The Good Wife Tackles Tricky Subject of Women Opting Out of Work

What Women Really Think
March 12 2012 11:11 AM

The Good Wife Tackles Tricky Subject of Women Opting Out of Work

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The Good Wife's Julianna Margulies, Josh Charles, Archie Panjabi, and Matt Czuchry.

Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

This post contains spoilers for the Sunday, March 11, episode of The Good Wife.

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Now in its third season, The Good Wife has always been sharp in its observations about women, and mothers, in the workplace. It was at its best in last night’s episode, in a side plot about Caitlin, the ambitious and connected young associate whom our heroine Alicia mentors, reluctantly. The two are engaged in a one-sided battle—Alicia is paranoid that Caitlin’s star is rising too fast—that ends abruptly when Caitlin announces she is pregnant, engaged, and quitting the law. Telecommuting and childcare options don’t entice her to stay. “Maybe it’s different for my generation, but I don’t have to prove anything. Or, if I have to, I don’t want to,” Caitlin responds when Alicia tells her she doesn’t have to choose between motherhood and working.

The story line is straight out of the heated discussion about educated young women, full of potential, dropping out of the workforce to raise their children. (Maybe in a season or two, Caitlin will even have her own chicken coop.) “I’m not sure the glass ceiling was broken for this,” activist partner Diane tells Alicia later. “Actually, I’m pretty sure it was,” Alicia quips back, and she’s right. I may not want to make Caitlin’s choice, but it is hers to make. Other Good Wife loyalists may be disappointed by the anti-feminist plot. But my only wish is that The Good Wife did not have its (undeserved) reputation as a show for older viewers. Women in college now should be watching and discussing Caitlin’s decision. 

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies.