From the interview with Hirshman:
Hers is a frightening anti-natalist view of a future where children are pushed to the edges, doomed to grow up under the care of the uneducated and incompetent. But it's not just infants who require such care. God forbid she ends up a senile old woman in a nursing home. If her vision for what's moral were followed, by then there would likely be no servant-minded young nurses to care for her and wipe her soiled bottom.
But then she likely supports killing the aged and infirm to boot.
God save us from such philosophy.
You’re asking what makes for a good life for women. How do you define “good life”? Plato and Aristotle asked the first question: Does it fully use the capacities that make you human, specifically, the capacity for speech and reason?and
And many centuries later, thinkers of the Enlightenment asked, ”Does it allow you to be free and independent and morally autonomous? Do you get to make decisions about your life yourself rather than having them dictated to you by others?”
The third standard came out in the 18th and 19th centuries as industrialization spread throughout Europe: Does the life that you lead do more good than harm?
The particular thing that interested me was American society: It’s my society, and many philosophical schools of thought believe that it's a philosopher's obligation to address her own society. So, taking that seriously, I started researching what I thought would be a very different book—to see how families were making egalitarian marriages a generation after feminism. And I learned in fact that they weren't. I stumbled across the information that educated women who are in a position to have a whole range of choices about their lives were choosing to marry and stay home with their children instead of remaining in the world of work.
What they actually had done was recreate the 1950s life. Then I asked the question, “Is this good?” according to the standards of secular Western goodness.
I applied those standards to the decision to stay home and tend children and the household, and I found that they were, in fact, lacking. These women are not using their full human capacity. They are not independent, and they are not doing more social good than harm.
Are you angry or frustrated with women who stay home with their kids?
I think they're making a mistake. The most frustrating thing about the whole business is the nonsensical stories that they tell themselves and me about what they think they're doing. The delusional quality of it is a little weird.
Where do you think that comes from?
I'm not sure what is going on. If they, in fact, believe the things that they tell me, then they are incredibly stupid and foolish. I'm hoping that they're reciting it like a mantra: "choice, choice, choice, choice," or "I never met a man who wished on his deathbed he spent more time at work." These are mantras that these women recite; they send them to me in e-mails. And so, when the whole society is telling you a set of things, it becomes very easy to just recite it.
The interesting question is why they are unwilling to think through what they're doing. And I think it's because what they're doing is destructive and dangerous and they're afraid to face it.
You seem to be saying that a woman who chooses to stay at home with her kids rather than working is harming all women in our society.
How can that be true?
Because it is: She's helping to make a zeitgeist in which women are seen as undesirable employees.
You write that young women who opt out in this way have inflated ideas of how much they can control their world. But there are a lot of women—I’m one of them—who spent some years at home with our kids when they were little, and who treasure that time. Are we deluded?
It depends on how long you stay out of the workplace and what price you pay. One of the delusional conversations I had was with a woman who was 39 when I interviewed her. She had been out of the workplace for three years, and she was planning to go back when her second child, who was in utero at that moment, was in full-time school--6-1/2 years later, right?
So, I said to her, " I am going to say you're going to be 45 and a half when you start to try to reenter the competitive world of journalism," where she had been before. And she said, "I am not." You have to wonder when someone with a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University can't add six and 39.
What is going on there is that she's walked away from any hope of a meaningful career, and she doesn't want to face it.
You reject, even ridicule, the pushback from the opt-out moms who tell you and others that it's their own business. They're engaging in wishful thinking, number one. And then, they protect themselves from any evaluation of their insubstantial thinking by saying “It's my own damned business.” It cannot be reviewed by anyone else, so that they're like someone who thinks he's Napoleon.
And then, when you say, “You know what, you're not Napoleon, it's the 21st century and France is a democracy,” she says, “It's my own damned business.”
That's really worrisome, especially when it seems to apply only to women. And the reason that men treat women's decisions as their own damned business is because they don't matter. If they mattered, then men would treat them as everybody's business.