Some insist that that it’s a “fake trend,” but feminism seems to be breathing its last.
I’ve been following this trend for some time now, so I am heartened to see others joining the conversation. Yesterday, New York Magazine ran a long cover article about the decline and fall of feminism.
The magazine’s editor, Adam Moss is among the best at spotting trends, so people around town took notice.
Obviously, it’s going to take some time to undo four decades of feminism. Still, people are speaking about feminism differently than they weres. They are feeling freer to detach themselves from its dogmas, even to the point of refusing to follow its life plan.
At the same time, many women insist on calling themselves feminists and many young men still say that they want egalitarian marriages. More and more it's feeling like lip service.
Ostensibly, Lisa Miller’s New York Magazine article tells the story of Kelly Makino, a woman who chose to quit her job and stay home to care for her home and her children. Makino chose to be a full time housewife and homemaker.
Naturally, she still calls herself a feminist and insists that she is furthering the cause, but that really suggests that in a world that respects diversity of opinion, people in certain neighborhoods feel too threatened to deviate from the party line.
Regardless of how many women are giving up their jobs in order to become full time housewives and homemakers, the important point about Miller’s article is this: it destigmatizes homemaking.
You may not remember, but once upon a time feminists decided that “wife” was the worst thing you could call a woman. No self-respecting woman would ever suggest that she wanted to be a homemaker.
Both roles were stigmatized because their bearers were colluding with patriarchal oppression.
Women were told, and in many cases are still told to defer marriage to develop their careers. No one really cared whether that was what women really wanted. It was what feminists wanted for women, and that was all that mattered.
In many ways these dogmas continue to exercise their nefarious influence. Most women in college today will insist that they place career ahead of family. Of course, if they say otherwise they will be quickly ostracized.
Thus, it is noteworthy to read these words in New York Magazine.
Lisa Miller writes:
Feminism has fizzled, its promise only half-fulfilled. This is the revelation of the moment, hashed and rehashed on blogs and talk shows, a cause of grief for some, fury for others. American women are better educated than they’ve ever been, better educated now than men, but they get distracted during their prime earning years by the urge to procreate. As they mature, they earn less than men and are granted fewer responsibilities at work.
And Miller has revised her view of the revolution that Betty Friedan incited:
Reading The Feminine Mystique now, one is struck by the white-hot flame of Betty Friedan’s professional hunger, which made her into a prophet and a pioneer. But it blinded her as well: She presumed that all her suburban-housewife sisters felt as imprisoned as she did and that the gratification she found in her work was attainable for all. That was never true, of course; the revolution that Friedan helped to spark both liberated women and allowed countless numbers of them to experience financial pressure and the profound dissatisfactions of the workaday grind. More women than ever earn some or all of the money their family lives on. But today, in the tumultuous 21st-century economy, depending on a career as a path to self-actualization can seem like a sucker’s bet.
The feminist life plan as “sucker’s bet.” That is radical indeed.
The reasoning behind the decision shows how far women have deviated from feminist orthodoxy. Kelly Makino, the subject of Miller’s article, explains that perhaps women do not have to be both boys and girls. Perhaps it’s good enough just to be girls.
“The feminist revolution started in the workplace, and now it’s happening at home,” says Makino. “I feel like in today’s society, women who don’t work are bucking the convention we were raised with … Why can’t we just be girls? Why do we have to be boys and girls at the same time?” She and the legions like her offer a silent rejoinder to Sandberg’s manifesto, raising the possibility that the best way for some mothers (and their loved ones) to have a happy life is to make home their highest achievement.
Now Kelly is 33, and if dreams were winds, you might say that hers have shifted. She believes that every household needs one primary caretaker, that women are, broadly speaking, better at that job than men, and that no amount of professional success could possibly console her if she felt her two young children—Connor, 5, and Lillie, 4—were not being looked after the right way. The maternal instinct is a real thing, Kelly argues: Girls play with dolls from childhood, so “women are raised from the get-go to raise children successfully. When we are moms, we have a better toolbox.” Women, she believes, are conditioned to be more patient with children, to be better multitaskers, to be more tolerant of the quotidian grind of playdates and temper tantrums; “women,” she says, “keep it together better than guys do.”
It looks as though biology has won out over ideology.
As for egalitarian marriage, we now know that it does not work. When couples divide housework equally the chances of divorce increase by 50%.
Moreover, splitting chores does not work because it is economically inefficient. It is taxing and draining to have to discuss and debate and renegotiate the myriad of chores that need to be done in a household.
Miller makes the salient point:
In an egalitarian marriage, every aspect of home life is open to renegotiation. When two people need to leave the house at 6 a.m., who gets the children ready for school? When two people have to work late, who will meet that inflexible day-care pickup time? And who, finally, has the energy for those constant transactions?