Betty Friedan Lives! Fearless Feminists Form at Fake-Fireman-Filled Fête

On Wednesday, April 4, at the L&M Arts gallery on East 78th, the actor Denis Leary and his wife Ann hosted a party for their friend Dani Shapiro, celebrating her new novel Black & White, about two grown daughters’ relationship with their dying mother, a Sally Mann–esque photographer. “Is it possible for a mother to be true to herself and true to her children at the same time?” asks the book’s jacket.

The answer is a resounding yes, according to Joanna Coles, editor in chief of Marie Claire; her executive editor, Lucy Kaylin; and Vanity Fair contributing editor Leslie Bennetts, who had formed a little feminist knot in the back of the room. (Also milling around: oddball comedienne Amy Sedaris, former New York Times reporter Judith Miller and various cast members of Mr. Leary’s firehouse drama Rescue Me).

“I think that we’re all celebrating that [being a working woman] is very freeing,” said Ms. Coles, who has been married six years and has three children. “To have that kind of financial independence gives a different kind of freedom and a different kind of control—in your marriage, your work, your life—than women who have to ask their husbands if they mind if they spend $600 on whatever.” Ms. Coles was wearing an expensive-looking pair of black boots.

“The fact that if you’re gonna make that choice—which I think is a great one—you better have great help,” said Ms. Kaylin (married 12 years, two kids), author of The Perfect Stranger: The Truth About Mothers and Nannies. “And it’s the getting past the ambivalence and the guilt and the denial of all that, and accepting that this is the choice that you’ve made.”

Ms. Bennetts, meanwhile (married 20 years, two children), has just come out with The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? “I think that one of things that gets lost in these discussions is that a lot of us really love our work,” she said. “And our lives are enriched by our work. Our children come first, but our work also enriches our children’s lives.”

Ms. Kaylin: “But the thing that’s difficult is that I think we, much more than our husbands—exponentially more than our husbands—are made to feel guilty about that, because the bulk of the child-rearing duties will always—no matter how post-feminist we all become—is always going to reside with us.”

Ms. Bennetts: “Nobody ever says, ‘Why don’t men choose between having a family and a career?’ That doesn’t even enter into the discussion!”

Ms. Kaylin: “It’s not a question.”

But here’s a question: Is being a working mom hotter?

Mrs. Coles: “Well, we’re very sexy women.”

And with that, The Transom headed to the bar.