Susan Hagan

1.As Margaret Wente put it in her recent Globe & Mail column “Meet the Servant Class:” “As manufacturing jobs shrivel away, the greatest job growth will be in services. The future belongs to highly educated people with superior cognitive skills who can work with robots, and to an expanding service class that will cater to their every whim… And if they can pay someone else to do it, then why shouldn’t they?”

2.Dr. James Watson told us back in 1928 that “no one today knows enough to raise a child.” Parenting is a science, he said, not an instinct involving art and creativity.

“The world would be considerably better off if we were to stop having children for twenty years (except those reared for experimental purposes) and were then to start again with enough facts to do the job with some degree of skill and accuracy,” wrote Dr. Watson, in Psychological Care of Infant and Child.

Watson believed that behaviourism was pivotal to psychology; its goal was to predict and control behaviour. His influential parenting book was published seven years after he was fired from John Hopkins University for having sex with his assistant. Ostracized, he went to work in advertising, where he made five times the salary as VP of selling coffee and toothpaste.

The public snapped up Watson’s study of behaviourism and its newly minted psychological answers. He rejected the fuzzy study of consciousness and introspection. As an academic, he used an 11-month-old infant to demonstrate that fear can be conditioned and transferred. Watson placed a rat near Little Albert in the lab. The infant was not afraid. Then Watson clanged an iron rod. Albert reacted by crying. Experiment requires repetition. The infant also became afraid of a dog, a fur coat, and a rabbit. Watson determined that conditioning greatly influences a child: he concluded that mothers’ coddling love damages humanity.

3.The government did not include women as a unique group for study in Canada’s 2012 Mental Health Strategy, indicating that it preferred to remain “gender neutral.” The Canadian Women’s Health Network says that women’s mental health requires specific study and treatment. The gap in the public sphere leaves opportunity for the marketplace, as with the arts, education and general health care.

Manuals on Being Woman
published Jan/Feb 2014 in WestWord

Shortlisted for the James H. Gray Award for short nonfiction/2015 Alberta Literary Awards.

Bertha Hunt strutted down Fifth Avenue alongside the 1929 Easter Parade in New York City, smoking a cigarette. This act of defiance normally would have branded her a whore. But our friends in media transformed this humble secretary into a hero. This is where we auction woman’s narrative to the highest bidder. “Torches of Freedom,” the headlines sang, based on a press release from the American Tobacco Company, from a little man who sat in the shadows pulling the levers of public psychology. Ad-man Edward Bernays created the campaign to hook women on cigarettes. Incidentally, Bernays, who never smoked, was Sigmund Freud’s nephew and Bertha Hunt’s boss. A few men grew rich enough to dance on the moon because women equated smoking with equality and freedom.

But Bernays himself wrote in his book Propaganda that a few powerful people “pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.” Paid less for similar work, discriminated against in every area of life, and subjected to routine violence at home, women were not free. But they fooled themselves into thinking that they were; by smoking.

How to be a CEO 
We reacted swiftly to Betty Friedan’s rallying cry to escape the home, that cage. Capitalism aggressively recruited us; we were eager, followed orders, and worked hard for less pay. Today, we hold our Titles up as torches of freedom. Our jobs will light the way. We escaped the home where we obeyed our husbands and fled to the office where we obey our mostly male bosses. 

James Howard Kunstler speculates in Too Much Magic that the second wave of feminism wasn’t about equality at all. It was about manipulating women into earning more cash so that society would have cheap labour and we could all buy second cars and bigger houses. Some feminists throw trash at him. After all, in the last 40 years, we’ve gained maternity leave, reproductive rights, women’s literary awards and career opportunities. 

But jobs have become what men once were to women: they take too much time, make oppressive demands and are insensitive to our needs. Our jobs refuse to listen to what we want; they seduce us with small rewards for their own benefit. 

How we nurtured our jobs, how we sacrificed for them, how we lost sleep for them, how we were so committed that we gave up weekends, holidays, time with our families, and labour rights that people worked so hard to gain, back when the Americas teetered between an egalitarian socialism and pure market capitalism prior to the Second World War. We babysat our jobs, coddled bleeping monitors, rushed to their every whimper from our pockets. We became attachment parents to them, never letting them fend for themselves. How we leapt when our jobs cried out ‘we need you! Only you will do! You are the best employee number 832 that we ever had. We love you, oh eternal corporate lackey!’

Our Jobs might be lost, might be stolen from us. Where would my identity be without my Title? Before you know it, our jobs don’t need us anymore; they move on to employee number 833 so fast, it’s like we barely had an impact on them. Oh, Job. I gave you my best years. I can die now, knowing that a rich man lined his pockets from my dedication; that I learned to think the way the corporation taught me, warms my heart.

The original point was to pay for food, clothing and shelter; to have financial and intellectual independence. But Job became a Prince with flowing hair galloping in to free us from our shackles. Our cage grew in size and changed its ornaments. Work is the way to prove that we are equal. But jobs only free us if money is our god and children, our oppressors.

Freidan told us that housework is dull and that we can do so much more than just the dishes. Nellie McClung told us that women who have worthwhile projects to rise to every day are happier, more complete human beings, and that takes away from life’s drudgery.

Now Sheryl Sandberg cheer leads us to Lean In. The chief operating officer at Facebook assures us that once enough women rise to the top, they will make the game fair for the rest of us. McClung—who helped all women in this country rise—wrote letters, essays, books, and plays to help Canadian women claim the vote and the right to inherit property and money. In fighting for respect, she earned a dignified and rewarding life. She helped us to become real persons in 1929. Thanks to women like Nellie, the hard work is done! Marissa Mayer, the youngest female CEO at Yahoo!, slashed telecommunicating from home that used to allow employees to be with sick children and attend school science fairs.

The powerful lured us with shiny visions of everything Liberated Woman could possess. We traded everything we used to be for their newly minted modern woman, and all of her accessories: eye cream, improvement books, disposable technology and plastic suppers. 

They also tell us what to reject: Employees now work more hours than ever. We are at home less as employers demand more, so we are urged to outsource life’s menial tasks: cleaning, cooking, child care, grocery shopping, and dog walking. Servants are expensive, so we can aspire to equality by joining the elite.

As writers, to achieve this definition of equality, we must conform to write marketable material and thus earn Capitalism’s trophies. On top of that, times are tough for women writers, so if we want to make a living, we must pander more than ever to the market (1). What’s published is what sells, and what sells, are easy answers that bind us to an internal prison.

No wonder our literary fantasies are about cheating on our spouses and healing from emotional trauma, rather than adventures.  

How to be a Mom
George Orwell wrote in 1984 of a regime that conditioned people to disconnect from their families and be obedient to their jobs and their state. He imagined a society where the powerful dominate our lives, and we are too blind and too weak to challenge it.

“Already we are breaking down the patterns of thought which have survived since before the Revolution,” O’Brien told Winston. “We have cut the links between child and parent, and between man and man, and between man and woman. No one dares trust a wife or a child or a friend any longer. But in the future, there will be no wives and no friends. Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen.”

Now, we are told that our children are hindrances who side-track our careers. Elisabeth Badinter, a French author and philosopher, says that our instincts cannot be trusted. Mother harms child through coddling; child harms mother through existence: “The best allies of men’s dominance have been, quite unwittingly, innocent infants,” Badinter wrote in The Conflict.

And so it came to be that motherhood rose as the biggest threat to woman’s liberation. Watching over children is a petty occupation, too low to garner man’s full participation and our government’s attention. In addition, we are very bad at it and require professionally sanctioned guidance (2).

So every choice we make is wrong, goes woman’s story. Those who pursue career, or just plain need to work, are told that they won’t be able to do it all. Headline, after headline, after book, tells us that our dreams for ourselves and our responsibility to our families cannot be rectified. “The cry of moms everywhere in 2012: ‘I need help!’” is the title of an article in The Globe and MailThe New York Times writes on “The Stigma of Being a Housewife,” while The Pew Research Centre claims that working mothers are “harried and stressed.”

What fertile ground for marketers. What blood sport for the media. What a way to keep us from the truth, like a lying spouse inflating petty arguments. Our media gives a blow by blow of The Mommy Wars, as if it were anything but their own invention. They didn’t create it from nothing. Both sides are vicious and petty, especially when it comes to breastfeeding and hovering, as they defend personal choices. They stir the pot and add the onions.

A long time ago, we wanted respect, rights, and dignity. We wanted to control our reproduction so that we could have fewer children, whom we could love and protect more fully. We imagined more time for our own personal development and important social and professional contributions. Now, children are considered to be luxury items that can be catalogue-ordered by gender and eye colour, and then stuffed into institutions.

Parenthood is a responsibility and a pleasure. They twist responsibility into oppression and pleasure into guilt (you should be working). The headlines are right: We are harried, stressed, and incomplete. But the cures are available (for a fee).

How to heal our psyches

"The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off." – Steinem

Gloria Steinem advised Woman to “turn in” back in 1993 so that we could free ourselves from quiet suffering that stifles our gender. We have real inner work to do—violence, oppression, and abuse make us crazy. 

The PR machine pricked its sensors to opportunity. There couldn’t be a better target for marketing than Friedan’s “problem with no name.” Corporations created cures for every ailment: like wrinkles and sadness, notes Barbara Ehrenreich. Women might not gain full equality in our homes and at work, but we can become whole! Popular self-help books are our ultimate guides to master the corporate structure, heal our insides, fix our outsides, score a date, fornicate fantastically, land a husband, raise our children, and become more spiritual. The self-improvement industry is now worth $10 billion in the United States. 

The wisdom that we require is buried deep in the debris of sales pitches from hucksters hocking hope. If you’re in the market for miracles, check out Gabrielle Bernstein’s May Cause Miracles: A 40-Day Guidebook of Subtle Shifts for Radical Change and Unlimited Happiness. If you’ve read that, you’ve likely read, and half believed, The Secret. Eckhart Tolle believes that a new, enlightened species is arising, which gave him two spots on the top 10 book list in Canada from 2005 to 2012. Women caused this phenomenon: we buy three-quarters of such books and tend to pluck another from the pack 18 months after we last tried to turn our insides into glow worms.

Our Manuals on Being Woman are dictated by an industry desperate to hang on, within a Capitalist Society that wants to amass riches until Earth heaves her final breath. Without women’s insecurity, Chapters would be a homeless shelter. Women have problems, or greed would not find opportunity. We are three times more likely to be pharmaceutically drugged than men, incidentally, the same ratio at which Victorian-era women were tossed into insane asylums (3).

Woman’s woe is rich; we have a proud history of mental anguish, like men have violence. Victorian women of means broke down elaborately to protest their suffocating roles: they were sensitive, delicate, and cut off from the world, sobbing into silk night gowns. On the upside, sickness allows us “real, if perverse, opportunities for self-development,” writes Elaine Showalter, in The Female Malady.

Others have dug into women’s problems with fervour and intellect. Sabina Spielrein was crazy from a traumatic childhood. She was tossed into a lunatic asylum, where she met Carl Jung, who helped to cure her through Freud’s new talking cure. Spielrein became a pioneer in psychoanalysis; with a focus on child psychology. She used science to solve the mind’s riddles. Spielrein didn’t transcend into a new realm of being where everything is perfect and hopeful, and she didn’t get rich and famous. Quite the contrary, she was broke most of the time, history forgot her, and she and her daughters were shot by Nazis. But women such as Spielrein sought truth, not money.

We seek guidance from simplistic writings because we are desperate to know how to be a mother, a career woman, and a sane person. But the best books act like smelling salts, not valium: They explore the wrongs and urge response. The powerful who write our narratives want us to stay crazy enough to work overtime for free and buy their soothing remedies. Our bosses tell us that we need their stability. It’s so cruel out there without them. We’ll be poor, alone, and wrinkled. As our insides scream, we’re stuck in yoga trances. We sit and do spiritual work. Spiritual work used to mean helping the poor and building libraries.

In the early days of Liberation, McClung realized that women needed a revolution, and called on us to cast off our helplessness and act. “Tears were not the remedy,” McClung wrote. “Women had cried too much already.”

How to have larger purpose
Woman’s Revolution has two fronts to tackle: Society and our Insides, as Mary Wollstonecraft told us back in the 18th century. She dared to say that there was something wrong with us, as if we had been repressed for so long that it makes us unreliable. Wollstonecraft rightly placed a hefty portion of the blame on society. But the burden fell on us. She said that we were too vain, too ignorant, too passive, too afraid, and too weak—exactly what PR snacks on.

“Should a more laudable ambition ever gain ground they may be brought nearer to nature and reason, and become more virtuous and useful as they grow more respectable,” she wrote.

How many of us have discovered laudable ambition? Under this regime, our future opportunities will be in dental hygiene, while our vision in the arts is expected to die. The powerful manipulated us into believing their script, which mirrors the ones that brought us cigarettes and 1950s femininity. Our latest manufactured symbols—Career and Internal Perfection—blind us to our goals and keep us from living in reality: We are discriminated against, paid unfairly, and aren’t given real answers to our problems.

Women aren’t all craving the kind of power that Orwell warned about, the kind that keeps us hunting enemies and proclaiming victory. There are still some who would rescue stray kittens or work in non-profits: there are still writers, artists, teachers, and Mommies. Our financial superiors want to be our role models and our government leaders. We could strive to rise with them, and party at the tip, or fail and live as their servants. Or we could be a diverse, educated group, with laudable ambitions fighting for real equality. Not all ambitions receive hefty salaries and fancy titles.

Anne-Marie Slaughter is a Princeton professor who quit her demanding work in American government. She writes that we must change society—the second half of Wollstonecraft’s equation—to make our lives more meaningful.

We must come “to value choices to put family ahead of work just as much as those to put work ahead of family,” Slaughter wrote in the summer 2012 issue of The Atlantic. “If we really valued those choices, we would value the people who make them; if we valued the people who make them, we would do everything possible to hire and retain them; if we did everything possible to allow them to combine work and family equally over time, then the choices would get a lot easier.”

Our prevalent stories—from books to advertising—incessantly chip away at that perplexing problem: What is wrong with women? After wading through countless Manuals on Being Woman, the only thing that I find wrong with women is that we are conditioned to accept narrow definitions and unsatisfying answers. It doesn’t make sense that liberation would mean twice the work, no time to love our babies, and no energy to live the hell out of our lives.

We blame our homes, our partners, and our lovely babies; and try to fix it all by rewiring our psyches in ways that they prescribe. We could hold responsible the misleading narratives, our corporate overlords, government’s disregard, and opportunists that hi-jack our health and our freedom. They keep us seeking a sanitized sanity that hobbles intellect, and keep us distracted with hectic lives that make us crazy. Meanwhile, most of the world will be unfit for human existence by 2100. 

They strip us of our pride in being women and in being mothers, and media loudly proclaim that we fail at both. Our jobs override our identities and our families. We can’t even breathe deeply without a certified instructor. We buy cures to perfect ourselves so that we can fit fake personas. If our skin crawls, there’s a pill to stop it. 

Sisters, we’ve been had.

Book sources:
What do Women Want? (2013); Berger, Daniel
Drunk Mom (2013); Bydlowska, Jowita
For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of Experts’ Advice to Women (1978); Ehrenreich, Barbara and English, Deidre
Brightsided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America (2009), Ehrenreich  
The Feminine Mystique (1963); Friedan, Betty
Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (2009), Chris Hedges
Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and The Fate of the Nation (2012); Kunstler, James Howard
Clearing in the West (1935); McClung, Nellie
The Stream Runs Fast (1945); McClung
How to Be a Woman (2011), Moran, Caitlin
The End of Men, Rise of Women (2012); Rosin, Hanna
Lean In (2013); Sandberg, Sheryl
The Female Malady (1985); Showalter, Elaine
Revolution from Within (1992); Steinem, Gloria
Packhorse to Pavement (1981); editor Willows, Dorothy
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792); Wollstonecraft, Mary
A Room of One’s Own (1929); Woolf, Virginia

Newspaper/Magazine/Web site sources:
The Atlantic, “A Centenarian’s Advice to Young Women”, by Heidi Legg,; Nov. 5, 2013. 

The Atlantic, Why women still can’t have it all, Anne Marie Slaughter, July 2012, John Watson

The Daily Mail, ‘Self-help books could ruin your life! They promise everything - and sell in their millions, but a leading psychologist remains unconvinced’ By Professor Timothy D Wilson, August 15, 2011

Forbes, ‘Self-Help Books: Why Women Can't Stop Reading Them’, Kiri Blakeley, June 10, 2009; 

The Globe and Mail, “The cry of moms everywhere in 2012: ‘I need help!’; Katrina Onstad, December 28, 2012

The Globe and Mail, “In a slow economy baby is a luxury item”, Chrystia Freeland, December 6, 2012

The Globe and Mail, “Reaction to Elisabeth Badinters controversial Mothering Advice,” Tralee Pearce, May 3, 2012

The Globe and Mail, ‘Playing field uneven for female MBA grads, Elizabeth Church, February 18, 2010, 

The Globe and Mail, ‘Gender equality eludes groundbreaking scientist’, Erin Millar, February 11, 2013 Gender equality eludes groundbreaking scientist

The Globe and Mail, “Why book buying stats might stifle the next great author,” John Barber, Dec. 27, 2012

The Globe and Mail, Margaret Wente column “Meet the New Servant Class,” Nov. 19, 2013;

International socialism, a quarterly journal of socialist theory: “Marxism and feminism today”, Judith Orr,

Macleans, Special Issue: Newsmakers 2012, “In her place: Yahoo!s new CEO had a baby. Then the world weighed in” by Anne Kingston, Dec. 17, 2012

New York Daily News, ‘New York's working moms sound off about loss of job flexibility: None of it seems remotely fair', Nicole Lyn Pesce, March 14, 2013

New York Daily News, “Marissa Mayer bans telecommuting at Yahoo! and becomes the mother of dissension,” Nicole Lyn Pesce, March 4, 2013 

The New York Times, “The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In”; Judith Warner, August 7, 2013 
The New York Times, “The Female Factor, The Stigma of Being a Housewife”, By Katrin Bennhold, July 20, 2010

The New York Times, “Outsource your way to success,” Catherine Rampell, Nov. 5, 2013, John Watson 

Time, ‘The man who remade motherhood’, Kate Pickert, May 21, 2012,,33009,2114427,00.html


“There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.” — Madeleine K. Albright
“It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality.”
— Virginia Woolf