Friday, September 29, 2006

On My Nightstand and Almost Due at the Library...

...are books I've just finished, or that I'm in the middle of, and many that I plan to read soon.

I still like doing the random quote thing that Mental Multivitamin did on her "On the Nightstand" entries, so I'm going to page 29 (or thereabouts) and taking the first complete sentence. Then I'll do a little blurb on each book to share what I think about it, why I'm reading it, etc. in lieu of a real review. Because if I did real reviews on every book I read I'd never have time to vacuum or mow the lawn or pick my frost-bitten tomatoes.

Song of the Water Boatman: & Other Poems, by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beckie Prange

slants low,
chill seeps into black
water. No more days of bugs
and basking. Last breath, last sight
of light and down I go, into the mud. Every
year, here, I sink and settle, shuttered like a
shed. Inside, my eyes close, my heart slows...
(from Painted Turtle, the last fall poem in the book,
which doesn't have numbered pages.)

This is a gorgeous book and I am so grateful that Jennifer (Under the Ponderosas) recommended it. It has the most beautiful, strong, graceful woodcuts I've ever seen, and such lovely, whimsical poems and wonderfully descriptive blurbs on natural history for kids. I think I like this book more than my kids do, though.

The only problem with the book? It's too short. I want it to be about five times as long as it is. Do you hear that, Ms. Sidman and Ms. Prange? More, please.

Upside Down: Seasons among the Nunamiut, by Margaret B. Blackman

If not, then the CB radio has provided them a weekend of mental journeys to Qalutagiaq, Masu Creek, and Narvaksrauraq through other villagers' shared experiences.

I think I saw this advertised in a University of Nebraska book catalog, and I vaguely remember ethnographic articles by Blackman from an ethnohistory course. Upside Down makes a nice counterpoint to Ordinary Wolves - although Upside Down is not nearly as well-written nor as graphic as Kantner's novel (and really, how many books could be?). I'm sure this is at least partially because Upside Down is non-fiction. It is definitely much more engagingly written than most anthropological writing, and should interest those who like stories about the arctic. It also makes a nice follow-up to Jodi Picoult's The Tenth Circle, which was a fairly gripping fast read with a main character that is a lot like a combination of Cutuk from Ordinary Wolves and the cartoonist from Stephen King's Cell.

Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children, and Struggling with Depression, by Tracy Thompson

And so I retreat to the safety of what Cusk calls my "coven of co-mothers, " where we cackle at our private joke.

I have been on the waiting list at the Ann Arbor District Library for this book for months. Finally, it occurred to me that I could request that the Saline Library buy it - and within a week, it was bought, processed, and in my hands. I'm impressed - by both the book and my little local library.

The Lake, the River & the Other Lake
, by Steve Amick

You live with two different parents, she figured, you can't expect the place to stay like a museum.

This is my book club's choice for October. I hope they like it as much as I did. I'm looking forward to re-reading it. The whole summer-place thing is so interesting - I loved Timothy Noah's "Summer-House Lit" articles in Slate. I really need cabin on a lake up north to be able to write more about this, I think.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Tra La La...Captain Underpants is Educational

My nine year old son still loves Captain Underpants. Though he is a fairly advanced reader (having already devoured the Lemony Snicket series, the Spiderwick Chronicles, and many of the Harry Potter books), he continues to look forward to each of George and Harold's epic adventures. He got Captain Underpants And The Preposterous Plight Of The Purple Potty People in his Scholastic book order* last week, and has already read it several times. And it really is educational - he asked me to define "anarchy" the first time he read it.

I blogged about Captain Underpants and Judy Blume last year for Banned Books Week (here it is if you want to read it) and it's that time again this week.

From the American Library Association's website:

Do you remember the first book you read that touched you, made you laugh, scared you silly or made you rethink the world? Chances are someone has tried to have that book removed from a U.S. school or public library somewhere nearby.

All kinds of books – from Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz to Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – have been targeted for all kinds of reasons. Every year the American Library Association (ALA) learns of hundreds of book challenges – or formal attempts to have a book restricted or removed.

Please tell us a about YOUR favorite book from the list below. Each of the books listed has been challenged in schools and libraries in the 25 years since Banned Books Week started.

Here's the survey.

*I would now like to gripe about the all of the non-book items advertised in the Scholastic "Book" catalogs that come home every month (or temptingly shown in the book fairs at school): stuffed animals, small electronics, and Game Boy games all compete with the books - how many kids ignore the books for all of this other stuff?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

It's the 23rd!

In addition to being the first day of autumn (or fall, if you prefer), it's also time for the 23rd Carnival of Feminists, now hosted by Lingual Tremors. The articles on health care are fascinating, but there's a lot more to read and digest - famous feminist bloggers answer your questions about feminism, Boob-gate 2006, and a very thought-provoking couple of posts on emergency contraception are just the beginning.

This is a good place to share the link to Our Bodies, Our Blog, a "daily dose of women's health news and analysis" by the people who brought you Our Bodies, Ourselves. Did you know there's a new edition (January 2005) of this classic? It would make a good "going to college" gift for someone who had "abstinence only" sex education in high school.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Clapperclaws, Cover-Sluts, and Shachled-Shoes (or The Word Museum: Book Review)

I ran across The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten, by Jeffrey Kacirk, in the free swap rack at my local library. I knew almost immediately that I would enjoy browsing this collection of words that the author says were partly chosen for their "Jabberwocky factor" -- basically, how they sound and the images they bring to mind.

As I read, though, it was the social and historical glimpses that many of the words provided that really struck me, and I did start wishing for a little more depth (like Michael Quinion provides in Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds). Quinion's site (oooh, and I see he has a new book - Gallimaufry - coming out soon!) really provide that in spades, which I appreciate. Kacirk's book is less research and more "check this fun stuff out", which is sometimes just what you want in a book, especially if you're reading it in the bathroom while your 4 year old splashes in the tub.

Anyway, in his introduction, Kacirk mentions that "teachers and historians, because of their socially prescribed curricular attention toward larger social concepts, often bypassed the smaller and more personal expressions of social custom and conduct" (p. 8). While I don't think that is a fair description of many good teachers or historians (or archaeologists, for that matter), it is undeniably true that the watered-down version of history that many grade school or high school students get fed in the US is de-personalized, over-generalized, and, well, boring. This book is not boring.

Since I've been reading a lot of women's history and feminist theory lately (not as boring as it sounds, dammit!), I took special notice of the words - especially the perjorative ones - in Kacirk's book that were historically applied to women. I thought it was interesting how most of these archaic terms described sexual behavior, uppity-ness, or laziness, which all come together in some feminine stereotypes. These words tell us a little bit about control (and the lack of control) that men had over women in England and Scotland in centuries past:

batterfanged - basically, to be beaten and scratched, and Kacirk adds as by "a termagant". Now there's an interesting word, too, right up there with virago. Check out the bizarre origin of termagant.

clapperclaw - to tongue-beat; to scold. To scratch, maul, fight in an unskillful manner; generally used of women. Hence, a clapperclaw is a noisy woman.

cover-slut - a long apron used to hide an untidy dress (or something in general that hides sluttishness).

curtain-lecture - A reproof given by a wife to her husband in bed. Yes, high-class beds used to have curtains around them.

fishfag - "any scolding, vixenish, foul-mouthed woman". Check out this blogger's description of Ann Coulter that uses fishfag along with many of this book's other entertaining words. It's an interesting twist on the more well-known "fishwife".

giggle-trot - a woman who marries late in life is said to "take the giggle-trot".

idle-worms - worms that breed in the fingers of lazy girls.

laced-mutton - a prostitute (as used in The Two Gentlemen of Verona). Also rigmutton. Some graduate student somewhere has probably written a paper on the symbolism of these comparisons with sheep.

married all over - used to describe women who "fall off in their appearance and become poor and miserable-looking" after marriage. The historic equivalent of "letting yourself go". Check out this Good Housekeeping quiz on how to discover if you're on "the fast track to Frumpville". There's a similar quiz on Oprah's site. Give me a break. Some things really haven't changed in centuries. Which leads us right to the last definition:

shachled-shoes - a no longer useful person, especially "a woman discarded by her lover". Shachled is an old Scottish term meaning distorted and no longer holding its shape. Ouch. So much for "the good old days".

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Dinosaur-Like Swan Geese

Big birds really look like dinosaurs to me, especially when they come at you aggressively. We had a bit of a Jurassic Park scene at the Calder Dairy last weekend, with the geese looking at us with their reptilian eyes, greedy for corn and shoelaces.

Luckily, no children were pecked (despite the picture above, which includes my daughter's arm), though my husband did get a sharp nip in the rear. The most aggressive offenders were the swan geese (Anser cygnoides domesticus), these strange ones with the saurian bulges at the tops of their beaks.

Any locals interested in visiting the Calder Dairy (down in Monroe Co., halfway between Milan and Monroe) should definitely take a big cooler with ice packs when they go. I recommend the pound and half tub of butter, which is way, way better than the Land o' Lakes blocks from the grocery store, despite the whiff of cow barn that clings to the wax paper covering. And the chocolate ice cream. Or the vanilla ice cream.

I just wish they sold their own cheese curds, too. Why can't we get these around Ann Arbor? Or can we? Please, please leave a comment if you know of a local provider.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Migrating Monarchs

I took this picture of a monarch caterpillar on my son's hand a couple of weeks ago - it looks like it was getting ready to pupate, since it was getting into a J shape. I didn't see where the chrysalis ended up, though, and according to this chart on, "Toxy" (as my son named him, because he's toxic) may have already emerged and set off for Mexico. We haven't seen any monarchs in the last week or so, although it's been raining so much we haven't been out much.

Next year, we're definitely going to do some tagging. Check out the cool monarch tagging pictures at Burning Silo, which I just ran across when I discovered the third Festival of the Trees.

I love all the wildlife we've had this year associated with the swamp milkweed (which you see going to seed in my last post). If any locals want some seeds to start next spring (or a whole plant to transplant when they come again next spring) give me an e-mail. I'll mail you an envelope of milkweed fluff & seeds, or you can bring your trowel and dig yourself a shoot. We're going to be transplanting a lot of them next year anyway, and they are tough, these Asclepias incarnata plants.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Seasonal Changes

I can tell that fall is here - and even if it isn't here chronologically, the transition's in the air, reflected by the fact that:
  • - It's time to deflate the kiddie pool, although we're not ready for the flannel sheets
  • - Geese are in the air and overnighting in the wheat stubble behind the house, though hummingbirds are still at our feeders
  • - School has started (along with the first school-bourne virus - after just four days of classes!), though neither the MEAPs nor the first field trips are here yet
  • - Ragweed is pollinating, and I wouldn't mind losing the rest of my basil if the first killing frost just gets rid of the ragweed
That night was the turning-point in the season. We had gone to bed in summer, and we awoke in autumn; for summer passes into autumn in some imaginable point of time, like the turning of a leaf.
~ Henry David Thoreau, from A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849), p. 356.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

22nd Carnival of Feminists now up at Redemption Blues. There are quite a few thought-provoking posts on feminism, fat, and body image in general. Faith and feminism is also featured, and the role that sexuality plays in both is prominent in several of the posts in this category. And my rant about Get to Work got linked and called "detailed, balanced, and thoughtful." But don't miss the other posts in the Rainbow section ("not explicitly related to the announced topics in all their colourful splendour") - there are some great posts by bloggers I've never read before. That's one of the things I like most about these carnivals - although at some point, I'm going to have to stop adding new "must read" blogs to my Blogarithm list.

Housekeeping Ain't No Joke

As the maid, Hannah, says in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women (published in 1868). The illustration above is from the same era, from a magazine published in Melbourne, Australia - a bit of satire on the reformers' push for an eight hour work day.

Interestingly, Alcott's friend and neighbor, Ralph Waldo Emerson had this to say in 1870:

Housekeeping is not beautiful; it cheers and raises neither the husband, the wife, nor the child; neither the host nor the guest; it oppresses women. A house kept to the end of prudence is laborious without joy; a house kept to the end of display is impossible to all but a few women, and their success is dearly bought.

An alternate title for this blog post could be "A Primer on Housework". My musings on this were prompted by a number of things - reading Hirshman's articles (not so much her book) and many thoughtful blog responses to the articles; reading Darla Shine's Happy Housewives and Caitlin Flanagan's To Hell with All That, and a bunch of research on 19th century housewives and prescriptive (or advice) literature that I did for a part-time job.

I am actually grateful that Linda Hirshman brought up housework again. Feminists seem to address it periodically, then forget about it until the next time a discussion of family responsibilities (especially child care) and the consequences of having a parent working full-time for household work comes up again. Arlie Russell Hochschild brought it to widespread (but not sustained) public attention in 1989, with the publication of The Second Shift, but in case you'd like to read more, check this other stuff out.

The following three fascinating blog discussions were prompted by Hirshman's "Homeward Bound" in the American Prospect (republished by AlterNet) last fall & winter, especially by Hirshman's discussion of the "domestic glass ceiling":

The Happy Feminist, On Valuing Housework

Be a Bitch about Housework - see many comments, by Bitch Ph.D.

The Domestic Glass Ceiling, by Half Changed World


Now going back in time, from before The Second Shift:

Life Sentence: The Politics of Housework
, by Debbie Taylor, from a 1988 issue of The New Internationalist devoted to housework.

Ann Oakley's books on housework and housewives, published in 1974. Her website doesn't provide page links - go to Publications, then Non-fiction, and then you can click on extracts from Housewife and The Sociology of Housework.

The Politics of Housework, by Pat Mainardi, 1970 - classic feminist essay. And funny. Very funny.

Housework in Late 19th Century America, by Steven Mintz and the complementary More Work for Mother, by Ruth Schwartz Cowan

Although I enjoy living in clean, well-appointed surroundings, I like writing, reading, and even mowing the lawn (with our reel mower, no less!) a lot better. We don't live in squalor, and luckily I have a high tolerance for clutter and dog hair, and little interest in what anyone outside my family thinks about this. Interestingly, I don't mind cleaning other people's stuff nearly as much as our own -- I greatly enjoyed and recommend Other People's Dirt: A Housecleaner's Adventures from Cape Cod to Kyoto, by Louise Rafkin for a fun read on zen & housekeeping, what your house tells your cleaning service about your lifestyle and personality, and some of the bizarre standards some women feel compelled to uphold.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Get to Work: Book Review

Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World, by Linda R. Hirshman, starts out well enough:

If Betty Friedan had lived just a little longer. We are about to restart the revolution. But now we have to do it without her.
(From the first sentences of Get to Work - henceforth abbreviated as GTW, which is dedicated "In memory of Betty Friedan, Author, in 1963, of The Feminine Mystique".)

I've already written at length about Hirshman's articles (see Over-Educated Stay-at-Home Moms Made Feminism Fail, Hirshman and Feminism Again, Addressing the Issues, and Civil Discourse or Refreshing Honesty?), so I was prepared to be irritated by some portions of her book. I didn't expect to find a bunch of shoddy mistakes in it, though. Frankly, I expected better from a retired university professor and lawyer. I'm guessing that the speed with which GTW was written and published may account for some of its flaws.

Get to Work was a book of sound bites, with some good ideas buried underneath, well larded with a mishmash of personal opinion. As I said in my last "On My Nightstand" post, for a hardcover costing $19.95, it's pretty slim - including the seven pages of "Sources", GTW totals only 101 pages. This does make for quick reading, however. And I do like the cover a lot, which is rather classy, with its dark red background (which goes well with manifesto, though I don't see every woman in the US ever having this little red book in her bag) and its no nonsense design.

Hirshman's first thesis is that "For all its achievements, feminism cannot make more progress, private or public, until it turns its spotlight on the family" (GTW, p. 2).

Now this is something with which I wholeheartedly agree (see my review of Friedan's The Second Stage, Motherhood Discrimination or Special Privileges for Breeders?, and Crystal Eastman's wonderful article, written in 1920 after women in the US won the right to vote).

exactly feminists should turn their spotlight on the family - and how and where we should fight to change things, in both the public & private spheres - well, this is where Hirshman differs from me, and from many other feminists - so radically, and yet so paradoxically conservatively. But more on this later.

Hirshman's problems with educated women "opting out" of the paying workforce include the following points (summarized in my own words):

  • - Women at home don't (and cannot) fully use their capabilities (i.e., they are "unfulfilled")
  • - This at-home status makes them dependent on their husbands - especially economically, but also socially and in terms in decision-making and bargaining power
  • - Female talent is lost from the public world ("to the private world of laundry and kissing boo-boos" as Hirshman puts it)
  • - The ruling class (sociopolitical movers & shakers) continues to be overwhelmingly male
  • - All of the above sends the US in the wrong direction, or generally does more harm than good to our society

Hirshman's prescription for the above are her rules, or her "Strategic Plan to Get to Work" (summarized, as with the above points, with my own comments):

  • - Don't study art (or anything else where you can't make enough money to live on)
  • - Never quit a job unless you have another one (don't be unemployed!)
  • - Never know when you're out of milk (i.e., don't take charge of household tasks)
  • - Consider a "reproductive strike" (just have one kid, maybe, definitely no more)
  • - Get the government you deserve (vote, dammit, and vote appropriately)

Interestingly, "marry down" isn't listed in the prescriptive rules here, as it was in Hirshman's earlier articles. I see on her blog she has altered this rule to "don't marry a jerk", which is advice that’s hard to dispute.

It is unfortunate that so much of the internet reaction to Hirshman's ideas has been in the form of knee-jerk reactions and/or personal slander. Both Hirshman and some of her critics have armored themselves in impregnable (no pun intended!) self-righteousness, from whence they fire off personal potshots - completely irrelevant to the issues above – with sneering abandon. Of course some tired conservative critics yet again pulled "feminazi" out, but I was also dismayed to see that Hirshman wasn't above throwing a reference to "Mommy nazis" (p. 29, GTW) into her book.

Judith Stadtman Tucker's article, entitled Everybody Hates Linda, and a more recent review of GTW, Reviving the Feminist Mystique, stand in marked contrast to the unthinking reactions, along with most of the blogs that I linked to in my previous posts about Hirshman. Some of Hirshman's points and some of her strategic rules are genuinely worthy of thought and further discussion, and I've seen a lot of this recently at places like MomsRising and the Mothers Movement Online (although Hirshman dismisses the latter as "a good source for what passes for feminist activism on the family", p. 97, GTW).

But back to the book. Hirshman has decided than the ideology celebrating personal choice is a major player in modern feminism's failures, and she describes it at some length:

"Choice feminism", the shadowy remnant of the original movement, tells women that their choices, everyone's choices, the incredibly constrained "choices" they made, are good choices. Everyone says if feminism failed it was because it was too radical. But we know - and surely the real radical, Betty Friedan, knew - that it wasn't because feminism was too radical. It was because feminism was not radical enough (pp. 1-2 GTW, bold emphasis mine).

"Choice" is the weasel word, and it is legitimated, especially for women who consider themselves liberals, because it's been adopted by the feminist movement. Even the most empowered women do not see how narrow their options are at the moment of "choice" (p. 16, GTW, bold emphasis mine again).

"...feminism has actively encouraged women to run from a fight by embracing any decision a woman makes as a feminist act. I have dubbed this watered-down version of feminism choice feminism" (pp. 17-18, GTW).

"The choice is a false one, based on the realities of a half-revolutionized society. Once we recognize that, we can admit that the tools feminism offered women to escape the dilemma have failed. The book is an effort to try a different approach. It is time for a new radicalism (p. 25, GTW, bold emphasis mine).

Now on the one hand (as in the emphasized passages above), Hirshman acknowledges that women's choices about working and staying home with children are incredibly constrained. Or false, even. She acknowledges that the high cost of daycare (and I would add that high quality daycare or daycare for any kind of special needs costs even more) plays a role in many middle class mothers' decisions to stay home. Yet instead of promoting real choice, Hirshman opts for staying with the WOH/SAH dichotomy that our economy presently dictates, passing off current feminist calls (and Friedan's passionate arguments in The Second Stage) to "restructure the architecture of the workplace" as the "same old public day-care business that has gone nowhere since 1972", which she argues is merely a ruse to "accommodate women in their role as caretaker of the patriarchal family" (p. 6, GTW). Hirshman goes on to state that "Even in 2006, NOW's “family” initiative is all about building caring coalitions and funding child care and family leave in the public sphere rather than taking on the inequality where it lives" (pp. 22-23, GTW).

Personally, I think that restructuring both the family (dividing household and childcare tasks more evenly) and the workplace (to be more "family- friendly") is much more radical than Hirshman's suggestions, which leave the corporate underpinnings that devalue the private sphere totally unchanged. In fact, encouraging upper-class parents to employ lower-class women to care for their children and clean their houses strikes me as downright conservative.

When challenged by many who say that work in the public sphere is overrated (especially if it is not an economic necessity), Hirshman huffs that "just because work isn't as wonderful as people fantasized does not mean it isn't usually the best alternative available" (p. 15, GTW), and that "Working in the market economy has many rewards - of power, honor, money, exercise of capacities, and so on (p. 16, GTW). She adds that "it seems extremely unlikely that all the jobs in the public world are soul-destroying tyrannies or that all home life is a bucolic paradise" (p. 79, GTW), which is undeniable. But the reverse appears equally undeniable to me.

And what about all of the mothers who sequence (move in and out of the workforce), or work part-time, you ask? Well, you'd have to consult one of the books in my footnote for that kind of subtlety or real analysis. What about the influence of the media on how we perceive mothers? Hirshman mentions "the new momism", but apparently she didn't think that The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined Women, by Susan Douglas and Meredith Williams, deserved the same kind of acknowledgement that Nora Ephron's Heartburn ("Where's the butter?") did in her sources.

Although Hirshman does encourage women to demand gender equality at home, her opinion of anyone - male or female - who chooses to engage in childcare, housework, or any other unpaid labor at the expense of paid employment is very clear. It taints the book with an elitism that overshadows the real and important issues of gender inequality that she raises. Stay-at-home dads, whom she discounts as a minor statistical blip (instead of a genuine trend linked to greater male participation in housework and childcare) are denigrated as "Mr. Mom", which is a label that I thought went out with the 80's.

It is Hirshman's characterization of stay-at-home mothers, of course, that raised the most ire on the internet, and that was probably the deciding factor in bringing Hirshman's work to popular media attention (and a book contract). Not only does Hirshman continue to perpetuate a rigid and demonstrably false* dichotomy between SAH/WOH mothers in GTW, but she goes to great lengths to belittle mothers who "choose" to stay home. These women are never referred to as mothers or even as women in GTW, but are consistently labeled "moms", "the mommy bunch", "homebodies", and once, memorably, as "a kind of miniaturist in the business of life" (p. 17, GTW). In contrast, women with paying jobs are usually lauded as "workingwomen".

Not content with merely labeling, Hirshman goes on to caricature and objectify stay-at-home mothers in manner that only Michael Noer could come close to approximating:

By any measure, a life of housework and child care does not meet these standards for a good human life (p. 33, GTW).

Both my interviews and the public debate reflect that women who drop out of the public world demonstrate a singular indifference to the larger society (p. 38, GTW).

When they write to me, the homebodies, like the merry maid in the treetops with NPR on her Ipod and a letter to her congressman in her overalls, paint a romantic picture of flourishing in the domestic sphere (p. 78, GTW). not all this biking and tree climbing a bit too much of the inner child for any normal adult? (p. 34, GTW).

[in reference to traditional gender roles vs. modern sah-moms' choices]...The chains just transmuted from golden links into the bonds of the invisible fence, like the one that people use to confine their dogs to the yard. (p. 43, GTW)

Hirshman's descriptions of stay-at-home mothers appear to come from a variety of media accounts: Judith Warner's Perfect Madness, her sampling of blogs and message boards, her survey of the New York Times' Style section brides, and Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. It is hardly surprising that such cherry-picking produces a decidedly skewed result that does little to inform us about how fulfilling women that are not officially employed find their lives, their use of their education or talents, and their personal power, freedom, or economic dependence. But from the way Hirshman talks about these women, it doesn't appear that she believes that they deserve feminism's rewards, anyway.

As I read GTW, I couldn't help thinking of Betty Friedan's description of "the feminist mystique" (as opposed to the "the feminine mystique") in The Second Stage. Friedan describes "the feminist mystique" as some feminists' misguided and extreme attempts to be as different from the idealized housewives of the 50's and 60's (and often, their own mothers' life experiences) as possible, which she saw as ultimately damaging to feminism. No wonder that despite dedicating GTW to Friedan, Hirshman gripes that The Second Stage is both "dispirited" and "full of useless, grandiose, and wishful rhetoric" (p. 21, GTW). I guess it won't come as a great surprise to many readers that I found The Second Stage inspiring and surprisingly relevant today. I also thought The Second Stage was a great deal less pretentious than Get to Work, which included an unfortunate soup├žon of philosophy and Plato in support of Hirshman's opinions about moral relativism, the right kind of values, and what constitutes a good life.

A few final irritating details that Hirshman and/or an editor should have caught: “The wonderful description of managing your husband’s housekeeping comes from the Blog Bitch PhD:” (p. 97, GTW) has the wrong hyperlink. The link should take you to My Radical Married Feminist Manifesto, not a discussion of South Dakota's abortion ban (and in case you’re confused, the blog’s title is actually Bitch PhD).

"There’s even a communal, bisexual, universally faithless monkey, the bonobo. Female bonobo polygamous” (p. 77, GTW). Bonobos are chimpanzees. Not monkeys. Yes, there is a difference, and it is not a minor one. And it is just weird to talk about bonobo fidelity in this context. The whole part on Evolutionary Psychology in GTW is just weird and an over simplified "strawmonkey". For a serious look at primate “fidelity” and evolutionary biology, check out Barbara Smuts' books or Frans de Waals' essays on bonobos.

And what is it with these non-fiction, supposedly serious books without indices? Are publishers trying to make it harder for readers to find the sections or quotes that interest them? Or do the authors and publishers just assume that once a book has been read, it’s immediately forgotten, never to be referred to again?

A lot of people have compared Linda Hirshman to Caitlin Flanagan (most notably Katha Pollitt), mainly because of their extremist views and propensity for snide remarks. When it comes to the books themselves, I actually found To Hell With All That rather enjoyable (see here), although I disagreed with Flanagan on many issues. If I owned Get to Work, on the other hand, I'd have to file it next to Darla Shine's Happy Housewives on my bookshelf, as another catchpenny classic in the sad tradition of self-serving, grandiose advice literature that purports to empower women and improve their lives.

*see Miriam Pesowitz's well-researched book, The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars. Strangely, Hirshman frequently denigrates Peskowitz personally, while totally ignoring her book, which addresses these topics in great detail. Peskowitz does not appear in Hirshman's list of "Sources" - nor do Ann Crittenden and Arlie Russell Hoschschild, whom have also written thoughtfully (and done much better research) concerning work-family balance and the processes of decision making on these issues.

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