THE TROUBLE WITH CHOICE. The response to Linda Hirshman's infamous article (now expanded into a book) was , and continues to be, predictably heated, but also a bit disappointing. (And I'm not just disappointed because the best blog ever is counted among the many "mommy blogs" that have taken understandable umbrage at Hirshman's argument.) Some of the critiques have been straightforwardly wankerific while plenty of others have been sound and compelling. But too few responses have fully and directly engaged one of Hirshman's central points, which is her attack on the left's misguided investment in what is actually a libertarian view about (and veneration of) individual "choice." This, to me, is an extremely important argument, which is why I was so happy to read this really phenomenal review of Hirshman's book today by Meghan O'Rourke. She makes the basic point early on:
But�though I almost hate to say it�buried beneath Hirshman's overblown rhetoric is a useful idea, now set out in a short book titled Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World: namely, that our obsession with choice prevents us from asking tough questions about how to achieve further equality. "Deafened by choice, here's the moral analysis these women never heard," she says: Until there is more equity in the cultural norms for child-rearing and household tasks, each time a woman decides to "opt out" she is making a political decision that reinforces an already ingrained social inequality. Women who believe otherwise suffer from a mixture of false consciousness and impractical idealism. It's when Hirshman is at her most radical�when she sets aside the language of personal fulfillment in favor of injunctions about the collective good�that she is at her most valuable�
I quite agree, and I highly recommend reading O'Rourke's full review, in addition to picking up Get To Work.