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I'm not buying what feminist legal scholar Linda Hirshman is selling in her new book, Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World, and in related articles. When our children were young, my wife and I agreed that she should mostly stay home with the kids, a decision Hirshman unequivocally condemns for college graduates. "Choice" is just a weasel word, she says. (She also recommends against majoring in liberal arts, which my wife and I both did.)
But she really makes you think. In 1993, when she was teaching at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, I interviewed her and several other feminist scholars who explicitly rejected liberal feminism. It's not enough for women to be treated just like men, they argued; abstract ideas like "freedom" conceal real differences.
As Hirshman put it then, "Male liberal legalists have hidden the ball with their talk of neutral, universalizable principles." Sexual harassment laws limit freedom, but that's OK because without them women will be even less free. The full story is in the Reader's pay archives; here's the conclusion:
"Hirshman pulls back the drapes at one end of the room, revealing a Near North backyard in the early dusk, a tranquil composition in shades of silver, black, and gray. Hirshman calls this the 'navy blue' time of day--when too many women feel they have to be home.
"'Why? Because we're afraid. We don't walk under the shadowy trees, we walk in the middle of the street and carry flashlights on our key chains. We don't believe in freedom as an end, because we haven't enough of our own.'"
Now she's received a death threat.