ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–According to a recent U.S. Census report, 54 percent of mothers with advanced degrees do not work full time. Additionally, Census bureau statistics reveal that over the past 10 years there has been a 15 percent increase in the number of stay-at-home moms. These figures reflect a trend that more and more women are choosing to focus on their families rather than their careers.
This exodus of women from the workplace has at least one feminist up in arms. Linda R. Hirshman, who recently retired as the Allen/Berenson Distinguished Visiting Professor at Brandeis University, has written a book and numerous columns assailing the trend of women choosing home over office.
In an article titled “Homeward Bound” that appeared in The American Prospect magazine last year, Hirshman pulled no punches when she indicated that educated women who choose to stay home and care for their children are deluded or ignorant -– and perhaps both.
According to Hirshman, the women who eschew career for family do not realize that they cannot “flourish” by just being a mom. Motherhood, in Hirshman’s feminist worldview, is simply not fulfilling or challenging enough on its own.
“The family –- with its repetitious, socially invisible, physical tasks –- is a necessary part of life,” Hirshman wrote. “But it allows fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than public spheres like the market or the government.”
I assume that Hirshman is a woman who chooses her words carefully. So just what does the word “flourishing” mean and why is it elusive for women who choose to be domestic engineers?
Among the definitions the American Heritage Dictionary offers for flourish are the following: “to grow well or luxuriantly; thrive; to do or fare well; prosper; to be in a period of highest productivity, excellence, or influence.”
My wife happens to be one of the women that Hirshman believes is deluded because she has chosen to focus on her family. Adding to her delusion, I suppose, is the fact she has also embraced the task of home education.
From my perspective, my spouse is an intelligent and growing individual. She manages a full range of activities that are necessary for our home to thrive. My wife is also involved in the process of producing four excellent well-rounded citizens. How’s that for influence?
Hirshman just can’t seem to grasp that “flourishing” is in the eye of the beholder.
On the fact that women are choosing the home over the workplace, Hirshman wrote, “To paraphrase, as Mark Twain said, “A man who chooses not to read is just as ignorant as a man who cannot.”
The only way I can interpret the aforementioned is that women who make the choice to focus on their families are simply ignorant. Again, the American Heritage Dictionary is instructive. For the word ignorant it lists the following definitions: “Lacking education or knowledge. Showing or arising from a lack of education or knowledge. Unaware or uninformed.”
When our first child was born, my wife made the decision to leave the workplace and stay at home. While still in the hospital after the birth of our firstborn, a nurse asked my wife what work she did. When my wife indicated that she would be staying home to care for our son, the nurse replied, “Oh, you’re smarter than that.”
My wife is exceptionally smart and works very hard at the task of domestic engineer. In fact, I have decided that the easy choice would have been for her to return to work after our son, and subsequent children, were born. Working at home is just that — work!
Hirshman proves what I have long believed: Feminists, like Hirshman, are anti-child. Her advice to women who want children: “Have a baby. Just don’t have two.” According to Hirshman, more than one child is simply not worth the effort.
Hirshman probably would applaud a woman’s choice to have an abortion. However, not only does she ridicule those who have more than one child, she denigrates those women who choose to work at home.
While I am sure Hirshman believes she is some open-minded liberal, her views reveal a feminist philosophy that is both anti-choice and anti-child.
Boggs is editor of the Baptist Message newspaper in Louisiana.