This will be a long one today, but as a female MBA who opted out of the cubicle life, and who is now in the process of becoming a business professor, I think I have a pretty good insight into this whole article, and there are some important nuggets of truth here that Dr. Spar almost gets right.
Let’s dive in. Debbie Spar in italics.
In 2005, I was teaching a first-year class at Harvard Business School. As usual, slightly under a third of my students were women. As always, I was the only female professor.
Really? How curious. I’m looking at the faculty page for HBS and it appears that there are quite a few female professors. They were all hired after 2005?
First woman on the list is Laura Alfaro, and she has been with HBS since 1999. Here is her resume:
I don’t get this at all. Debbie opens with a patent falsehood. She was not the only female professor at Harvard Business School in 2005. But the important thing, I suppose is that she establish herself right from the get go as a victim. A brave soldier standing alone, fighting off the hordes of men trying to push her off the podium.
Ho hum. It’s getting kinda boring at this point, isn’t it?
So one evening, my female students asked me and one of my female colleagues to join them for cocktails. They ordered a lovely spread of hors d’oeuvres and white wine. They presented each of us with an elegant lavender plant. And then, like women meeting for cocktails often do, they—well, we, actually—proceeded to complain. About how tough it was to be so constantly in the minority. About how the guys sucked up all the air around the school. About the folks in career services who told them never to wear anything but a good black pantsuit to an interview.
One of your female colleagues? Wait? Didn’t Debbie just say she doesn’t have any female colleagues? Hello? Editors? How do you not notice these things?
Oh, and women started complaining right away? Shocked and surprised.
The guys suck up all the air around the school? What does that mean? They are in one of the most competitive, renowned MBA programs in the country, and then they go and act all competitive and shit? Well, that’s not gonna help them much in a capitalist economy, is it? Competition? What’s that?
And career services suggests a black pantsuit? How dare they? You mean yoga pants and a push-up bra are not professional attire? Well, that’s bullshit.
Over the course of the conversation, though, things began to turn. The women stopped talking about their present lives and started to focus on their futures, futures that had little to do with conferences or pantsuits and everything to do with babies, and families, and men. Most of the women were frankly intending to work “for a year or two” and then move into motherhood. These were some of the smartest and most determined young women in the country. They had Ivy League degrees, for the most part, and were in the midst of paying more than $100,000 for an M.B.A. And yet they were already deeply concerned about how they would juggle their lives, and surprisingly pessimistic about their chances of doing so.
Yes. Right here. Here is the critical moment when women like Debbie could make a real difference in these women’s lives by encouraging them to be realistic about their own desires and wants and by NOT shaming them for caring more about babies and men than pantsuits and conferences.
The real value in a Harvard MBA, or any MBA for that matter, is that you are surrounded by a pool of eligible men who are likely to be excellent providers. Men whom women are not ENTITLED to, not by any stretch of the imagination. Men whom women have a shot at EARNING. But rather than discuss just how to go about earning the love and loyalty of one of these men, Debbie wonders how she can squelch the younger women’s desires and push them even further down the path to misery and unfulfilled dreams.
Can women pursue their dreams without losing their sanity?
See what she did there? The women, by her own admission, are dreaming of men and babies and families and motherhood, but Debbie cannot accept that. She assumes that the real dreams, the real goals, the real things worth having are the pantsuits and conferences.
Like many women of my so-called postfeminist generation, I was raised to believe that women were finally poised to be equal with men. That after centuries of oppression, exploitation, and other bad things, women could now behave more or less the way men do. Women of my generation, growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, no longer felt we had to burn our bras in protest. Instead, with a curt nod to the bra burners who had gone before us, we could saunter directly to Victoria’s Secret, buying the satin push-ups that would take us seamlessly from boardroom to bedroom and beyond.
Centuries of being protected from the need to earn their own bread? Sheltered from centuries of back-breaking labor? Centuries of being afforded the luxury of working in their own homes, caring for their own families?
And of course, Debbie is only talking about rich, white women, as per usual. Poor women and black women have never really had the luxury of depending on a man to provide for them. Poor women have never known the oppression of having another adult to pay all the bills. Black women have never really been afforded the opportunity to send their husbands off to work while they drank coffee with the neighbor ladies and watched the kids play in the sprinkler, knowing that the pantry would be full and the water would be hot in the taps whenever they needed it.
Today, most major corporations—along with hospitals, law firms, universities, and banks—have entire units devoted to helping women (and minorities) succeed. There are diversity officers and work/family offices and gender-sensitivity training courses in all tiers of American society. The problem with these efforts is that they just don’t work.
Well, hallelujah for at least pointing that out.
Or, more precisely, even the most well-intentioned programs to attract women or mentor women or retain women still don’t deal with the basic issues that most women face. And that’s because the challenges that confront women now are more subtle than those of the past, harder to recognize and thus to remove. They are challenges that stem from breast pumps and Manolo pumps, from men whose eyes linger on a woman’s rear end and men who rush that same rear end too quickly out the door.
Again, why can’t you make your fucking point without turning men into leering boors fixated on women’s asses? And Debbie, could you stop for one goddamn second to consider that Manolo pumps are specifically designed to emphasize a woman’s ass? No one forces women to wear heels, and even in the face of overwhelming evidence that heels are cripplingly bad for a woman’s feet and entire body, they still choose to wear them.
Have you seen this? Grotesque. It makes me feel queasy. Yet women continue to subject themselves to this torture.
Why? BECAUSE THEY WANT MEN TO LOOK AT THEIR ASSES.
Well, the attractive men, right? How to avoid sexual harassment at work? Don’t be unattractive.
Ever since the publication of The Feminine Mystique, American women have been haunted by the problem of more. Spurred by Betty Friedan’s plaintive query, “Is this all?”—inspired by feminism’s struggle for expanded rights and access, seduced by Astronaut Barbie—we have stumbled into an era of towering expectations. Little girls want to be princesses. Big girls want to be superwomen. Old women want and fully expect to look young. We want more sex, more love, more jobs, more-perfect babies. The only thing we want less of, it seems, is wrinkles.
And there. Debbie does it again. Women want sex, love, babies and to be beautiful. But she has to throw in that “more jobs”, too, even though that is just what most women DO NOT want.
The ideal employment situation for the vast majority of women is to be out of the workforce completely when they have pre-school children, and then to only work part-time thereafter. Most women can’t do that, because they have not been prepared by either the culture or older women to set up their lives so they actually have a choice about how and when and under what circumstances they wish to work in the paid labor force.
This is one of my biggest beefs with feminism: how much it lies to young women and encourages them to make choices that will ultimately give them no choices at all.
None of this, of course, can be blamed on feminism or feminists. Or, as one former radical gently reminded me recently, “We weren’t fighting so that you could have Botox.” Yet it was feminism that lit the spark of my generation’s dreams—feminism that, ironically and unintentionally, raised the bar for women so high that mere mortals are condemned to fall below it. In its original incarnation, feminism had nothing to do with perfection. In fact, the central aim of many of its most powerful proponents was to liberate women from the unreasonable, impossible standards that had long been thrust upon them.
Impossible standards like crippling footwear? Women wear those by CHOICE. Women will use any tool at their disposal to remain beautiful and sexually appealing? That is because women CARE deeply about those things.
As an aside, Botox doesn’t work. It makes you look hideous. Wear sunscreen and get enough sleep. That is far more effective than injecting botulism into your face.
Feminism didn’t raise the bar. If anything, it lowered it. Now, paying some poor woman of color to clean your house and raise your children is seen as a marker of respect and considered “good enough”. What feminism mostly did is destroy the bar outright.
“No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.”
Simone de Beauvoir
“Sex, Society, and the Female Dilemma,” Saturday Review, June 14, 1975.
Most women will choose to be at home with their children, cared for by the men they love. Feminism KNEW that from the get-go and was determined to destroy the family.
And they have very nearly succeeded. But they cannot destroy women’s hearts. They still long for babies and men and home.
As feminist ideals trickled and then flowed into mainstream culture, though, they became far more fanciful, more exuberant, more trivial—something easier to sell to the millions of girls and women entranced by feminism’s appeal. It is easy, in retrospect, to say that women growing up in that world should have seen through the fantasy to the underlying struggle, that they—we—should have realized the myths of Charlie (both the angels and the perfume) and fought from the outset for the real rights of women. But most of us didn’t, not because we were foolish, necessarily, but because it’s hard, coming of age, to embrace the struggles of your parents’ generation. And so we embraced the myth instead, planning, like Atalanta, to run as fast as the wind and choose the lives we wanted.
Fanciful? Exuberant? Trivial?
The real rights of women? And what are those? From where I sit, feminism’s biggest accomplishment appears to be awarding women the right to kill their own children. So they can “choose the lives we wanted”?
Nope. Exactly the opposite. Feminism is designed to get women to reject the lives they want. A core group did NOT want men or babies or children, and there are plenty of women, feminist or not, who are STILL not interested in men or marriage or family or children, and good for them. I really don’t care what any one individual thinks about children or family. But feminism as an ideology is designed to get the majority of women who really DO care about love and men and children to set up their lives to make it impossible to pursue those goals as a dream.
Feminism REMOVES women’s choices. It does not expand them. It destroys them.
Meanwhile, none of society’s earlier expectations of women disappeared. The result is a force field of highly unrealistic expectations. A woman cannot work a 60-hour week in a high-stress job and be the same kind of parent she would have been without that job and all the stress. And she cannot save the world and look forever like a 17-year-old model.
Okay, first of all, those expectations did not disappear because women are still women. And the highly unrealistic expectations are the ones that tell women they should care more about their jobs and careers and bank account statements than the overall well-being of their families. No one can work a 60 hour week and be a good, hands-on parent. Not men, not women. No one.
And the harsh reality is that women are NOT saving the world. They are working in the paid labor force doing all the same work they used to do at home for their own families. Taking care of children, the elderly, cooking, cleaning, making coffee and keeping shit organized.
And don’t you just love that little “look like a 17 year old model” toss-off? Would that be because men tend to love beautiful 17 year old women, or at least how they look? Is she advocating that women attempt to appear underage? Is this a tacit approval of statutory rape?
I’ll just wait here for some feminist to call her on that one.
Yeah. Let’s have a man make that statement and see what happens.
No man can do that, either; no human can. Yet women are repeatedly berating themselves for failing at this kind of balancing act, and (quietly, invidiously) berating others when something inevitably slips. Think of the schadenfreude that erupts every time a high-profile woman hits a bump in either her career or her family life. Poor Condoleezza Rice, left without a boyfriend. Sloppy Hillary, whose hair is wrong again. Bad Marissa Mayer, who dared announce her impending pregnancy the same week she was named CEO of Yahoo. She could not pull it off (snicker, snicker). She paid for her success. She. Could. Not. Do. It. All.
And that anger comes from the expectation and the LIE that women should “want” to do it all. Women are not stupid. They know that it is OTHER WOMEN who are peddling the lies. Men have been, and continue to be, willing to support their wives and children in exchange for the traditional relationship between adults that emphasized loyalty, fidelity and a shared life.
Goober said it beautifully:
How deluded are these women that they don’t see that ALL of their privilege is due to the fact that men like them as companions rather than slaves?
Because they can’t possibly be all things at once, women are retreating to the only place they can, the only realm they have any chance of actually controlling. Themselves.
Most women would prefer to retreat to the realm of family, but they have conducted their lives in a way that makes that almost impossible. They have not made the choices that will give them a choice.
And feminists have cheered those women straight over the cliff.
Rather than focusing on the external goals that might once have united them, women are micromanaging the corners of their lives and, to a somewhat lesser extent, those of their children. Think about it: How many stories will you find in women’s magazines about the pursuit of anything other than bodily or familial perfection?
Because those are the things that women care about. Women’s magazines are run for profit, and if women were not completely obsessed with beauty and family, they would not generate the kinds of profits that guarantee the same stories appear over and over again.
Women are still women.
To be sure, this turn to the personal is not restricted to women. It follows a trajectory that can be traced back to Woodstock, or, more precisely, to the jagged route that befell the members of the Me Generation. Along the way, the struggle for individual liberties was transformed into the mantle of individualism.
Yep. Baby boomer women, led by the Chief Whiner herself, Betty Friedan were taught at a very young age that the only thing they should ever consider is meeeeeeeeeee! And that resonates with very young women who have yet to feel the pang of longing when they gaze upon a newborn or a wedding dress.
And by the time the day of reckoning comes, many will find they have missed the boat entirely. Germaine Greer was almost 50 when the pleasures of a little girl named Ruby blew her world apart, and she realized she had missed out on the most important part of life.
The baby, Ruby, “lit up my life in a way that nobody, certainly no lover, has ever done”, [Greer] wrote. “I found her scrumptious, delicious, ineffable, adorable, and was astonished.”
That is a legacy that can be laid directly at the feet of modern feminism. There are certainly women who do not want and will never regret not having children, but the majority of childless women are utterly heartbroken that they allowed the experience to pass them by.
Just as Reagan and Thatcher led the fight to privatize markets, so, too, have women raised since the 1960s led the charge to privatize feminism. It’s not that we’re against feminism’s ideals. Indeed, younger women are (not surprisingly) far more likely to be in the work force than were their mothers. Younger women are wholeheartedly devoted to birth control and to sexual freedom. They account for a majority of this country’s college students and a growing chunk of its professional class. Sixty-six percent of mothers with children younger than 17 work outside the home.
useless liberal arts degrees
must work to survive
66% of women with children under 17 may be in the workforce, but most of them are part-time workers. And women with children under 6 are especially likely to be working part time. Most of those mothers would prefer to be out of the workforce completely. Fully 84% of women surveyed by Forbes Magazine would prefer not to work outside the home at all while raising a family.
84% of working women told ForbesWoman and TheBump that staying home to raise children is a financial luxury they aspire to.
The really sad thing is that so many women resent their partners for not making that possible, when it’s feminism that is largely to blame for the destruction of the family wage.
…one in three women resent their partner for not earning enough to make that dream a reality
Many of the women who are working fulltime with small children are single mothers. Again, they have been encouraged to make an absolutely disastrous mess of their lives by a culture that explicitly acknowledges single motherhood as a viable option for women.
Yet because these women are grappling with so many expectations—because they are struggling more than they care to admit with the sea of choices that now confronts them—most of them are devoting whatever energies they have to controlling whatever is closest to them. Their kids’ homework, for example. Their firm’s diversity program. Their weight.
Again, women are not focused on their weight and their children because they long for something to control. Nonsense. They long to be proper mothers. They long to be as beautiful as they can be.
Women are still women.
My generation made a mistake. We took the struggles and the victories of feminism and interpreted them somehow as a pathway to personal perfection. We privatized feminism and focused only on our dreams and our own inevitable frustrations. Feminism was supposed to be about granting women power and equality, and then about harnessing that power for positive change. Younger generations of women have largely turned away from those external, social goals.
The mistake wasn’t that feminism turned into a Solipsistic Love Fest for Special Snowflakes Everywhere. It started out as that, and that was the primary goal: turn women away from their innate interests in caring for others, especially their own children, and convince them to care only for themselves.
Younger women are seeing the betrayal, and they are lost as to how to fix the situation, because older women continue to lie and lie and lie.
So what, then, do we do?
Indeed. What do we do?
I’m not going to quote any more of the article because it’s just more of the same old shit. What I am going to do is lay out how I would craft the conversation. How I WILL craft the conversation, to my daughters, to my son, to all their friends, and most importantly, to the undergraduate students I will be teaching soon enough.
Here is the truth, ladies. Most of you will eventually want to get married. Most of you will eventually want to have children. And when you first lay eyes on the beautiful little being you have created, nothing else in the world will ever matter to you again the way that little person matters.
Your heart will break if you do not get to spend your days with your baby.
It may not seem that way now, but for most of you, it will happen.
All those strategies designed to reduce guilt among working mothers? They exist because most mothers are crippled with guilt when they leave their babies to be cared for by strangers. Just keep in mind that people hardly ever feel guilty for doing the RIGHT thing. Guilt is your own conscience telling you that you are doing something very, very wrong.
You will be angry and miserable and so very wretched if you do not set up your life to give you what your heart will demand. It’s going to come down to one thing, and one thing only. Whether you get to keep your baby close to you and do the work every molecule of your body will be screaming to do depends on just one thing:
The man you marry will be the biggest factor in whether or not you really have any choices. Your older sisters and mothers have created a world in which men are pretty much insane to take on marriage. The laws and customs of modern feminist culture make marriage a very risky business for men. They stand to lose everything: their children, their home, their income, even their freedom if they do not turn over their income to you.
No one wants to talk about this anymore, but as young women, you need to know this: you are going to want to be with your baby and you will need to depend on a man to make that happen. That probably takes your breath away because you have been taught to hate and fear men and never, ever trust them to take care of you.
But when a man first lays eyes on the beautiful little being half of his genes created, he will also feel a need so profound, so compelling, so overwhelming that nothing in his life will ever matter the same way, either.
He will do anything to ensure that baby survives. He will work the longest hours, take on a second job, sacrifice all his pleasures and luxuries to make sure that baby lives and thrives. And he will see that his child cannot survive without a mother.
And he will take care of you, too.
It’s how human reproduction works. Our babies don’t stagger bewildered to their feet moments after birth like a newly born fawn. They require years and years of sacrifice and commitment and work.
But ladies, it isn’t free. You have to earn that commitment. You have to be worthy of the risk. You have to offer something in return for a man’s labor.
Love. Loyalty. Fidelity.
It’s really that simple.
Think about that when you decide how you will participate in the paid labor force. Think about taking years off, dependent on a man, and then re-entering the workforce. Choose a career or job that will permit you what I guarantee most of you WILL want. If it turns out you are perfectly happy to turn your baby over to the nanny, then it’s no harm, no foul and carry on.
Women who “opt-out” do not regret opting-out, no matter what the media tells you. What they regret is not having kept a toe in the workforce to ease the eventual transition back. Think about that, carefully. Think about how you will leave, and how you will return. Plan for it. If you never use the plan, that’s fine.
Don’t find yourself trapped in an impossible situation because you failed to prepare. And understand that more and more women are making the choice to be at home when their children are very young. You won’t be alone.
Historically, the Census Bureau’s annual population survey shows that there are more mothers at home now than in the mid-1990s.
In 1994, 19.8 percent of married-couple families with children younger than 15 had a stay-at-home mother. Last year, it was 23.7 percent of families — an increase that Elliott said was statistically significant. “I don’t think we exactly know why,” she said.
I know why. It’s because younger women are starting to realize there is actually nothing wrong with loving babies and men and marriage and family.
Trust yourself. Trust what you want. Trust what your heart is telling you. And most of all, trust men. Pick a good man, and then trust him. Utterly. And be worthy of his trust in return.
Freedom comes down to actually having a choice. Make the kinds of choices about what you study and whom you marry and when you have children wisely – make them so you actually have a choice.
And don’t take Women’s Studies, for the love of god. Do you really want to work at Starbucks?
Lots of love,