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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

In Defense Of Amy Glass

Ashley Yang |
February 4, 2014 | 10:20 a.m. PST


Having a family can sidetrack a woman's career (Jaclyn Wu, Neon Tommy).
Having a family can sidetrack a woman's career (Jaclyn Wu, Neon Tommy).
'I look down on young women with husbands and kids and I’m not sorry.'

That statement was the title of an article by Amy Glass, a previously unknown blogger on ThoughtCatalog before her provocative message was widely criticized on the Internet and network TV. Glass is also the author of “Successful Women Do Not Fall In Love” and “When It Comes To Women There’s No Equality Gap, There’s An Ambition Gap.” 

Jezebel Groupthink responded with “I Look Down on Amy Glass and I’m Not Sorry,” which denounced Glass as a “sort of Ann Coulter of feminists” with an “immature, obviously privileged worldview” and a “ridiculous and narrow concept of ambition.” A commentator on Fox and Friends accused Glass of being selfish and “frustrated with the emptiness of [her] life” because she doesn’t see “the dignity in supporting [a] family.” Another ThoughtCatalog writer responded to Glass with “Judging Other People Does Not Make You Exceptional: An Open Letter to Amy Glass,” stating that Glass’s bitterness is obviously due to the fact that she hasn’t experienced the joy of marriage and motherhood.

Because taking care of other people is surely where women find real happiness, right?

All these critics point to Glass’s skewed values and disillusionment with the ideal of “true womanhood” as explanations for her “hateful” attitude, because it’s easy to dismiss her argument once you imagine its source as a barren, frigid cat lady. And evidently, a lot of people need to believe that, because Glass’s article seems to have made all of them very, very uncomfortable. 

“I Look Down on Young Women with Husbands and Kids” challenges women to look beyond the white dresses and baby showers, to become the future instead of merely molding it. By pointing out that marriage and motherhood, the two events in a woman’s life that are held in the highest social esteem, are actually very ordinary things (“literally anyone can do them”), Glass shatters the illusion that everyone is extraordinary. That is a slap in the face to our established social norms as well as to the women who found value in those choices. And that’s what angers us.

Feminists object to Glass’s privilege, reminding us that not every woman has the luxury of choosing to stay home and take care of their kids. Except Glass is not denying that in some homes, one parent, usually the woman, is tasked with running the household their primary job. She is pointing out, however, that homemaking is not comparable to a formal job in the workforce. Both housework and paid work need to be performed for the world to properly function, but the rigors and demands of formal employment are much greater than those of household tasks. You can’t be fired from homemaking for poor job performance or for taking a sick day. You don’t have a supervisor breathing down your neck to keep you on task. And in the words of Glass herself, “they are super easy tasks” - even though housework is tedious and labor-intensive, it requires neither a trained skill set nor continuous, focused attention eight hours a day, five days a week. 

“You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids.”

Not all women who choose to get married and have kids are doomed to a mediocre existence. Social norms do set us up, however, to prioritize the needs of our husbands and children over our personal goals. The statement isn’t well-qualified, but Glass does makes the important point that many women do succumb to the pressure, purposely or inadvertently, of sacrificing more in their professional lives than their husbands for the sake of their families and not living up to their full potential as a result. 

Pursuing a career and attending to family are both valid choices, even if Glass’s tone seems to denigrate women who choose the latter. This is what critics claim as the source of their anger, but what really made this article an uncomfortable read is that it served as a reminder that the two are inherently trade-offs. There are only 168 hours in a week. A woman can’t be the perfect mom, the perfect wife, and the most dedicated employee if all these areas require constant attention and effort. Opting to do one of these things better means neglecting the others. Glass pointedly (and unpopularly) stated that negative consequences to putting family first do exist, and they aren’t worth it.

The unfortunate truth is, not every person gets to be extraordinary. Our prospects in life are just as much affected by our choices as our circumstances. Women who devote their lives to homemaking and motherhood may be making the choice that’s right for them, but that doesn’t mean they deserve to be called special or extraordinary. Women like Margaret Thatcher and Janet Yellen - who brought something new to the stage and broke barriers to become someone bigger - are truly deserving of that title. 

The path to being exceptional is long, perilous, and full of crossroads. “I Look Down on Young Women with Husbands and Kids” is a realistically painful reminder to ambitious women that having a family is a detour that many don’t find their way back from.


Ashley Yang's column "Unpopular Opinions" tackles the perspectives you usually won't take. Reach Ashley here, follow her here.



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