F riends of the MMO wrote to say they were looking forward to reading my comments on Linda Hirshman's essay on the "opt out" controversy ( Homeward Bound , The American Prospect , ). Although the web is already teeming with critiques of the article, I hate to disappoint. Based on her interviews with 30 or so ultra-privileged women for a proposed book on "marriage and feminism," Hirshman concludes the scarcity of women in corporate and political leadership relates to the striking proportion (by Hirshman's estimate, fully 50 percent) of Ivy League-educated wives and mothers who are "letting their careers slide to tend the home fires." Feminists, she argues, must take a more judgmental stance toward high-potential women who missed the memo that public achievement is more important than raising families.
This isn't only about day care. Half my Times brides quit before the first baby came. In interviews, at least half of them expressed a hope never to work again. None had realistic plans to work. More importantly, when they quit, they were already alienated from their work or at least not committed to a life of work. One, a female MBA, said she could never figure out why the men at her workplace, which fired her, were so excited about making deals. "It's only money," she mused. Not surprisingly, even where employers offered them part-time work, they were not interested in taking it.