The only consistently good writing in the New York Times is found in the obituary section. I don't exactly wish people to die, but when they do I want Margalit Fox to write up their life (see here, and here).
So of course someone is trying to ensure the copy is less vibrant. This obituary (from a different writer) ran on Saturday:
She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. “The world’s best mom,” her son Matthew said.
But Yvonne Brill, who died on Wednesday at 88 in Princeton, N.J., was also a brilliant rocket scientist who in the early 1970s invented a propulsion system to keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits.
People flipped out. They didn't like that her domestic prowess was mentioned or, some say, they just didn't like that it was mentioned so prominently. They demanded, and received revisions. There is now no mention of beef stroganoff, for instance.
The point is not that it was noted, it’s that it was the lede. (I think you know this.)
And there’s a double standard. An obit of a male rocket scientist wouldn’t open w his golf game.
So how far down must we bury the domestic work of sustaining home life for husband and children to satisfy feminists? Why is raising three children not important? Is being a good wife and mother equivalent to playing golf? How so? And aren't we all, let's be honest, a little surprised when a brilliant scientist is smart and balanced enough to have built a happy home?
I can't stand how we act like those scientists who forget to wear pants or tie their shoes are smarter than the ones who do. But it's also true that many accomplished scientists aren't having to balance as much as Brill did. Home life is very difficult to manage well and I love the idea that we'd commend a woman for doing that and having been a successful scientist.
Why does being a feminist mean we're supposed to look down on the science and art of creating a nurturing home life where children are raised well and husbands are kept happy? It's one of the many places where I find meaning and seek to excel and I just don't get why being a feminist means you have to spit on it and pretend that it's less important than rocket science.
I can't help but think that this piece in the Times -- in which the economics reporter calls for massive new labor regulations to, uh, encourage men to share diaper duty -- is related. It begins:
I happen to be an educated young woman who loves her job, sometimes gushingly, occasionally annoyingly. And yet, even in this enlightened age, I’ve had two relationships end — at least in large part — thanks to that clammy-palmed discussion in which couples plot hypothetical milestones and life goals. The gentlemen in question said that, somewhere in our semicharted future, they expected me to quit my job. At least for a couple of years, anyway, in order to be the kind of hypothetical mother they wanted to raise their hypothetical kids, if that hypothetical day ever came.
I am only slightly joking when I say that I immediately imagined this woman in 20 years, sobbing about her empty or chaotically destructive life and the men she let go who would have chosen her for the honor of the great vocation of raising children.
Another New York Times reporter tweeted out that diaper duty story with the surprisingly ignorant question:
Women have the majority of college & grad degrees. So why don't men stay home with the kids?
Just remember, kids, men and women are 100% interchangeable. Women do not have breasts and wombs. They are not particularly well suited to caring for infants and young children. If you resist this truth, you will be treated as a suppressive person. Are we clear?