Reason staffers receive a near-constant stream of e-mail containing the phrase "for a magazine called Reason…," most of which goes on to explain why, in point of fact, a particular position is not reasonable. Over at National Review Online, Carrie Lukas has a souped up version of that e-mail in column form, cleverly headlined "UnReasonable." (It's NROdious!)
Lukas is responding to a review of her book that appears in the October issue of Reason. That review is by Shannon Chamberlain, not, as Lukas calls her, Susan Chamberlain. Susan Chamberlin is a Vice President at Cato; Shannon Chamberlain is a freelance journalist. I'm not sure how my friend Susan Chamberlin feels about Lukas' book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism. (I invite her to comment below.) Shannon Chamberlain's double review is an elegant takedown of both the Lukas book and Caitlin Flanagan's To Hell With All That. The review won't be online until later this month, but here's a snippet regarding the Lukas Guide to Womanhood:
… by chapter 11, "Work in the Real World,"the clucking has begun in earnest. In a section entitled "The feminist working girl fantasy," Lukas, by way of Friends and a host of other pop culture references,points out that the lives of Rachel Green, fashion designer, and Average Johanna, career girl, are very different. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Johanna has a roughly 6 percent chance of becoming a secretary. Lawyering and doctoring "don't make the list" of the 20 most common professions for women, a fact that causes Lukas to sniff that "this list of occupations stands in stark contrast to the depiction of working women commonly found on television and in women's magazines" and remind us once again that Young People Can't Tell the Difference Between Television and Reality.
It's an appalling condescension, worthy of the paid-work-as-exploitation crowd. It fails to acknowledge, for one thing, that men's top jobs aren't any more conventionally glamorous. (The top profession is truck driving.)The thought that women might find satisfaction in work that Lukas considers beneath consideration is just as unlikely to occur to her as it is to occur to Caitlin Flanagan.
That's a point about elitism; I think a valid one. Instead of responding, Lukas offers this critique:
Chamberlain doesn't clarify how either Flanagan or I attempt to "command" other women by means of books that can only be purchased and read voluntarily.
Chamberlain never uses the word command, so I don't know why it's in quotes. Nowhere does Chamberlain suggest coercion is involved. But what is the larger point here? Lukas is above criticism because she hasn't tried to force anyone into pregnancy? Lukas conflates criticism of her ideas with a stifling of debate, and somehow blames Chamberlain for "closing the market on a crucial conversation." (What?)
More from Lukas:
Chamberlain is similarly critical of my chapter highlighting research on the effects of daycare on children. She disapproves both of my giving the impression that there are real dangers associated with daycare and my unwillingness to call daycare categorically bad. She seems to prefer not to discuss the issue of daycare at all.
Forgive my slowness—I was a daycare baby—but I'm lost here: If Chamberlain didn't want to discuss the issue, why is she discussing it in a national magazine? Here's her take:
It's then that Lukas begins to sound like The Simpsons' Helen Lovejoy, prone to shouting, "What about the children? Won't someone please think of the children?" Did you know that some children return to empty houses? Or that those who attend day care programs get nits and scabies? (Forget first grade, in that case.) After this hand wringing, Lukas admits, "No researcher I'm familiar with says that daycare will cause serious problems for most children." The ambiguous wording proceeds from the ambiguity of the consensus. Within the single outfit that has studied the question in the greatest detail (the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development), researchers believe that children in day care have better verbal skills at 54 months but that their mothers have less of that biologically useful maternal attachment. The differences in health between day care kids and children at home were statistically insignificant by age 3. Lukas strips away the nuance, covers her tracks with a few grudging caveats, and still manages to create the impression that those feminists have been hiding something all along.