As for their activities in general, Philip Wylie defines them like this:
They frighten politicians to sniveling servility and they terrify pastors; they bother bank presidents and they pulverize school boards. Mom has many such organizations, the real purpose of which is to compel an abject compliance of her environs to her personal desires … she drives out of the town and the state, if possible, all young harlots … she causes bus lines to run where they are convenient for her rather than for workers … throws prodigious fairs and parties for charity and gives the proceeds … to the janitor to buy the committee some beer for its headache on the morning after … clubs afford mom an infinite opportunity for nosing into other people’s business.
There is much truth in this aggressive satire. Not being specialized in politics or economics or any technical discipline, old women have no concrete hold on society; they are unaware of the problems action poses; they are incapable of elaborating a constructive program. Their morality is abstract and formal, like Kant’s imperatives; they issue prohibitions instead of trying to discover the paths of progress; they do not positively try to create new situations; they attack what already exists in order to do away with the evil in it; this explains why they are always forming coalitions against something—against alcohol, prostitution, or pornography—they do not understand that a purely negative effort is doomed to be unsuccessful, as evidenced by the failure of prohibition in America or the law in France voted by Marthe Richard. As long as woman remains a parasite, she cannot effectively participate in the building of a better world.
It does happen that in spite of everything, some women entirely committed to a cause truly have an impact; these women are not merely seeking to keep themselves busy, they have ends in view; autonomous producers, they escape from the parasitic category we are considering here: but this conversion is rare. In their private or public activities, most women do not aim for a goal that can be reached but for a way to keep busy: and no occupation is meaningful if it is only a pastime. Many of them suffer from this; with a life already behind them, they feel the same distress as adolescent boys whose lives have not yet opened up; nothing is calling them, around them both is a desert; faced with any action, they murmur: What’s the use? But the adolescent boy is drawn, willingly or not, into a man’s existence that reveals responsibilities, goals, and values; he is thrown into the world, he takes a stand, he becomes committed. If it is suggested to the older woman that she begin to move toward the future, she responds sadly: it’s too late. It is not that her time is limited from here on: a woman is made to retire very early; but she lacks the drive, confidence, hope, and anger that would allow her to discover new goals in her own life. She takes refuge in the routine that has always been her lot; she makes repetition her system, she throws herself into household obsessions; she becomes more deeply religious; she becomes rigidly stoic, like Mme de Charrière. She becomes brittle, indifferent, egotistical.
—Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, p. -1