Fem­i­nine hap­pi­ness means no hus­band and no kids.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK - WOMEN RE­VIEW BY CAITLIN FLANA­GAN Caitlin Flana­gan is a con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor at the At­lantic and the au­thor of “Girl Land.”

Jill Filopovic has sent us a mis­sive from the lost genre of mag­i­cal fem­i­nism, where ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble and dreams re­ally do come true. “Plea­sur­able sex,” we learn in “The H-Spot: The Fem­i­nist Pur­suit of Hap­pi­ness,” should be con­sid­ered “a ba­sic health care right.” And we thought Paul Ryan was in over his head with the in­di­vid­ual man­date. The idea here is that all Amer­i­can women are unhappy and that the en­tity best po­si­tioned to change that is the gov­ern­ment, which should be charged with cre­at­ing “plea­sure­cen­tered pub­lic pol­icy.” How would that work, ex­actly? Like this: “Sex as a mu­tu­ally plea­sur­able ex­pe­ri­ence should also be re­flected in our crim­i­nal and civic law.” Si­mul­ta­ne­ous or­gasm: It’s the law.

How can a woman in­crease her plea­sure? Well, if she made the bone-headed move of get­ting mar­ried to a man, the quick­est route is to click her heels to­gether and ask for a di­vorce. Con­sider the case of Jen­nifer. She had dreamed of hav­ing “a very tra­di­tional nu­clear fam­ily,” but the ar­range­ment left her “deeply iso­lated, lonely, and very unhappy.” Now she’s hap­pily en­sconced in a Seat­tle com­mune where the kom­bucha is home­brewed, the yo­gurt is Bul­gar­ian and the “gov­er­nance strat­egy” is “hi­er­ar­chy free.” Then there’s Lucy, whose “mar­riage to her hus­band was the kind of Amer­i­can love story we’ve heard be­fore.” In other words, he was an abu­sive drunk who cheated on her. One no-fault di­vorce later, and she’s bliss­fully mar­ried to an­other woman, “en­joy­ing both a love [she] didn’t know ex­isted and an egal­i­tar­i­an­ism she hadn’t imag­ined.” Poor Pamela is grit­ting it out, even though in­ter­course with her hus­band is so hor­ri­ble it gives her PTSD. Cut the cord, Pamela! There’s got to be a com­mune — or an­other woman — some­where nearby.

No one in the book seems less happy than women who mar­ried men and then had chil­dren. Noth­ing robs a woman of hap­pi­ness faster than some mean-faced lit­tle an­kle-biter de­mand­ing things like lunch and af­fec­tion. “There’s no ques­tion in my mind that I would not be as pro­duc­tive if I had a child to think about and raise,” Filopovic re­ports. Marx­ist fem­i­nism — it’s back and bet­ter than ever. Just keep pro­duc­ing, ladies, and make sure you’re com­pen­sated with the green stuff. As far as fem­i­nism be­ing all about “choices,” each of them equally val­or­ous, leave that blather to Emma Watson. No smart woman could ever re­spect some­one who spends all day with chil­dren. Filopovic and her “bright, am­bi­tious” friends don’t want to do it — and they don’t want to end up with any­one who would, ei­ther: “None of us wanted to come home at the end of a long work­day to a per­son whose pri­mary so­cial in­ter­ac­tion had been with a tod­dler and whose uni­verse was dom­i­nated by di­a­pers and play dates.”

Ev­ery now and then, Filopovic’s own mother floats in like Glinda the Good Witch to say things that speak of the hu­man heart and that are com­pletely off-strat­egy, like “hav­ing kids was a love af­fair,” and leav­ing them to go to a part-time job was “wrench­ing.” “There are no emo­tional words to ex­plain the thought of be­ing away from your ba­bies,” she says, and for­tu­nately for her, she floats away in her gi­ant soap bubble be­fore these sen­ti­ments can be put through the meat grinder of plea­sure-cen­tered pub­lic pol­icy and laid bare as a drag on worker pro­duc­tiv­ity.

The book has a weird sub­plot in­volv­ing an im­pov­er­ished black woman named Janet, who keeps pop­ping into the story and say­ing retro things like she wishes she could spend more time with her chil­dren, or she’d like to have a hus­band. You’d ex­pect the au­thor to knock some sense into her about worker pro­duc­tiv­ity and di­a­per te­dium. But poor black women, ap­par­ently, are ide­ally suited to the kind of tra­di­tional life ar­range­ments that the au­thor and her “bright, am­bi­tious” friends are too so­phis­ti­cated for, so she gets a pass.

We’re hardly in vir­gin ter­ri­tory, and un­less you like noth­ing bet­ter than a warmed-over re­ex­am­i­na­tion of the pol­i­tics of shared house­work, you may find much of this a bit snoozy. But reader: There’s a plot twist. It turns out that Jill Filopovic — fem­i­nist, badass, re­jecter of all that is con­ven­tional — is . . . en­gaged! “I had never been so im­me­di­ately drawn to some­one or felt my­self so ea­ger to talk to some­one,” she tells us of her new love, and she em­barked upon “a love af­fair un­like any­thing I had ex­pe­ri­enced.” It turns out that he has a big, im­por­tant job in Africa, and — screw fem­i­nism! — she packed her bags and fol­lowed him. It’s bliss: “He is some­times the only per­son I talk to in the course of a day” — and she loves it. “There is a long list of rea­sons I would marry him,” she con­fides chat­tily, queen bee at the Tri Delt pa­jama party. “As far as in­di­vid­ual days go,” she hopes her wed­ding will be “one of the hap­pi­est.” She even starts fir­ing off some of the most so­cially con­ser­va­tive facts this side of CPAC: “Women re­port higher lev­els of sex­ual sat­is­fac­tion when they’re in monog­a­mous re­la­tion­ships,” and cou­ples “have more sex than their un­mar­ried coun­ter­parts.” Whose side is she on, any­way?

The truth is that there is great value in what she is do­ing. Tak­ing a ca­reer risk to fol­low a per­son you love, mak­ing a life­long com­mit­ment to him or her, es­tab­lish­ing a home to­gether that pro­tects you both from the buf­fet­ing and heart­less forces of the mar­ket­place — those are sus­tain­ing and nour­ish­ing choices. The au­thor spent two years criss-cross­ing the coun­try in search of the key to fe­male hap­pi­ness, but it turns out she was wear­ing the ruby slip­pers all along. It’s like Jim Dob­son and Ted Cruz teamed up to write a movie. What are you gonna do? There’s no place like home.

THE H-SPOT The Fem­i­nist Pur­suit of Hap­pi­ness By Jill Filipovic Na­tion. 320 pp. $27

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