Dear Elizabeth Wurtzel, part deux

20 Aug

Hey! If you liked my post about Elizabeth Wurtzel’s recent article, then you should check out this post at Life In Pint-Sized Form. My friend L shares her response to the same piece, but from a nanny’s point of view. There are a hell of a lot of parenting blogs out there, so it’s amazing to read a blog from the perspective of someone who nannies for a living.

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3 Responses to “Dear Elizabeth Wurtzel, part deux”

  1. torontonanny August 20, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    Thank you for this! 🙂

  2. Paul Desjardins August 27, 2012 at 2:28 am #

    Well said! This is a great response and your perspective as an actual hard-working down-to-earth stay-at-home mom (NOT the one-percent Jivamukti types) really ought to be given a wider platform to counterbalance Wurtzel’s. Might I suggest sending your response to The Atlantic as an editorial write-in or op-ed response in the next issue?

    My own thoughts:

    Don’t take this personally. This piece isn’t about you, it’s not about stay-at-home moms, and it’s not even about feminism. It’s about Wurtzel and what she is going through in her life at this point: Childless and unmarried at 45, she has sacrificed any chance for a functional relationship let alone motherhood in order to pursue a career as a Wall Street corporate lawyer– something that, like so many corporate lawyers 4-5 years into their legal career, she has probably begun to realize is NOT remotely like how it is portrayed on TV but is in fact the single most soul-crushingly boring, miserable, cynicism-inducing, anxiety-inducing and pessimism-inducing job on the planet. There isn’t enough Prozac in the nation to save Wurtzel from herself.

    Of course she would like to believe that economic independence is the only real, meaningful criterion for a ‘good feminist’. She needs to believe this in order to justify her almost certainly despair-inducing lifestyle spending 14 hours a day under fluorescent lights writing mind-numbingly nitpicky and dull memos for sociopathic bosses. She’ll never hear the laughter of a child in her home, and she needs to believe that this was the right choice: that this serious life she has chosen, this sacrifice, somehow makes her a better feminist and thus a morally superior woman. The fact that her choice might be the right one for her but not the right choice for other women in other circumstances appears to be too post-feminist a concept for her to grasp.

    Being unmarried and childless at 45, Wurtzel knows that she’ll never have children. That’s her choice and it ought to be respected as such (if stay-at-home moms are inclined to give her more respect than she cares to return). But even as a choice, she probably harbours at least unconscious envy and resentment towards women who– unlike her– didn’t spend their twenties and their thirties in a self-destructive narcissistic spiral, but who instead managed to have functioning, loving relationships that eventually turned into marriages and the chance to raise a great family. Her best shot at marriage at this point—as a borderline menopausal corporate lawyer with a notoriously promiscuous and experimental past (rather off-putting to most white-collar types)– is as the second or third wife to a similarly overworked misanthrope. Consciously or unconsciously, the Atlantic piece is just Wurtzel rationalizing her choice essentially to make lots of money and die alone. Of course her metric for a ‘proper feminist’ is economic self-sufficiency— that’s ALL she has going for her. (Note: my flippant tone notwithstanding, there is nothing wrong per se with that choice; the problem lies in looking down your nose at other women who exercise their absolute right to make different choices.)

    This is the giveaway: “A job that anyone can have is not a job, it’s a part of life, no matter how important people insist it is (all the insisting is itself overcompensation)”. Subtext: “I had to spend years in the basement of the Yale Law library in order to get a job as a corporate attorney on Wall Street spending twelve hours a day under fluorescent lights, and I am now 45 years old, menopausal, unmarried and childless, so naturally I am jealous of 28 year old stay-at-home moms with rich husbands who don’t have to work and who have a lifetime of daily spa visits to look forward to (with or without divorce). And all my insisting that I’m so, so happy with my choice is overcompensation if not outright denial.”

    Her poor impression of high-status men and their alleged misogyny is unsurprising although skewed by selection bias: as a Yale Law grad and Wall St. lawyer, her daily interactions for the past decade have doubtless been with some of the most socially dysfunctional and/or sociopathic males in America.

    It’s important to realize that this piece isn’t really about feminism or even women. That’s the red herring; this is really a socioeconomic critique. It’s about the author’s (not unwarranted) disdain for the one-percent men who comprise her coworkers in the soulless corporate law firm where she works. Her contempt for their non-working wives is just a component of that deeper loathing, which includes her own self-loathing (or at least self-doubt) over why she’s ended up in this career, where her youth went, and whether this is pretty much all that’s left for her.

    Really this piece just says a lot more about Wurtzel than anything else— which is true of everything she’s ever written.

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