I’m really not even sure what point Linda Hirshman is trying to make. Or, more accurately, if she's serious. She gives a nod to the Times piece on Ivy League women planning to be stay-at-home moms, and to Maureen Dowd. And then she launches into the results of her own "research," consisting of interviews with 32 or 33 women (I don't believe she gives the exact number). Not only is this number completely insignificant, but the women she interviews are women whose weddings were announced in the Sunday Styles section of the NYT. To show you all what a classless hick I apparently am, I didn't even know what that was until I read this piece. Later on in the article, she makes various references to her interviewees. One left her job as a lawyer to plan her wedding. That's right--she quit work to plan a wedding. Also, not one of the husbands of these women took any paternity leave when his children were born. These are the types of people Hirshman is relying on to flesh out her story.
I found that among the educated elite, who are the logical heirs of the agenda of empowering women, feminism has largely failed in its goals. There are few women in the corridors of power, and marriage is essentially unchanged. The number of women at universities exceeds the number of men. But, more than a generation after feminism, the number of women in elite jobs doesn’t come close.
Riiiiight. So the reason that the number of women in elite jobs is small is because feminism failed. It has nothing to do with outright or even subtle discrimination in the workplace, or with society's attitudes toward women, work, and families. There's a nifty trick: I'm sorry, but your quest for equality hasn't happened yet, so obviously it's a clunker of an idea. Forget everything you have achieved in the past 30 years--it's time to pack it up and get a new ideology.
What evidence is good enough? Let’s start with you. Educated and affluent reader, if you are a 30- or 40-something woman with children, what are you doing? … Among the affluent-educated-married population, women are letting their careers slide to tend the home fires. If my interviewees are working, they work largely part time, and their part-time careers are not putting them in the executive suite.
Me? I’m working full-time, and plan to keep doing so in the foreseeable future, thanks for asking. Oh, and that reference to the "affluent-educated-married population … letting their careers slide," those are the 32 women you interviewed? Yes? OK, glad we got that straightened out.
The arguments still do not explain the absence of women in elite workplaces. If these women were sticking it out in the business, law, and academic worlds, now, 30 years after feminism started filling the selective schools with women, the elite workplaces should be proportionately female.
Later on, she says this:
It is possible that the workplace is discriminatory and hostile to family life.
Anyway, I’m a lawyer, so obviously my interest was piqued by the references to female lawyers.
Law schools have been graduating classes around 40-percent female for decades -- decades during which both schools and firms experienced enormous growth. And, although the legal population will not be 40-percent female until 2010, in 2003, the major law firms had only 16-percent female partners, according to the American Bar Association.
Again, it's not as though feminism just happened and all the men in charge suddenly said, "Whoopee, let's open the doors, lads!" Change is always fought by people who believe that they are benefitted by the status quo. Moreover, since when is the absence of female partners at the big firms (not all firms, mind you, but "the major law firms") an indicator of women dropping out of the workplace? When I think of my friends who are female lawyers, I think of women who work for the state and federal government, who work in-house, and who work for small and mid-size firms. Apparently, none of these women count. In addition, Hirshman later uses that statistic -- 16 percent female partners in the big firms -- to reference "a world of 84-percent male lawyers." Um, no. Try again, and this time go back and read your own statistics and what they really refer to.
Finally, Hirshman presents her rules to combat the failure of feminism, which basically boil down to "Who gives a shit what you're doing so long as you're making money?" Don't major in liberal arts, and don't work at a job that won't pay a buttload of money. Money is all that matters.
I agree with Hirshman's point that there's no such thing as a perfect job. But that doesn't mean you should just go to work for the highest bidder, regardless of the job. Money isn't enough to get you to drag yourself out of bed every morning. I should know--some of the people I met when I briefly worked for a nonprofit were a lot more satisfied with their jobs than some of the lawyers I know who are pulling down big money.
There's so much more to gripe about, but 11D hits a lot of it, so I'll just direct you there.