Linda Hirshman's 'Get to Work' distorts Blogging Baby readers, writers

Filed under: Just For Moms, Work Life, Media, Day Care & Education

mamas who stay at home aren't so anti-feministI keenly remember December 2005. It was the first Christmas for my second son, Truman. I got a new lens for my camera. And I spent the entire month with boiling blood thanks to Linda Hirshman's article telling me -- us -- that women who stayed home with their children, who had more than one child, were perverting the goals of feminism. Her thesis: if you get educated, and then fail to have a job that matters (and to Hirshman, only well-paying professional jobs, or positions in academia, matter -- working for non-profits is almost as much of a waste of an Ivy League BA as is changing diapers), you're killing feminism, you're destroying everything for which those 50s and 60s-era leaders worked.

You all, your blood boiled, too. You wrote in comment after comment, over 50 of you. Many of you responded to my survey with long, honest, heart-wrenching, eloquent pieces. You made me cry. You made me laugh. And you may have even raised my blood temperature to, like, 214 degrees. I was hot.

Thank you, Linda, for bringing back December 2005 to me with startling heat. You published your book, and ABC (damn you ABC!) published an excerpt. You must have known, ABC, that I was reading. You must have known that quoting Blogging Baby interviews would make me link to you. Scourge of the earth.

And I have to. I must defend your honor, our honor. I must defend the feminist "elite," I must refute Linda's assertions. She says (horrors) that our stories prove the correctness of her thesis. That made me so mad, I had to bold it.

i don't support your thesis linda hirshmanWe don't prove her thesis, no, not at all. Interestingly Linda didn't quote from my story, nor Larissa's. She didn't quote from L.'s story. The problem: we don't fit her analysis. We're women who've had babies (some of us more than one! shocking!) and are happily following our dreams, enjoying rewarding and important careers.

She picks and chooses quotations from our stories, taking portions out of context and misinterpreting others. While each mother who wrote in answer to my survey expressed often angry disagreement with Hirshman, she happily skips those portions and follows up her cherry-picked snippets with emails from moms "like" us who wrote her fanmail (hon, your fans are nothing "like" us!).

One mother who was misquoted in Hirshman's book told me she was "infuriated," and the scuttlebutt amongst Blogging Baby's writer mamas was unprintable. Really, I'm not even angry that Hirshman called Blogging Baby "a Web site that advertises baby care, baby products, maternity clothes, etc." (which is like calling Newsweek "a magazine that advertises perfume and minivans") because it's so transparently a tool for belittling those who would disagree with her.

I'm pleased that Hirshman is reading her critics. I just wish she wouldn't present Blogging Baby readers as evidence that her thesis is correct. All of her analysis is so light on the science and heavy on the anecdote, like every other book or article in its class. There is no sea change in America. There is no revolution in which mothers are staying home in increasing numbers.

What revolution then? What's the truth? Here's what I see: More and more of you are finding wonderfully creative careers that allow you to embrace your motherly self, while at the same time furthering your development and supporting the goals of feminism. If you stay at home, you're writing, or volunteering, or going back to school, or simply putting a really fascinating career on hold. If you have more than one child, that doesn't seem to either decrease your importance in the world or increase your dependence on the men in your life. (And even if it does: oh please, Linda, we're not in the 50s any more, where women were afraid to leave their husbands for fear they'd be shunned from the country club. Geez.)

I am continually amazed at the rich variety of brilliant and accomplished women who read this site, who contribute to the debate, who remind me that Hirshman and her cronies are wrong.

Please support me in not buying Linda's book, in not giving mainstream media more reason to claim that our choices are perverting feminism, or that our "wars" are petty and mean. I don't work with those women. I don't meet those women at my knitting groups or non-profit events. I don't get emails from them.

And we? We won't buy your book. Not if I have anything to do with it.

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