Well, I received my issue of "The Atlantic" this week. It contains an article by Hanna Rosin that I was afraid to even read.
In all fairness I should admit that I probably have a very different outlook on life than the intelligent Hanna. I almost always disagree with her. She seems to find "attachment parenting" oppressive to the state of women everywhere. She actually wrote a huge article on how formula is really just as good as breastfeeding (and seems to lend weight to the article because she actually breastfeeds but thinks it is lame?!) Oh, she also thinks breastfeeding oppresses women. (My thoughts on this article are in one of my very first blog posts, written years ago. Man I hope I write better than that now.)
You know- I can really SEE where she is coming from in a lot of her opinions. Even though I have a one year old and a three year old in my bed by 4 AM I can admit that all this attachment stuff isn't roses and organic body mist. I won't lie about the truths of motherhood even if they are harsh and hard and even feel a little oppressive.
This article wasn't directly about motherhood though. It is titled "Boys On The Side" and is actually about "hook-up" culture among educated American 20-30 something women. Rather than seeing sexual permissiveness as a bad thing, she has decided that in fact it is liberating. Surely, she isn't the first or the last to believe this. It isn't even a new idea at all.
And yet, I find myself a little disappointed in her positive assessment regarding sexual promiscuity.
Rosin's main thrust as stated in the the article blurb is this, (speaking of sexual promiscuity)
"Actually, it is an engine of female progress- one being harnessed and driven by women themselves."
She then goes on to describe how these progressive women are not bothered by pornography, strip clubs, rude and graphic remarks, or vulgarity by the men around them, even their boyfriends. In fact, they seemed so immune that they didn't even NOTICE it.
She then describes the "hook-up culture" and why it is liberating and empowering for women. Rather than getting bogged down and held back by relationships, commitments, and family, these successful and driven women simply have consentual, brief, and meaningless sexual relationships that are never intended to last or become too involved.
She even makes something of a compelling case for why this is good- these women are able to be more successful BECAUSE they don't have the burdens of family, the time suck of relationships, and so were able to pursue their careers and education with single mindedness.
She even mocks the work of Caitlin Flanagan (who I adore) because she is nostalgic for a time when sex meant something to women (and men).
I will admit to a pretty puritanical outlook on morality and sex. I have come to realize that I view the sacredness of sex and marriage and family very differently than many people around me. But I don't think my problem with Rosen simply hinges on my dark age views on sex and marriage.
I disagree with Rosen so strongly mostly because the value system she uses to assign women worth is deeply flawed and misogynistic.
Oh, and I can prove it with her own words. She says,
"... unlike the women in earlier ages, they have more-important things on their minds, such as good grades and internships and job interviews and a financial future of their own."
Rosen believes that internships, job interviews, and finances are more important than what women used to worry about. What did they used to worry about back in the awful days of yore? Family. Marriage. Children. You know, those things that don't matter.
Over and over she uses the word "success" when she talks about careers and money and avoiding family commitments and children.
"...they can enter into temporary relationships that don't get int he way of future success."
"For an upwardly mobile, ambitious young woman, hookups were a way to dip into relationships without disrupting her self-development or schoolwork"
These temporary relationships are awesome because they give a woman,
"the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career."
I personally think it is awesome and incredible downright fabulous that women are making money, are powerful in their careers and are well educated. I love that we can make choices for ourselves and our futures and that we really have reached a place where we can take our lives into our own hands. If some women decided to use that power and those choices to have numerous and brief "hook-ups" then fine. Not my style, but whatever.
The biggest problem with Rosen and her opinions though is not that they are immoral (OK, I think they are) but that they pigeon hole what success is for women (and men).
According to her success is education, money, a career. She openly mocks women in her article who have children younger or who get married at a younger age. She shares quotes clearly indicating that these women, those who have chosen motherhood and marriage are backwards, old fashioned, small town and NOT successful.
Is this what people call feminism? Is this what we call empowerment?
Because if the only way that a woman can be considered a success (by other women no less) is to make tons of money, have a high pressure career and an impressive degree from a respected university, then I sure suck and so do LOTS of women.
If we believe that these three things: money, career, and education, are the only things that measure success (in a woman OR a man) then I feel sorry for our culture and our country in general.
Why do I feel sad? Why is this misogynistic? This is blatant hatred of women because it conveniently LEAVES OUT and dismisses some things that women can do.
To name just a few: be a mother, be a wife, be a sister, be friend, serve others, nurture, love, etc, etc, etc. Maybe love and service and motherhood and all that jazz just sounds dumb and un-successful to Rosin. Maybe it sounds like a failure to a lot of us. I can even admit that it felt like a failure TO ME when that (motherhood) was "all" I was doing with my life.
But Hanna is wrong. Our culture is wrong. I was WRONG.
A woman can be a success without making tons of money. She can be a success without going to Yale or working on Wall Street. In fact, to me, what feminism really SHOULD be about is being able to consider myself successful even if "all" I do is mother my children.
I don't have to act like a corrupt frat guy on steroids to feel successful. I sure as hell don't have to view women being paid to have sex in a movie in order to feel empowered. I can honestly say that I wouldn't want my daughters OR my son to treat their bodies and their ability to procreate and the idea of family as a waste or burden or a failure.
In fact, for my children, the thing I hope they are most "successful" at is being a good mother or father and wife and husband. I don't measure my own personal success merely by the money in my bank account or the degrees on my wall. I won't think my children are useless if they don't make it to an Ivy League school.
But I will be disappointed in them (and myself) if they are bad parents. I will be saddened if they value pleasure over duty and selfishness over service. I will be disappointed if they choose a life that revolves around themselves and their desires above all else.
Ms Rosin you are wrong.
You are wrong to call the female acceptance of pornography a sign of progress. (Can we really believe that this is good for ANYBODY? This blows my mind.) You are wrong to consider family a sign of failure and career a sign- no THE sign of success. You are measuring women with a ruler that doesn't even have the right numbers on it.
Not only are you wrong but you have bought into the biggest lies that women have ever been told- that motherhood doesn't matter. That the things that we do as women- that ONLY women can do, are actually just....nothing. You don't even put them on the yardstick. The success of parenting or marriage or simply JOY are absent. Instead the only measure is monetary.
That is the measure that MEN have used and you have bought into their theory lock, stock and barrel. Do us all a favor and STOP IT. Step back. Recognize that the way you are measuring women (and men) and measure success is in and of itself SEXIST and misogynistic.
Stop buying into the lie that the only things worth value are the things that women do outside of their home. These lies are the worst kind, because so many women believe them and also because they throw out with the bathwater all the things women do that they don't get paid for.
Women are empowered. Women are strong. Women do have choices.
Women should also still be valued if they choose to find success in their home or if they pursue greatness in their kitchen or with their children or within their community.
Stop limiting women by measuring us only with your flawed value system. You hurt all of us. Worst of all, you de-value your own work as a wife and mother.
Don't ever forget it.