No, not that kind of choice. In fact, Jan Brewer, Arizona's Republican governor, just signed a bill into law stating that life begins before sex, which will help in the party's ultimate goal of banning pre-term abortions, or what we used to call birth control.
The choice that made headlines this week is the choice of women to stay home, which, as Clay Jones notes above, can be similar to the choice of eating cake.
The kerfuffle surrounding this particular choice is similar to the "War on Christmas" issue: It's mostly made up of feigned outrage, and what isn't fiction is not a liberal/conservative or a Democrat/Republican matter.
Obviously, those who believe that women with school-aged children do not belong in the workplace are going to embrace the choice of staying home, so you would expect a larger percentage of conservatives to be militant on the topic.
But not all conservatives or all Republicans force that choice on women. After all, Dick Cheney's wife has had professional jobs. Bob Dole's wife worked. So did Joe Wilson's wife, as Republicans were quick to point out.
Among Democrats, it's more nuanced. Liberal Al Gore's wife Tipper only worked part-time, while Joe Liebermann's wife has had several professional, fairly high level jobs despite coming from a socially conservative background.
One difference, of course, is that the Gores were stinking rich and Tipper could choose whether she wanted to work full-time, part-time or not at all. Similarly, while Laura Bush was a school teacher and then a librarian, she chose to not work once she was married to an oil man from a wealthy family.
It's nice to be able to make choices without an economic ax hanging over your head, but it does get you into that area of not being a NASCAR fan but having friends who own teams, a distinction Jeff Danziger seized upon to express his view of the hard-working upperclass stay-at-home mom:
And I also realize that different women undergo different shares of those competing pressures, and well as their own inner conflicts on the topic. It's not a one-size-fits-all decision because we don't live in a one-size-fits-all world.
But I'm also not alone in wishing more women felt free to make choices based on what they need and not on what someone has told them they ought to need. We could all use a bit more spine in that department, after all, but strong women were a recurring theme in literature long before "The Women's Room" or "Fear of Flying" hit the bookshelves.
James Fenimore Cooper portrayed two Monroe sisters, one wimpy and clingy, and one resourceful and independent, and it was clear which one he felt was more worthy.
And a major criticism of the adaptation of Shaw's "Pygmalion" into "My Fair Lady" was that, apparently at the end of the stage musical and definitely at the end of the movie version, Eliza comes back to Henry Higgins. In Shaw's play, once she gained a healthy sense of self, she wanted nothing more to do with the self-centered controlling mama's boy.
Meanwhile, one of my favorite women in literature is Elena Stahov (or Yelena Stahova, I suppose) from Turgenev's On the Eve. The two main male characters in the novel are a pair of young men, one a sculptor, the other a poet, who lie in the sun talking about truth and art and life's meaning, both of them thinking that Elena is the finest woman in the world.
Which she may well be, but, rather than spend her life listening to the two of them philosophize, she elopes with a Bulgarian revolutionary and goes off to help him raise a rebellion against the Turk.
The sculptor blames the choices she was given, "We have no one yet, no men, look where you will. Everywhere—either small fry, nibblers, Hamlets on a small scale, self-absorbed, or darkness and subterranean chaos, or idle babblers and wooden sticks. Or else they are like this: they study themselves to the most shameful detail, and are forever feeling the pulse of every sensation and reporting to themselves: "That's what I feel, that's what I think." A useful, rational occupation! No, if we only had some sensible men among us, that girl, that delicate soul, would not have run away from us, would not have slipped off like a fish to the water!"
This fall, women will get to make a choice. Perhaps, like Pavel Shubin, we should give a little more thought to the quality of the choices they are being offered.