The Thinking 

The Ideals of Women

March 3, 2010



I am writing in regard to your post on preferential hiring for men. It addresses something I’ve been uneasy about for some time, but have still not come to any conclusions.

When I was young, I could name many different ideas of what I wanted to be when I grew up, but what I really wanted was to be a wife and mother. I did well in school, and assumed college was in my future, although I didn’t know what I wanted to study (I loved to write, and thought English was suited to me, but I ended up studying psychology, which was even more suited to me). Still, when my mother asked me what I wanted to be, I said, “A wife and mother.” Her response was that I needed to have a backup plan.

To make a long story as short as I can, after a disastrous first marriage with a man with a number of problems, I spent many years alone. I have always tried hard to do what I believed God wanted me to do. I earned two graduate degrees, and functioned in jobs that capitalized on my mind. I have worked both inside and outside the academic world. When I finally met my husband (who is the finest man I’ve ever known and well worth waiting for), I found I could not have children, and we were considered too far along in life for us to adopt (and I’m only now middle-aged). He has an adult daughter, so I am not needed as a parent.

So, I am in a position where I have worked hard to have the greatest intellect I can, and I am a rare conservative (and feminine woman) in the academic world, where my influence on young women is counter to the prevailing indoctrination to which they are subjected. If I were to leave my position (I’m an adjunct, so in some ways am easily replaced), the likelihood of the position being filled by a conservative is extremely low. My husband believes our home is warm and inviting, and doesn’t believe it would be any more so if I were not working. Financially, my earnings do make our lives easier.

I welcome your thoughts, based on the meager information I’ve provided (I am not asking you to tell me what to do–I simply appreciate your clarity of thought).

Laura writes:

Thank you for writing. I am impressed that, as a woman in a successful career, you have not written with resentment or anger. The  friendly tone of your e-mail is significant and represents the sort of unspoken agreement that used to exist among women who were working and those who were not. Even many supposedly conservative women today are feminists. In the past, the working woman, no matter how much she might live differently, respected the ideals of motherhood, homemaker and wifely duty. She did not seek to destroy or belittle them.

And, it’s the shared ideals that matter most. It’s the common good, or the good we hold in common, that’s important, not that we all conform. All women no matter what their position in life should publicly support and bolster the work of wife and mother. These are the most significant and powerful social roles of women, and yet a woman is not less of a woman simply because she cannot have children or because she never marries. Nor is a woman who marries, has children and stays home necessarily the epitome of femininity or virtue. Not at all. It’s the vocation that is perfect not the individuals who pursue it.

Some women will always work and some will have important and satisfying careers. Even when men received preferential treatment in hiring, there were women who worked all their lives, especially in education. Sex discrimination laws and regulations should be demolished, but that would not entail legal barriers to the hiring of women. Employers could make decisions as they see fit and prefer men if they wish. They could also respond to public consensus that the male provider role is important.

You are a rarity in the academic world. How many women are in the trenches guiding students away from feminism? It sounds like you have not just an interesting job, but a very important calling. Your marriage comes first, but I hope you stay with your work and prosper. Best of luck to you.

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