I’m not even close to being a mom yet, but the mommy wars are starting to piss me off. Mostly… the side against the mommies.
Okay… I realize that title is totally incendiary and unfair. But in this article from Slate, Meghan O’Rourke discusses Linda Hirshman’s idea that stay-at-home moms are doing feminism a disservice by making the choice to stay at home. Hirshman argues that whenever women choose to “opt out” of work in favor of bringing up children, she’s reinforcing social inequality.
I don’t even have kids, and Ryan and I have discussed the idea of him being a stay-at-home dad because… well, he’s just better at taking care of the house, and actually likes the idea of being the one to take care of the kids. (Take that, social inequality!) But had we chosen the other way, I don’t think that we would have been doing it because of millenia of women taking care of children. We would have done it because it was the choice for us.
Isn’t half of the feminist battle to be in a position to make a choice to begin with? If that choice just happens to be nurture over venture, does that make us wrong? It pisses me off, frankly, that this woman says we should have to work just because we can. Can we not also have children? Men can’t do that. I know that not every woman wants to have children, but are they making that choice so they can work? Hirshman believes that “choice feminism” is dangerous. But I think that if some women aren’t the ones who want to go to the top of the company or the head of the table, that just means they don’t want to fight in someone else’s war.
Perhaps it’s my intrinsically lazy nature that is getting all fluffed up here. Just the fact that Hirshman’s book is titled Get To Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World hacks me off. Who is she to tell me to get to work? The only reason I work is because I have bills to pay, not because I have some agenda. I realize that were it not for feminism, women would not have much of an opportunity to work. But on the other hand, were it not for a bunch of angry dudes in Europe, women wouldn’t have to work at all. (Thanks, WWII!) And were it not for a bunch of stupid dudes (thanks, old white guy politicians!), the one-income household would still be a reality, rather than an idle dream.
I don’t agree with Hirshman, but that doesn’t mean that I hate women or I think they should be relegated to the kitchen or that I want all women to stay home with their babies. I don’t agree with all liberals, all left-handed people, all Lutherans, all Texans, all people with freckles. That doesn’t mean that I identify with them any less.
In another article written in response to Hirshman’s Manifesto, Emily Bazelon asserts that Hirshman gets Betty Friedan all wrong. Bazelon writes that while Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique tells women to get to work, her later writings celebrated the choices that women had, whether she chose to get to work or get her kids into the bathtub. My favorite line out of Bazelon’s article: “Rather than being faithful to Friedan’s legacy, Hirshman is cherry-picking it.”
I’m not arguing in favor of us going back to the ’50s, where it was unheard of for women to work. I like going to work, I like having something to do. But I think that if I made the choice, I would be just as fulfilled being a stay-at-home mom. And I am perfectly happy being the working mom with a stay-at-home dad. But I can tell you that for Ryan and I, living on one income while the other stays home with the kids – regardless of which one of us it is – would be a dream come true.