Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A bit more on Hirshman

One brief followup to my last post. Last night I listened to an audio interview of Linda Hirshman and Leslie Steiner Morgan at the Washington Post. It's interesting to actually hear the voices and be able to attach them to the names and arguments. But what I heard confirmed my earlier analysis in a couple of ways.

First, Hirshman clearly criticizes women who make decisions based on what they believe is best for their family. Hirshman argued that when an educated woman decides to stay home, the benefits that accrue to her children and family are far outweighed by the damage done to wider society, or women as a whole.

This is a pure example of masculinist values. Masculinist ideology tells its targets (traditionally men), that personal relationships are not so important, what really matters is their loyalty to larger wider entities, corporations, states, etc. So traditionally, men have been pressured into devaluing -- or at least not publicly acknowledging -- the importance of personal relationships, and sacrificing them for some "greater good." Those who focus on personal relationships and local social networks are derided as "feminine."

It is ironic that Hirshman uses this exact same strategy in an attempt to shame educated women into sacrificing their families for the "greater good." Unfortunately, just as in masculinist societies, such a strategy is necessary because often that "greater good" doesn't really reflect the interests of anyone other than an elite group. If there is a greater good that needs action -- for example defense of one's home -- you don't really need to use gender stereotypes or masculinist ideology to motivate people.

Secondly, Hirshman's vision of a better future is one where men and women share equally in breadwinning and in childrearing. I find this to be utterly contradictory to her earlier arguments. As I noted, why would men be willing to take on more childrearing if, in fact, it is the utterly nonchallenging task not worthy of educated people? Wouldn't both mother and father -- assuming they are highly educated, which is her premise -- be wasting their talents and intellects?

Okay, I promise to shift to a new topic in my next post later this week, but I had to get these thoughts out there. I'd love to hear other ways in which you think Hirshman is reinforcing patriarchal, masculinist values.

Cross posted at Daddychip2

No comments: