Editor’s Note: National Review Online is pleased to announce the upcoming release of Mona Charen’s latest book, Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense, which will be available worldwide on June 26. Below, as a special treat for our readers, is an excerpt adapted from the book with permission.
Sheryl Sandberg, in her feminist blockbuster, Lean In, writes, “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes. I believe that this would be a better world.”
I don’t, and it’s not because I object to women running countries or companies or men running homes. It’s because I don’t think “equality” means “sameness.” It need not frighten or bewilder us that, on average, women tend to be more inclined to choose children over work than men, and I have never understood why feminists consistently disparage women’s preferences. The Pew Research Center reports that in 2012, 67 percent of mothers said their ideal was either part-time work or no work outside the home. After declining for several decades, the percentage of mothers with children under the age of 18 who choose to be full-time homemakers has been increasing. And less than a third of mothers say their ideal working arrangement is full-time work.
Still, Sandberg speaks for millions, especially our opinion leaders. Our society devotes tremendous resources, psychic as well as actual, to the attempt to make women and men alike. Thousands of women’s studies departments catechize college students to believe in perpetual female oppression. Children are instructed that we expect them to play sports in equal measure. As they mature, young people learn that they are expected to spend the same number of hours at work, to engage in sex in the same spirit, to study the same subjects in the same numbers, to change the exact same number of diapers, and to divide all jobs in the economy right down the middle.
Women must be roofers and loggers, and men must teach kindergarten and do social work in the same proportions. In our era, any story of a boy or girl doing something usually associated with the other sex is guaranteed to be hailed as a landmark in the long march toward an androgynous utopia: a girl who wants to play on her high school’s football team; a boy who wants to be homecoming queen.
We’re told that “all sex differences are socially constructed.” In our time, this has expanded to the notion that the male/female binary is imaginary as well. There are not two but many genders. Sexuality is a spectrum.
I hope this book will help both men and women see that denying the differences between the sexes leads to unnecessary misunderstandings and miseries.
From increasing income inequality to rising levels of adolescent depression and anxiety, from falling male labor-participation rates to declining levels of female happiness — the retreat from family life has had far-reaching consequences. The institution that feminists assailed as oppressive is looking more and more like the key to human thriving for both sexes, and especially for children.
Feminism has taught that sex roles are confining and unnecessary. Everything can and should be different. Simone de Beauvoir argued that choices had to be withheld from women to “force [them] in a certain direction.”
We’ve been forcing women in a certain direction for decades, and the results are disappointing, to say the least.
© 2018 Crown Forum, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.