Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Choice Feminism and Human Flourishing

Linda R. Hirshman, writing in American Prospect, laments the failure of "choice feminism." In her view, women's choosing to stay at home is undermining the feminist movement. She believes, "If women’s flourishing does matter, feminists must acknowledge that the family is to 2005 what the workplace was to 1964 and the vote to 1920. Like the right to work and the right to vote, the right to have a flourishing life that includes but is not limited to family cannot be addressed with language of choice." The premise of her argument is this, "The family -- with its repetitious, socially invisible, physical tasks -- is a necessary part of life, but it allows fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than public spheres like the market or the government." Part of me thinks her piece is meant to be a satire, especially her advice on how to gain power in the household. She advises elite women to "marry down" so they can have the upper hand in the family. As if marriage were about power, not love. Certainly, a woman should be free to choose her own path in life. I know more than a few elite, intelligent women who would thrive in "public spheres." Many of them have and still do, and I admire them for that. Yet some of them choose to focus their efforts on their families, and some plan to do so in the future. If any of you family focused women are reading this blog, I would appreciate your perspective. Do you feel your choice is keeping you from flourishing?


  • Well Tom, I am not a family focused woman, but I'm married to one...does that count? I will let Christina comment on this herself, but from my point of view I always find it interesting that the use of the word 'feminism' has come to mean women striving to take up the places held traditionally by men. Instead of how it started (decades before Roe v Wade and the self proclaimed sexual revolution), which was women striving to force men to take responsibility for their actions with regard to women, children, and family.

    By Blogger Joe C, at Saturday, February 18, 2006 1:00:00 AM  

  • Upon further review of the article I gleaned this quote which perfectly demonstrates my point--the data she was lamenting represented to her
    "a loss of hope that the role of women in society will continue to increase."

    I wonder what the BVM would say about that.

    By Blogger Joe C, at Saturday, February 18, 2006 1:14:00 AM  

  • That is a good point. It seems Ms. Hirshman sees raising a family as a dimished role in society. Just so I'm clear, there is nothing wrong with women filling roles traditionally held by men. Many do, but many more choose to stay at home. They should be free to make that choice. But, the feminists of Hirshman's ilk see that choice as a "loss." I'm just speculating, but I think the BVM would disagree.

    What does Christina think?

    By Blogger Tom, at Saturday, February 18, 2006 2:42:00 AM  

  • If any of these women are anything like me, they don't have the time to read articles or ponder the question of whether or not their choice to stay home is dashing all hopes for the advancement of women in society in general.

    Just kidding.

    I try to read the article and let you know what I think after the baby is asleep.


    By Blogger Joe C, at Saturday, February 18, 2006 11:44:00 AM  

  • Read, "Women who have Ruined the World"(not quite sure of the title) in it the author states among other things, that feminists want to push the 'argument' that men and women are the detriment of the little boy, young man, and or adult male. Boys are paying a high price in school especially in California...too much to state here, so read her book. Woman are not flourishing, they are barely surviving, thanks to modern feminism. The Suffragettes were pro-life and pro-womenhood..they would abhor the state of affairs today. AC

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Monday, February 20, 2006 7:38:00 PM  

  • First, I doubt I will read the essay. I hardly have time to read the things I want to read.

    AC, my mother, asked me to respond to the request for an “at home mom” to respond to the essay. I read the blog… as and aside… dear cousin… I didn’t even know about your blog until now. In writing this, I have really gone on and on… so for a quick answer skip to the last few paragraphs. For some back ground read the whole thing.

    I believe what is important here is that there be tolerance on both sides. Of course there are families that need both incomes to survive. I have lived both worlds and here are my thoughts.

    Back in the mid 90s when I was working for a paycheck mom, I had a friend who had been a feminist as long as I had known her. We had recently reconnected again after a few years and she was now an at home mom with her first child. When I asked her about staying home, her response has stayed with me for all of these years. She felt betrayed by the feminists. She had always believed that it was all about choice, but realized it was only okay if it was their (feminists) choice of working for a paycheck and forging a career.

    Fast forward 10+ years and I am now home with two more children. So you can say I have been in both worlds. I had a great career traveling the world and directing a great department with great projects. I loved my job. With the birth of my second child in 1999, I realized there is no such thing as having it all. With a lot of thought and support, I decided to stay home. I have NEVER REGRETTED IT.

    We are blessed that I am able to stay home. In staying home, I have found that my children do need me during the day when they were home and certainly, they need a parent after school. My staying home has made it so I am very involved with volunteering at their school and they appreciate my occasional presence there. I pick them up everyday, I hear about the minutia of their day, help them with their homework and shuttle them to their activities, and the biggie… we eat as a family every night. I am very proud of my children and they delight me at every turn. I can’t imagine missing these daily things that singularly seem small, but put them together they have built our family on a solid foundation.

    Parenting isn’t an exact science but I believe that this solid foundation has been essential in molding Justine, Bart and hopefully Anna in the future, into respectful, thoughtful enjoyable good citizens with a strong sense of their Catholic faith. With that said, I have to say that I disagree with the quote from the essay in your blog,

    “The family -- with its repetitious, socially invisible, physical tasks -- is a necessary part of life, but it allows fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than public spheres like the market or the government.”

    Let’s break this quote down.

    Yes, some of the things I do are repetivie, but what isn’t repetitive?

    Socially invisible… oh my gosh that couldn’t be further from the truth. My circle of friends and acquaintances is just as large if not larger than it was when I had a career that paid me a paycheck. We, as a family are very visable in our community and by community I include Church, school and neighborhood. I say we as I am a proud member of the family. Certainly, those who know us, know me just as well on my own as well.

    Physical, Again, it is physical but I hope everyone is “physical” during their daily lives. (I especially believe this as I teach Jazzercise.)

    And, finally, what in the world does “full human flourishing” mean? God calls us to do what we do to the best of our ability and to strive for perfection. This would be in whatever vocation we are chosen to do. I am a parent and I am far from perfect, but I strive to do better daily. I am a confident, fully fulfilled human with a wonderful family that surrounds and supports my daily life.

    So answering your question dear cousin… I am flourishing being at home with my family. In fact I would say I am a better person because of it. My family inspires me daily to constantly do better.

    By Anonymous KMW, at Wednesday, February 22, 2006 2:19:00 PM  

  • Thanks Kim. I enjoyed your comment and I'm glad you are flourishing. Yes, we need understanding and charity on both sides.

    By Blogger Tom, at Friday, February 24, 2006 10:49:00 AM  

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