"I'm 28 and grew up in Manhattan, attended a competitive private high school and a liberal-arts college, and at no point did anyone bring up the notion that the sexes were anything but equal," complains Vanessa Grigoriadis, the author of the New York magazine piece. "To me, it seemed like ideology was going to triumph over biology, and if I could keep my head screwed on straight, there was no question that I could be as much of a success as a man. ... Economic parity with men, certainly, and the freedom to sleep with whomever we choose with impunity -- the feminists who brought us to this moment had many other points, but in the end, this is what came over the transom."
Here is one of the great ironies of contemporary feminism: Elite young women these days take their cues about how to behave primarily from unmarried (and therefore adolescent) males. Why is sexual promiscuity good and domesticity bad? The connecting link is the idea of needing another human being. Women who need people (especially men) feel this need as an admission of weakness, a failure of nerve. The properly independent woman abandons sexual partners as readily and heartlessly as any Victorian roue. For elite, educated young women, to admit that you want a husband and children -- or worse, to actually go out and seek them -- feels unbearably retrograde.
Where does the angst come from? Sylvia Ann Hewlett has done a great service in forcing us to confront these cultural contradictions. "You all figure out what you want in your professional lives and then go after it, and you must find a way to do that in your personal lives, too," she says.
For those of us raising children, there is a similar message: If you want your daughters (or sons) to get married and have children, let them know that market performance is not the only thing that matters.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.
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