I’m reading the book, “Spin Sisters”, by Mryna Blyth, once the editor of “Ladies’ Home Journal”. I’ve discovered it helps to keep notes on a book as I’m reading: so I’m publishing those as I go along.
The chapter on history was, if anything, more humorous than accurate: Myrna’s anger and frustration were woven everywhere. At one point she says (a moment of respect seeping through), “Betty [Frieden], who always knew in her heart that women would want to marry and have children, even if they worked, told me that she felt women were now ‘equal enough'” (pg. 39). Really. Really. Considering that Ms. Frieden once championed the failed Equal Rights Amendment, I cannot help but doubt this exchange. The book was written ten years ago: Ms. Frieden died a few years back, so perhaps was fortunate to miss the tide turning for women’s rights. (Women are apparently not “equal enough” if their rights can be taken away.) According to an article just last Friday, “Incredibly, recent state legislation, particularly by Texas, has taken women backwards and has set the stage for a return to the horrors of forced pregnancy and back alley abortions… Shockingly, there is still in 2014 a dramatic wage gap between earnings of men and women with women’s earnings only about 77 percent of men’s. Even when holding the same job, women’s incomes lag.” (Houston Observer, 2014) Perhaps those aren’t rights that Myrna thinks are important, but they are to some women.
I could not help but laugh. For one thing, the book’s premise became obvious: like the Spin Sisters that she criticizes, the argument describes what Ms. Blyth wants to be true. She liked being a mother: she thinks every woman should want to be a mother. She is angry that she doesn’t have the power to make it so, and her book is her best attempt. Certainly there are others who do (and should) take pride in bringing up the next generation, but it is a huge (and rather insulting) assumption that all women want the same thing. I know lots of women who’ve chosen not to have kids. And are happy, and respected (even if not by the likes of Ms. Blyth). Especially since most don’t have the money or power to choose the best part of parenting for themselves and let the nanny do the rest of it, like Myrna did. I note that much of the justification for her perspective (one of the few anecdotes she actually cites) is from her “first readers’ survey” (pg. 41) done in January 1984. She happily said that “eighty six thousand women told me” that the “’happiest day of their lives’ was the day they married or had a child.” That would have been when I was just starting Bible College: now over thirty years ago. A full generation. Times change, Myrna, and people do too. I’m sure that many would even agree today: but to extrapolate that agreement into the assumed foundation of their lives is rather overbearing. Just because “eighty-six thousand” readers of your magazine were glad they were mothers thirty years go does not mean you can assume it should still be the raisin d’etre for women across the nation.