Linda and Leslie

So, Linda Hirshman has a book out, and the Washington Post gave her op-ed space over the weekend.  I’ll take a look at the book if either of my local libraries gets a copy, but so far, I haven’t heard her saying anything that wasn’t covered in her original American Prospect essay or responding to any of the substantive criticisms that I and others made at the time.  (I do feel compelled to point out that Julia’s post in which she says that she’s not a capital F Feminist is a precise illustration of the point that I made about the dangers of litmus test feminism.)

I’m somewhat amused by Hirshman’s defensive reaction to the criticism the article got in the blogosphere — and her implicit assumption that "mommybloggers" are all stay-at-home moms.  And I really don’t understand why she’s so hung up on Miriam Peskowitz’s roof.  (And yes, it’s a sign that I spend way too much time on blogs that I knew exactly who Hirshman was referring to, even though she didn’t mention her by name.)

Via RebelDad, I read this post by Jeremy at Daddy Dialectic in which he criticizes Leslie Morgan Steiner, editor of Mommy Wars, and author of a blog on the Washington Post website.  He begins:

"To my way of thinking, the Washington Post’s Leslie Morgan Steiner represents everything that’s wrong with the way the mainstream corporate media cover children and parenting: she’s shallow, blind to anything that falls outside her cultural and economic comfort zone…"

As I mentioned yesterday, I got a chance to have dinner two weeks ago with Steiner, Devra Renner and a group of working moms as part of a Women’s Information Network event.  While I share many of Jeremy’s frustrations with Steiner’s blog, and the "mom v. mom" framing of her book, she charmed me.  She was gracious, listened as well as talked, and was quite funny about the way her personal life gets dissected by the posters on her blog on a regular basis.  Moreover, she seemed to get the fact that professional-class parents enjoy a huge amount more flexibility and freedom than lower-income families, and argued that those of us with time and influence should be working to benefit all families, not just our own. 

So why doesn’t she push this harder in her writing?  Steiner claimed that the "Mommy Wars" framing was pushed on her by the publisher.  And she also pointed out that that day’s post, in which she talked about the huge settlement that Verizon had made in its class-action pregnancy bias lawsuit, got fewer comments than almost any post she’s made.

8 Responses to “Linda and Leslie”

  1. chip Says:

    I saw that Hirshman piece. She is apparently ignoring the substantive critiques of her argument and just going for the easy potshots against fundies and, in her terms, women who don’t get it. And continuing her grudge against Miriam too. I think that shows that she knows the weakness of her position that she does not want to sincerely and seriously engage.
    As for Steiner, it’s good to hear she’s a good person. But did you see her husband’s piece on her blog for father’s day? I have to conclude that for him to be saying what he’s saying, Leslie herself has enabled him to be the 50’s-ish kind of stereotype he presents there.
    And BTW I loved Jeremy’s points about class in the post you link to. While Steiner seems to portray time spent with kids as almost Calvinistic sign of goodness, while those bad parents don’t spend time, Jeremy points out what is obvious: some kinds of jobs — very much along class lines — are very flexible in terms of time, and those of us who have them have a big advantage, which we pass along to our kids. I wonder why Steiner seemed blind to that, given your experience of her?

  2. jen Says:

    On the Steiner topic, if the combative framing of the issue is pressed upon her by her publisher, I’m afraid that doesn’t win her forgiveness in my book. She is allowing herself to become a mouthpiece for a very specific and very damaging message.
    I’m glad she’s a nice person, but she has made a grave error in thinking she’s off the hook by simply *agreeing with* her publisher, as opposed to fully advocating her stance from the get-go.

  3. jackie Says:

    Not convinced here either– that op-ed was so full of venom and so lacking in substantial arugments, it was just infuriating. Buckling under to your publisher wins you no sympathy in my book, and neither does her poorly-disguised glee at the amount of attention her article/book got. I don’t think her philosophical training taught her to ignore anyone who disagrees with her and doesn’t fit into a neat “fundie”box.
    plus, samizdat of today=email?? Not hardly, Linda. Nor is there a solid analogy between people emailing articles to each other and the Russian Revolution– in fact, samizdat is closer to blogs than it is to emails, even those that include roofing and barfing.

  4. bj Says:

    I am a supporter of some of Hirshman’s points, for example, that the breaking of the “domestic glass ceiling” is desireable. I am dismayed by the gender division of home and out-of-the home work that I’m seeing around me, and do see it as a step backwards.
    That being said, I was not at all impressed by the op-ed where she engaged in (and defended herself from) ad hominem attacks, rather than talking substantively about the issue and her substantive argument. In fact, I’m not absolutely sure what it is, and will definitely read her book, which I hope is better than the op-ed, because I think she has a point of view we need to hear.
    And, I’m with the others who do not forgive Steiner either her book or her column. She’s supporting both decisions on the grounds that “this is what the public wants,” and that’s not going to buy her much slack from me.
    Also, there’s an interesting exchange between Steiner (and her defenders) and Sandra Tsing Loh in the most recent Atlantic Monthly. Loh panned the book, and because everyone loves a cat fight, the monthly published long letters by both in response.

  5. Jeremy Adam Smith Says:

    As I read the Hirshman op-ed, my jaw literally dropped. She constantly reminds us that she is a philosopher, but in the op-ed she really struck me as the Caitlin Flanagan of feminism: someone who is so wrong-headed and narrow-minded and yet so forceful in articulating her ideas that she is practically made to generate controversy and free media (here we are now, talking about her, spreading her name recognition — didn’t Warhol say, “measure what they write about you in inches, darling”?).
    There’s something in her (and Flanagan’s) writing that is deeply irrational, that stirs the hostility she dwells on obsessively, narcissistically. And the Post editors indulge her, just as they indulge Steiner. And someone like Peskowitz, who really is brilliant and principled and intellectually courageous, is relegated to the relative margins. Hirshman celebrates old-timey media gatekeepers, but she doesn’t have enough guts to ask what political biases shape their choices or how she might be playing to what’s worst in corporate media.
    Well. I’m getting angry as I write. I hate that. I’m giving Hirshman and Steiner what they want. I’m sure Steiner is very charming; I’ve met lots of writers who had wonderful personalities and terrible ideas, who equate their success as writers with the attention, positive and negative, they receive — and of course, that is one criterion of success, but also the most dangerous temptation.

  6. Devra Says:

    Miriam once sent me an email about how she believed if our books were independent films, we would be on the same “sleeper hit” shelf at Blockbuster. I know I am okay with being a slowly developing cult hit, but at the same time it is a frustration to be “relegated to the relative margins” as Jeremy put it so well.
    How do I deal with being sidelined in favor of the rhetoric and hype? I focus on the tortoise; slow and steady wins the race. My mantra is this quote from my friend Jill Docking,”Remember, your most important legacy is the honor and integrity of your life.”(If you read “What’s The Matter With Kansas”, her name may ring a bell). This is the reason I don’t give up the hope that eventually those of us hangin’ out in the margins will someday spill out onto the entire page. The margins can only hold “so much”. Right?

  7. Jeremy Adam Smith Says:

    OK. I just read Steiner’s takedown of Hirshman in her blog, and I have to say that it was mostly right-on. I feel compelled to say that and give credit where credit’s due, since I’ve criticized her. (It’s crossed my mind before that Steiner seems to be evolving, without really admitting it.) Still: what’s missing here is a larger critique of work and the impact of our globalized economy on the health of families. And Steiner just seems positively neurotic about where men fit into all this; the post from her husband was distrurbing.

  8. Raising WEG Says:

    I damn well blame the patriarchy, too

    I forgot how exhausting Vacation Bible School can be. I co-taught the Kindergarten class, 24 different kids ranging in age from older fours entering Pre-K all the way up to sixes getting ready for first grade. We have the best

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