Women are severely constrained by the overwhelming cultural assumption that homecare and childcare is the woman's responsibility.

LOL. When I read this I picture a bunch of feminists imagining the goings on during the early emergence of culture. Groginut and Blastoc, the two early caveman leaders sat down in front of the fire and devised a way to impose a culture on the unsuspecting women of their tribe and to stick them with the chore of caring for the children. Then they rounded up the other males in the tribe and advocated that violence be used as a means of imposing this new fangled culture thingy on the women.

Look, culture is an organic thing. It evolves in response to inputs. The cultural assumption that homecare and childcare are primarily done by women wasn't arbitrarily decided, it grew in strength as a response to what was evolving in practice.

The glass ceiling women are butting up against is most hard to break not in the workplace but in the family.

Precisely! If women want to change society, then they need to take the battle into their homes and not the workplace.

The big, big problem is that if you marry a man who is your age and at your educational level, then you are in a position of unequal resources because every expectation in our culture. . .

Culture is made one person at a time, and not by feminist manifestos. The woman has to make clear to her husband to be that she is not going to be like other women (culture) and that if they are going to get married then her expectations must be respected. If enough women do this, then the ship of culture will begin to turn. Feminists holding rallies, marches, nude sit-ins, etc don't do much at all to change the husband-wife dynamic.

It seems the best options are to marry someone much younger, someone much less educated, someone much less ambitious, or perhaps someone much older who is already established and can afford to take time off himself because he has done his thing already.

The problem is with women themselves. There are plenty of guys who are couch-potatoes, slackers, and video-game addicts who would love nothing better than to stay at home, check out of the rat-race, but for some strange reason, alpha females seem to set their sights on alpha males, and it's quite rare for an alpha male to give up his career for the sake of his wife, especially when there are plenty of other women out there who won't ask him to make that sacrifice. Consider this article:

Behind a great woman at work, there is often a great man at home....The men we're talking about carpool the kids, coach the soccer team, pay the bills, pick up the dry cleaning, and fix dinner.

[ . . . . ]

Of the 187 participants at FORTUNE's Most Powerful Women in Business Summit last spring, 30% had househusbands. And of the 50 women on this year's list, more than one-third have a husband at home either full- or part-time....Anne Stevens says she knows of at least 20 women in her division at Ford whose husbands are home.

[ . . . . ]

The higher you go in corporate America, the harder it is to keep two high-octane careers on track, especially when you have children.

[ . . . . ]

Among the most powerful women--and many other high-level women--[househusbands are] a red-hot topic. They gossip about it. They marvel at it. They compare notes. They know which colleagues have husbands at home and which do not. They know which are married to doctors: Shelly Lazarus and Meg Whitman. (Doctors travel infrequently and can often set their own hours.) They are envious of women whose husbands have retired....Carly Fiorina, chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard [says of her husband] "Frank has been a huge source of support. He had a very successful career and has lots of interests outside of me and my career. He has been a rock for me; I am tremendously lucky. To describe him as a stay-at-home husband is not fair to him." Frank Fiorina took early retirement in 1998 as a vice president of AT&T's corporate business unit.

Look, the choice is clear - marry someone less capable or less ambitious than you, or marry someone older who has already made the sacrifices and is now willing to step out of the game, or don't marry at all.

If you want to focus on cultural expectations, then you should really focus on women's attraction to men who achieve. The perfect match would be for ambitious women to develop a sexual and intellectual hunger for underachieving men their own age, men who are willing to stay at home and be a househusband so that they can share in the marriage benefits that result from being married to a highly successful woman, which for these guys would likely mean a lifestyle that they couldn't achieve on their own if they were the primary income earner. Good luck on remapping women's mating preferences.

they will likely exercise their power based on obliviousness or indifference to women's interests.

What precisely are these "women's interests"? Do you think that Meg Whitman (Chairwoman of E-bay) or Carly Fiorina (ex-President of HP) were less focused on return to stockholders than their male counterparts and were more focused on implementing women-friendly corporate policies that eroded profitability?

Rather than simply trotting out these Marxist derived frames of analysis, why not actually substantiate that a male conspiracy actually exists.

Further, we've clearly seen what happens when women take over policy development, or implementation, in certain sectors of society. The assinine policies coming out of our education sector certainly have a female imprint all over them, but they don't really do much to further "women's interests" other than stamping out competition in the drive to make every student feel special. I'm not really sure how mediocrity is a woman's value, though as I've argued in another comment, the drive towards mediocrity is certainly favoring a shift towards egalitarianism and a move away from efficiency. I suppose that the leading feminist theorists may interpret greater equality, in that everyone is made poorer, to be in the interests of women for the outliers are pruned and everyone bunches together in the middle, a middle that is poorer and less robust for everyone. I don't think that most thinking people would buy into that type of rationale.

For more info on this topic, check out "The Opt-Out Revolution":

Look at Harvard Business School. A survey of women from the classes of 1981, 1985 and 1991 found that only 38 percent were working full time. Look at professional women in surveys across the board. Between one-quarter and one-third are out of the work force, depending on the study and the profession. Look at the United States Census, which shows that the number of children being cared for by stay-at-home moms has increased nearly 13 percent in less than a decade. At the same time, the percentage of new mothers who go back to work fell from 59 percent in 1998 to 55 percent in 2000.

So, why are the numbers of women who are choosing to Opt-Out increasing? It's not like there is a shortage of daycare, or that the opportunities for women in the workforce are diminishing, or that suddenly more husbands have turned traditional and coerced their wives to stay home, especially after the the oh-so-laidback 80s.

That's why a recent survey by the research firm Catalyst found that 26percent of women at the cusp of the most senior levels of management don't want the promotion. And it's why Fortune magazine found that of the 108 women who have appeared on its list of the top 50 most powerful women over the years, at least 20 have chosen to leave their high-powered jobs, most voluntarily, for lives that are less intense and more fulfilling.

These women are the culture leaders, the one's most able to live the message that feminists preach and thus serve as bright shining lights for other women to emulate as they negotiate change within their personal lives and yet many of these women are choosing to opt-out.

Joel Monka

TM's comment about "The assinine policies coming out of our education sector certainly have a female imprint all over them,..." reminded me of the time I made coffee come out of my wife's nose with the following observation on male/female cultural effects- we had been listening to an NPR story about Harry Potter in which an English teacher (female) was saying that the amazing thing was that young boys, who are notoriously reluctant readers, were devouring the books. I remarked that she was wrong, boys love to read- they just don't love to read about pigs who fall in love with talking spiders! "Children's books" are not aimed at children, they're aimed at the women who are teaching the children- they're chick-lit, pure and simple.

While I duck, I had a more serious comment. My neighborhood having the demographics that it does, plus being UU, I know a number of gay couples, and have seen patterns similar to what TM is describing about corporate marriages; one partner spending more time at home, while the other is a 70-hour-per-week-climb-the-ziggurat type. I don't think the issue is masculine vs feminine; it's alpha/beta personalities. If two alphas want to marry, they will have to hire help to run their households and raise their children; it's as simple as that. It's hard to fault a corporation or a political party for favoring those who devote their life to it- those who do will always get the promotions.

The Happy Feminist

Joel, I don't fault a corporation for favoring those who devote their life to it. The problem is that women are much less likely than men to devote their life to it -- and I can't imagine that the child and homecare expectations placed on women in particular don't play into that.

The Happy Feminist

Tango Man, for the love of God, watch the length of your comments.

Point by point (to the extent I read the comment):

First, you argue that culture is an organic thing that wasn't "imposed" on us arbitrarily by crafty men.
Response: So? I don't care if the cultural constraints on women are imposed or organic.

Second, you argue that the problem is with women themselves.
Response: I wouldn't put it that way -- at all. What I would say is that girls are not taught to think in a practical way about what it takes to achieve success as a woman. So alpha women marry alpha guys without thinking through the consequences(and in doing so put themselves in an unequal footing because the alpha guy's career will always win out). That's what Hirshman's article addresses.

Third, you ask what are these women's interests that women in power will represent.
Response: I am glad you asked this question. I think it's important to note that women in power aren't always going to be just about women's interests -- other than the fact that simply being in power helps other ambitious women who want to be in power themselves. However, there are all sorts of areas where I can imagine a critical mass of women making a difference. For example, a male politician may be more likely to compromise on an issue of particular interest to women (like reproductive rights or access to contraception). Or, in the past, rape victims were treated with indifference by those in the criminal justice system (like not being informed of plea bargains), something that only changed when women attorneys stepped in and changed it.

The Happy Feminist

I agree that culture changes in large part one person at a time.

But how do we change aspects of the culture that hurt women one person at a time? Not by shutting up and ONLY fighting them on the home front (which is what I sense Tango Man wants us to do). Manifestos, or any campaign for public awareness is also part of that process.


But how do we change aspects of the culture that hurt women one person at a time?

Hurt? Many women are making choices, and they are being guided by their own value systems, the real world constraints that they face within their families, and their own valuations regarding happiness and reward. It's quite obvious that many women are taking exception to the characterization that they've been hurt by making the choices they have. I'm sure the stereotypical radical feminist is quite certain of her opinion that she would be hurt if she made the same choices as the women she thinks are hurt. The solution is obvious - she shouldn't make those choices.


So? I don't care if the cultural constraints on women are imposed or organic.

Terrific, then don't frame the argument as though the culture was devised and then imposed so as to subjugate women. If you're comfortable with the concept of living culture, then if you object to the way that the culture has arrived at its current state, then you simply need to convince many people that their self interests will be enhanced if they adopt the feminist model of culture. As advantage accrues to those who adopt the feminist model then we should expect more and more people to make the switch and the culture will begin to align itself with feminist principles.

Of course the downside risk here is that feminist principles may not actually further the self-interest of a great many people and these principles will fail to be adopted. The only way to find out is for feminists who think dearly of their principles to actually live them out on a day to day basis. They should insure that they marry (or if that's too PATRIARCHAL, then hook-up or partner) with partners who will support the career ambitions of the feminist, etc. Basically, actually do something proactive in their own lives rather than whine about the situation without putting any skin into the game. If they want change, then they should change their own lives.

The Happy Feminist

You're right, Tango Man.

Silly me. It doesn't hurt women that the vast majority of PEOPLE expect that women MUST be the primary caretakers of children even if that means taking a massive career hit, thus making it difficult/impossible for the woman who would like to compete effectively with men in terms of career.

The Happy Feminist

I have NEVER framed the argument as "devised" or "imposed." This is a red herring.

Basically, actually do something proactive in their own lives rather than whine about the situation without putting any skin into the game. If they want change, then they should change their own lives.

You're right. I'll just shut up now. In fact, all feminists should just shut up now.

(Maybe I am not making this clear, but wasn't the WHOLE point of the post, specific things we can teach girls as to how to more effectively reach powerful positions?????? Why are you not understanding this????? Of course, unlike you, I don't think that's the entire solution but the rest of solution has jack-all to do with this post and we have already argued anti-discrimination laws to death.)

The Happy Feminist

And let's not forget the pressures on men. Being a stay-at-home dad is not exactly the path to being respected as a man. There are some out there, god bless 'em, but let's not pretend this is an easy choice for a man to make either.

But girls, you heard Tango Man. It's simple: just find a man who is willing to completely go against all cultural norms and expectations. Easy-peasy!

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