• Womanhood •
September 27, 2005
Columnist Cathy Young sees trouble among young college women. She responds to the recent report that increasing numbers of young college women intend to be stay-at-home mothers for their children. Writing in The Boston Globe, she observes:
What’s clear is that, in the 40 years since the rise of the modern women’s movement, large numbers of women blessed with the opportunities denied to previous generations have not followed the egalitarian feminist script. Instead, they have, to a greater or lesser extent, embraced traditional female roles — much to the chagrin of feminists such as Yale women’s and gender studies professor Laura Wexler. ”I really believed 25 years ago,” Wexler told the Times, ”that this would be solved by now.”
Young identifies the problem, not with oppressive men, but with women who favor traditional roles as wives and mothers. Women who prefer the more traditional roles — who see a particular responsibility for mothers in child-rearing — are practicing their own form of sexism, she argues:
If there is a solution to this conundrum, it is greater flexibility of gender roles in the home. But to move in that direction, we need to get past the notion that the only obstacle to equality in parenting and homemaking comes from sexist men clinging to patriarchal privilege. Women are just as likely to regard child-rearing as their turf and to regard the freedom to choose between various options of work-family balance as a female privilege. Yet few feminists have confronted the hard truth of this female version of sexism. What’s more, all too often, feminism — academic feminism in particular — has been inclined to treat men as ”the enemy” rather than potential equal partners. Until that changes, feminists are doomed to wring their hands over young women’s abandonment of equality.
How far will she get with that argument?
September 22, 2005
September 17, 2005
Here’s a bit of common sense verified by science and modern medicine. Delaying marriage often leads to a delay in having babies. Now, BBC News reports that women delaying children until after age 35 are risking both health and heartbreak.
Over the last 20 years pregnancies in women over 35 have risen markedly and the average age of mothers has gone up. Writing in the British Medical Journal, the London-based fertility specialists say they are “saddened” by the number of women they see who have problems. They say the best age for pregnancy remains 20 to 35. Over the last 20 years the average age for a woman to have their first baby has risen from 26 to 29.
September 16, 2005
Grace Dyck offers a troubling view into her experience as a student in a ‘Family Studies” course at the university level. “Finally, I thought. I’ll get some solid instruction to aide me as I build a family. Wrong again.” She was enrolled in several courses that looked promising, but found the professors holding to a basic and undisguised hostility toward the traditional family.
In “A Role I Want to Fill,” published at Boundless Webzine, Dyck identifies what lies behind her classroom encounters:
I believe this kind of antipathy toward the family lies at the root of the attack on gender roles. Though proponents of the new equality may claim to defend women, they often carry a deep disdain for childrearing and the traditional family. Attacking the traditional home involves an assault on its historical centerpiece, the housewife. It’s assumed that to be fulfilled, a woman must pursue a full time career in addition to her domestic duties. This belief has changed the shape of our society – in many destructive ways. Many double income homes spend nearly the entire second income to replace the mother. Daycare is expensive. Nannies (who most often leave their own children to care for the children of the wealthy) are often hired to pick up the slack. Cleaners are contracted to maintain the house. Not only does replacing mom cost economically; family cohesion suffers. The absence of gender roles creates a strange world indeed, one in which the most intimate responsibilities of family life are outsourced to strangers. Yet this is the unavoidable predicament in a culture that enforces uniformity to ensure equality.
Mrs. Dyck wants to be a stay-at-home mom. She didn’t find any support for that aspiration in her university experience. Anyone surprised?
September 16, 2005
Newsweek reports that educators are finding that boys and girls learn differently – leading to a reconsideration of educating boys and girls together in the same classroom. In “Boy Brains, Girl Brains,” reporter Peg Tyre lays out the story — and the controversy:
Three years ago, Jeff Gray, the principal at Foust Elementary School in Owensboro, Ky., realized that his school needed help–and fast. Test scores at Foust were the worst in the county and the students, particularly the boys, were falling far behind. So Gray took a controversial course for educators on brain development, then revamped the first- and second-grade curriculum. The biggest change: he divided the classes by gender. Because males have less serotonin in their brains, which Gray was taught may cause them to fidget more, desks were removed from the boys’ classrooms and they got short exercise periods throughout the day. Because females have more oxytocin, a hormone linked to bonding, girls were given a carpeted area where they sit and discuss their feelings. Because boys have higher levels of testosterone and are theoretically more competitive, they were given timed, multiple-choice tests. The girls were given multiple-choice tests, too, but got more time to complete them. Gray says the gender-based curriculum gave the school “the edge we needed.” Tests scores are up. Discipline problems are down. This year the fifth and sixth grades at Foust are adopting the new curriculum, too.
Then again, some within the educational establishment claim that calls for single-sex classrooms are “part of a long history of pseudoscience aimed at denying equal opportunities in education.”
The differences between boys and girls are profound. Most classrooms are girl-friendly and largely feminized in culture. Boys think differently, communicate differently, and are incentivized differently. Young boys cannot sit quiet and still for long periods of time. Their concentration patterns are very different from those of girls — and they know it. Resisting an acknowledgement of these differences requires a tremendous capacity for denying the obvious.
September 14, 2005
Cosmetic surgery is becoming a rite of passage for many women — a way to reinvent the self by the skill of a surgeon’s knife. This is a major cultural shift, as cosmetic surgery is transformed from an eccentricity of the rich into a new normal for mass culture.
September 10, 2005
Danielle Crittenden, author of What Our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us, has written a must-read article, “The Cost of Delaying Marriage.” The article has recently been republished by Boundless.org. This is an issue I address often, and I appreciate Crittenden’s thoughtful analysis — as well as her perspective as a woman.
Crittenden [married to David Frum, by the way], observes that, as recently as the 1950s, most young women married early. Her analysis:
In this sense, we lead lives that are exactly the inverse of our grandmothers’. If previous generations of women were raised to believe that they could only realize themselves within the roles of wife and mother, now the opposite is thought true: It’s only outside these roles that we are able to realize our full potential and worth as human beings. A 20-year-old bride is considered as pitiable as a 30-year-old spinster used to be. Once a husband and children were thought to be essential to a woman’s identity, the source of purpose in her life; today, they are seen as peripherals, accessories that we attach only after our full identities are up and running.
The article is really important. Her intelligent celebration of marriage is refreshing: What we rarely hear – or perhaps are too fearful to admit – is how liberating marriage can actually be. As nerve-wracking as making the decision can be, it is also an enormous relief once it is made. The moment we say, “I do,” we have answered one of the great crucial questions of our lives: We now know with whom we’ll be spending the rest of our years, who will be the father of our children, who will be our family.
August 6, 2005
The Wall Street Journal reports that the new Hollywood trend is women involved in physical conflict — sometimes against each other. Christine Rosen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center argues in “Female Fight Club” that this trend can be traced to the influence of the academic elite and ideological feminism. This notion–that women’s essential differences from men translate into distinct (but not inferior) capabilities–has become known as “difference” feminism. Though it gained popularity among second-wave feminists in the 1980s, the underlying idea was always a feature of the cultural landscape. Whatever the merits of difference feminism in contemporary political discourse, in another arena it has all but disappeared: the movies. Here the classic trope of female vulnerability and male strength has been upended and replaced with the childish and somewhat delusional notion that women can surpass men in every area of competition.
After listing a series of Hollywood films featuring female aggression, Rosen explains: Today “do-me feminism” has morphed into “pummel-me feminism,” and it is not a surprise given our collective cultural insistence, despite the evidence, that women have equal physical potential–whether on the basketball court or in the bedroom. In her book “The Frailty Myth” (2000), for example, Colette Dowling described the “final stage of women’s liberation.” She argued that “by making themselves physically equal, women can at last make themselves free. The cover of her book featured the vein-bulging bicep of Ms. Dowling’s mythical creature: the woman who had finally “closed the strength gap” with men and embraced “physical self-esteem.” Anyone who argues with her analysis is itching for a fight.
July 22, 2005
As “partial-birth abortion” emerged into America’s consciousness, an Oregon woman named Jenny Westberg made a series of simple pen-and-ink drawings of the procedure. Those pictures–striking in their simplicity and devastating in their clarity–would change the trajectory of America’s abortion debate. Evil flourishes in the darkness, and Westberg’s drawings brought the murderous abortion procedure to light.
July 21, 2005
July 21, 2005
Americans who care deeply about the protection of human life must face one monumental question: How can the American conscience be so apparently untroubled by the reality of abortion? That is the central question raised in an important article published in the November 2004 edition of Harper’s Magazine. In “Gambling With Abortion,” author Cynthia Gorney looks closely at the controversy over the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 and its aftermath, and her article is a wrenching and insightful look at the current status of the abortion issue.
July 15, 2005
Elina Furman writes about the emergence of the “boomerang nation” — a nation of adult children who don’t assume adult responsibilities, but come home to live again with parents. Don’t get her wrong — she’s not opposed to the trend. She just wants the boomerang ‘kids’ to understand why their parents may not be so excited to see them living at home once again. From her book, Boomerang Nation: