how sexist are feminists?

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.

What?

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.

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2 responses to “how sexist are feminists?

  1. right on. the sad fact is, that some one has to stay at home with the kids. I guess one could send them off to daycare, but family is much better than strangers. It really doesn’t matter if it is a man or a woman.

    The thing that has always interested me about the feminist movement (and I am a guy, so already I am biased and out of touch with the situation) is that they strive hard to be equal in a man’s universe. Let me qualify: outside right to work, and vote, and equal pay and all that, there seems a drive to actually be like a man, ie. less nuturing, more cut throat and agressive. You kind of see this in politics and business. It seems that it might be better to produce some sort of feminist identiy outside the idnentity of male, that has equal standing and importance in society. Of course this wouldn’t be a hard and fast division that didn’t allow flow back and forth. After all, gender is a construct. This seems to be where all this negative feedback towards stay at home moms comes from, that if women are going to be equal with men, then they can’t settle for staying at home. But this seems to give men a lot of the power at determining what is of value and what isn’t

  2. I agree with everything you’ve said. Paul and I have also talked about him being a stay at home dad and going to night school for his master’s and phd. He didn’t really think much of that, but it’s also because we have to be two income, living in Houston and all. Unless one of us can make 60-70K a year, we will both always work. I would love to stay home for the first 3 years and then go back to work. I am a lot like my mom in this way because she is a work-a-holic. And, she always worked when I was little. So, maybe that’s why I want to be a two income family. I don’t know though…I agree with Gary that having family take care of your children is so much better than strangers at a day care. I know a few really good church day cares around town, but they are SO EXPENSIVE!! I told my mom she has to retire so that she can keep our kids. We don’t plan to have them for at least 5 years, but still.

    About the feminism stuff. I can’t believe that author said that stuff. How can you force a woman to work. I have a few cousins (I think three) that are stay at home moms, and they have AMAZING children. They are well behaved and respectful of adults. Kids that grow up in a day care because both parents work usually do not mature as quickly, and they are sometimes starved for attention.

    So, yeah, that’s my two cents.

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