Speak for Yourself: Why Single Feminists Should Not Speak for Married Mothers


By Mrs. Marian Shah, Originally published here Feb 25, 2005

The more I read non-feminist literature, the more I wonder why in succumbing almost universally to radical feminist ideology, our society has let a group of activist women ruin family life for everyone else by claiming expertise where they have none: in homemaking and child-rearing.

In her 1979 essay titled, “Why young women are more conservative,” Gloria Steinem, then single, stated that the reason young college women still embraced traditional values was that they had not yet been married (“finding out that it is not an equal partnership”), or held a job only to find themselves stifled by “glass ceilings.” She described marriage as “becoming legal chattel,” and reminded us that “all women are [Playboy] bunnies;” a.k.a., exploited by men. [1] Her assumption was that the conservative co-eds would come around in ten years and become feminist activists. (How interesting that 26 years later, the numbers of young conservative women are going up!)

F. Carolyn Graglia makes a key point about Steinem and other radical second-wave feminists such as Betty Friedan and Jessie Bernard. [2] Despite their transformation of society from Pleasantville to chaos through guilt-tripping housewives, vilifying marriage, and warehousing children in day care, none of these women was happily married or a mother. Friedan was a miserable wife. Their labeling of housewives as “parasites” [3] and other melodramatic terms reflected more their own jealousy of happy marriages than it did the majority viewpoint.

Their bullying has worked. Just as hearing, “If you don’t drink, you’re a loser” has led many a teenager into trouble, people have conformed to feminist rules to avoid being labeled abusive brutes or insane parasites. Today’s crime rates, welfare rolls, and adolescent discipline problems show us the price of buying feminist theories on family. Additionally, as Suzanne Venker points out in her book [4], if being a full-time career woman and part-time mom is the ultimate in feminist fulfillment, then why are there more women’s self-help books than ever before? It is now politically incorrect to identify as a mother instead of an accountant, make your children first priority, or see your husband as a good provider; all because a group of single women told us so.

It makes no sense that we place any stock in marriage and family theories put forth by women who never married and never had families. The following analogies underscore my point.

In college, I majored in psychology and never took an engineering course. I know several engineers, but I never set foot in their classrooms or employment settings. Now, imagine me publishing a book that disparages the engineering profession. I rant that it’s a terrible, stressful career full of confusing calculations and puzzles. I declare, “Engineering takes the life out of you. You are up all night figuring out the most trivial things so that you can make some stupid invention. The average engineer exhausts himself and lives off caffeine. Because no self-respecting person would do this, I can safely say that all engineers are mentally ill.”

Knowing my academic background, would you bother reading that book? If a professor, would you make it required reading? A policymaker, would you use it to organize for the elimination of engineering as an acceptable career? No! Realistically, it would be laughed out of any publishing company before even making it to the shelves.

Going further, some may say that because Betty Friedan was married (referring to her home as a “comfortable concentration camp”), that her writing typifies the feelings of all married women that they are afraid to share. They may use that to shoot down my engineering analogy. This second analogy addresses that.

I completed one semester of pre-medicine before changing my major. While struggling through chemistry class, I admittedly felt jealous of fellow students’ success. However, if I wrote a book chronicling the unhappiness of pre-med students and labeling them as imprisoned in their own coursework, would you buy it? As with the engineering book, it probably would not go far.

The only way I could speak credibly about engineering or pre-medicine would be to survey large, random samples of college students only to find most of the aforementioned majors miserable. That would make me a qualified sociological researcher. However, one psychology student who assumes things about pre-meds and engineers based on her own frustrations is not an acceptable source. The famous feminist theorists did not do random-sample research and conclude that the majority of married American mothers were miserable. Rather, they assumed it based on their own experiences and those of women at consciousness-raising sessions. Why are radical feminists exempt from the rule of establishing credibility as a writer?

As I look at the results of radical feminism, I am sad to see skyrocketing abortion rates, children growing up in day care without discipline, and social work professors blaming it all on Ronald Reagan. Activists like Friedan, Steinem, and Bernard have contributed to the decline of American values, and for whatever reason, we adopted their ideas as fact. What disturbs me most is that they have fought the things they never experienced–traditional marriage and full-time motherhood—and won! However, those with the relevant experience, Graglia and Venker (wives and mothers who liked it), are written off as “right-wing extremists.”

Just as engineering employers hire engineering and not psychology majors, human service professors and social justice activists should take advice about marriage and childrearing from those who know: wives and mothers. Responsible social work professors, claiming to teach what works best for families, would put F. Carolyn Graglia, Suzanne Venker, and qualified professional researchers on their required reading lists, not Jessie Bernard and Gloria Steinem. The same goes for anyone else who has the pull to make an ideology into a societal norm. Wives and mothers know what is best for marriages and families. Why don’t we listen to them?

Marian Shah lives with her husband in New Jersey, and looks forward to being a stay-at-home mom when God decides the time is right. She is a freelance conservative writer.


[1] Steinem, Gloria. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, 1983.
[2] Graglia, F. Carolyn. Domestic Tranquility: A Brief Against Feminism. Dallas: Spence Publishing, 1998.
[3] Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. New York: W. W. Norton, 1963.
[4] Venker, Suzanne. 7 Myths of Working Mothers. Dallas: Spence Publishing, 2004.

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