A new book argues that women put much more work into marriage than men do, and asks why they bother.
By Ann Marlowe
My mother, I realized quite young, spent her day doing drudge work: the usual tasks of a suburban mother of two. My father commuted to glamourous Manhattan, where he moved important papers around in the elegant Chrysler Building. It was no contest. My brilliant and talented mother’s daily life was so without dignity that I didn’t so much resolve not to be a housewife as never even consider the possibility. But I was a child; I didn’t view our family’s situation in a cultural context until I read “The Feminine Mystique” in junior high school. While I was understandably bewildered by Betty Friedan’s polemics on different sorts of orgasms, even at 12 I immediately recognized the truth in her depiction of the sorry lot of the housewife.
Susan Maushart’s heartfelt and incendiary “Wifework: What Marriage Really Means For Women” is a brief against traditional marriage that took me back to the galvanizing effect of reading Friedan 30 years ago. Coming at a time when the 50 percent divorce rate in the United States, Great Britain and Australia shows no sign of falling, and 40 percent of divorces affect children not yet out of kindergarten, any discussion of reforming marriage is welcome. When President Bush finds it necessary to launch a $300 million initiative to promote wedlock among poor women, we have good reason to figure out if this institution is worth saving, and why. (more…)