Flip sides of the same coin -- and a great point.

I disagree with your take on other feminist websites but I really don't want to get into the game of debating what happens on other blogs.

Nicole Black

"Anyone who has ever done work with the elderly knows that institutions are full of lonely people with grown children, busy living their own lives. That`s the sad reality for many."

Sure, but you've got better chances if you've got kids that were nurtured and cared for and that return that love when needed than htose without kids.

As for the biological need to "nurture"--of course there are variations between people. People are different. But, in my opinion, that's a reason for the disparity in terms of men vs. women staying at home with kids. Of course our culture's stereotypes, etc. are partly to blame, but as TM asserted, our culture was not created in a vacuum. There are biological reasons for the disparity that many feminists complain about.

That being said, I absolutely believe that we live in a patriarchal society and that women are discriminated against every day, at all levels of society. And of course we shouldn't turn a blind eye to the discrimination. But the solution is not to blame women who made very personal choices for the perceived problems. And, the solution is not to belittle the importance of parenthood. And, the solution is not to prop up the patriarchical (sp?) institutions and the framework within each that was created by men--finance, the law, the medical field, government--as the only or ultimate way in which to "succeed" in our society.

Traditional feminists are, in my opinion, buying into the whole patriarchical schema when they insist on limiting the definition of "success" to succeeding only in that environment.

The only way to truly make things equal would be to make both sexes equally likely to become pregnant as a result of sexual intercourse. Until that occurs, the sex that bears children, in our case, women, will always be confined, to an extent, by their choice to procreate.

The Happy Feminist

I am not sure we disagree on that much (although I am skeptical about the biological impact of pregnancy and childbirth you describe or certainly, I think it is far from universal).

I certainly agree that it is wrong to blame people for their choices.

I agree that we need not define "success" in one single conventional career track kind of way. On a personal level, people can be both happy and successful doing all sorts of things.

But the reality is that the traditional career track / fortune 500 / law firm / politician kind of way has a big impact -- and it's an area where women aren't appearing in very large numbers. Doesn't mean every women has a duty to aspire to that.

The only reason I mentioned my choice to put career over family, a choice that is far from ideal and that certainly has its downside, is to point out that I am operating under the same constraints as everyone else and am forced to make trade offs too. Not trying to say that that makes me a better feminist or that everyone should do the same, although I think it was a "feminist" choice.

Nicole Black

Happy--we'll never see eye to eye on this issue and hate discussing this issue with feminists--especially those that don't have kids. We're not even on the same planet, let alone wave length. You'll never get it.

I've been where you are. You've never been where I am. So, don't try to tell me that hormones are not powerful--that biology is not powerful--that the love you feel for a human that was created from, grew in, and came from your body is not all powerful and all consuming. One's career successes pale in comparison. The biological processes that put me where I am today--a mother--have greatly affected all of my choices from the moment that I decided to become pregnant. But for my biology, I would not be where I am--who I am--today.

I am a strong, assertive (many might call me aggressive,opinionated, intelligent woman. And, I'm a lawyer and damn proud of it. I am not defined by my role as a mother and wife. I am far more than that. But I wouldn't be who I am today, but for those roles, and am happier today than I have ever been, in large part because I chose to take on those roles.

You're are free to choose to be whomever you'd like to be. I don't judge you--but I do resent the fact that you--and other feminists--feel the need to judge and castigate women like me--educated women who chose to stop working for a while, in part to care for and raise our children.

I didn't "opt out". I never "opted-in" to anything. I simply attended school and obtained degrees so that I could arm myself with options--so that I could control my own destiny.

And when other women who purport to represent the interests of all women--as long as said women choose to either be childless or to have no more than one child--hold up my choices as examples of the failure of feminism, it makes me angry, to say the least.

I *am* feminism in action--not the antithesis of feminism. I am woman. Hear me roar.

The Happy Feminist

But here is what I don't get: I have never once judged or castigated a woman like you, an educated woman who chose to stop working for a while in part to care for and raise our children.

I can't fathom why you keep reading that into my posts and my comments when I have never said anything to even suggest such a thing. In fact, I have repeatedly said the opposite.

On the other hand, you have told me that I have made a foolish and pitiful choice in not having children. But I have never said to you that your choice was wrong. It may not advance the feminist ball in and of itself, but it is not wrong or foolish or pitiful or anything particularly negative.

Yes, I agree that Hirshman has been derogatory towards like woman like you and I don't agree with that aspect of what she says. But I don't think that aspect of what she says is that relevant to her argument.

The Happy Feminist

Or more accurately, I should say it is not necesssary to her argument.


"....So, don't try to tell me that hormones are not powerful--that biology is not powerful--that the love you feel for a human that was created from, grew in, and came from your body is not all powerful and all consuming."

Actually, I HAVE been where you are, and I feel very differently from you, Nicole. Motherhood is not a trancendent experience for all biological mothers. It does not define me as a person. But that`s just me -- as you say, "You've never been where I am."

And I think it`s odd that you and HF and now arguing, because so much of what you say about feminism and choice overlaps (at least that`s how it appears, to this impartial observer).

I hated Hirshman`s article with a kind of violent, passionate righteous anger that only erupts within me every few years, but her larger point -- how to get more women into "public spheres of influence" -- is one worth considering.

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