5 Reasons The Internet Should Stop Talking About “Opting Out,” “Leaning In,” and “Having it All.”

5

Another month, another New York Times trend piece about wealthy women’s existential problems. Earlier this month, the NYTimes Mag ran a much-buzzed-about cover story about the “Opt-Out Generation,” an elite crew of educated women who left high-powered jobs a decade ago to raise children, and who are now having trouble re-entering the work force.

I hope I’m not alone in my disdain for these types of trend stories. Obviously, the usual complaints of such stories – that they don’t tell us anything about the issues facing the vast majority of American working women – apply. Here are a few more complaints:

  1. Remember the career advice you got in college about not having huge gaps in your work history? I know, raising kids is hard work. Regardless, 4 out of 5 US women do it (the majority under lower standards of living than these elite opt-outers). To date, motherhood hasn’t imbued anybody with the skills necessary for running a Fortune 500.
  2. But somebody has to take care of the kids, of course. The key is to understand that the picture of modern family isn’t changing, but rather expanding to include parents who eschew the traditional he-works/she-stays-home model. And this is a good thing.
  3. Still, why can’t even the women at the very top “have it all?” Because very few career-minded women have, (or seemingly want) spouses whose only economic option is to do domestic work. Imagine you’re a woman with an MBA from Wharton; do you honestly want to marry a guy with an associate’s degree and no full-time work history? Be honest – if he took every Thursday afternoon to go to yoga class/the golf course, you’d be gone before the ink on the divorce papers dried.
  4. On the other side, there doesn’t appear to be an abundance of marginally-employable men itching to become somebody else’s dependent. The cultural narrative of American masculinity prizes independence, even if it means being 38 and living in a studio apartment, over a life of domestic servitude. (Tell me, is there a male equivalent to the term “spinster?”)
  5. Honestly, how many men “have it all?” Does having a nonworking spouse with an idle mind and very little in common with you sound great? Or working 70 hours a week so your spouse can drive the kids to school and spend your money on yoga classes and Lululemon? “But successful men always can cheat on their wives.” And Mrs. Draper can sleep with the pool boy. Sounds like an awesome life, where do I sign up?

Men have and continue to reach high level of power in the business world because of one word: patriarchy. Contrary to what you may have read on Reddit, America is not becoming a matriarchy. Women are gaining equality and independence across the board, but not entrenched institutional power at the top.

All snark aside, the real reason the echo-chamber media needs to just. shut. up. about the existential crises facing women in the upper crust is because these stories don’t reveal anything meaningful about America, its economy, its social interrelationships, or its people. Rather, it’s just more navel-gazing voyeurism of and for the yuppie class. I mean, you do know who reads the New York Times magazine, right?

Image credit