Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Feminist Guilt Trip

On the face of it you would think that Lisa Endlich Heffernan has done well, by herself, by her children, by her marriage.

True, she had to give up her career to stay at home with her three young sons, but she could afford to do it. Her boys are now grown and mostly on their own.

You would think that she would manifest some pride in her achievement. Bringing up three boys and maintaining a solid and stable marriage for well over two decades give her the right to feel some measure of  pride.

But, she doesn’t. Now that her children are grown, she has launched a new career as a sad feminist whiner. She bemoans what she lost, what she gave up, what she sacrificed for her children, her home and her family.

Her article on the Huffington Post shows her indulging an embarrassing bout of moral self-flagellation. Somehow or other, feminism has taught her to drown her natural pride in self-criticism. If she wasn’t depressed before she turned down this dead end street, she soon will be.

Since it is well known that self-deprecating criticism is the root of depression, one is justified in saying that the feminist mindset produces depression. Heffernan’s is a classic in glass-half-empty thinking.

For those who think that feminism promotes the freedom for women to choose to live their lives as they see fit, note well that for Heffernan, making a choice that contradicts feminist dogma is very costly indeed.

Why did Heffernan quit her job? She notes that while she was working full time, she had two small children, with another on the way. Despite the best efforts of her super-competent Nanny, her household was complete chaos.

Yet, her mind, addled by feminist pieties, does not look back at the advantages that her children gained by her being a stay-at-home-mom. In retrospect, she can only see the cost. As she looks at the fine young men her boys have become Heffernan is obsessed with how much income she would have earned if she had stayed on the job.

In her words:

The most expensive decision of my life I made alone. There was no realtor, no car dealer and no travel agent when I chose to leave the paid workforce. There was just me looking at my husband, my children and the chaos that was our lives. At no point did I calculate the lifetime impact of diminished earnings and prospects. I looked at the year we were in and the following year, and I bolted.

No part of my brain sat itself down and thought, What is the price, both in this year's dollars and my lifetime earnings, to leaving the workforce, and is it a decision that I might regret a decade or two from now? At no point did I examine the non-monetary cost that would loom just as large. At the time, it seemed forgone: We had two demanding careers, two small children and another on the way, and two adult lives hopelessly out of control.

She ought to feel some shame for quantifying the benefits that have accrued to her and her family. Instead, she feels genuine “remorse,” that is, guilt, for missing out on all that extra income and for having let down feminism.

Her children’s well-being pales in comparison to the “cosmic” importance of feminism.

Heffernan explains:

In some cosmic way I feel that I let down a generation of women who made it possible to dream big, even though I know the real goal of the Women's Movement was to be able to dream anything.

She adds that since she used her driver’s license more than her degree, she was letting down those who had educated her. She says nothing about whether her education might have made her a better mother and whether she might have imparted some of that learning to her children.

She was actively engaged in volunteer work throughout, but she considers that activities like serving on hospital boards were, in the end, a waste of time:

Some of this work was deeply meaningful and some of it trivial in the extreme. Whether it is sitting on a hospital board or raising funds for a nursery school, volunteer activities involve a flurry of activity, but at the end of the day, those who are running the organization carry on and my job was over.

Living in a tony suburb allowed Heffernan to make wonderful friends. Yet, she happily discovers the downside of those friendships: they lacked diversity.

In her words:

During the years at home with my children, I made the most wonderful friends, women I hope to know all of my life. But living in the suburbs among women of shockingly similar backgrounds, interests and aspirations narrowed the scope of people with whom I interacted. In the workplace, my contacts and friends included both genders and people of every description, and I was better for it.

Actually, she was living in a community that was long on social harmony. Nothing prevented her from moving to a community that was short on social harmony and long on diversity, but she chose not to do so. Why do you think she didn’t? Could it be that social harmony contributes to emotional well-being while too much diversity risks producing anomie?

Among the other indignities of being a SAHM, Heffernan found herself functioning as a wife and homemaker. To her that means becoming something that feminists have consistently disparaged.

She does not think that if she had made a different choice she might, at this point, have a fat bank account and a dead marriage. And, she does not seem to recognize that her wonderful children might have been less wonderful if they had felt abandoned by two working parents.

Heffernan says that she has lost confidence in herself, but since feminism does not allow her to gain confidence from the good job she has done with her children, she is forced to define confidence solely in terms of career success:

What I hadn't realized was how my constant focus on my family would result in my aspirations for myself slipping away. And despite it being obvious, I did not focus on the inevitable obsolescence that my job as mom held.

Strangely enough, she is saying that her aspirations for herself did not include being a good mother and a good wife. She is right to say that children, as they grow up, need their mothers less. It’s a sign that she has done a great job at bringing them up to be independent adults.

But, not too independent. A mother who writes an open letter to her children telling them how much she sacrificed for them, is also telling them how much they owe her. Heffernan is now passing her feminist guilt trip on to the next generation.


Dennis said...

Just what does this silly twit think that a lot of men sacrificed for their families? What a selfish unthinking boob! A large segment of men worked jobs they absolutely detested, but knew they were taking on the responsibility of being a good husband, father and provider.
And feminists wonder why most of us think they are whiners and beginning to think of them as not worthy of our time or effort. I don't blame a lot of men for going on strike if this is what is available out there. Selfish brat does not even come close. Grow up.
My advise to her sons is stay the hell away from any woman who even approaches being like their mother.

Junior said...


It is sad to read this. The author actually appears to be quite intelligent. I read other postings on her HuffPo blog, and she seemed to make other good points about subjects like social networks creating suspended adolescence and narcissism.

I can't help but think how her article also shows how hard marriage is for men today. Their husbands rarely see their wives happy.

I'm sure this writer punishes her husband emotionally in some way for her "regrets."

Whether it is the woman who spends her teens and 20s moving from one sexual relationship to another and has a hard time either (a) finding a husband or (b) respecting that husband who actually commits to her or whether it is this woman and her inability to find true meaning in her motherhood choices, many women of Generation X appear lost. I can only hope that the younger generation won't follow their lead.

The recent reports of increased alcoholism and pain killer abuse amongst women paint no better picture either.

It seems that woman's nature is in full conflict with its societal nurture built on feminism.

Perhaps this is the source of the depression you reference in the article.

Women seem to continue to struggle emotionally with the choices that feminism has brought them.

Lastango said...

Only someone hungry for an illusory cosmic significance could feel she let down an entire "generation of women". How grand! Failing on that level is beyond the scope of most of us.

It reminds me of the white female university professors who -- from their privileged, tenured, pensioned, nothing-to-worry-about-for-the-rest-of-their-lives perches -- contrive victim identities for themselves that allow them to participate in The Other. They want to wear every T-shirt.

If she phoned me up for advice I'd say, divorce that patriarchal lump of a husband who has been holding you back from progressivist stardom. The sonofabitch deserves the way you publicly pissed on him in this piece. Break your chains, and join the sisterhood. Dynamite your family -- Relevance awaits!

David Foster said...

"she used her driver’s license more than her degree"


I don't think very many people who accomplish a great deal in their careers think their success was accomplished by "using their degree." The idea that one's college degree should be the defining attribute of one's existence is bizarre, but seems quite common.

JP said...

"You would think that she would manifest some pride in her achievement. Bringing up three boys and maintaining a solid and stable marriage for well over two decades give her the right to feel some measure of pride."

This is pretty much the striver-achiever orientation.

You only feel good about yourself to the extent that you are actively engaged in reaching for some sort of glory.

She's not feeling pride, in part, because she already accomplished the raising of kids and so she needs some new glorious undertaking to take her to higher places.

However, since she was not employed, she knows that she will never become CEO of Yahoo, so to speak and she still has years left in her life.

At least, I think thinking like this is part of the issue.

JPL17 said...

"This is pretty much the striver-achiever orientation ... she already accomplished the raising of kids and ... needs some new glorious undertaking to take her to higher places [but] she knows that she will never become CEO of Yahoo...."

This comment is very insightful as far as it goes, in that explains why Heffernan felt the need to search for a new purpose to her life after successfully raising kids and maintaining a marriage through it all.

But it doesn't explain Heffernan's specific choice to become a whiny feminist writer in the post-child-raising phase of her life. Given that there are a million other ways for empty-nester moms to achieve meaning + value, why did she decide to add her talents to the already-swollen ranks of whiny feminist writers?

This is speculation, but perhaps she never made a lasting emotional connection with anyone outside her own college cohort, or with any tradition outside 1970s feminism. Perhaps that failure left her in desperate need of the approval of her feminist cohort at this stage of her life. And perhaps that need was so great, it made her ashamed of the things she actually did accomplish.

Whatever, it's pretty sad to watch.

Dennis said...

It takes a thinking person to recognize that every time a door closes another door opens. One has to be available to life in order to be open to life's possibilities.
I am trying to remember if any male who was drafted or joined the military because of wanting a selection instead of what the draft put one in, had to fight in wars, or could not get an educational deferment every complained and whined about the formative years that were taken away from them? I enlisted in the military and got my welcome to the Army 10 days after I went into bootcamp. Like a lot of men I did my duty. We learned much about life and our ability to be able to meet the challenges that life throws at us. It demonstrated that there was nothing we could not accomplish if we put our minds to it. There are very few challenges that one does not have the ability to overcome.
Follow that with the life affirming experiences of being a husband, father, et al and one has the makings of success in so many aspects of being a good person. Many of us matriculated later in life because our first responsibility was to our families, and we worked jobs we may not have really loved, but we kept the faith and eventually earned undergraduate and graduate degrees and made something of our lives. Think about the lessons we imparted to our children and grand children.
Thinking about what if is a waste of time because the past is the past. It is not going to be altered because we don't feel like life gave us. Life is to be enjoyed.
Women have only one responsibility that is uniquely theirs and it appears that vast numbers lack the ability to embrace and honor that responsibility. One has to wonder if men are on strike that one of the reasons is because women have shown no propensity to honor their responsibilities? Until women embrace all of life and stop whiny they are going to be constantly miserable. One can only be miserable if they allow themselves to wallow in it.

Anonymous said...

The quotes of this woman appear to be "I statements." I can do two things with her I statements. I can accept her expression of thoughts and feelings as facts of her own experience. Or I can judge her thoughts and feelings based on my own moral filters.

In fact I must do both to gain any sense of consciousness about how I process information. Regardless of what I think others "should" think, or what I think others "should" feel, the fact is they have an independent emotional and cognitive process aside from my codependency issues.

Anonymous said...

This is so sad. Heffernan, llike so many others today, define themselves by their victim status, their perceived lack of power because someone or something (always nebulous, conceptual or undefined) is in their way. This strikes me as a new outlook on life conjured up over conversation with her girlfriends, lamenting her circumstances, and receiving lots of encouragement to go tell the world of her pain. Like so many things in our postmodern, relativist, Oprah culture, nothing is sacred, nor of inherent worth (read: motherhood). We seek meaning, but there's little available, so we have to create it ourselves. There's no guidance, expectations or standards. We conclude that the only way out is to have power over others rather than power over ourselves. Like JP said, if only they were the CEO of Yahoo! or something, things would be great. and other associated fantasies. In lieu of that (perhaps in spite of it), there's the cosmetic surgery, diets and gym time to hold not that last vestige of physical power to attract, but alas...

Women today have more "opportunity" than ever, but it's material opportunity, not spiritual. I talk to so many women who are pissed-off and exhausted. And let's be clear: what they tell me is not just "sharing," either. It seems so many women want so desperately to be loved and cared for, but then sense they appear weak. So they lash with a deluge of demands for independence and autonomy (again, as though someone or something is n the way). Then they create or get the independence and autonomy they claim to want, and the misery is even deeper. It's very confusing for women, to be sure, but also for men, too. I suspect her husband and sons are quite vexed by all this. Sure, they can vocalize support and cheer her on, but inside such tantrums must appear rather unbalanced. What can they say?

What can any of us say? Feminists are impossible for men to comfort or connect with. There is a reflexive, seething, visceral opposition to men in so much of what they say. Okay, so there's patriarchy in this world, what would you prefer instead? Response: Silence, punctuacted by more fits of incoherent rage. And you can't just let it go, because then you're ignoring them! Perhaps Heffernan had too many males around her whole life... a husband, three boys, maybe a male pet, too. Maybe she just needs time with the girls. But I hope she gets his ou of her system before she becomes the avenging mother-in-law, the standard-bearer for woman, demanding nannies for her grandchildren so he daughters-in-law might be "fulfilled." That won't be fun to watch, will it?

All I can visualize when I think of her is something like Lee J. Cobb's Juuror 3 character in "12 Angry Men" (1957) when he lashes out at the end, finishing with "Rotten kids, you work your whole life out--" To be that miserable and take this all out in a tantrum against the world, in seeing her life as a betrayal of her womanhood, sends a message that something deeper may be afoot. Her self-loathing is palpable, just as it is with most feminists.

I actually feel compassion for her, not because of the public stance she's taking (which I find deplorably myopic and juvenile), but because she must have so much pent-up depression and rage from be "coulda, woulda, shouldas" in life as she sees herself as a failure. She has a hole in her heart and soul that is never going to be filled, no matter how much ink she spills in self-pity. On top of it all, she is aligning herself with a cause and philosophy that will not comfort and support her, but instead encourage her to find power in victimhood. It's rage against a machine, but we all can see it's not the machine. It's her.

I hope she finds peace. Until then, her story is the latest exhibit in the Museum of American Societal Decay. This is the age of the abdication of personal responsibility. Sad.


Sam L. said...

The Feminist Dogma is a Bitchma.

Dennis said...


You are either more compassionate than I, a lot younger than I or have a more willingness to put up with the whininess of people who cannot deal with the challenges of life. I have listened to this woman whine for over 50 years and it just does not change. No matter how much women have the more unhappy they are. It appears that the there is an inverse relationship between how much they succeed to the unhappiness they feel.
Men, in many cases, have adapted to what women seem to want, but always wind up being the fault for the victimhood women seem to enjoy. I have come to the point that when someone asks, "What do women want,?" I say "who cares. I have come to the conclusion women DO NOT have the slightest idea what they want. While they are looking for self actualization they are destroying the lives of those around them. Misery loves company.
After 50 years of listening to this I have run out of compassion for people who just cannot grow up and deal with life as it exists. If men can do no right then there is little reason to keep trying to please them. I think this is why, even thought the polls show more women want to get married, that one sees men saying not only no , but HELL NO!
When I was young I used to believe that women matured faster than men did and were the real foundation of the family. Over the years I have come to realize that just isn't true. It is truly amazing how cheaply most women will sell themselves never understanding or attaining the wisdom that should come with maturity or grasping the really important things in life.
It is not the material possessions one garners throughout one's life that are important, it is the person that one has become that defines a well lived life. I can almost guarantee that the last thoughts one has before death is not going to be I wish I had more stuff.
What I am bothered by is all this desire for victimhood is going to make us all slaves to the STATE because no man will ever be able to give all the free stuff that the STATE can provide nor absolve so many of personal responsibility. When someone can demonstrate that any of this creates happy women then I might be a "little" more understanding and might even welcome it with open arms. The only thing that occurs to me now is "Grow Up!" What we are actually seeing is who are the real children.

Anonymous said...


I do have compassion for Heffernan. She must be miserable. It's not a healthy, hopeful way to think or live. I wouldn't want that for anyone.

That does not mean I would pity her or hold her as less than responsible, creative and competent. It's sad to watch someone throw away their life's contribution for the sake of a self-loathing ideology that gives nothing back. She's responsible for her choices. She's not a victim, and I will not treat her as one.

Let me be clear, if I was to debate her, I would hold nothing back. I believe in the "tough love" school of love, which is beyond anything the sycophantic sanctimony that she gets from her "girl power" friends, who feed on her victimhood like vampires. Feminism is a rotten corpse that gives no life. In fact, it hates woman's life-giving power.

So please understand that I am with most of what you say on all this. That said, like Darth Vader, I think there's some good in her. I'm going to reach that goodness from compassion and connection, not by reacting to her shrieking, which is exactly what she wants... it sustains her by feeding her rage and oppositional perspective.

So I choose to honor the Christian in me, the part that says it's not about me, but about her. If given the opportunity to speak with her directly, I would hope I'd show the better angels of my nature and seek to engage from the compassionate place... to hold up a mirror and ask her if she's really fulfilled by who she's become. Now, I'm a human being, so sometimes I don't take that approach... I'll go for the jugular and try to make her wrong so I can stand separate, proud and righteous. But that kind of "win" doesn't gain any ground. We still get more bees with honey.

I don't know, Dennis. Something about Heffernan's story touched me. It seems so sad. I cannot imagine living like that. I do believe tolerance is a substitute for love, and I'm not willing to tolerate a lot of this nonsense anymore. Hate begets hate, so my choice is to love. I don't see any other means to break the cycle. Please keep in mind this is genuine compassion, not feel-good, therapeutic empathy. I just can imagine she's happy believing this crap. I just can't.

And one last parting shot... I think such "enlightened" women (and their metrosexual, emasculated enablers) are going to have to come to the point where they realize this whole new zero-sum concept of female power has run out of gas. We've been through nutty social cycles before. I take heart in the realization the most of the hard-core feminazis are getting long in the tooth, and their numbers are not being replaced. With so many men on strike, women are going to wish better for their daughters and their society, if not their sons, and see the very real Hell this "battle of the sexes" ideology hath wrought. That's my hope and expectation. And if it doesn't come to pass, it still will, because society will go down the drain. As always, the truth will set you free! People will grow up, and will finally come to realize that the State cannot love. Everyone wants to be loved, and we get what we're willing tolerate. Remember: "No" is a complete sentence, and can be said with love... and a genuine smile.

Be great,