Kathryn Lopez

I simply have no patience for women.

Odds are I don't mean you, your wife or your mother. I do mean, however, the type of gal who tends to grace the likes of The New York Times editorial pages.

I'm thinking in particular of Judith Warner. Warner is the author of a book called "Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety" (Penguin Group, 2005). In memorializing the recently deceased feminist "founding mother" Betty Friedan (as she is frequently described), Warner heralded Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique" (W. W. Norton, 1963) as "surprisingly relevant today" -- indeed, "horribly familiar."

To understand Warner, one must understand Friedan. "The Feminine Mystique," a feminist classic, has a chapter entitled "The Comfortable Concentration Camp." Friedan was a seriously desperate housewife, comparing women raising kids at home to the hopelessness of American POWs in Korea. She was married and unhappy and based a philosophy on her personal coping strategy. Friedan moved on, but not without leading others astray with her ideas.

As my friend and colleague Kate O'Beirne writes in her book, "Women Who Make the World Worse" (Sentinel, 2005), Friedan got a divorce, "but unfortunately not before she expounded on the merits of Marxist economics, persuaded far too many women that a selfless devotion to their families was a recipe for misery, helped create the National Organization for Women (NOW), and destructively politicized relations between the sexes."

Likewise in 2006, Judith Warner seems to want to base a revived Friedanism -- and reinvigorate "destructively politicized relations between the sexes" -- on personal choices she's not entirely delighted with. Her problem seems to stem from a husband who doesn't clean up his socks. Warner writes, "The outside world has changed enormously for women in these past 40 years. But home life? Think about it. Who routinely unloads the dishwasher, puts away the laundry and picks up the socks in your house? Who earns the largest share of the money? Who calls the shots?"

Warner seems to consider the life of a mom who can choose to stay at home with her children, working at writing for minimal hours, wrought with "soul-numbing sacrifices." Obviously, some women will find motherhood and home life not for them. (Though even some hardened feminists have written about the reality check that falling in love with their baby meant for their own gender biases.) But Warner's answer is to universalize her experience and encourage women to put their kids' childhoods into the "soul-numbing sacrifice" category. Some women rather celebrate the opportunity.


Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.
 

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