Starting the revolution at home does not rule out using the government. When I poked my head above the trench of choice feminism to suggest that moral categories apply to women's lives, I was immediately accused of trying to force women to abandon their homes and return to work. Stalinist! Nazi! Ultimately, Stalinists and Nazis can coerce only with the power of the state. I am not the state. But women are correct to feel they are being pushed. In the United States, the government interferes in women's lives all the time. All to push them back into the home. My favorite example is that the Internal Revenue Service taxes a married workingwoman's income much more heavily than a single woman's income. Just changing the tax law would do a lot to free up women to decide whether to return home or not.
If all of this sounds daunting, it's because for twenty-five years, the only messages women have heard are the ones telling them to forget their dreams and look homeward. For a generation, an acid rain of criticism has fallen daily on the heads of women trying to make a flourishing life in the larger world. No one would want to marry them, the mainstream media said; they were as likely to find a husband as be killed by a terrorist. They'd grow too old to have children, book writers warned them. If they had children, the poor things would be in the hands of "strangers." The only work available involves eighty-hour weeks. Stay-at-home moms suggest that only monsters of neglect would prefer adult work to children's play. Once, workingwomen could seek refuge under the umbrella of economic need. But the newest move of the mommy bunch is to contend that mothers should never work unless the alternative is the direst poverty. Last year conservative commentator Danielle Crittenden told workingwomen that their lives were "just a pile of pay stubs."
About a year ago, a Washington, D.C., mom, Judith Warner, dared to question the tyranny of the new momism with her book, Perfect Madness. Her frank reportage was the first real critical look into the stifling home world they had created. But all she could recommend for a solution was the same old public day-care business that has gone nowhere since 1972. The family, to her, is an unsolvable "conundrum." Books, magazines, blogs all are bursting with suggestions, like the one in a recent letter to the Times, that we "restructure the architecture of the work place." For what? To accommodate women in their role as caretaker of the patriarchal family? Why should the patriarchal workplace be bulldozed and the patriarchal family left untouched? It's perfect madness.
Don't get into the perfect madhouse to begin with, and if you're there, get out. Here's how.
The Way We Live Now
The Ultimate Bride, graduate of an Ivy League college and then an English acting school, with a most prestigious master's in journalism to boot, was the ideal subject for the New York Times featured Sunday wedding column "Vows." Walking down the aisle at her family farm, she wed her perfect counterpart, a master's in international relations, and a rising star in the competitive world of global policy.