I called Linda R. Hirshman, a former law and philosophy professor and the author of "Get To Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World." Her 92-page book, which describes an epidemic of highly educated, privileged women dropping out of the workforce to raise children and then never regaining their professional footing, outlines a plan to counteract this syndrome, including "consider a reproductive strike." ("Have a baby," she writes, "just don't have two.")Now there is some nutty theorizing. If obedience explains school success, why doesn't it explain career success? Is any woman really going to refuse to have a second kid because of Hirschman's theory? The article mentioned percentages going from 6 to 18 percent in 25 years, which sounds statistically significant to me.
I thought Hirshman might have something to say about the idea of "marrying down." What if the aspiring female CEO or any college-educated female married a plumber or a sanitation worker? Would his lower-stress job allow him to participate more equally in child care and housework? Is our class-consciousness keeping us from finding the supportive partners we deserve?
Hirshman says no. Like that famous (now disproved) Newsweek statistic about how women over 35 are more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to ever get married, Hirshman believes that the New York Times article was designed "to scare women into behaving themselves by not seriously pursuing careers." She said she thought the story was statistically insignificant ? there really aren't all that many less-educated, unmarried men. "If you look closely at the numbers," she said, "you can see that they're talking about a tiny percentage." Moreover, women's higher rates of college attendance do not translate into higher professional status ? so the divide is a false one.
"Women go to college because they're obedient, they get good grades, they turn in their papers on time," Hirshman said. "But so many people go to college today that it is equivalent to what high school was in the 1950s. It guarantees you nothing."
Hirshman believes that the only way to rise professionally is to get on a career track and stay on it, something she thinks women are not encouraged to do.
Friday, August 18, 2006
The Upside of Marrying Down
Meghan Daum writes in an LA Times op-ed: