Suzanne Venker is at it again.
For those of you who don’t remember, Venker was the author of a Fox News article back in November entitled ‘The War on Men,” in which her basic thesis was this: while there is nothing wrong with women achieving success in the workplace, they should be careful not to outperform their husbands. Marriage, she emphasizes, should not be a competition. Women should accept the benefits of the “cushier” lifestyle they are naturally inclined to enjoy, while allowing their husbands to provide for them, masculinity unthreatened.
Venker has now published a book, called “How to Choose a Husband and Make Peace with Marriage.” The very title makes me shudder a little bit, but I promise you, it’s even worse than it sounds. As Venker herself explains in another Fox News article, “Its premise is that if women want to be successful in love, they should reject the cultural script they’ve been sold and adopt a whole new view of men and marriage.”
By “a whole new view of marriage,” of course, what Venker really means is the exact same view of marriage that has been forced upon women since the whole institution was created in the first place—that to be “successful in love” is of paramount importance, that it requires women to sacrifice success in other areas of life (Successful careers, perhaps? And God forbid a woman should find some appeal in the idea of maintaining a satisfying, successful sex life outside of marriage), and to make these sacrifices cheerfully, grateful for the opportunity to settle down with a nice, hard-working man who will take care of everything while we keep the house looking nice.
The irony here, then, is that women’s rejection of “the cultural script they’ve been sold” and adoption of “a whole new view of men and marriage” has, to some extent at least, already occurred—and that is exactly what has Venker on the offensive in the first place. She doesn’t want women to move forward towards any kind of “new view.” Instead, she wants us to move backwards—as far back at as fast a pace as we can possibly go.
This is only the beginning. “Young women,” says Venker, “have an added burden: they’ve been raised in a society that eschews marriage. They’ve been taught instead to honor sex, singlehood and female empowerment.”
Sex, singlehood and female empowerment? The triple threat! Young women might as well sell our souls to the devil now.
But okay, even if we buy into her view of the importance, the virtuosity, of abstinence and monogamy, is she really going to try and take down female empowerment?? This is a woman with a highly successful career that literally wouldn’t have been possible just a few decades ago, before this terrible, ugly trend of “female empowerment” began to have some effect on the nation.
Venker goes on to spell out the dangers of modern marriages—or lack there of. First, “women postpone marriage indefinitely and move in and out of intense romantic relationships, or even live with their boyfriends for year at a time” (gasp!). On the rare occasion that marriage does occur, it becomes “a competitive sport.” Now she’s back to this same argument. “Today, husbands and wives are locked in a battle about whom does more on the home front and how they’re going to get everything done. That’s not marriage. That’s war.”
I’m just glad she’s got some solid empirical evidence to back up these wild claims. Oh wait, that’s right. She doesn’t. How many marriages have you seen in which the couple is “locked in a battle about whom does more on the home front”? And no, occasional bickering about whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher doesn’t count. Meanwhile, I can name you all sorts of marriages (my own parents’ included) in which the fact that both members are full-time workers does not lead to competition but rather to a profound sense of mutual respect.
So what exactly is Venker’s point with all this? It’s something along the lines of this: “Being equal in worth, or value, is not the same as being identical, interchangeable beings. Men and women may be capable of doing many of the same things, but that doesn’t mean they want to. That we don’t have more female CEOs or stay-at-home dads proves this in spades.”
Yes, that must be it. The lack of female CEOs is entirely due to their lack of desire to take on such positions when the far more appealing Cult of Domesticity calls out their names. It has nothing to do with, say, the rampant sexism that kept women out of the workforce until the past century or so, and to this day blocks them from ascending to the highest rungs on the corporate ladder.
We all know sexism is still out there, and we all know there are an abundance of people eager to see women returned to what is viewed by many as their proper place. But it’s a sad day when a women—a professional woman, no less—is one of the ones leading the charge against female advancement not only in the workplace but in the social sphere as well.
No, I do not think that being equal in worth is the same thing as being interchangeable. But, apparently unlike Suzanne Venker, I actually do believe men and women are equal in worth. Yes, there are fundamental differences between the sexes (see: reproductive system). But a capacity for work, for wage-earning, for power, authority, or responsibility—these are absolutely not among them.