The Already Controversial Call to Arms -- Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World

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Linda Hirshman, a former litigator and professor of philosophy with a long record of thinking and writing about sexual politics, found herself in the middle of a policy debate getting personal. Her response? Get to Work: A Manifesto for the Women of the World (Viking; on sale 6/12/06; $19.95)––which fully explains why, forty years after Betty Freidan’s The Feminine Mystique, women are not making it to the top in the world of work: they are still shackled at home.

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In December 2005, Linda Hirshman’s call for women to stay out of the house, “Homeward Bound,” appeared in The American Prospect magazine and exploded the world of sexual politics like a rocket-propelled grenade. The New York Times syndicated columnist David Brooks awarded it a “Sidney” award for magazine article of the year, even while skewering it as “a sinus clearing blast of full bore 1970’s feminism” (“The Year of Domesticity,” 1/1/06); apparently still not satisfied the Times devoted a second opinion piece to it two Sundays later (“Today, Some Feminists Hate the Word ‘Choice,’ 1/15/06). Good Morning America put Hirshman on the hot seat for two mornings in a row––and at the end of the second segment so many people emailed the show that they crashed the ABC server. Meanwhile, women already at work were emailing each other “at last!”

Year-end summaries at Salon and Talking Points Memo singled out “Homeward Bound” for reopening a crucial social debate that had been sorely missing during the backlash era. Liberal Salon and conservative Brooks agree: The personal is political again. Feminism somewhat changed the workplace, but the real glass ceiling holding women back is at home.

Linda Hirshman, a former litigator and professor of philosophy with a long record of thinking and writing about sexual politics, found herself in the middle of a policy debate getting personal. Her response? Get to Work: A Manifesto for the Women of the World (Viking; on sale 6/12/06; $19.95)––which fully explains why, forty years after Betty Freidan’s The Feminine Mystique, women are not making it to the top in the world of work: they are still shackled at home. Specifically, men and women alike still assign the low-level jobs of housekeeping and child rearing to women. This, says Hirshman, is morally wrong. Feminism diluted its cause with too much gracious inclusiveness, and it has everything to learn from the more robust movement for gay rights.

Hirshman refuses to be silenced by the liberal and conservative agreement to hide behind the language of mothers’ “choice.”. Liberals, having abandoned the judgmental starting point that made feminism vital and important to a generation of women, are now mired in the philosophy of ‘choice feminism’—the idea that any decision a woman makes is feminist, simply because she chose it. Meanwhile, conservatives simply believe women are seeing the errors of the feminist movement and are opting not to work so they can return neatly to the position God or Darwin ordained for them.

But, as Hirshman asserts in Get to Work, just because someone chooses to do something does not make it right. “A man who chooses not to read,” she says, quoting Mark Twain, “is just as ignorant as a man who cannot read.” Are women electing a life of domesticity making good choices? Measured by every standard of good lives in Western philosophy, they are not. They are not, by and large using their adult capacities, they are economically dependent, and they are wasting the money and other resources spent on their elaborate educations.

The time is ripe for a new feminist revolution based on values and quality of life, not some false promise of ‘choice.’ Get to Work will lead the national discussion as Hirshman asks women to rediscover that their place is out of the kitchen––and not in the nursery, either.

Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World

Linda R. Hirshman

Viking

On sale 6/12/06

$19.95

0-670-03812-1

To schedule an interview with Linda Hirshman or to obtain additional review copies, please contact Sonya Cheuse, Viking Penguin publicity, 212-366-2338.

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