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April 13, 2012

"A Woman's Place Is....."

...in the news, apparently. This week, the Blatherosphere and Twitterverse lit up like a Roman candle over Hillary Rosen's highly entertaining venture into self-beclownment as performance art. Michelle Malkin, a working Mom herself, is no stranger to the Left's schizophrenic and hamfisted attempts to school women about their rightful place in society. She notes that the "She never did a day of work in her life" putdown has been used before:

Teresa Heinz-Kerry did it to Laura Bush in 2004: Q: You’d be different from Laura Bush? A: Well, you know, I don’t know Laura Bush. But she seems to be calm, and she has a sparkle in her eye, which is good. But I don’t know that she’s ever had a real job — I mean, since she’s been grown up.

Apparently earning a Bachelors' degree in education and a Masters in Library Science, then employing those degrees as a professional teacher and librarian don't rate inclusion on the Left's list of approved jobs. Inconveniently, Mrs. Romney's resume turns out to be a tad more impressive than Rosin's blissfully ignorant sneers would lead one to believe. Not that this actually matters. "Women's work", doncha know...

Sarah Palin got the opposite treatment: throngs of concerned progressives anxiously wrung their hands over the heretofore verboten matter of Who Will Mind the Kids if Mommy becomes Vice President? A question that once provoked well deserved scorn in progressive circles was suddenly and inexplicably taken very seriously (as though Gov. Palin's career choices or parenting style were anyone's business but that of Todd and Sarah Palin).

The one constant in all of this agonizing over a woman's proper role has been that if the woman happens to be a liberal, there is no wrong answer. But if she's conservative, there is no right answer. Which, come to think of it, may be one reason Obama's War on Women meme appears to be having at least some effect on the perceptions of the voting public. Let's face it - it gets a reaction every time and the reaction from conservatives is consistently inconsistent. What comes across to women like me, who believe in the value of time honored gender roles, who don't for one moment doubt that conservative policies (as opposed to conservative punditry) have anything but my best interest at heart, who have both stayed home to raise children and left home to begin a career, is that some folks on the right are just as deeply confusicated about all this pesky talk of women having dangerous choices as their progressive brethren in Christ.

Over at the Conservative Commune, ladypart-having blogger Joy McCann takes issue with a recent column by James Taranto of the WSJ:

Taranto is prone to an oversimplification—emphasizing the destructive side of feminism—that is really prevalent on the right, and can be dangerous, for three reasons. First off, many independents and moderates interpret the word “feminist” to be merely “anti-sexist.” To rail against feminism without noting that not all of it was radical can mark conservatives and Republicans as potentially, or even predominantly, sexist—which conveniently underscores a false liberal-left narrative about us.

...The GOP is not the party of rigid sex roles. The GOP is the “come as you are party”: we believe that individuals and families can make these decisions for themselves. We love women who work in the home, and those who work outside the home; we want to keep families’ tax burdens low so that they can make parenting and housework determinations for themselves. We love science. We love rational atheists, and people of faith. We love free markets.

That is conservative.

For well over three decades, I have voted conservative because I believed the GOP to be the party that best aligns with my values and my interests. Conservatism, in my opinion, balances opportunity and respect for individual liberty with responsibility and duty to something larger than self. Therefore, it is deeply distressing to me to see conservative pundits reinforcing the progressive narrative of conservatives as reactionary control freaks fretting about all those uppity womynfolk oppressed and confused by the choices modern life affords to them.

What is a conservative female to think when she sees pundits describing adult women who choose to work (or not) as "chained to their desks"? What is she to think when she sees conservative pundits industriously laboring to prove that (inconvenient evidence to the contrary notwithstanding), educated working women are, in some unexplained but emotionally gratifying fashion, directly or indirectly destroying marriage?

As Charles Murray shows in his new book, "Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010," marriage has declined much less sharply among the educated and affluent than among the so-called working class. But it has still declined, and it can be expected to decline more absent a reversal of the trend toward greater female education and accomplishment.

Think for just a moment about the implication of this stunning statement: if we don't "reverse the trend" of women being allowed to attend college and decide whether or not they want to work, disaster will ensue? Is that really what conservatism is all about?

I don't think so. I've been surrounded by conservative men all my life. My Dad, whose fondest dream for me was to attend law school and be an attorney. My husband, who after decades of being married to a SAH wife, supported me in my long-deferred dream of having a career, and who is my biggest fan and cheering section. My two sons, one married to a teacher with a Masters' degree and the other married to a brand spanking new PhD.

My beloved readers here at VC, most of whom are male and the vast majority of whom respect and honor women.

In the column Joy took issue with last night, Taranto repeats a favorite Lefty narrative: women as helpless victims who "have no choice" but to work... unless of course they indulge their Inner Hypergamist and marry a man of means, in which case the iron shackles that chain them to their desks will burst asunder, ushering a glorious new age of domesticity! No longer will poor, confusicated women have to wrestle with choices. If we just have the courage to reject what feminists keep telling us to do and embrace what conservatives want us to do, we'll be so much happier.

There's just one problem with this formulation: the facts don't support the narrative:

There's been a great deal of talk about the "opt-out revolution" among professional women who stay home, even as working class parents have been forced by men's stagnant wages to work more and more jobs and hours.

The data, though, don't support the impression that staying at home is a luxury. A detailed 2010 study by two Census Bureau sociologist, in fact, found the opposite: While stay-at-home motherhood has become less common over time, the women who stay at home are increasingly those whose low education means they can't earn enough money to making working outside the home worthwhile.

The idea that women have no choices, or are "forced" to do anything is offensive enough when Hillary Rosen advances it. We always have choices. When we don't like our choices, it often turns out that our previous decisions have narrowed our present options. That's the "responsibility" part of freedom vs. responsibility, and being asked to deal with tradeoffs isn't too onerous a burden for adults.

It is patronizing when the DNC flogs their vision of bemused, clueless women victimized by evil forces beyond our control (aka, heartless conservatives who hate us and want us to suffer). It's equally patronizing when conservative pundits imply that we're being victimized by joyless feminists who hate all that's holy and want us to suffer.

I rather doubt Ann Romney is verklempt over the DNC's latest own goal. She handled the kerfuffle wisely and well because she's secure in her own values and judgment. It is inconvenient for some progressives and radical feminists that around 40% of mothers choose, for whatever reason, to stay home and raise their kids.

And it is inconvenient for conservatives who long to "reverse the trend of female education and achievement" that women like myself, who happily embraced the role of traditional wife-and-motherdom consider themselves better off in today's world than they would have been in the one we remember growing up in.

Even if we're oppressed by all that horrid freedom and the choices and tradeoffs that go with it. Even if all this handwringing over whether womens' lib and the sexual revolution have been good for women grates on our last nerve.

The Left tends to treat women like big, clueless children. We don't combat that mindset by following suit (albeit with a half twist of lemon). I won't hold my breath for either conservatives or progressives to stop telling women what our place in society should be, or what will make us happy. Adults decide these things for themselves - they make their own choices and deal with the consequences.

That is conservatism, in a nutshell.

Posted by Cassandra at April 13, 2012 05:59 AM

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There appears to be a New York factor in this. Taranto is responding to articles from the New York Times in the Wall Street Journal. The Times articles (as Dr. Althouse points out from time to time) are pitched toward female readers of the upper classes -- and that by New York standards, which are quite rich.

Thus, it's no surprise that the nationwide data come out different time and again. The idea that 'staying home is a luxury of the super-rich' is probably even true within the circle of everyone they know. It's just that the data doesn't support it when we look at the wider nation.

We get a similar effect whenever the New York papers decide to write a story about life in the South. It's amazing what sounds reasonable to them.

Posted by: Grim at April 13, 2012 11:15 AM

What would I do without you all? I spend hours thinking about a topic and you guys (and gals!) come along with a new angle I hadn't considered :)

Great insight, Grim.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 13, 2012 11:27 AM

I have never known a single person to work outside of the home for any reason other than money, power or, in some cases, faith/hope/charity. Why anyone, woman or man, would think this to an enviable social trait is beyond me.

Posted by: spd rdr - beloved, yet bemoaned at April 13, 2012 11:31 AM

spd darlin':

You know me, don't you? :)

Even when I was a FT homemaker and mother, I found other things to do. I enjoyed the challenges and the joy of solving problems and learning new things and working with other adults.

I am blessed never to have borne the burden most men routinely shoulder with little notice and less praise. My little family would do just fine without the money I bring home, though my salary does make it possible for us to enjoy luxuries we would forego if we lived on one income.

I truly don't *have* to work. I want to, and I feel lucky to live in a country that doesn't make that an uphill battle.

Posted by: Cassandra - Princess of Chopped Liver at April 13, 2012 11:41 AM

I enjoyed the challenges and the joy of solving problems and learning new things and working with other adults.

In that case,my dear, you've never "worked" at day in your life. :-)

Posted by: spd rdr - beloved, yet bemoaned at April 13, 2012 12:09 PM

...now where did I put that ruler....

WHAP WHAP WHAP! :)

Posted by: Sister Mary Bag O'Metaphors at April 13, 2012 12:19 PM

The Left tends to treat women like big, clueless children.

So does the Right; the two simply have different sanctions to apply to the misbehaving children. And neither Left nor Right should be confused with true conservatism.

Separately but related: you bet there's a war on women, now being perpetrated by the Progressives, but mostly because they're the ones in power. Prior administrations and Congresses, populated with RINOs, have been pursuing their own war on women.

This war, though, is simply a side effect--perhaps with disparate impact on women--of the larger war both have been prosecuting: a war on American individuality, on American liberties, in favor of steadily increasing dependence of Americans on [strike]government[/strike]their own largess. After all, that's where political power comes from for incumbents.

A woman's place is at the front, with the rest of us, in fighting against this attack on our selves.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at April 13, 2012 12:48 PM

The two faces of the Abusive Parent Party; the Mommycrats and the Daddycans. The war is on those who are trying to be citizen adults instead of properly being subject children (in the APP's eyes.)

Posted by: htom at April 13, 2012 02:12 PM

FYI, the link to Mrs. Romney's resume is broken.

That said, I'm glad I'm not the only one who notice the dichotomy between four years ago when Sarah Palin was excoriated for her decision to serve as VP and this current debacle.

I also read the Census article earlier this morning and wondered whether or not you'd seen it. My first thought was, "Great, now it's not that we're making a *choice*....we're just too dumb to know better." At this rate of stupidity, I'm surprised all us wymym folk haven't somehow gotten lost on the way to the mail box and wound up stuk in Eyerak.
*sigh*

Posted by: DL Sly at April 13, 2012 02:34 PM

Thanks - hopefully it's fixed now!

htom: I wonder whether it's not more a case of collateral damage (IOW, everyone's looking to score points against the other side, and sometimes they seize upon and use arguments that are inadvertently patronizing to people on their own side?).

At least I hope that's what it is. I'd rather believe that than believe they really think women are that stupid.

But in politics, I wouldn't rule anything out :p

Posted by: Cassandra at April 13, 2012 02:43 PM

I'd rather believe that than believe they really think women are that stupid.

Actually, I think they really believe that anyone who doesn't consider themselves to be a victim is that stupid. Gender, race, religion, etc. are just convenient labels.

Posted by: Pogue at April 13, 2012 02:49 PM

"Great, now it's not that we're making a *choice*....we're just too dumb to know better." At this rate of stupidity, I'm surprised all us wymym folk haven't somehow gotten lost on the way to the mail box and wound up stuk in Eyerak.

Heh :)

What gets me is that unless and until you can make a good salary, working outside the home doesn't really bring in much money. Once you pay the extra taxes and expenses like child care, gas, clothing, and the invisible "tax" of capital-for-labor substitution that occurs when time itself becomes a luxury good, you're lucky to break even and may well even lose money.

Over the years we figured out how much we'd be able to keep if I worked and always came to the same conclusion: we'd lose money or break even at best. There was no tangible benefit to my working and there were significant costs to my not running the household.

If a woman is genuinely miserable at home then that would be a tangible benefit of working, but I wasn't unhappy. Once I completed school, I could command a bigger salary. Even with the not-inconsiderable tax hit, we are better off.

That changes the calculation.

The notion that women (especially educated women) are so intimidated by radical feminist dogma that they mindlessly work even when they hate it is pretty insulting. If it were true, I'd have to say I can't feel sorry for women like that.

A year or so ago I saw a great line written by a conservative male blogger. He said, "Do these people ever stop to think how they sound to women?"

Insulting our intelligence strikes me as a rather poor way of making converts, but then if one proceeds from the assumption that we're morons to begin with, it might seem like a smart move :p

Posted by: Cassandra at April 13, 2012 03:04 PM

Actually, I think they really believe that anyone who doesn't consider themselves to be a victim is that stupid. Gender, race, religion, etc. are just convenient labels.

That implicit assumption is what turned me off liberalism as a very young woman: anyone who doesn't agree they're a victim is "uneducated" and needs to be schooled by the cognitive elite (who apparently understand victims better than they understand themselves....)

*sigh*

Disturbing to see that refrain cropping up in conservative circles.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 13, 2012 03:08 PM

I don't think that they think women are that stupid. Spice and I have been in both parties for decades, she's a donkey and I'm an elephant. I think they think we all are, or enough of us that it just doesn't matter (and she mostly agrees with me.) Sadly, we keep demonstrating that they're correct by our behavior in re-electing them.


And a woman's place is where she wants to be. Others may want to be there, too; life's a struggle for all of us, or should be.

Posted by: htom at April 13, 2012 03:17 PM

I couldn't agree with you more that conservatism means adults making their own choices and dealing with the consequences themselves. This leads to interesting consequences when people (both men and women) finally begin to think of women as real-life, true-blue adults. News flash: we don't need the men in our lives, or the government either, to make our choices for us or to protect us from the consequences of our own choices.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 13, 2012 03:22 PM

I'd rather believe that than believe they really think women are that stupid.

What is there in Obama's, Reid's, Pelosi's, Rosen's words or behavior that makes you think this isn't their attitude toward all of us?

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at April 13, 2012 03:26 PM

Mine's got a degree in Engineering Science & Materials, altho hasn't worked in that field. I have two in Chemical Engineering, working on a Ph.D. in Materials Science & Engineering (not quite the same, but don't ask me). One kid about to get a B.A. in English, the other halfway towards something, not sure yet.
Everyone should get a choice; work at nice office, work at home, work abroad, work in miserable sweatshop making widgets, work in academia, raise kids / work at home, whatever. What is lost lately is that by debasing the currency, endless deficit spending, gradual inflation and so forth, CHOICE is being inexorably removed from most folks; you both work because you HAVE to, to make ends meet, and kids get deferred / delayed / never grown because you can't afford to feed / raise / educate them.
Pro-choice? Most on the Left side of the aisle are extremely ANTI-CHOICE; do it their way or don't do it. Applies to lifestyles (no conservatives, no big families, no religion), work (no traditional one-worker families), the environment (no industry, assumed to pollute without question, global warming), and so on. NO CHOICE ALLOWED which contradicts, interferes or denies leftist policy; no flexibility, even when the participants agree on what they want.
WE MUST OBEY or be criticized in every available arena; to which I reply, DON'T TREAD ON ME.
Jim

Posted by: Jim at April 13, 2012 03:58 PM

Think for just a moment about the implication of this stunning statement: if we don't "reverse the trend" of women being allowed to attend college and decide whether or not they want to work, disaster will ensue? Is that really what conservatism is all about?

This seems to me to be strikingly similar to the arguments some (a very small some) on the right make about women voting: if we don't reverse the trend of women being allowed to vote, we'll never elect a conservative President again. I'm not sure if these arguments reveal an astonishing lack of principle or that old, old characterization of women as "the Other".

It's very odd that choices and rights no one would question when it comes to men are somehow open to debate when it comes to women. It makes me wonder what the insides of these people's heads look like. Rather jumbled, I imagine.

Posted by: Elise at April 13, 2012 05:04 PM

"Once you pay the extra taxes and expenses like child care, gas, clothing, and the invisible "tax" of capital-for-labor substitution that occurs when time itself becomes a luxury good, you're lucky to break even and may well even lose money.

Over the years we figured out how much we'd be able to keep if I worked and always came to the same conclusion: we'd lose money or break even at best. There was no tangible benefit to my working and there were significant costs to my not running the household."

Yup. Diminishing return is an apt descriptor in many if not most cases.


When Walkin' Boss and I decided to overpopulate the planet, WB really wanted to be at home with the kids. I thought that a good thing, so we happily made do on my earnings. We did fine even though early on, we had to drive iddy, biddy, used cars and start our adventures in owning real estate in a townhouse.

Choices are based on values in conjunction with needs. The problem I see today is there seems to be expectations along with little to no distinction to be made between wants and needs.

And yes, I really think too many of those orbiting in political circles have convinced themselves that the the male and female variants of the flownovers are gullible, needy hicks, requiring oversight, direction, and a tight rein.

Truth be told, I suspect too many of the political class mothers were hamsters and their fathers smelt of elderberries!

Posted by: bthun at April 13, 2012 05:41 PM

I feel sooo guilty. I chose to stay at home, chained to my EZ Bake Oven, and wringing my hands over insignificant crises, such as speeding tickets, children entering puberty, and the like.

The horruh. I did finish my degree last year. During the time I was taking classes, things got better for my family as I learned. The past two years have been wonderful because of it.

I wouldn't trade that for the world.

Posted by: Carolyn at April 13, 2012 05:44 PM

I should have qualified that expectations part with unrealistic... As in, I graduated from University with a BA in <fill in the blank> which means I will not sully my hands for a starting salary of less than six figures.

Posted by: bthun at April 13, 2012 05:48 PM

"'A spokeswoman for Mitt Romney’s campaign, Andrea Saul, said: “The issue is not whether Ann has spent time working outside the home. Of course she did other things besides raise a family, including volunteering her time for causes that she cares about.”

“The real issue,” Ms. Saul said, “is that women make different choices regarding family and careers, and they should be supported no matter what decision they make.”'"

Courtesy of the NYT. I am SHOCKED.

Ann sneaked out of the house after the chyldryn were in school to be a community supporter. What will she do next?

Posted by: Carolyn at April 13, 2012 05:53 PM

I really think too many of those orbiting in political circles have convinced themselves that the the male and female variants of the flownovers are gullible, needy hicks, requiring oversight, direction, and a tight rein.

I read this morning that men who don't realize that they're victims need to be educated by the cognitive elite. Sound familiar?

Poor dears - will y'all ever learn to think for yourselves?

Posted by: And then her head exploded.... at April 13, 2012 06:37 PM

"I read this morning that men who don't realize that they're victims need to be educated by the cognitive elite."

Long ago and far away, when I had Shore Patrol duty overseas, I recall hearing something very similar .

A disheveled fellow with a silly grin on his face recounted his relationship with a lady who was wearing tall black boots and wielding a whip. He said she started their relationship by making, what was essentially, the same statement! =8-/

*ambles off towards the beerfrigerator in basement*

Posted by: bthun at April 13, 2012 07:05 PM

"ambles off towards the beerfrigerator in basement*

Is that where one keeps these?
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at April 13, 2012 08:55 PM

"Is that where one keeps these?"

Hail yeah! That is ifn the Game Warden don't catch ya HWI... <hiccup!>

Posted by: Larry at April 13, 2012 10:00 PM

That implicit assumption is what turned me off liberalism as a very young woman: anyone who doesn't agree they're a victim is "uneducated" and needs to be schooled by the cognitive elite (who apparently understand victims better than they understand themselves....)...I read this morning that men who don't realize that they're victims need to be educated by the cognitive elite.

We need to raise your bloody clarss consciousness!

(Quoting The Hairy Ape but you know which older kind of Left I'm referring to.)

Posted by: Joseph W. at April 14, 2012 07:25 AM

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