It had to happen. After two female CEOs -- Marissa Meyer and Sheryl Sandberg -- succeeded (albeit in different ways) of drawing national attention to things like "work-life balance as a concern universal to all U.S. workers" and "persistent gender inequities at all levels in the American workplace," it was time to move the debate away from a direction in which anything productive might actually get done.
Time to divide and conquer! What works better than the twin loci of class feeling and feminism?
Nearly ten years ago, Lisa Belkin penned "The Opt-Out Revolution" for the NYT, and succeeded in focusing a nation's ire on privileged women and/or the feminists who did/didn't defend them. This week, Lisa Miller's "The Feminist Housewife" wears that same rut in New York.
Because there really is very little that's new under the sun, let me predict what will happen next:
* There will be countless reaction blog pieces and media columns where everyone justifies their own life decisions and family arrangements. The comments sections appended to these pieces will be filled with sentiments vile enough to destroy even the most ardent humanist's love for our species.
* Someone will write the piece suggesting that mayhap, outsourcing some of the quotidian tasks of householdery is a way that both partners can work and reduce household chore burdens. Someone else will promptly write the piece accusing any woman who does this as being unfeminist. (Bonus points if this author is found to rely on her nanny to do the sticky, odorous work of parenting a sick child.)
* Someone will write the piece suggesting that we rethink exactly what we expect from our partners and ourselves. Because this approach is entirely too sensible and sane, it will be ignored in the marketplace of ideas.
* Someone will point out that this whole opt-out thing is relevant only to a small and privileged slice of the country anyway. Someone else will point out that this whole opt-out thing is sexist if it only applies to women, and that a rising number of men want to be the stay-at-home parent. Someone else will point out that assuming a household is made up of opposite-sex partners is heterosexist.
All of this will be ignored because it's a lot more fun to tell middle-class straight mothers what they're doing wrong than it is to try and contemplate how this all points to a pathological workplace culture in the U.S. that affects all sorts of people.
* Someone will write the horror story about what happened when they opted out. They'll write of losing any professional or earning potential. They'll get screwed financially by former spouses. They'll be 67 and told to get a job by a judge who rewards them next to no alimony. All the grim statistics about U.S. women and their high likelihood of living out their old age in poverty will be briefly mentioned.
Then it will be time for another recession again, so we'll shift focus on the next round of unfortunate-jobless stories, as opposed to deliberately-opting-out stories.