By now everyone has read the Thought Catalog piece by Amy Glass/Chrissy Stockton titled, “I Look Down on Young Women with Husbands and Kids and I’m Not Sorry,” and her follow up explanation-ish piece, “Hi, I am Amy Glass.” The piece inspired dozens (if not hundreds) or response pieces, 7 of which were published on Thought Catalog alone.
I think that Stockton misses the forest for the trees…but she’s not exactly “wrong.” Allow me to explain…
Choice Feminism is a serious issue within feminism. In Linda Hirshman’s piece she states, “During the ’90s, I taught a course in sexual bargaining at a very good college. Each year, after the class reviewed the low rewards for child-care work, I asked how the students anticipated combining work with child-rearing. At least half the female students described lives of part-time or home-based work. Guys expected their female partners to care for the children. When I asked the young men how they reconciled that prospect with the manifest low regard the market has for child care, they were mystified. Turning to the women who had spoken before, they said, uniformly, “But she chose it.”” They chose it. And therein lies the issue: if something is expected, if a behavior is something we are reared into, is it really a choice? If it’s assumed, are we really making the decision at all? If it’s a choice, and an appealing choice, why are more men not choosing it?
Let me be clear – child rearing is absolutely a job, and is absolutely important in society. Children grow up to be citizens. They need to be raised, and raised well, whether that’s from a mom, a dad, both, two of one or the other, grandparents, a legal guardian, whatever. It’s a shame that as a society we do value child rearing so poorly because it is the foundation of our society. That doesn’t mean that a woman choosing to give up her career for childrearing is empowering. It’s not, it’s important, but it’s not empowering. It’s not necessarily feminist either, though there are certainly a great deal of awesome feminist mothers that use their role as a caretaker to raise children (boys and girls) who are respectful of others and aware of societal privileges. Being a working woman isn’t necessarily feminist either, look at Ann Coulter or Michelle Bachman – both successful working women, both staunch anti-feminists. A woman saying or doing something doesn’t automatically make it “feminist,” and trying to brand things like not-really-a-choice choice feminism and choice objectification as legitimate feminism only serves to dissolve the necessary force behind the movement.
This is where, I feel, the Glass/Stockton piece failed. I don’t look down on married women with children, I wonder what their life could have been like if they hadn’t been brought up in a society where the expectation of women was still that they would sacrifice their careers when the time came to start a family, how much further we may be in science and medicine if half the population wasn’t still shoehorned into neglecting their academic potential, how different developing nations would be if women were really and truly given the same educational and career opportunities as men. Chrissy is right to be angry that so many young women are giving up on their potential outside of the home, but she’s directing her ire at the wrong people.