Yes, yes, I know, I’ve talked about the terrible NY Times article about how elite women are shunning work to stay home quite enough already. But Katha Pollitt had such a nice story about it in The Nation, telling still more about how a fake trend landed on the front page of our nation’s paper of record, that I find I have a little more to say on the subject.
When I first wrote about the article, I heaped scorn on a quote from a Yale history professor, Cynthia Russett.
In an only slightly less silly quote, Yale history professor Cynthia Russett says "at the height of the women’s movement and shortly thereafter, women were much more firm in their expectation that they could somehow combine full-time work with child rearing. The women today are, in effect, turning more realistic." (Emphasis added.)
I suppose, given the general shoddiness of the journalism evident in the rest of the piece, I probably shouldn’t have assumed that Professor Russett’s quote was taken in context. And, according to Pollitt’s piece, it wasn’t:
"…history professor Cynthia Russett, quoted as saying that women are "turning realistic," is happy to go public with her outrage. Says Russett, "I may have used the word, but it was in the context of a harsh or forced realism that I deplored. She made it sound like this was a trend of which I approved. In fact, the first I heard of it was from Story, and I’m not convinced it exists."
You and me both, Professor. I’m glad I called your quote silly, and not you.
I particularly like Pollitt’s point at the end of her piece.
What’s painful about the way the Times frames work-family issues is partly its obsessive focus on the most privileged as bellwethers of American womanhood–you’d never know that most mothers who work need the money. But what’s also depressing is the way the Times lumps together women who want to take a bit of time off or work reasonable hours–the hours that everybody worked not so long ago–with women who give up their careers for good. Cutting back to spend time with one’s child shouldn’t be equated with lack of commitment to one’s profession. You would not know, either, that choices about how to combine work and motherhood are fluid and provisional and not made in a vacuum. The lack of good childcare and paid parental leave, horrendous work hours, inflexible career ladders, the still-conventional domestic expectations of far too many men and the industrial-size helpings of maternal guilt ladled out by the media are all part of it.
Wouldn’t you like to read a front-page story about that?
Why, yes, I would.