Ross Douthat writes that a the slew of female primary victors last Tuesday constitutes a victory for feminismâ€”even though they were by and large conservative candidates. He writes:
“What Tuesday’s results demonstrated, convincingly, is that America is now a country where social conservatives are as comfortable as liberals with the idea of women in high office. More strikingly, they’re comfortable voting for working mothers â€” for women publicly juggling careers and family obligations in ways that would have been unthinkable for the generations of female leaders, from Elizabeth I’s Virgin Queen down to Margaret Thatcher’s Iron Lady, who were expected to unsex themselves before being entrusted with the responsibilities of stateâ€¦
“Republicans are fielding a crop of female candidates that includes working moms like Haley (who has two kids under 13), Kristi Noem (a 38-year-old mother of three running for South Dakota’s House seat) and Kelly Ayotte (the front-runner in the New Hampshire Senate primary, who has a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old).”
Douthat is right about one thing and wrong about another. He’s right that this is a victory for feminism, even though the feminists don’t see it yet. There has been a massive change in the cultureâ€”a change that has transformed the shape of adulthood and families. This is a change largely driven by feminist impulses, and it has made possible these victories.
But I think Douthat is wrong to say this is a “happy” thing. As another report from yesterday’s NY Times discusses, women and men are increasingly viewing marriage and parenthood as a lifestyle options rather than as prerequisites to adulthood. Many women have concluded that “you can have it all” if they simply delay motherhood. Thus there has been a large increase in the number of women older than 35 who are becoming first time mothers. For many, this is simply because career comes first and because children and family are seen as an encumbrance.
These are massive demographic shifts that represent a deleterious trend for families. And this trend is not limited merely to liberals. It is shot through the culture. This is a victory for feminism, but I find it hard to regard it as a good thing.