Preface [chapter]

2020 Women Who Opt Out  
Preface I first became interested in this topic of "opting out" upon reading Lisa Belkin's October 2003 New York Times journalistic essay, "The Opt-Out Revolution. " It was my first semester at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst Department of Legal Studies and I had recently finished a postdoctoral research fellowship with Martha Fineman's group on feminist legal theory and family law. The article intrigued me because it was the right piece at the right time from a pedagogical
more » ... , seeming to embody the zeitgeist of certain American cultural anxieties. Belkin's piece gained a lot of attention in its controversial argument: successful young women had given up the struggle for feminist equality in the workplace; they were now content to retreat, stay at home, and raise families. The article presented an opportunity for discussing gender in my spring 2004 class "Law and the Family, " and the role of law in influencing women's abilities to balance work and family demands. There were various young women in the class who would enter the workforce upon graduation or go on to graduate school. They were intrigued by the topic and our discussions. What expectations would they have of themselves upon entering professional life? With more and more Americans marrying later in life, divorcing, or never marrying at all, they realized that as young single women they needed to work in order to support themselves. No woman is guaranteed marriage, and with one out of two marriages failing, marriage in and of itself is no guarantee of long-term stability, notwithstanding the optimism and hope with which most marriages begin. Nonetheless, they wondered whether life circumstances might change their relationships to the world of work. Were they interested in marrying at some point in the future? Did they intend to have children? What if life circumstances placed them (through no fault of their own, i.e., "waiting" or otherwise) among the population of women met often with surprise and curiosity, the child-free? Even though some might not have imagined having children in the near future, they were affected by certain cultural expectations nonetheless, the feminine gestalt
doi:10.18574/nyu/9780814745052.003.0003 fatcat:6weqoel2nnfx7lzeeoytfgmlxi