Good Lord. Elizabeth Wurtzel has written a screed that is so prima facie insufferable I wouldn’t think it needed to be addressed. Except it was published in the Atlantic and has 5,000 Facebook likes, so maybe it’s striking a chord. The piece is a polemic insisting that feminism demands that women work. Further, she argues, wives of very rich men who don’t work, but spend their days shopping and getting facials are making life worse for every woman.
Her tone is not measured:
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. Who can possibly take feminism seriously when it allows everything, as long as women choose it? The whole point to begin with was that women were losing their minds pushing mops and strollers all day without a room or a salary of their own.
Let’s please be serious grown-ups: real feminists don’t depend on men. Real feminists earn a living, have money and means of their own….And there really is only one kind of equality — it precedes all the emotional hullabaloo — and it’s economic. If you can’t pay your own rent, you are not an adult. You are a dependent.
Okay. I mean, you can say that’s what feminism really means. I can say that “couch” means “a really great song.” But a rights-based concept of feminism, one that holds that women have the right to work, the right to be treated as equals, is surely what most people have in mind by the word “feminism.” In this conception, one has the right to work, but is not compelled to work. And it is indeed substantive. It doesn’t allow everything as long as a woman chooses it. If a woman pays more money to a male for equal work, then she has done something non-feminist. If Wurtzel thinks feminism should not be that way, that’s one thing. She should argue that. But can the “real feminists” crap. She does not get to unilaterally define a word. It’s Wurtzel who has the outlier concept of what a real feminist is.
Then she goes on to say that the wives of one-percenters are bringing the rest of us down.
Because here’s what happens when women go shopping at Chanel and get facials at Tracy Martyn when they should be wage-earning mensches: the war on women happens.
What is the causal link between facials and the grinding down of women? As far as I can tell, her claim is that it is this. Men with such wives hold them in contempt. Therefore, why would they want to hire women? Seriously, that’s it. That’s her argument about how this tiny slice of women is ruining it for the 99 percenters. And of course, she gives no evidence that their husbands hold them in contempt. She just seems to assume that because they are obviously contemptible, that must be the case. And she gives no evidence tying men’s attitudes toward their wives with hiring practices.
Then she goes on to say that being a stay-at-home mom isn’t work because no one pays you for it. Isn’t that begging the question? I mean, part of the feminist argument has traditionally been that we need to re-jigger our concept of what work is to include activities that are not compensated.
And my favorite part is that this bit:
For the longest time I would not date anyone who would now be called a one-percenter because money and power are such a potent combination, and if I am going to be bossed around, I don’t want that to be the reason. When it’s come up, I have chosen not to get married. Over and over again, I have opted for my integrity and independence over what was easy or obvious. And I am happy. I don’t want everyone to live like me, but I do expect educated and able-bodied women to be holding their own in the world of work.
is preceded by this:
I’m not much of a moralist — I have absolutely no right to be — but in the interest of doing what’s right both for me personally and for women generally, I have been strict with myself about earning my keep.
If you’re telling people in no uncertain terms the best way to live, saying that your way is the way of integrity, you are not a moralist how? It’s okay to be a moralist, but, girl! Own it!
She is working for women generally, she says. I personally did not think I needed a series of memoirs exhibitionistically exploring the darkest corners of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s psyche. That changes the world for women not at all. So, thanks, but no thanks. And it’s not at all obvious to me that writing such memoirs is morally superior to raising children.