She is 30, brilliant, a successful career woman. Now she is also the mother of a newborn daughter.
We exchange chortles and whoops of joy at the news, and then she says, "I'm going to quit."
Quit having babies? No, quit her job. Turn her back on a glamorous and exciting political post in Washington. She says she is going to dedicate herself to keeping her husband happy. Iooking after her child and making a good home.
Gee whiz, I tease, has she been brainwashed - is she turning into a Total Woman?
She is not amused. "The women in the office are furious with me." They think I'm selling out."
They claim she has long stood as a symbol for the ultimate, striving, liberated woman. Now that she has had the baby and is leaving her job, they accuse her of turning her back on the women's movement.
We are old friends, and she asks for my opinion, knowing that I am also a career woman, and that I have reared two sons without giving up my job. What do you really want to do? I ask.
"I want to stay home," she says, quietly and firmly.
Then do it, I say. It's a worthwile thing to do - looking after a husband, nurturing a child.
She sounds surprised. "I didn't expect you to say that, you know. But I'm glad you did."
So we talk intimately, by long distance, about being a woman in these schizophrenic times. We talk about the responsibility toward new life, and the responsibility to use one's talents in the wider world. We talk about the anguished push and pull of it: loving work, loving a child.
She is troubled by her decision, hurt by the antagonism of her female colleagues. It pains me that this singular moment in her life should be clouded by such thoughts.
When the conversation is ended, I stalk across the living room, no longer pained, but angry. Our conversation brings to the surface the growing uneasiness I have been feeling about the women's movement.
In our eagerness to exact equal treatment, we women seem to be forgetting who we are. We are not men. Men cannot bear children. And for a woman, the birth of a child is a transforming experience.
Of course it's great to write speeches for a Senator, or design public policy for an education department, or work as an administrative assistant to a high-powered executive - but all of that can pale dramatically before the tender wonder of a newborn living creature.
Here is a tiny, talcumed ball of potential, the whole luminous future of the universe, waiting to be loved and shaped. There is nothing either inconsequential or demeaning about choosing to make this child one's life work.
Nor is there anything shameful in wanting to make life comfortable and happy for another adult human, like a husband. There are good and useful and important things to do inside the home, and the women's movement makes light of that fact at its peril.
I'm glad it is now socially acceptable to work outside the home. When I made that choice years ago, it was considered downright immoral. I'm glad today's woman can pursue a career free of stigma, if that's what she wants to do.
administrative assistant : Verwaltungsassistent(in)
make light of sth.: treat sth. as if it was of no or little importance
at one's peril: at one's own risk
Understanding the contents
l. What made it so difficult for the writer's friend to decide to give up her career?
2. Why did she ask Lewis for her opinion?
3. What is the writer's view of the women's movement?
4. Describe her attitude towards women who prefer being housewives.
Analysing the text
5. In treating her topic, Lewis not only deals with differing opinions, she also states her own view and gives reasons for it. Her article mainly represents the text type* argumentation. Its text form* can be called a personal comment. An argumentative text is usually opened by stating the question to be discussed and to be decided upon.
How does Lewis introduce and illustrate the problem she is concerned with?
6. As argumentative texts deal with differing views, they often work with contrasts in order to make these differing views clear. When these contrasts are used continuously throughout a text as a structuring element, we say the text displays a contrastive order.
Find at least ten examples of text sequences typical of this structure.
7. A writer can also try to influence his or her readers by choosing words or expressions which may have particular connotations* and so appeal to their feelings or emotions. Such language can be called emotive. It is quite frequent in this text.
a) Find at least ten emotive words or expressions used to refer to the aims, opinions or attitudes of somebody who supports the women's movement.
b) Find at least ten emotive words or expressions used to describe the writer's and her friend's feelings and attitudes.
8. The writer describes her friend's troubled state of mind as "clouded", i.e. in terms of the weather. Such figurative* use of language produces a mental picture or image. This particular image links two seemingly unlike things - people's feelings and weather condi tions - with one another. It implicitly compares these two things. It is, therefore, up to the reader to recognize what these things have in common (e. g. "unpleasantness"). This kind of image is known as a metaphor. Metaphors belong to the main elements of imagery.
Find five more metaphors in the text.
Working with the language
9. Collect ten adjectives from the text expressing feelings and make nouns of them.
10. Find five verbs in the text collocating with "job", "work" or "career".
* see glossary