Excerpt: 'Get to Work'

Author Linda R. Hirshman doesn't believe that staying home leads to a good life for women.

For too long, she says, women have been forced to return to the home because of limited support from their husbands and the government, but mostly to maintain the 'illusion" that they have a choice.

In "Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World," she argues that a new revolution is needed to reform the sexual politics of family and to make women realize that full participation in the work force and the public sphere is their only path to becoming self-actualized human beings.

You can read an excerpt from the book below.

"Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World"

If Betty Friedan had just lived a little longer. We are about to restart the revolution. But now we have to do it without her.

For twenty-five years, she watched as the backlash generation slowly walked away from the promise of a better life. Women -- whether they stay home or, like most women, just carry the responsibility for home to work and back -- are homeward bound. Their husbands won't carry enough of the household to enable them to succeed fully in the public world. Glass ceiling? The thickest glass ceiling is at home.

Their bosses, who are mostly someone else's husband, won't do the job their own husbands turned down, so there is no employer day care and there are no government tax breaks. Look deeply and you will see that liberal and conservative commentators largely agree that ideally women belong at home.

And women say they choose this fate, and the feminist movement backs them up.

"Choice feminism," the shadowy remnant of the original movement, tells women that their choices, everyone's choices, the incredibly constrained "choices" they made, are good choices. Everyone says if feminism failed it was because it was too radical. But we know--and surely the real radical, Betty Friedan, knew--that it wasn't because feminism was too radical. It was because feminism was not radical enough. A movement that stands for everything ultimately stands for nothing.

Bounding home is not good for women and it's not good for the society. They aren't using their capacities fully; their so-called free choice makes them unfree dependents on their husbands. Whether they leave the workplace altogether or just cut back their commitment, their talent and education are lost from the public world to the private world of laundry and kissing boo-boos. The abandonment of the public world by women at the top means the ruling class is overwhelmingly male. If the rulers are male, they will make mistakes that benefit males. Picture an all-male Supreme Court. We may well go back there. What will that mean for the women of America?

Educated women opting out and working mothers throughout society doing 70 percent of the housework reveals a hard truth. For all its achievements, feminism cannot make more progress, private or public, until it turns its spotlight on the family. Child care and housekeeping have satisfying moments but are not occupations likely to produce a flourishing life. Gender ideology places these tasks on women's backs; women must demand redistribution.

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