Sorry Ms Rosin, I Don't Consider Promiscuity "Success" and Motherhood "Failure"

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.

Motherhood matters.

Don't ever forget it. 


Anonymous said…
Love this post! I don't know who the women is u are referring to but understand the type of femminism she obviously prescribes to!
Any woman who's thrown herself into mothering a new baby knows how empowering it can be, I know I found it empowering, - and homely, lovey, and warm and snuggly and all the thing feminists tell me I don't need! Lol
Anonymous said…
I agree that feminists should not devalue care work, but I also think that care work needs to be something that men and women do together, as parents, siblings, children, community members. Aside from pregnancy and breastfeeding (though I did see a discovery channel show on men's ability to breast feed in dire circumstances) care work is not something only women can do or only women should be expected to do. From your description, her article sounds mostly classist. I agree that our society does not value and support parenting as it should and that most of the work of parenting in our culture is done by women and that devaluing that work doesn't help anyone. But I resist any acceptance of the idea that this patenting work is inherently more meaningful or desirable to women. I think the fact that women do so much of this work is entirely cultural. I think if they were divested of all their cultural baggage a lot more men would want to be the primary caretakers of their children.
mama of 2 said…
This woman's theories are ridiculous. I as a woman tend to be very sex positive, and don't really care if someone chooses random hookups I'm favor of settling down, but to claim that these women who choose to settle down are failures and useless is downright insane. She's feeding mysoginy in this nation by this theory and by the theory that women shouldn't be phased by vulgar comments made by men in their direction. I am a wife, I have a beautiful three year old little girl and another little girl on the way, and while I will start school for what I want to do later than most, I wouldn't trade my life for anything. Her and her crackpot theories can crawl under a rock
Ally Grace said…
So, it is a good thing that women have become desensitized to being objectified? That is scary to me, and whilst a lot of women of my age bracket HAVE become desensitized - I find it horrendous and upsetting. And not a sign of progress. It is a sign that once again we are trapped and moulding our lives to social norms as opposed to social progression. I see it as simply a new sexism, which people have somehow disguised as what the "modern woman" is all about. How is pornography which objectifies women in violent and permissive ways, liberating?! Feminism is about equality, not some kind of list of "acceptable" ways in which to devote ones life. I'm glad you wrote this blog entry.
Anonymous said…

I can't stand so called 'feminists 'who seem to believe 'feminism' is acting more like a man. your a woman, and you don't have to put up with mens crude behavior, porn, or other peoples measurement of success
timanzel said…
I wonder what would happen to generations of our society if everyone actually did subscribe to this "career making tons of $$ is the only meaningful thing" idea. If everyone everywhere in this country devalued family, there would simply not be another generation. Any children who did manage to be born would perhaps have heard too many times that they were perhaps an accident or unwanted or got in the way of what was really important.

We've all heard the cliche song too many times, but I really do "believe that children are our future." Until we as a society agree to celebrate and count as successful those who birth, care for, and teach our young ones we're going to keep going nowhere fast.
momto5 said…
i think i might have to avoid reading her piece. i get really upset when success only means money, education (at a "good" college) and a high stress job.
what gets me, is that women will still have babies but then when they go back to work they leave their children with other women... who apparently are ok to raise children. it is ok to waste your time on children as long as it is a job, but to do it for your own children... well that is just ridiculous.
Anonymous said…
I couldn't agree more. While I don't think there's anything truly wrong with hookups, it's not my style, and in my opinion, that kind of lifestyle is very empty. Being okay with the objectification of women is progressive? Please! That's just sad. I really liked Alex's comment above. I, too, am glad you wrote this entry because that kind of thinking needs to be refuted. If we as women accept that we should just become the objectified type of females that some men find appealing, we're not living for ourselves any more than the 50's domestic goddess housewives were then. How is that better?

Anyway, if this woman wants to measure her life and her success with a career and education, fine. That's her prerogative. But I feel as though doing that exclusively lacks depth and emotional connection with others, which is also very important. Perhaps she shouldn't call herself a feminist if all she can do is condemn the choices of other women. Some of us want to work, some of us raise a family. That's the beauty of feminism... We can all fight for the right of women to choose whatever they want to do and to choose their own definitions of success.
Mama Birth said…
Thank you so much for all of your comments. You have articulated my thoughts better than I did. It seems as though MOST people found her article to be, well, awful and incorrect (even on her own magazine.)
Cori Gentry said…
Not sure I have anything super intelligent to say on this, must be because I'm home tending to my babies, growing a third, enjoying my happy carefully cultivated marriage and letting my college education rot in a closet with my heals and mini skirts that totally may still have condoms in the pockets.

I swear this woman has no joy in her. I don't know what she enjoys in her life, being a woman certainly does not seem to be one of them. What is with her constantly pitting one "type" of woman against another? I've been both, monogamous through courtship and early marriage, promiscuous divorced college student and entrepreneur, and by 24 married and a stay at home mother... and no I didn't meet my husband on one of my one nighters, we didn't have sex til we were married. My point is that I get the appeal of that lifestyle, but in the end your degree and paycheck aren't going to be holding your hand or remembering your life. And you might feel like you will learn a lot from a liberated sex life and will be a better lover for it, but... probably not... because sex outside of the context of a monogamous relationship with your right person is never the same, might be a great war story at the bar with the girls, but it will do nothing for you, your success, or your future. How are we still calling this feminism?
Anonymous said…
LOVE this! I think being a feminist is about being able to choose and being able to do whatever you want and find enjoyable. I think it's almost like some women are so determined to deviate from the 1950's version of a woman that they think they need to be more like the stereotypical idea of a man. I've discovered that, to me, feminism is about enjoying both being a mother and having an education, being able to make curtains or knit AND change a tire on a car. I think men and women should strive to be well-rounded and above all else happy with the life they have chosen for themselves.
Unknown said…
Thank you SO FREAKING MUCH for speaking out the way you do! I just tweeted this post and I hope my readers and friends/family will take the time to read.
JuliPickle said…
Thank you for writing this. I personally wouldn't feel very empowered or successful if I was at a desk job all day with no babies to cuddle with when I got home. I love being a mom, staying home with my children, nursing my babies, kissing owies. There's plenty of downsides and bad days but I still love it and wouldn't trade it for her definition of success any day.
AmberLou said…
I am building up humanity, one person at a time. And that is success.
Anonymous said…
I agree. We all need to make our own choices and not feel judged or condemned by others.
refabulous said…
So according to the article, women are successful when they become like... men. Got it.

Oh, the irony of extreme feminists.

I like to define true feminism as embracing being a woman, and all the amazing things only a woman can do. And I'm a successful woman. Maybe not by Ms. Rosin's criteria, but I do my best (not perfect) at raising, feeding, educating my 9 children, and rearing them to have character and values. I don't get paid a dime, but I can give society the best gift -- well-rounded, responsible, productive, loving human beings. I think that's pretty darn important.

Great article. :)
Anonymous said…
What a well written and powerful post. I couldn't agree more. Along with you, I measure my success as not only a woman, but as a human being, on my ability to do for others and to make the world a better place. Neither of these things involve making money and most likely never will. I teach yoga, I do my best to spread love and joy to those who come into my life. I am a wife, daughter, sister, friend, and soon to be mother. I am successful beyong my wildest dreams and am just getting started. It saddens me too that so many people wrongly believe success is measured monetarily - it is their greed speaking for them. In the end, our actions are the only thing that matters - and if our actions have been entirely self-serving, then we have not truly lived our lives.
TracyE said…
Well said. Well said. There is a visible disintegration of society all around us....any coincidence that pornography, promiscuity and materialism continue to increase?? IMHO, yes.
Vicki said…
Thank you for this, I spent my entire life surrounded by women that subscribed to ideas like that and when I was engaged to be married at 22 and then a mother that wanted to stay home at 24 I felt guilty and just plain wrong for being EXCITED. For feeling happy about my situation. Finding like minded friends and other moms that love being with their babies helped me a lot, but I still sometimes feel like maybe I'm crazy for wanting this. When I see college friends they often have that pity look on their face, like oh poor her, stuck home with a baby and taking care of her husband instead of going to parties, buying shoes and improving herself with a graduate degree. They have no idea what they are missing...

I had the chance to follow that life and it felt awful everyday. When people ask when I'm going back to work/ school(including family) I just want to laugh and say don't you get it? I wouldn't want to give this up for what you have right now in a million years!

If they are happy with that path, that's great- I just wish they wouldn't make me feel like I should be unhappy with mine!

S.P. said…
Well said. I agree with you completely. I love being married and being a stay-at-home housewife. I actually feel a little sorry for all the women who have to work and live a stressful life in order to either make money or feel a sense of personal worth. In my opinion their views in life are backwards.
Anonymous said…
Thank you! You've articulated much of what I think on this topic. I completely agree with you. I have a degree from a highfalutin university, but I still choose to primarily stay at home with my two young children. I do this because it's what's right for me and my family. My mother (also an over-educated stay-at-home mom) taught me and my sister that feminism was about CHOICE. If you want to pursue a career, great; if you want to stay home, great. My husband and I regularly discuss our frustration with the one-size-fits-all feminism portrayed here. Haven't we moved past the idea that feminism is just the right to be as dumb as the dumbest things guys do? Yes, we should be allowed to be that stupid, but shouldn't we also be able to do so much more?
The Denjas said…
Wonderful. I work outside the home as the main "breadwinner" after being a SAHM for many years. Nothing makes me feel more successful than just "being a mom." Nothing. Thank you for this. THANK YOU.
In 2000 or so I externed in DC and went to a paper/book presentation called Hooking Up, Hanging Out and
Hoping for Mr. Right:
College Women on Mating and Dating Today ( which basically said that the "current" dating trends were NOT empowering to women. Too bad Rossin didn't get the message.
Anonymous said…
Its like the age old question - who lies on their death bed and thinks 'I wish I'd worked longer hours' or 'I wish my career had gone better'? Not many (if any - men and women). I bet a lot more wish they had spent more time with their kids, done more fun stuff with their spouse, had more fun...... you know, the stuff that 'doesn't matter'!!!!!
Anonymous said…
THANK YOU for saying what I was thinking about that article. (I was pretty much speechless when I read it, which is saying a lot!)
Caryn Ouwehand said…
Amazing post. Thanks.
Anonymous said…
thanks for sharing.