March 20 2017
Apparently fish do need bicycles. That might be the conclusion from Anne Hathaway’s recent interview with Elle. The actress who seems to have it all—a blockbuster career and a lovely family—told the magazine that her husband Adam Shulman “changed my ability to be in the world comfortably. I think the accepted narrative now is that we, as women, don’t need anybody. But I need my husband. His unique and specific love has changed me.”
Well that’s refreshing. Contrary to what Gloria Steinem and other feminists have been claiming for decades, it’s no longer a sign of weakness for women to say that they need their husbands or even that, God forbid, their husbands have changed them. The feminist message of total female independence and the relentless pursuit of self-fulfillment may have finally worn out its welcome.
In the season finale of the popular new TV show This Is Us, which aired last week, Rebecca Pearson (played by actress Mandy Moore) screams at her husband about how she has sacrificed everything for their family and she has nothing for herself, that going on a two-week tour with a band is the only thing she found fulfilling in the decade and a half since they had their children and her husband ruined it. Even if her husband was not one of the most likable male characters on television right now, Mandy Moore’s character would still come off sounding selfish and shrill, especially when she kicks him out of the house at the end. At least the scene takes place in the 1980s, which was when these Boomer ideas about feminism reached their peak in popularity. The next generation dialed things back.
Hathaway’s version of female empowerment has evolved. Earlier this month she toldMotto, “When I was a little girl, I thought being a feminist meant that I had to view boys as the enemy. I was a very fiery, passionate, righteous little thing, and that narrative that I was being held back spoke to me. I was going to have to work hard to fight against it, and I did. But that’s not what feminism is about.”
Still, Hathaway needed a cause. “It took us a while to figure out what my issue was going to be. Then life provided the answer: I got pregnant. A week after I had my son —I was still fired up on adrenaline—I had an epiphany: the mommy wars are bullsh-t. They distract from the larger, institutional problem of parental leave. It was an issue that had always been abstract to me. Now it was real.”
So instead of making men the enemy, Hathaway has decided to go after “institutions.” Hollywood is sexist. Companies that don’t offer extended leave to mothers are part of the problem. Our society has “stigmatized men’s roles as caregivers.” Oh, and we need legislation! Legislation that will finally fix all of this. Despite the fact that mandated family leave tends to lead to worse career outcomes for women and the fact that fathers don’t tend to want longer leaves, this actress is going to push a one-size fits all solution for everyone.
All of which is to say: Kudos to Anne Hathaway for questioning one of the tenets of feminist faith. Now she might want to reconsider the rest of them.