Did you see Elizabeth Wurtzel’s demented piece condemning stay-at-home moms? She said, in part:
Let’s please be serious grown-ups: real feminists don’t depend on men. Real feminists earn a living, have money and means of their own. … And there really is only one kind of equality — it precedes all the emotional hullabaloo — and it’s economic.
How’s that for primitive reductionism? But wait, there’s more:
I have to admit that when I meet a woman who I know is a graduate of, say, Princeton — one who has read The Second Sex and therefore ought to know better — but is still a full-time wife, I feel betrayed.
Shame on you educated women! You are letting down Elizabeth Wurtzel. Sure, being a full time mom is fine for the unwashed; they don’t know any better. But you, college woman, for you, ignorance is no excuse.
Because here’s what happens when women go shopping at Chanel and get facials at Tracy Martyn when they should be wage-earning mensches: the war on women happens.
Yeah, Erin Manning! Because you spend all your time in Neiman Marcus, it’s harder to get an abortion in Wichita. Satisfied?
Honestly. Elizabeth Wurtzel, of all people! The woman whose entire crazypants life — the drugs, the wild sex, the porn, the madness — exists to be a negative example to others. Conor Friedersdorf politely but thoroughly demolishes her stupid piece. For example:
She’d be taking aim at women like my mother, for though my family has never belonged to the 1 percent or “the 1 percent,” my mom left the work force for a number of years to raise my sister and I, returning to it when we were in high school. As an attendee of Catholic schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, I’ve had occasion to interact with a lot of women who chose a similar traditionalist path. An e-mailer familiar with my background asked me if I felt outraged on their behalf, but as I see it, Wurtzel’s notion of who stay-at-home moms are is so far removed from the reality of most women in the stay-at-home category that few of her blows even land. “To be a stay-at-home mom is a privilege, and most of the housewives I have ever met — none of whom do anything around the house — live in New York City and Los Angeles, far from Peoria,” she writes in a characteristic passage. “Only in these major metropolises are there the kinds of jobs in finance and entertainment that allow for a family to live luxe on a single income.”
The generalization from “families I have met in New York and L.A.” is always a risky proposition. In this case, according to a 2009 data release from the Census Bureau, 75 percent of stay-at-home moms live in households where family income is less than $100,000 per year — such families, after all, rely on only one salary — and families with stay-at-home moms are, not surprisingly, on average poorer than those where both parents have incomes.
Got that? Three out of four stay-at-home moms are far from One Percenters. Besides, the idea that the only work that counts in life is work that’s salaried is foolish and offensive. Conor again:
Here’s a useful thought experiment that gets at some of the additional value being that parents, stay-at-home or not, add. Imagine that you have a two-year-old child, $100 million in the bank, and are unexpectedly sentenced to an 20-year prison term. For the sake of this hypothetical, you’ve got 6 months in which to interview and hire someone for a 20 year position, and you are somehow assured that whoever you hire will stick with the paid job of raising your child. He or she will be responsible for everything from household chores to care-giving to informal tutoring to emotional support to discipline to shaping morals and values.
What sort of employee would you hire? Would you pay minimum wage or higher? Six figures? Would your caregiver make more or less than the prison guard supervising you in jail? Would you prefer someone with a high school diploma? A college diploma? In what percentile of intelligence, intellectual and emotional, would you want them to be? Would you do a more thorough job vetting the eventual caregiver of your child, or the lawyer who represented you in your criminal case? Who would you regard as having the more important job, the caregiver or your lawyer?
Who would have the harder job?
Given her history, I wouldn’t hire Elizabeth Wurtzel to babysit my Advil stash, much less look after my children for two minutes.
Look, I’m the breadwinner in our family, but there is no question at all that my wife and I are a team. It’s not just a romantic notion; it’s a fact. I could not run this house without her. If she didn’t do all the things she does every single day, I could not be a writer. She literally facilitates my income, which is to say, our income. I take it extremely personally when a callow, miserable, privileged, narcissistic, ex-porn addict, former pillhead and coke freak snot like Elizabeth Wurtzel who doesn’t have children or a husband — when a person who has spent most of her own privileged life destroying it condescends to or attempts to diminish the labor and vocation of my wife and women like her, well, I get a little ticked. It’s probably better that Conor, somebody who is far nicer and mellower than I, gently but methodically eviscerates Wurtzel’s argument.