Is a woman's place at work?

Article Highlights

  • The prescription that a woman’s place is the workplace is as objectionable

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  • Antipathy toward stay-at-home moms goes back to the early days of modern feminism

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  • No one can seriously defend the view that women must be in the workplace--you will be left attacking a strawman

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This house believes that a woman’s place is at work. That is the motion The Economist’s editors invited me to oppose in a ten-day, online, Oxford-style debate. A friend urged me to decline. The motion is silly, she said. No one can seriously defend the view that womenmust be in the workplace. You will be left attacking a strawman. Don’t do it.

Well, I did do it. I have spent years studying the organized women’s movement, and I knew the motion would not lack for serious defenders. Antipathy towards stay-at-home mothers goes back to the early days of modern feminism. In her classic, The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan called the traditional suburban home a “comfortable concentration camp” and described housewives as “walking corpses.” But Friedan was a moderate compared to feminist pioneer Simone de Beauvoir. Beauvoir once said, “No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children … Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.”

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Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident fellow at AEI

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About the Author

 

Christina Hoff
Sommers
  • Christina Hoff Sommers, a former philosophy professor who taught ethics, is probably best known for her critique of late-twentieth-century feminism. She is also known for her extensive writings, among them Who Stole Feminism? (Touchstone Books, 1995), The War Against Boys (Touchstone Books, 2001), One Nation Under Therapy (St. Martin's Press, 2005), and The Science on Women and Science (AEI Press, 2009). Her textbook, Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life, a bestseller in college ethics, is currently in its ninth edition. Her new book Freedom Feminism—Its Surprising History and Why it Matters Today will be published in spring 2013 by AEI Press. A new and revised version of The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies Are Harming our Young Men will be out in August 2013 (Simon and Schuster).


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