Amanda Platell, a British "[e]ditor, TV pundit, political guru, . . . has been a high-flying career woman. But no, she says, she (and countless others like her) haven't had it all. And it's taboo to ask why." Platell continues, in "The Silent Conspiracy":
My mother's generation - the ones we pitied for a life of domestic and marital servitude - must look at us and wonder whether all they have missed out on is the right to make themselves miserable. Theirs was a world where men earned the crust and women made the sandwiches. It was a world that had to change. And it did. . . .Meanwhile, over at Foreign Policy, Philip Langman sees "The Return of Patriarchy":
So why do I find myself now as among a growing band of one-time feminists looking back on our own lives and wondering whether the world we helped create is the one we want to bequeath to the next generation?
On the surface, I've had a glamorous life, I've edited a national newspaper, been spin doctor to the leader of the Tory Opposition, and co-presented a primetime political TV show. I've earned big money and travelled the world - all from pretty humble beginnings. But have I really had it all, as we promised ourselves we would? . . .
It's only now , as we start to look back, that we can see just how much we've scorched the social landscape around us. In our rush to embrace the new, we have systematically rejected much that, for centuries past, had brought women stability and happiness. Is it any wonder that the younger generation aren't sure what to think, and instead allow the thrill of youthful hedonism to drown out the conflicting signals around them. . . .
Far too often, it seems to me, the unwitting price of female emancipation has been heartache, stress and a life spent chasing false promises. But if we women are ever to feel truly happy with our lot, I believe we have to stop whingeing, stop blaming men and society, stop playing the victim and stand up and ask the unthinkable; are we ruining for ourselves? Could it be that the freedom we now enjoy is part of the problem? . . .
Even those who led the feminist crusade were ready to admit that their idealism had laid waste to much that had made women happy in previous generations. For as long as I can remember Fay Weldon has been a feminist icon of mine. She reached me through literature in a way that other feminists never did through lecturing. If anyone could explain feminism's legacy, it would be her. But when I went to meet her, at the start of my research, what I got instead was an apology.
"Women like you should be cursing women of my generation", she told me. "All we did was make you go out to work and earn money and have children and completely exhaust yourselves. I'm sorry". She called women like me 'the lost generation' - the ones who had inherited a barren landscape after the revolution had marched through.
"If you want to be like a man, then feminism hasn't gone far enough", she said, "if you want to be like a woman, it has gone too far.
And there, straight away, was the kernel of the matter: feminism was supposed to about equality, not sameness. We wanted to better our sex, not obliterate it. But that is what has happened. In striving to be the same as men, the only things we were guaranteed were the exhaustion and stress and guilt that came with the effort of labouring to become something we never were and never could be. . . .
This . . . has led to another unintended consequence - this time biological. The principled and often pathological belief that men and women have to be treated the same has led women to believe they can have kids whenever they want and with whomever they want - or even by themselves if they choose. The principle legacy of that belief is not more contented mothers, but more women putting money in the pockets of a booming fertility industry as they discover the hard way that nature doesn't perform to order and pays no regard to social idealism.
Yet when two highly esteemed doctors had the temerity to point out this simple truth, they were pilloried. To howls of derision from the feminist lobby, Susan Bewley and Melanie Davies - consultants in obstetrics and gynaecology - wrote an article for the British Medical Journal stating that the "the most secure age of childbearing remains 20-35". . . .
Women, even when they work full-time, are still the primary carers of children and elderly relatives, still do most of the housework, cooking and shopping. Only a fraction of men have taken up paternity leave. . . .
Yet unequal though the share of domestic duties may be, marriage is still the most successful way to raise a family. So why, then, has the Labour Government done so much to remove any recognition of, or incentive for, marriage? Perhaps in part because we women haven't taken it seriously enough ourselves. I certainly didn't when I got married 22 years ago. I spent more time thinking about the frock than the future I was embarking on. The result? The dress was great; the marriage a disaster.
And there are plenty of other women like me still making that same mistake today. Indeed, the law makes it easier to get married than to buy a used car. But it's not just the ease of marriage that has brought the institution down; it's the ease of divorce and the way women increasingly see men as meal tickets for life. . . .
[B]y supporting and perpetuating an increasingly unfair divorce system, we are in effect putting men off marriage - the institution most women still believe makes them happier and more secure than any other. How sad. . . .
And so my journey had brought me full circle, from the past generation to the future one, and the thread running through it all was a startling realisation that women are covertly contributing to our own unhappiness. So why had we put up with it for so long? Because to tell the truth felt like a betrayal of the core promise of feminism, an admission of failure.
But women haven't failed: it's just that our expectations were unrealistic. We set the bar too high and so have spent our lives crashing into it. The simple truth is that we can't have it all. We can't have everything we want, when we want.
For decades it has been a crime against our sex even to say these things. Perhaps now we can start to admit that the real crime has been the conspiracy of silence.
Across the globe, people are choosing to have fewer children or none at all. . . . Are some societies destined to become extinct? Hardly. It’s more likely that conservatives will inherit the Earth. Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best. . . .
Patriarchy does not simply mean that men rule. Indeed, it is a particular value system that not only requires men to marry but to marry a woman of proper station. It competes with many other male visions of the good life, and for that reason alone is prone to come in cycles. Yet before it degenerates, it is a cultural regime that serves to keep birthrates high among the affluent, while also maximizing parents’ investments in their children. No advanced civilization has yet learned how to endure without it.
Through a process of cultural evolution, societies that adopted this particular social system—which involves far more than simple male domination—maximized their population and therefore their power, whereas those that didn’t were either overrun or absorbed. This cycle in human history may be obnoxious to the enlightened, but it is set to make a comeback. . . .Under patriarchy, maternal investment in children also increases. As feminist economist Nancy Folbre has observed, “Patriarchal control over women tends to increase their specialization in reproductive labor, with important consequences for both the quantity and the quality of their investments in the next generation.” Those consequences arguably include: more children receiving more attention from their mothers, who, having few other ways of finding meaning in their lives, become more skilled at keeping their children safe and healthy. . . .
[D]uring the post-World War II era, nearly all segments of modern societies married and had children. Some had more than others, but the disparity in family size between the religious and the secular was not so large, and childlessness was rare. Today, by contrast, childlessness is common, and even couples who have children typically have just one. Tomorrow’s children, therefore, unlike members of the postwar baby boom generation, will be for the most part descendants of a comparatively narrow and culturally conservative segment of society. To be sure, some members of the rising generation may reject their parents’ values, as always happens. But when they look around for fellow secularists and counterculturalists with whom to make common cause, they will find that most of their would-be fellow travelers were quite literally never born.
Advanced societies are growing more patriarchal, whether they like it or not. In addition to the greater fertility of conservative segments of society, the rollback of the welfare state forced by population aging and decline will give these elements an additional survival advantage, and therefore spur even higher fertility. As governments hand back functions they once appropriated from the family, notably support in old age, people will find that they need more children to insure their golden years, and they will seek to bind their children to them through inculcating traditional religious values akin to the Bible’s injunction to honor thy mother and father.
(Thanks to my daughter-in-law for the link to "The Return of Patriarchy.")Related posts:
I Missed This One
A Century of Progress?
Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values
Consider the Children
Equal Time: The Sequel
Marriage and Children