Over at NRO, Kathryn Jean Lopez kindly interviewed me about What to Expect. One of her questions has gotten me thinking about the dog that hasn’t barked with regards to the book:
In trying to anticipate criticism of What to Expect, I thought that the most serious line of attack would be a feminist critique of the free market. Basically, it would go something like this:
Our consumptive, capitalist orgy has created a culture in which women are continually unable to achieve their fertility ideals. After generations of women were forced to have more children than they wanted, for lack of reliable birth control, women finally master their fertility only to have America’s capitalist system force them into having fewer children than they want. Our entire system foundationally misunderstands the worth of children, and women, and has set up an adversarial dynamic where the economy doesn’t function as well without the dynamism of women in the workplace, but the welfare state can’t function without enough babies being born, and women are kept from achieving both what they want with their minds and what they want with their bodies.
In all this, the free market not only offers no pathway forward, but it places the burdens squarely on women, and not men. The fact that women underachieve their ideal fertility rates by larger margins as they move up the economic and educational scales is further proof that our red-in-tooth-and-claw economic system simply doesn’t work. After 20 years of venerating the free market and dismissing alternative forms of economic organization, our demographic problems suggest that the free market is failing us all–and particularly women–in the most fundamental way.
I wouldn’t entirely disagree with that critique. And I try to acknowledge it, briefly, in the book.
But strangely, I don’t get the sense that anyone on the left is much interested in seeing our demographic problems as an example of capitalism failing women. Instead, I get the sense–from pieces like this–that the left is much more interested in insisting that the problem is really about protecting the relatively smaller universe of women who want to be child-free from being “forced” (somehow) into parenthood.
I’m not quite sure what it means that the feminist left’s instinctual reaction is to circle the wagons on the right to be child-free (which so far as I can tell, exactly no one is suggesting should be impinged on) rather than attacking the heartless free-market for failing women (which is what I would have expected to be the Elizabeth Warren-ish, progressive response).
Maybe it means that feminism has made its peace with capitalism and consumerism. Maybe it means there’s a split between the kind of Warren-progressive feminism and the more lifestyle-liberalism of places like Slate and Salon. Or maybe it means something else altogether.
But I suspect it means something.