Sunday, April 27, 2008

Student Reactions to My Alternative Feminism Talk

Students who have heard me speak on Humane Alternatives to Feminism, or It Takes a Family to Raise a Village, may have heard me use this line:
I claim the right to participate in the labor market as women, not as men in skirts. Up until now, we have insisted that women change their fertility in order to accommodate the labor market. I say we should take women’s fertility as given and change the labor market to accommodate our bodies. I claim the right to get married and stay married, not the right to raise our children alone, and to spend larger and larger portions of our lives alone.

I have had women students applaud at that line. But the audience at Harvard was rather subdued, in comparison with my normal student reactions.
However, I discovered that part of the reason Harvey Mansfield invited me for this particular panel was that his assistant had seen my review of Hirshman's book on the Weekly Standard. Unbeknownst to me, this particular assistant has a doctorate, but is raising two children, and so is working part-time for Mansfield. Also unknown to me, she had invited a bunch of her friends in similar situations. After my talk, and at the dinner later, several different women came up to me and told me how much they appreciated my message and my support for their decision to stay home with kids. These women had doctorates, MA's or were ABD (All But Dissertation) in a variety of disciplines.
I don't think they realized how numerous they actually were. If they had known how many other women were in the audience, maybe I would have gotten some applause! :-)

1 comment:

Carol Marie said...

I worked my way through my undergraduate degree in BioChem, intending to go on for a graduate degree, but I was 27 by the time I had my undergraduate degree under my belt (I’d never considered that I had a need to move through my education quickly, I had all the time in the world to do what I wanted to do). Then, there I was, high MCAT scores, excellent grades, student leadership, research experience, faculty recommendations and I realized that if I did go to Medical School the marriage I was entering the week after graduation wouldn’t likely survive and I wanted kids. So I didn’t go to Med School so I could have the family I really wanted (otherwise, I’d be 37, medical school bills in hand and only beginning a family).

And yet, by waiting as long as I did, even stopping at that point, it turns out I only have one child, while I’d always wanted a large family. Planned Parenthood certainly lies when the counsel young, inexperienced girls that they can wait until “the time is right” to start the family that they “want to do right”. Yeah, right!

My greatest regret is NOT that I didn't go to Medical School, it is that I didn't have the large family I was afraid to say I wanted. In the late 70's and early 80's, for an "intelligent, liberated" woman to admit that she wanted a large family was anathema! I now realize that Truth will in fact set you free, but you need to be fearless in your pursuit of truth, whether it be academic, theological, or personal. DO NOT sacrifice the truth of who you are as a woman if you want to live a life free of regrets when you look back from middle age.