Monday, June 25, 2012

How can you be a Feminist and a Housewife...

I just had to add this photo when I saw it. via

The title of my blog has elicited many opinions on whether one can be a Feminist and a Housewife. Surely these two things are diametrically opposed, oxymoronic, or at the very least, paradoxical. I will admit, the name of my blog started out somehow as an inner joke, because I am a feminist and a Women's Studies major/graduate, yet I love "domesticity".

But as my own philosophy has transformed into something more concretely defined, it is not just a joke. I am indeed a Feminist Housewife. Many people think that feminism teaches that all men and women should work outside of the home and put their children in daycare; I am sure that many feminists do this and believe this as well. However, I think that devaluing taking care of children and the home as a job (and believe me, it is a job) and thinking that no one except childcare centers should do this (many of which are incredibly underpaid), seems completely in opposition to feminist theory to me.

Instead of saying that women should leave the drudgery of housework to join the somehow more fulfilling and meaningful "workforce", so that one can pay a marginalized person to do one's dreaded housework or take care of the children, what if we challenged the very idea that this work is not valuable. Everyone has to eat, wash clothes, clean up, do dishes, care for their children if they have them, or pay someone else a usually, unfair wage, to do all of these things for them. So why not recognize this work as meaningful, contributing to society in a productive way, and give it value?

Now, I'm not saying all women should stay home, or that women should not work outside of the home. Not at all. But, I do think that men and women should have the option of doing these things for themselves and be able to find meaning and fulfillment in them, if it is their choice. Contributing to society in this way is incredibly challenging, and often devoid of much recognition, especially in a society where value is often based on a price-tag. It's no wonder that there are things like "Housewife's Syndrome," or "The problem without a name." I think that one should be able to take pride in doing necessary work that is for the betterment of society.

I don't want to overlook the complexity of financial matrices as couples, especially those with children, have to solve in trying to live in our society; or how single parents juggle all that come with children and work.  And I am not trying to pass judgement on any particular way of life. I am merely challenging what is important and valued, and that the only way for a woman to find meaning and value is to work outside the home, or that a man could not stay home, as well.

Also, I feel the need to clarify, when I am referring to people paying for household services to be done, I know not everyone who has two incomes has a housekeeper or gets all of their closed dry cleaned or has a nanny. But no one can do it all, and if you have two people working, than you do have to pay for it somewhere, whether it's childcare, going out to eat for dinner, picking up fast food, having someone clean the house once a week, whatever it is...

So what do you think? I am open to constructive criticism. And I am in no way saying that my theory is completely sound or perfect. It is ever-evolving...


16 comments:

Jennifer Leible said...

Very nice post! I went to an all women's college and some 'feminist' views were built in to me. Actually from a very young age I was fascinated by strong women such as Harriet Tubman, Dolly Madison, and Abigail Adams. People have a very funny concept of feminism...I got a tattoo of "XIX" in college...as a joke I call it my feminist tattoo but for me it was a reminder of all the great women that went before and paved the way for us to vote, work, own land, etc.
Ok...I'm done ranting. Thanks again for your post! :)

Smallgood said...

These are my favorite posts of yours. I love hearing about feminism on blogs (mostly because I think a lot of misinformation is out there). I do think work at home should be valued more. I also think service to community should be. I think more men and boys should embrace and appreciate domesticity as well.

Mandi Miller said...

So glad you posted this! I am extremely thankful for the amazing women who made it possible for me to CHOOSE what I want to do in life. But growing up, being a stay-at-home wife/mom was never really the best option given to me. I honestly never even considered staying home until after I got married and found out I was pregnant with Maddy. It was ingrained into me from an early age that women had fought hard to give me opportunities so I WOULD go to college, get a career, put my kids in daycare and find a husband who agreed otherwise my life would be miserable. It took a long time for me to realize what I am doing with my life is very valuable. For Maddy, I want her to know that as a woman, she can do whatever she wants... if she wants a career then she can have one, if she wants to stay home then she can do it, if she wants to work at home then she should go for it... it's all valuable and important work. :)

Cate said...

I agree wholeheartedly. I am also a feminist housewife. I majored in women's studies as well and am an incredibly outspoken feminist...I also stay home with my two children and adore domestic pursuits. I feel that domestic life should be just as valued as life "out in the world."

Darcy Anne said...

"Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It's about making life more fair for women everywhere. It's not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It's about baking a new pie.”
~Gloria Steinem
You stay home because you choose to do so not because your husband won't allow you to work. That is just another stereotype for feminists that no one should buy into. They think all feminists are: man-hating, career-having, blood-sucking lesbians. Feminists are all women who believe that all women deserve new pie!:) ps I love that title it is the number one reason I added your blog to my favorites. <3

Amanda said...

I consider myself a feminist housewife, for all the reasons you mentioned here. I stay at home, homeschool, but am definitely feminist. I would love to link to this post on my blog if you wouldn't mind.

-Amanda

www.beringseaadventures.blogspot.com

Clandestine Road said...

Great post. I am a feminist housewife. I have a masters in English literature and a minor in women's studies. I love staying at home with my kids. My only beef is the idea that we stay at home moms are underpaid/deserve a salary, as though money equals intrinsic value. I think it is a great luxury to be able to stay at home with my children and my husband and I have made a great deal of sacrifices to ensure we can. I understand some people are stay at home due to lay offs, etc, but, for the most part, we stay at home parents choose. We should not have a chip on our shoulder because we feel society does not value our contribution. Our identity needs to be internal, rather than external. This is true with all occupations, not just stay at home parents.

I love this post. Great picture.

Mama Gone Green said...

I love this post. I so agree. And, may I add that you are so mature for your age!
And, what a great picture!

Anonymous said...

I basically agree... but I do wonder... specifically about attachment parenting and how things like extended nursing encourage women to be more closely bound to home and child for longer periods of time. Men still run our society in most ways. Women still hold few positions of power in the greater society and concerns more dear to women's hearts are not represented in government, business, media, etc. I think that women need support and encouragement as much as ever, to have confidence to take on wider roles on a more public stage.

Pat said...

Being a stay at home Mom is your choice, and I think it is a great one! Being a Mom is the most difficult job any woman will take on and when all is said and done, your results are what you leave this world! Personally, I chose to work outside the home...and that was my choice. My choice made me happy, so I had happy children; just as I am sure you do! Sacrifices are made for both choices...and if you are lucky enough to be able to choose, choose what makes YOU happy and your children will be happy too.

Sheena Louise Roetman said...

I'm painfully behind on your blog but I do want to chime in on one point you made, mostly because I have personal experience.

The only thing I would challenge in your post is that people who are paid to do housework/childcare/etc are marginalized or underpaid.

I've been a nanny for more than 10 years and when I earned my degree I quit nannying and went to work in the "real" world. I lasted two months because it was MISERABLE. I immediately returned to nannying, where I make three times as much as I did in an office and have an incredible amount of freedom and a high quality of life now. I absolutely LOVE my job and my life -- for the first time in my life I can say that I wake up with a smile on my face, excited for the day. The children I take care of are some of my best friends, and the challenges that come along with them are interesting and exciting for me.

The other thing (and I've been thinking about doing a blog post on this, so thank you for inspiring me!) is the idea that anyone who has a nanny is intentionally paying someone else to raise their children. I hear this ALL the time -- when people find out I'm a nanny they immediately assume that I hate it and that I dislike the parents because the parents are rich snobs who "shouldn't have even had kids if they're not going to take care of them," etc etc etc. (Not that that's what you're saying here, I just want to make a point.)

Absolutely, those people exist. But for the most part I have found that having a nanny join a family is to allow the parents to completely focus on their children. Both parents hold jobs in order to save/pay for school (both grammar school and college tuition), pay for camps and vacations, etc. (And also possibly the mother wanted children but also wanted to keep her very successful career -- why should she have to chose between the two if she can afford not to?) A nanny allows this but also can take care of shuffling the kids from sports, camps and other activities as well as running errands so that when mom and dad get home they don't have to worry about any of that -- they can hang out with their kids. A nanny also acts as a teacher, friend and caregiver to the children, which improves their world views.

Undoubtedly this type of nanny (nannies like me) cost a lot of money, not just to pay but even just to find. I know there are many people/families that DO take advantage of caregivers, but I think people would be surprised if they knew how lucrative and fulfilling these jobs actually can be.

Anyway, I've written a friggin' book here but I just wanted to say my piece!

Anonymous said...

Sheena, your post is interesting but doesn't take into account that structurally the work of the nanny must be valued less than the outside-the-home work of the parent, in order for the parent to be able to earn enough to support the family and pay for the nanny.

FH: Wouldn't a feminism predicated upon equality have the man and the woman as full-on co-parents who both work half time outside the home, so that both share the joys (drudgery) of both realms?

mJoyelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amelia Hall said...

Regarding anonymous' question to FH …

I don't know that it's fair to place the onus of enacting equality on individual families. The wage gap is a well-known fact, and many theorists have suggested that there also exists a motherhood penalty that is made manifest by, among other things, mothers having fewer financially promising career options. It isn't exactly an equitable working sphere that the mother enters into. So it might not make sense pragmatically—even if it makes complete sense theoretically—for a mother and a father to spend equal amounts of time working in and outside of the home. The idea of equality is of course noble, but maybe its motivational force fades next to the reality of wage inequality.

Anonymous said...

Anon back again. I never meant to put the onus of structural inequality on an individual family. My question was put to FH to request a politicization of the personal. Was the decision all about the wage gap, (which is after all in America today narrower for heterosexual white women with college education than for many men of color)?

kait said...

I stumbled on your blog after seeing some adorable posts on Pinterest (newest follower to both!) and was intrigued by the name. Not going to lie, a concern was that you may say “Feminist” then not address that aspect. Thank you for proving me wrong and especially thank you for this heartfelt post!

The general public needs, needs, needs to see more of this *especially* women. It is beyond infuriating to hear women say they’re not a feminist for one reason or another when everything else indicates they actually are. Just the other day I read an interview with Kelly Clarkson in Time Magazine and came across this gem of a remark: “I wouldn’t say [I'm a] feminist, that’s too strong. I think when people hear feminist it’s just like, ‘Get out of my way I don’t need anyone.” I wanted to cry.

Thank you for setting the record straight on feminism and clearly stating it is independent from one’s hobbies or household activities; rather feminism is about equality and empowerment.

Very sincerely,
A new fan