Monday, September 25, 2006


I wasn't going to respond to this... partly because it wasn't addressed to me, but mostly because I regard Linda Hirshman, and the things she has been slinging about in the media as inflammatory hoodie-doo. In addition to the previous reasons... the topic has been covered by better writers and clearer thinkers than I. There are still one or two questions that niggle and giggle and tickle inside me... I would like some clarification.

I say "not addressed to me" because while I am a SAHM, I ain't altogether ed-ee-kated with a college dee-gree and all. Plus, even had I finished my degree? It was a BAFA with an emphasis in Painting. Yikes, not exactly sure that I am intelligentsia enough to qualify, as she is "focusing only on highly educated, elite women, and taking them to task for staying home and out of the workforce." She claims that what she has to say "... is meant to inform, but not judge, women of other means and education who largely cannot afford to stay at home." and I can only assume, those women of other means and education who actually are in a situation where they CAN afford to stay home and take care of the kidlins as well.

Holy marginalized Batman!

1. Is she saying she is only judging those women of the highly-smartified and uber educated set? Because she is certainly judging them and, whoa! Using words like "immoral" in terms of the act of PhD'ed women out there opting out and choosing to stay home and "wipe butts."

2. By her "manifesto," was I first a traitor to society and feminism because I am an intelligent (yeah, on a good day I AM intelligent!) woman who did NOT finish my degree and go on to do cool art/cultural things and push the "glass ceiling" by becoming part of the academia/corporate elite?

3. If I had graduated... it would have been from the art department of UNM. Would that have been enough to qualify me for the reprimand? Perhaps she saves her disdain for graduates of schools like the Chicago Institute of FA. I was good enough to get into that school... but not well off enough to pay for it. So since Mummy and Daddy were not wealthy... does that exempt me, or just the simple fact that I wasn't savvy enough or had someone around me to encourage me to fill out scholarship papers?

3. Since she does actually include artistic endeavors in her list of jobs that are "more important" than raising children, is there the outside chance that she IS taking me to task because I am an intelligent woman and an artist who, with three young children be-bopping about underfoot has hung up her brushes for the time being? I mean... Basquiat was a very important modern day artist and that dude for sure did not go to Yale. Is she only speaking to those who had already "arrived" before having children? If I die today and my artistic work then gets discovered and highly valued over my dead body... how will I know if I have been taken to task for my passivity and losership, because, y'know I had been so busy wasting my time raising children instead of adding to society and female prestige by creating more artwork?

4. In her world is a PhD'ed man who opts out a loser? Is he opening up a premium position for a woman to push her way in? Does it matter to her at all what a man chooses to do?

5. "I believe it's my responsibility in this society of American females that I happen to live in, to pull it away from this passivity it's in, this refusal to test their capacities against other people and to take risks and to be judged." Has this woman raised children? Has she actually been around children in a caregiver role... like EVER? Talk about testing your capacities in every way possible against a little person. The risks, you risk your entire existence, sanity and your whole heart! And boy, do you ever get judged.... by everyone with half of a halfbaked opinion and every person who stands behind you in line at the supermarket.

"When women opt out, and make what they call in preemptive language a "personal choice," they're doing harm to two interests I have. One is they're doing harm to themselves, and insofar that they are human beings, as a political philosopher, I'm interested in every one of them. Secondly, they're doing harm to others. Opting out makes women dependent, it hurts other ambitious women, and it doesn't use their full capacities. I want to have a social conversation about it."

Precisely how am I harming myself? Does the personal growth that comes from sacrifice and love, the struggle to expand my patience and tolerance and keep my temper in check in the face of the most unreasonable yet vulnerable being EVAH, count for naught? In everything I have read from and about this manifesto and what the authoress of it has to say that answer is a resounding "YES!" and here is the crux. We are dealing with a person who has an agenda and a definition of success that I do not share. There is, at rock bottom a dismissal of a woman's, nay a human being's, emotional and spiritual existence. In her book (no pun intended) the only thing that seems to count is money and prestige. If a person has not expended their first, final and best efforts to achieve them, they are a loser and fit only to wipe the butts of their loser children. If you listen to what she says you get a vision of these PhD's wiping their babies butts with their diploma's. Piffle.

I usually just laugh at this kind of extremist tripe, but sadly, I bristle at the elitist dismissal and respond. Linda, if you ever read this? Call this woman, I think y'all would be great drinking buddies.


elizasmom said...

Boy, there are just so many things wrong with Linda Hirschman's manifesto you could spend all day taking the thing apart, couldn't you? I hadn't even thought about the class thing in the sheer terms of affording an education the way you bring up - well played!

And you're definitely on to something with that "My Children Are Boring" person - I think perhaps she and Hirschman are coming from very much the same place. I also think they should go back there and leave the rest of us alone!

LynAnne said...

Lots of applause here for your post!

I'd gladly wipe my babies butt with every one of my diplomas. My education as a SAHM has taught me FAR more. Also, my best teachers don't have a degree at all. Some of them haven't finished elementary school.

Anonymous said...

This kind of talk (Hirschman's)makes me so angry, I wouldn't even know where to begin!

Not to mention the comment one person made that "These stay-at-home Moms are just NOT working as hard as working Moms, can't be, no matter how you cut the cake." That is simply not true. Most of the jobs I've held were so much easier (and so much less rewarding) than being at home, taking care of my family.

Thanks for the great post and the wonderful links, too.

Fantastagirl said...

I am stunned... how can anything be more important that our children. Sure right now I'm overwhelmed with many things...but when I was home with the kids this summer - it was the best time of my life and at the same time - I was never more exhausted. Being a SAHM is a full-time job - you are a secretary, a bus driver, an artist (have you seen some of the homework projects!), a chef, I could go on and on - this makes me so mad. I can't stand it when others stand in judgement like this!

Mama D said...

I just keep thinking the chicken and the egg.

What I mean is, don't a lot of successful women have their wonderful, supportive, encouraging, etc... mothers to thank? If every woman hired some random person to raise our children so we could go out there and "be productive" what would our children turn out like? If we tried that I believe it would be a failed experiment and dear Linda would have no choice but to admit that she sadly underestimated the importance of a mothers job.

By her standards I would be a double failure. I am only a hairstylist and didn't go to university at all (despite being told by so many clients that I'm smart and why didn't I go to university? (?)) And I stay at home part time, work part time. Does this mean I'm not committed to either job I have?

Whatever Linda.

Becky..Absent Minded Housewife said...

What a duo of female twits.

This black and white -ism, when it comes to the SAHM versus working mom, helps no one.

Not to mention that raising children isn't a life sentence. Eventually they grow up and live on their own. Drudgery at any point in the game is a choice.

cranky mama said...

I'm with Mama D. Teaching someone how to be a person? Somewhat more important than proving to a boardroom full of executives that I belong there. I'm not at all comfortable with the idea that in Hirshman's worldview all the children would be raised by people other than their (presumably intelligent and "above it all") parents. Aren't there several self-help books out there for kids who felt like their parents had no time for them? Is that really something we'd like to encourage?

I'm preaching to the choir here, I know.

Mommygoth said...

Outfrickin' standing, Bon. Right on, right on, right on!

The Daring One said...

This gets me going on so many levels. Was she ever a child? Who raised her? If the children of the academically elite are being left to be raised by only the morons useless enough to spend their lives wiping butts, what hope have we of raising quality future work drones to join her in her feminist march to the top?

bon said...

Yikes! Really, a girl COULD go on and on about the many levels of "HUH?" in Hirschman's manifesto. Ahhhh... I finally spelled it correctly! Hirschman.

I just think it's hilarious that I finally had to respond because I was feeling left out of her scolding...

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

if we all did what makes us happy the world might be a better place

Nancy said...

Great post. I have been very uncomfortable with the Hirshman manifesto for some time, but I haven't been able to articulate any sort of intelligent response. You nailed it.

And I love your last sentence. Right on, I think they'd be great friends. ;-)

looney said...

Right on, sister!

Speaking from personal experience--I have been a single parent who had no choice but to go to work when my baby was 3 months old, a (married) stay at home mom until my next child was 18 months old, and a working mother with young children in a dual income family--the hardest one of all was being a SAHM!
And no, I did not finish college (art school too!), and I was in the gifted and talented percentage, and I consider motherhood to be the most important job EVER. Stay-at-home moms are working mothers, and it IS worth our time to challenge ourselves raising the next generation.