One of the pettiest, silliest, most outdated arguments I hear among feminists is this one:
“Housewives aren’t living up to feminist ideals, because they’re just fitting the patriarchal stereotype of the supportive little woman doing everything for everyone else and not having an identity of her own.”
“Nuh-uh! I’m a stay-at-home mother and I consider it a full-time job, plus some. I work hard at what I do, I chose to do it, and if that’s stereotypical then too bad, because it’s who I am and I’m not apologizing for it.”
And frankly, I agree with the housewives.
You can see where this argument came from. In second wave feminism in the 60s and 70s, getting women out of the house was huge—because most of them were coerced or even forced into being housewives and it was what was expected of them. Feminism worked hard to change that expectation and to encourage women to pursue careers and activities outside the home.
But these days, here in the states, more women have jobs than don’t. It’s become a luxury to stay at home, as a one-income household is difficult to sustain in this economic climate. It is mostly more well-off women choosing to stay home, and even in really backward, conservative areas it is still mostly well-off women who are even pressured to stay home, as it’s simply not a possibility for those below the poverty line (and indeed even a hefty portion of the lower middle class). Add children to the mix and you’re talking even more income needed.
I can’t tell you how many women I know who have chosen to stay at home because they had a child or they had a spouse with bajillions of working hours (like many of the military members I know) or because they were taking classes or volunteering or writing a novel. I have known maybe three women in my whole life, and this includes all the women I knew in my super-fundamental Baptist church growing up, who were coerced or pushed into staying home when they didn’t want to. I’ve seen at least as often women who were coerced or forced to get jobs, even when their spouses didn’t work as many hours or make as much money, because those men were lazy, controlling pieces of shit.
I can imagine that people are arguing “if it’s so damn equal and stuff, how come moremen aren’t staying home?” in their heads with me right now. And that’s a good point, I thought of that too. I have a couple reasons for you:
1. Because of wage inequality, men make much more than women do in this country even for the same work. If, say, you and your spouse had a child and really wanted one of the parents to stay at home, wouldn’t it be much more logical (if unfair) to decide on the one with the least income?
2. In our culture, most women are still raised with cooking, cleaning, parenting and household management skills that men simply aren’t. Not every household is as extreme as mine was (I can cook, clean, sew, budget, decorate, organize, and care for children like a freaking boss, but I can’t operate a lawn mower, and my brother has the opposite set of skills), but most of us, when we think about it, can remember our brothers getting taught how to change a spark plug and our sisters getting taught how to bake cookies. Freshman year of college, you probably saw some boy walking around with a pink stained white t-shirt because it was the first time he’d had to do laundry and he put the reds and the whites together on a warm cycle. My point is, isn’t it much more logical (if unfair, again) for the spouse with more domestic skills to be the one to stay home, if one is going to?
Running a household is a lot of work. Most of the time the woman does the bulk of it anyway, even if she works outside the home as well. I’m not surprised so many of them have decided “fuck the job, this is full time work by itself.” If that’s what they want to do, let them. And be nice. They can too be feminists, and might have valuable contributions to your conversation.
Most of the people I respect in the feminist community agree with me on this, but there are still enough people being bitchy about it that I hear and see women defending themselves for being housewives or stay at home moms ALL THE TIME.
Can’t we all just get along? We’ll get so much further if we can.
**Originally published on Samantha's blog.The opinions expressed in our published works are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions of Lipstick & Politics (referred to as L&P) or its Editors.**