Jennifer Roback Morse

Good Morning America recently devoted two days of coverage to "The Mommy Wars,"  highlighting a feminist named Linda Hirshman, a retired law professor. Her argument is that "choice feminism" has been a failure, because too many of the younger generation of highly educated, promising women have chosen to stay home with their children. 

I reply, "Out of Touch Feminism" has been a failure. These self-appointed spokeswomen for American womanhood have no idea what makes women tick and have contempt for what real women actually want.

I plead guilty to Hirshman’s charges. I am an expensively educated woman who has joined the "opt out revolution." I have a doctorate in economics. I did a post-doc at the University of Chicago. My first teaching job was at Yale. I had tenure at George Mason University. I loved my job.

But I left my tenured position to follow my husband to the West Coast where I had no immediate job prospects (Gasp! It doesn’t get any more retro than that). I did it, because I learned from experience that the kinds of claims Hirshman makes are simply untrue. Let’s take a couple of examples from her TV appearance, and from her December article in American Prospect.

"Your kids will be fine if you work."

In her words, "Statistically there is no difference in the happiness levels of the children whose mothers work and the children whose mothers stay at home."

This is extremely misleading. The data do not support her claim. The research on the impact of day care on children is complicated and subtle. Researchers have studied things as varied as academic achievement, social skills, attachment, and aggression.

The results are mixed, as any sensible mother could have told you. Some kids do fine in day care. Others do fine in some ways but not in others. Still other children are for a variety of reasons, so needy that it would be inhuman to leave them in "non-maternal care." For Hirshman to sweep all of the years of research and mountains of personal experience under the rug of "happiness levels" is appalling.

"You will be happier if you work."


Jennifer Roback Morse

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love In A Hook-up World. She blogs at jennifer-roback-morse.blogspot.com

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