December 20, 2013
It’s a easy-to-ready, snappily written post, which is only marred by a few total misunderstandings of my arguments and an overall failure to understand the point of the column.
First, Carrie quotes me as saying, “The problem here is that it’s a solution which relies on but does not critique the role of pernicious gender-based expectations in shaping what women ‘are suited to’ and ‘want.’” She then, kind of hilariously, does exactly that. She details instances of easily seen gender differences without critiquing the role of pernicious gender-based expectations in those differences. Odd.
She goes on, “It’s unhelpful to mischaracterize those of us who acknowledge sex difference as somehow pushing women back into the kitchen and oppose women working and succeeding in the economy.” Again, gendered expectations like the ones reinforced by Carrie do indeed influence (I wouldn’t use the word push, but if the shoe fits) women to conform to those expectations.
Carrie says, “Also, there is something a little insulting about those who dismiss studies and polls reporting women’s preferences as solely evidence that women are all still victims of the patriarchy and are too dense don’t know what would truly make them happy.” Well yes, it is. Which is why that’s a straw-man of my position. Something that happens often, as I talk about here.
It’s a simple mind which thinks decisions are either made in a culture-free vacuum of total free will or by people too dense to know what will make them happy. The reality is that we’re all making decisions for ourselves based on what we think will make us happy, but none of us are doing so in a vacuum.
In fact, there’s a lot to be said for the stigma a woman feels when she violates gender norms and the comfort she feels in complying with them. But the reality is that that friction and happiness are created, in part, by people like Carrie telling women what they should and do want because they’re women.
She then takes issue with my solution to the pernicious effects of gendered expectations on women’s earning potential. I say, “Simply put, high-earning women who want to unlock their potential should wife uneducated men.”
Carrie says this solution, “Seems like a rather limited version of life. Most people aren’t solely interested in maximizing earnings.” Which is why I said it’s a solution for “high-earning women who want to unlock their potential.” It’s not a solution for low-earning women who want to stay home with their kids.
There’s probably a lot to legitimately critique in what I actually wrote. So it’s odd that I’ve been taken to task for positions I didn’t take.
And it’s especially unfortunate that in a response to a clarion call to put aside the focus on the biological role played in gendered behavior and take a long, hard look at the role culture plays in gendered expectations in outcomes, Carrie only strawmans that idea as saying women don’t have free will to make choices.
I don’t know whether this is true, and I hope it’s not, but the steadfast refusal to critique the role of gendered expectations on women’s choices feels like a steadfast defense of the status quo regarding women’s representation in careers and other positions of power.