My post generated a lengthy debate. One of the participants, deus ex macintosh, is a feminist commenter at Hoyden. She argued with a refreshing lack of rancour and a willingness to reply directly to comments. I'm grateful to her for engaging in a reasonable discussion of the issues. Nonetheless, I was struck by her concluding remarks - and I only wish that I could make young women aware of them.
She was asked the following question:
... if the wife and mother deal is so bad, why do women keep signing up for it?
For the same reason that theory conflicts with evidence as Mark has pointed out. We are talking in generalisations. Patriarchy or any other type of social theory works at a macro-level to describe general social trends and attempts to explain them. Marriage or any other type of personal relationship works at a micro-level and is a result of individual negotiation. Feminist or not I would no more live my life based solely on a social theory than I would invest my money based on an economic one. At the micro-level they're inherently unreliable which is why we're constantly examining where our personal experience supports the theory and where it differs, hence the switch in voices.
"Feminist or not I would no more live my life based solely on a social theory..." So here the personal is being insulated from the political. Unfortunately, not all young women are going to be so pragmatic. Some will be too earnest or too conscientious or even too unsophisticated in picking up cues as to how far the theory is meant to be taken in one's personal life.
So you arrive at a situation in which some active feminists will escape the negative consequences of their own theory more successfully than other young women who are less politically savvy and who follow the theory at face value.
The message to young women therefore is this: feminists might sound very confident in condemning what is traditional in relationships and family life, but this masks a pragmatism and a scepticism about the real world applicability of the theory.
Chances are that feminists will later wash their hands of you if you take what they say too literally.