From Publishers Weekly
A former attorney and professor of philosophy, Hirshman labeled child care as a low-status job and urged all women to rejoin the work force in her now infamous American Prospect article "Homeward Bound." Now she's back, using statistical research and convincing anecdotal evidence to challenge the politically correct assertion-as well as the moral, value and economic judgements inherent therein-that children, and ultimately society, benefit when mom stays at home. In her attempts to "restart the revolution," Hirshman spotlights the emptiness of "'choice feminism,' the shadowy remnant of the original women's movement," that puts the freedom to choose before progress or equality. "Stay-at-home moms do not like to hear that the sacrifice of their education, talents and prospects to their spouses' aspirations and their children's needs was a mistake," writes Hirshman, "so they contend the stay-at-home decision cannot be judged." But by making that "stay-at-home decision," Hirshman contends, women are creating, collectively, their own glass ceiling, in the end harming society as a whole by keeping educated, affluent women hidden at home. In this slim treatise, Hirshman adds intelligent and much-needed dialogue to an important and emotional debate.
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Hirshman, retired philosophy professor, expands on an article she wrote that ignited a firestorm of criticism from the Right and the Left. She criticized the decision of many well-educated women to return to hearth and home, maintaining that the decisions these women think are entirely personal are influenced by social--and even governmental--pressures to stay home. Hirshman responds to blunt criticism that what women decide is "their own business" by suggesting they test their decisions against canons of Western philosophical ideas of the good and worthy life: Are they using their human capacities to the fullest, maximizing their independence, and doing no social harm? By leaving the workplace, these women are setting back achievements for gender equality and demonstrating indifference toward the larger society. Hirshman is critical in general of women who have settled for a "useless choice feminism," one that fails to address the issues of work and family life. This slim book is likely to continue to fan the fires of an argument that hasn't lost its incendiary potential since The Feminine Mystique. Vanessa Bush
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