This is the pithiest part of the review (at WaPo, by Becky Krystal):
Some of the new domestics think feminism isn’t just about being in the workplace; it’s also being able to choose to not be in it.
Feminists have been saying that all along, but kind of only because they have to, and there always seems to be this qualification that if you choose the home life option, you've got to do it the right way, which is not because of tradition and not in subordination to a husband. By contrast, if you choose the moneymaker option, the conventional and/or servile aspects of what you're doing are more likely to go unnoticed (or so it may seem to the go-along-to-get-along subordinates to feminism in its most banal form).
It's appealing to stay home, but women do feel guilty and in need of justifications when they do it. (And how about men? It's even more challenging, even as one might imagine feminists smiling upon the male homemaker.)
I love the way the "nature" theme comes and goes in the discourse of discrimination. Nature makes a great argument — e.g., homosexuality is inborn — until it doesn't. But Krystal doesn't really try to figure out what's happening with the nature "notion." She merely calls it "jarring" and "unsettling."
Hell, yeah, nature is jarring. It will jar you one way or the other in the end.
Second, Kay Hymowitz in City Journal:
Feminists have come up with some theories to explain the dearth of women in the C-suite: those in the running would necessarily be aggressive, a trait that men in power don’t like to see in women; executives and boards don’t believe that women are capable of the highest-octane work; women lack men’s sense of entitlement in the pursuit of fame and fortune. But “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” a recent, widely discussed Atlantic cover story, should help redirect the conversation to the obvious: it’s the kids. The author, Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, described leaving “work I loved”—being the director of policy planning at the State Department, and the first female one, at that—to spend more time with her troubled teenage son. She had discovered, you see, that running a government agency means that you don’t see your kids much.
Slaughter stumbled onto a truth that many are reluctant to admit: women are less inclined than men to think that power and status are worth the sacrifice of a close relationship with their children. Academics and policymakers in what’s called the “work/family” field believe that things don’t have to be this way. But nothing in the array of work/family policy prescriptions—family leave, child care, antidiscrimination lawsuits, flextime, and getting men to cut their work hours—will lead women to infiltrate the occupational 1 percent. They simply don’t want to.
Here is the bottom line: all sorts of stuff needs to get done for various organizations to work. Generally, people who prioritize getting that stuff done rise to the top of said organizations. If there is something more important in your life, you generally will not get to those top positions.
Separately, there are only very few people who get to the specific positions. There are only 500 CEOs of the Fortune 500, by definition. There are only 535 Reps & Senators in Congress. In a country of 300 million, that is a vanishingly small percentage. That's far less than "the 1%". Who friggin cares?
Back to Althouse's post, on how nature jars you. Remember you are mortal. You may believe in resurrection or reincarnation, but the specific life you are living now has a very finite period. Even should the Methuselah Project pay off, each day has finite time that you need to decide how to spend. You're always dealing with tradeoffs.
For some people, the chance at a high-status, high-profile, high-earning position is more important than family or just doing enough at a job so they can enjoy life outside a job. The kind of people who have such focus tend to be men. Obviously not all men feel that way (or have that chance), and there are some women who also make that their focus.
But these people are freaks. CEOs of large companies, by and large, are extreme weirdos. Why should I give a shit that more men than women are freaks? More men are murderers than women. More suicides are men than women. More mentally disabled people are male than female. Huzzah! Women are more "normal" than men. Quit bitching that women aren't as freakish as men, statistically.
Some have proposed to make such positions more attractive to "normal" people. Back to Kay Hymowitz:
Can such family-friendly policies admit more women to the executive suite? Not on the evidence. Consider two countries with some of the most highly touted family policies in the world, the kind that the work/family advocates are always calling for: France and Sweden. Both countries offer generous paid maternity leave and, in Sweden’s case, months of paternity leave as well. Both express commitment to female equality, even using quotas to bring women into powerful political positions; in Sweden, for example, two major parties require women to be 50 percent of their electoral slates. The Swedish parliament has virtual parity between men and women; half of the top ministers, too, are women. In France, women make up only a little over a quarter of parliamentary seats, but shortly after his election, President François Hollande appointed 17 women to serve in his 34-seat cabinet. A quota law passed in 2010, and under consideration by the European Union as a whole, has tripled the percentage of women on corporate boards.
Yet the top of the private economy in both countries remains an alpha-male preserve. At none of the 40 big companies listed in France’s CAC 40 stock-market index does a woman sit in the CEO’s office. The Lawyerreports that more than half of the associates at large French law firms are female—yet women are still only half as likely as men to be partners. There are only ten female presidents at the country’s 87 universities. In Sweden, so few women are in the top ranks in the private sphere that labor economists have been scratching their heads.
You can make certain aspects of working in general more attractive to the "normal", but you're not going to be able to make top leadership positions more pleasant. Having a position that supposedly has power does not necessarily make life easy. Sure, if you're a politician and don't have to actually do anything, why not. I think imposing quotas on politicians is awesome. But such people have no real responsibilities. If they screw up, even in a major way, they don't have to fear getting fired as much. It's not like these people get chosen on their qualifications in the first place, so why not just fill these positions by lottery with demographic quotas?
When there are bottomlines to be met, where there is a real possibility of failure -- this is not fun for most people. It's tiring. Some stuff can be delegated, but if you're ultimately responsible for decisions, then you don't get a day off. This is what it looks like:
If you want a more realistic take on alpha life, think of Christine Lagarde. Before becoming the French finance minister and then head of the International Monetary Fund, Lagarde was a lawyer at Baker & McKenzie, an international law firm. Lagarde’s incredible work habits were so un-French that her countrymen nicknamed her “L’Américaine.” She traveled incessantly but somehow managed to give birth to two children. “Lagarde’s round-the-clock and round-the-world career got the better of two marriages,” The Daily Beast said in a profile, adding cheerfully: “But she has always said she made a point of calling her young boys twice a day, before school and before bed, no matter what time she had to set her alarm.”
Thing is, there's nothing particular about Lagarde being a woman in that. That's what high-powered men do, too (some even make scheduled calls to their kids, I bet). That's what success at these levels requires. There's no making such positions easier, because those in top, responsible positions are in competition with other people who behave like that.
If that sort of life is attractive to you, whether you're male or female, by all means go for it. But many people do not find this attractive at all. It's relevant to such a small portion of society, why not worry more about what's happening elsewhere?
I see this akin to the "My kid was rejected from Harvard!" stories that run in the NYT and WSJ each April. Yes, obviously some people care about this stuff, but it's a very small, targeted audience.