September 21, 2005

Personal choices in a very public age

The Anchoress has a lovely takedown of the NYTimes' perplexed coverage of those stubborn women who insist on making personal choices for themselves. One can't help but marvel at the naivete of NYT reporters who write articles like the following:

At Yale and other top colleges, women are being groomed to take their place in an ever more diverse professional elite. It is almost taken for granted that, just as they make up half the students at these institutions, they will move into leadership roles on an equal basis with their male classmates.

There is just one problem with this scenario: many of these women say that is not what they want.

Many women at the nation's most elite colleges say they have already decided that they will put aside their careers in favor of raising children.

Heaven forbid! You mean smart, focused women will sometimes make their own life choices and decide for themselves how to balance work and motherhood? What a terrible "problem"!

If you think the NYT wouldn't have a problem digging up quotes from academics who are just shocked, shocked by this, you'd be right:

...the likelihood that so many young women plan to opt out of high-powered careers presents a conundrum.

"It really does raise this question for all of us and for the country: when we work so hard to open academics and other opportunities for women, what kind of return do we expect to get for that?" said Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of undergraduate admissions at Harvard, who served as dean for coeducation in the late 1970's and early 1980's.

How does that differ from the old, bad, sexist viewpoint earlier this century when the general consensus that women shouldn't be admitted to college, or hired, because it was assumed they'd all get pregnant as soon as possible? Isn't the subtext here that women are a problem because they insist on thinking for themselves and not doing what their "betters" intend for them to do?

..."What does concern me," said Peter Salovey, the dean of Yale College, "is that so few students seem to be able to think outside the box; so few students seem to be able to imagine a life for themselves that isn't constructed along traditional gender roles"...

For many feminists, it may come as a shock to hear how unbothered many young women at the nation's top schools are by the strictures of traditional roles.

"They are still thinking of this as a private issue; they're accepting it," said Laura Wexler, a professor of American studies and women's and gender studies at Yale. "Women have been given full-time working career opportunities and encouragement with no social changes to support it.

Yup, that's the subtext. These academics and "feminists" are horrified that smart, determined women still insist, despite the best of brainwashing, on making personal choices on very personal topics. By God, they're not listening to those who have the real power to determine who should work and who should stay home with the babies! They're not letting their professors tell them if they should have children or who should rear them! They're making flexible life choices that might involve working from home, flex-time, and non-traditional gender roles such as having the husband stay home with the kids,but they're not "thinking outside the box" in the correct way! How dare they!

Sheesh. The Anchoress sums it up well:

Clearly the “it takes a village” mentality, wherein children are popped out and plopped into the care of others while the superior sorts take on the world, still has a welcome home in the minds of some of these academics, but I think the young women about whom they are fretting are bringing very healthy and thoughtful opinions to the matter...

The saddest side of this issue, which is not addressed by the NY Times, is that those women who do not have the privilege of an “elite” education (and the opportunity to meet an “elite” young man to marry) may find that as much as they would LIKE to stay home and raise their children, they will not have that opportunity, as they will have to work to simply pay the bills and put food on the table.

There are still inequalities - there always will be, that’s life - but it seems to me if the NY Times wants to boo-hoo for women, it might want to boo-hoo for the sisters who want to raise their children and cannot afford to. After all…that whole “sisterhood” idea is supposed to be a real one, right? And the line about women being “free to choose” what they do with their lives, that was supposed to be real, too, wasn’t it?

She has links to other takes on this topic as well.

Posted by kswygert at September 21, 2005 07:34 AM