“The great accomplishment of the modern women’s movement was to name [supposedly] private experiences — domestic violence, sexual harassment, economic discrimination, date rape — and turn them into public problems that could be debated, changed by new laws and policies or altered by social customs. That is how the personal became political,” writes Ruth Rosen in the Nation. (Hat tip to History News Network.)
The economy has reorganized so that most women can be gainfully employed, but society has barely adjusted its unstated expectations that they should still also provide the unpaid care each of us needs at some point — after birth, near death, or when disabled. This is not an individual problem, any more than Betty Friedan’s “feminine mystique” was something that trapped housewives had to work out all by themselves. Rosen’s account is OK, but nobody has framed this problem as well as Nancy Folbre, an economics professor at UMass Amherst, in her 2001 book The Invisible Heart.