Last week, when we brought you The Good, the Bag, and the Ugly, we mentioned the incendiary essay by Elizabeth Wurtzel, 1% Wives Are Helping Kill Feminism and Make the War on Women Possible. But we can’t just leave it at that.
We suspect, dear readers, that more than a handful of you are the well-educated, well off stay-at-home-mothers who are the subject of Ms. Wurtzel’s scornful essay. And, like us, you might feel besieged upon reading, “…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” because according to Ms. Wurtzel, well off non-working women “go shopping at Chanel and get facials at Tracy Martyn when they should be wage-earning mensches.” And Ms. Wurtzel's anger is palpable: “I am going to smack the next idiot who tells me that raising her children full time -- by which she really means going to Jivamukti classes and pedicure appointments while the nanny babysits -- is her feminist choice.”
Thankfully, I’ve never claimed to make a “feminist” choice, have no idea what Jivamukti is, and was employed outside the home for the first 8 years of motherhood, so I hopefully won’t get smacked.
What is clear, though, is that Wurtzel’s depiction of well-heeled, well-educated stay-at-home mothers is an offensive caricature. One is tempted to think she did her research by watching “Real Housewives” television and following Manhattan society pages. Most insulting is her claim that upon exiting the work force, women “forget all but the lotus position” leaving their husbands to believe that their wives and therefore, all women are “dumb.” Really? At this point, her chacterization become so outlandish we can forget about indignation and just go with a big fat eye roll. What's the point of arguing with someone utterly detached from reality?
Ms. Wurtzel clearly has a penchant for provocative topics, having published a memoir of addiction, Bitch Rules, and most famously Prozac Nation. Perhaps the working mothers debate was irresistible; perhaps her offensiveness was meant to break up the ennui; perhaps she really feels feminism can be helped by authoritarian proclamations.
The one thing she is right about is that not earning a paycheck of one’s own is, in fact, an uncomfortable position. While I have been acutely aware of this in my time at home, I am also certain that my choice to stay home is the best possible choice for me, for my children, and for now. But hopefully not forever. And that is exactly where Ms. Wurtzel's essay is most wrong: the line between working and at-home mothers is fuzzy and impermanent, and we can only address any "war on women" by recognizing that we are all in this together, working or not.