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feminists vs. housewives showdown! (again)

Well it's happened again... I JUST wrote a lovely and serene entry about how my life as a working mom with a husband who stays home is working out just great, better than great, in fact I think it NEEDS to happen in more families. Then what does the cover of NY Magazine say the very next morning? Retro Feminist Housewives Choose to Stay Home.why I'm tired f the feminists vs. housewives showdown

Articles like these are boring, tired and we've seen them a million times before, here's the formula:

1) Find 1-2 happy women who made the "revolutionary" choice to quit their jobs. In this case, they start by featuring a family struggling to get by on only the husband's "low six figure income" (oh! the humanity!)

2) Paint feminists as angry pushers who want women to DO it all, not have it all, although the article says "have it all" and then prompts everyone to shake their heads and how silly frazzled an idea that is.

3) Bring up some antiquated throwback ideas about how women are just naturally more suited to taking care of kids (just like men are naturally more suited to hunting bison in the fields, like they do every day... oh... wait...)

Does the article feature any feminists from the other side weighing in on what the movement's actual priorities are? Does it talk to any women who HAVE to work for financial reasons, who feel fortunate that their choices weren't limited to secretary jobs? Is there anything new and interesting going on in this piece at all? Nope. The only reason it's earning a mention in my blog is the odd perfect timing.

Now I think the media doesn't want to tell my story because I can't slam feminists as effectively as they'd like... that's really the secret to a cover story. Throw your fellow ladies under the bus. Accuse them of pushing you to do too much. Say it's just overwhelming for your pretty little head. Start a "mommy war".

Here's the real story: as a feminist, I'm happy whenever a woman gets to do what feels right for her. I do think it's best when a parent can stay home with the kids, that's why my family is doing it. I also have many better things to worry about (eliminating rape culture, reproductive rights, etc) than whether the housewives are feeling "too much pressure".

I do not believe women are biologically better suited to take care of kids. I think our brains are wired in very similar ways, and yes we are different because men and women are raised differently but adding diversity to the field of full-time caretakers should be our priority right now, that's what's good for kids, not "let's keep everything the same". Looking backwards is a great way to stop all conversations... not what America is about. And let's face it, you can chose to stay at home whenever you want. If I need to work, I'm dependent on an employer that's supportive of women in the workplace... in other words even if I was bashing your choice it would never hurt you as much as articles like this hurt me, by telling the world it's just better for women to stay home, you're threatening the network I depend on. Last year a woman was fired from chick-fil-a because her managers just thought she should be a stay at home mother... that's the crap we face when the media says "feminism" was a bad idea.

I do not believe feminism has failed or was bad for women. If a married woman with a job feels like she has to do ALL the household chores when she gets home, that's a relationship that needs a little more feminism to get her husband off the damn couch. Not less feminism to give her more time to clean.

I obviously believe in the power of the single-income family, where one parent stays home with the kids... I'm living in one! But thank goodness the world didn't force my husband to work and me to stay home. Actually wait, "thank goodness" was the wrong term... I meant "thank feminists".



( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 19th, 2013 12:16 pm (UTC)
It kind of makes me wonder if saying something is "best" for kids is problematic too. If neither parent really wants to stay at home full-time then it probably isn't best for kids to be home with any/either one of them. Sometimes daycares, grandparents, or whatever are a lot more nurturing and creative, or everyone is just saner and has more energy when they are together if neither parent is home with the child full-time.

But it is silly how these articles are always so unrealistic about people's incomes. They even do that when the whole point of the article is money and incomes!
Mar. 19th, 2013 01:25 pm (UTC)
The thing that bugs me about people who say that X is that really what they mean is something like "a happy, fulfilled stay at home parent who has adequate resources" (resources covers many things). For a lot of people that option simply Is Not Available - maybe there's no way to have adequate resources without having all available parents work, maybe no available parent has the ability to provide full time child care, maybe all available parents would be super stressed out and unhappy if they were SAHPs, etc etc

It's nice to have information about what the effects of various choices you might make are; but at the same time it's important to remember that not everyone has access to the full range of choices.
Mar. 19th, 2013 01:37 pm (UTC)
My point though is that even if everyone had access to the full range of choices, we shouldn't assume they could/would/should make the same choice or that one choice is inherently better. Not that all choices are equal either, but I think a lot of the economic arguements also assume that all [usually mothers] would or should stay home if only they economically could, or somesuch. Which I think is a false premise, even though it is nice that people want to recognize socioeconomic difference, privilege, etc.

Mar. 19th, 2013 03:46 pm (UTC)
I completely agree. We have the financial resources for me to stay at home (not my husband, alas - I think he would love to). But I am SO NOT suited to being a SAHM. There surely are couples where neither of them want to do that (even if they could).

Edited at 2013-03-19 03:47 pm (UTC)
Mar. 19th, 2013 02:37 pm (UTC)
I think the lack of choice that a lot of women face has less to do with societal pressures or institutionalized sexism than consequences of poor financial and family planning. I don't think companies should be required or expected to lose money because of their employee's life choices, but obviously parental benefits and flexible work schedules have become a good way to retain quality employees.

And I don't believe ANYONE, male or female, can "have it all" or "do it all." There are only so many hours in a day and only so much emotional energy one has to expend. You're going to have different results depending on how ruthlessly you prioritize your time, and those choices are going to have an impact on whichever part of life is sacrificed in favor of another. That's just a fact of life and applies to both men and women. Husbands and wives should be a team and do whatever works for them in their situation, and that means a lot of communication and planning before kids even come into the picture, if they ever do.
Mar. 19th, 2013 05:39 pm (UTC)
Think I'm going to have to disagree with you here. You could argue that I personally have made two decisions that were "poor financial planning"... married a man who didn't make a ton of money, then had kids which is never good for the bank account.

And yet my life is still working out... because society has come along and we as a country decided it's okay for women to have real careers. And the world hasn't really seen a lot of hardships as a result of me being in the workplace. Actually if you like my airplanes, you could say there was benefit.

So it'd be pretty hypocritical of me to say that individual women are all to blame for getting themselves into situations where there's a lack of choice, when 50 years ago I would have had that same lack of choice... don't get married, don't have kids, work a low wage job to get by? When those are the choices you're faced with sure, you can make it work. But why not stand up and change the world a little, make it accommodating, if it won't hurt anyone else? Obviously this article is sexist, and a big ball of evidence that there is institutional sexism. Why not stand up to this sort of crap?
Mar. 19th, 2013 08:11 pm (UTC)
I think we're talking about different choices: I'm talking about choices women have today, you're talking about choices women had 50 years ago. I'm not disagreeing that women have more career options now, and therefore more hypothetically available options now than in the past. Of course we do, and it's a good thing. I'm saying that a lot of women who would like the choice to stay at home can't because their financial choices have put them in a position where they have to produce an income. Likewise, a lot of women have made choices in family planning that keep them from having their "dream career" which would require more time/effort/mental capacity than they can realistically relinquish from their families.

None of this has to do with the state of diversity in companies large or small. On principle, an employer doesn't have an inherent responsibility to make special concessions to folks who have conflicting responsibilities (due to kids or any other reason), but many do in order to keep quality employees. That has nothing to do with the gender of the employee. Society doesn't have a responsibility to make your life easier either. I'm not saying that improvements can't or shouldn't be made. I'm saying it's not an injustice that employers don't bend over backwards to try and negate every consequence of the life decisions that are made by their employees. In fact, that's impossible and even if it were possible it would almost certainly put them out of business very quickly. However, the Chick-Fil-A thing you linked seems to be an obvious case of sexism, if in fact the former employee's performance had nothing to do with her dismissal as the article alleges.

The "Retro Feminist" article is about how one woman evaluated her and her husband's partnership and parenting roles, the consequences of logistical limitations when she was working vs. when she wasn't, the correction of some misconceptions she previously had about stay-at-home-moms, and how she made the choice to stay home instead of working because it's what she deemed to be best for her family. Many other women (and men) in America are doing the same because they've realized that the stereotypical feminist dream of being the "power couple" working parents and striving to still be present in their kids' lives was unrealistic and/or not as great as they thought it would be. How is that sexist or anti-feminist? The fact that she made one choice that didn't meet her expectations and then changed her mind doesn't make her sexist or anti-feminist. It also doesn't mean that the gains that have been made for women who choose the other path will be reneged or deemed less worthy.

The fact is that we have both options today, which is awesome! It's especially nice for me since I don't plan on ever having children. That's a choice I made, and the path of my career will depend on many other life choices I make completely unrelated to this one. I thought feminism was purportedly about celebrating the freedom to make these choices, not dumping on women who make the decisions you didn't. The latter behavior by an overwhelming majority of feminists is why I don't consider myself a part of that movement.
Mar. 19th, 2013 08:27 pm (UTC)
To be clear though, this feminist (spacefem) is not bashing the choice to stay at home. As I said, I'm happy for any woman getting to do what's right for her and her family.

What I'm bashing is this:
The maternal instinct is a real thing, Kelly argues: Girls play with dolls from childhood, so “women are raised from the get-go to raise children successfully. When we are moms, we have a better toolbox.” Women, she believes, are conditioned to be more patient with children, to be better multitaskers, to be more tolerant of the quotidian grind of playdates and temper tantrums; “women,” she says, “keep it together better than guys do.”

antiquated, unsupported, damaging, total BS in my humble opinion.
Mar. 19th, 2013 09:51 pm (UTC)
Well at least they used the qualifier "she believes," since what she said is factually incorrect. LOL

From a biological and evolutionary standpoint, I get that mothers are more essential than fathers early on: mom was the only food source for baby. It's only in recent history that technology has allowed for alternative feeding methods that dad can help with. Playing with dolls doesn't prepare you for motherhood though. Shoot, I played with more than my fair share of Barbies growing up and I don't have a maternal bone in my body. So yeah, that quote I would agree is pretty darn ignorant and sexist.
Mar. 20th, 2013 01:15 am (UTC)
well said.

On this subject though, hubby and I have been meeting more families similar to yours! It's awesome! Somehow N also seems to understand more my perspective on life by talking to the stay-at-home dads. It's been nice!
Mar. 20th, 2013 08:30 pm (UTC)
I tend to think that the point of feminism is to give me, as the female, the POWER TO CHOOSE MY LIFE. I have the ability to choose the path my life goes instead of men dictating that for me. Will a man assist in my life path? SURE THING, I'm married, I have a PARTNER. But that is the point, I have a partner not a master.

people seem to mistake feminism as this man and baby hating boot stomper. To me a real feminist is someone who wants to give us the right to choose our lives and enrich is in an equal manner to everyone else.

If you want to stay at home with your family, than by gum that is your choice and I love you for it.
Mar. 20th, 2013 10:23 pm (UTC)
Ideally, I think both parents should stay home to raise the kids. The kids will then reap the benefits of multiple peoples love and caring.

As for our businesses and industry, I've said it before, we should endeavor to make our workplaces more child friendly so that the workplace isn't a place forbidden to children and parents who do work can still have connection and interaction with their offspring
Mar. 20th, 2013 11:41 pm (UTC)
Isn't it a little bit of bashing when you say "I do think it's best when a parent can stay home with the kids"?? Implying that those of us who choose to have a two-income family, by choice, are somehow not making the sacrifice for our children??
Mar. 21st, 2013 01:40 am (UTC)
Eh, ya got me. But I mostly said it because your lives sound stressful, like for me personally if I had to bundle a toddler up for daycare before heading to work, it'd be... one more thing on my plate. I think Josie would like daycare just fine. You could argue that I'm the selfish one, for being lazy.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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