reappropriate

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Women as "Domestic Appliances"?

I don't follow Indy racing. I just don't see the appeal. If I wanted to watch people drive around in circles, I'd take a wheel off of a bunch of kids' tricycles and sit back to watch the breathtaking, edge-of-your-seat action. But, I will admit this: Indy racing is a great arena for seeing exactly how middle America feels about social issues. Gender issues abound when it comes to Indy racing; anyone remember those old Coca-Cola commercials of last year which basically suggested that the increase in female attendance at Indy racing events is due to their uncontrollable hormones, and they're only there to go ga-ga for the guys behind the wheel. It's hardly surprising that I might suggest Indy racing is just a wee bit of a sexist sport. After all, why are the drivers predominantly male? Do you need testicles and a penis to operate a driveshaft? Do the breasts somehow get in the way of the seatbelt? Someone, please, do tell. CNN reports today that one of the few female Indy drivers, Danica Patrick, who recently made headlines for coming in first in some race (a woman? without a penis? operating the driveshaft?!? Armageddon's upon us...) was subject to some interesting (re: ridiculously, laughably sexist) comments by some important racing guy called Bernie Ecclestone. Apparently, in a private phone conversation and a public press interview last week, he made this remark:

"Women should be all dressed in white like all other domestic appliances."
Excuse me? Is this guy out of his mind? What decade is this? But then again, it's not like this guy is completely out of left-field. He's certainly a mysoginistic asswipe if he honestly thinks that women belong in a kitchen seated primly next to the blender, doing their womanly domestic work, but it's not as if he alone perpetuates those ridiculous gender roles for women. As much as I would punt this guy as soon as look at him if he tried to make such a statement to me, I have greater animousity towards women who feel the same way. Recently, I was perusing conservative blogger, La Shawn Barber's, domain when I happened upon this post: Traditionally Yours. In it, Ms. Barber makes the following statement about her girlish hopes and dreams:

The kind of man I’d marry would want his wife to stay home and raise his children instead committing them to the institutionalized “care” of people who couldn’t possibly care for them as much as I could or know them half as well, while he works outside the home. My roles would be godly wife, partner, homemaker, teacher (for home schooling), and whatever else God assigned. If I expect my husband to be the main breadwinner, he’ll have certain expectations of me.

As much as I can't stand what I interpret as Ms. Barber (and her conservative pundit compatriots') hatemongering and inaccurate viewpoints, I have to respect Ms. Barber's latest endeavour into independence. Ms. Barber records in her blog that she recently quit her job and started her own business, and at the age of 30 has managed to maintain a fully independent lifestyle in which she needs no man to groom her and keep her. While I'm not saying all women should be working women, or that being a stay-at-home mom is somehow an antithesis to feminism, I do have great respect for strong, outspoken women who don't need a spouse to care for her. I find it impossible, then that a woman in a position to care for herself, could state that her life's goal is to find a man to care for her. Sure, she has proven to whomever is listening that she doesn't need a man to care for her, but she is also saying that she wants to essentially become his "domestic appliance". How is her mindset any different from that of generations ago in which the hard-working breadwinner would get himself a little demure wifey to have a plate of food ready for him when he got home? A wifey eager, no, neurotic, about keeping the house clean for her man? The wifey whose only purpose is to cook, clean, care but who has little brains for anything else? If financial or domestic circumstances require a parent to stay-at-home, that's one thing, but going into a relationship offering yourself up from the get-go as a glorified maid leaves little room for your future "partner" to think of you as little more than that. Now the context of that delightful little throwback to the pre-suffrage era is an article by Darryl James entitled THE BRIDGE: Chivalry & Tradition--A Black Perspective in which James basically argues chivalry can exist in a world with feminism, and that treating womanhood with respect is not only traditional in African American communities, but does not in any way devolve a woman down to a "domestic appliance". Yet, James also argues that for chilvalry to continue to exist, a woman who wants a chivalrous man must also be chivalrous.
For every woman who claims to want a man who is old fashioned, the question has to be asked whether or not she can actually cook a meal and whether she is actually willing to invite a man over to her home for a home cooked meal. Old-fashioned women could cook as well as clean, even as feminism was evolving.  Remember the commercial message of empowerment from the eighties?  It went something like this: "I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan, 'cause I'm a woman…" The point is that we cannot be one-sided or revisionist when it comes to tradition and being old fashioned.
James' argument is sound, but only in the reverse of what his overall conclusion is. Modern-day feminists who still appreciate chivalry must realize that by wanting men to pamper you, you are giving up the strength and independence you supposedly herald. You simply cannot have chivalry without a degree of mysoginy -- treating women as fragile porcelain dolls incapable of even opening a door let alone think for themselves cannot coexist with a movement based around gender equality. And besides, James' hearkening back to tradition seems to really forget exactly how women were treated back then -- sometimes tradition exists only to be broken. With women like Ms. Barber and men like Mr. James not only putzing around but expressing a viewpoint in which a sizable portion of America agrees with and lauds, then is there any wonder that someone like Mr. Ecclestone would make a comment about women as domestic appliances? Sure, he may think a woman looks best in the kitchen, but women like Ms. Barber, are giving him ample reason to.

24 Comments:

Blogger James said...

Excellent post, Jenn. I completely concur that the embrace of stratified gender roles by professional citizens of both genders create a sexual dynamic that encourages sexist rhetoric. My suggestion: put LaShawn Barber in a Indy Car and have her race Michelle Malkin for the crown of most overrated minority female conservative in America.

Seriously, we could sell tickets. If Barber can't discern the obvious confusion with wanting to be a man's doormat and existing as a professional business owner, may her God help her, because I can't. I'm just glad all women aren't so touched in the head.

6/23/2005 10:54:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Ok, no. No. I read LaShawn Barber's post. That woman is the reason most men have no problem with the American wage gap.

Wanting to be nothing more than a wife and mother is as limiting as it is disgusting. Whatever happened to using one's mind and talents to achieve one's dreams?

I'm so glad you aren't like this Jenn.

6/24/2005 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

James said: "I'm so glad you aren't like this Jenn."

how do you know?

seriously, i don't want to come down as saying that all stay-at-home moms are somehow anti-feminist though. i think there's a distinction between being a stay-at-home parent and desiring to be nothing else. sometimes circumstances force a parent to stay home, sometimes it just is easier -- the problem i had with barber's post is that she seems to be describing it not as something she would be willing to do but as some sort of life's ambition...

6/24/2005 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger Karlos said...

hold up... what's wrong with parenting as a life's ambition? My mom was a stay-at-home parent when my sister and I were younger. My dad was out starting a company, and still feels guilty for having missed so much of our lives.

I'd be cool with being a stay-at-home dad. How is sitting in a cubicle typing code more important than raising the next generation? I'm not supporting the antiquated notion that that's the only goal a woman should have, but if that's what someone decides to do with their life... well, what better shit are we doing with ours? Besides, as J pointed out on his blog, there are precious few people who know how to do it anymore.

I can see a woman being wary of that path for the same reason James won't buy watermelon, but there's nothing wrong with watermelon (or cornbread - "ain't nuttin wrong wit dat!" ;-).

6/24/2005 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

I was gonna type up a response to K, but it's right here in the post:

"If financial or domestic circumstances require a parent to stay-at-home, that's one thing, but going into a relationship offering yourself up from the get-go as a glorified maid leaves little room for your future "partner" to think of you as little more than that."

If you walk up to a guy and say "hey, let me cook for you, clean for you, pop out children for you, that's all I want to do for you..." why should he regard you as anything more than a toaster?

This was the role that men enforced upon women to keep them docile, submissive, and little better than a dumb pet. I don't believe that thinking your life is complete if only you could cater to a man could in any way coexist with any ideal of feminism -- it's too much like a person voluntarily becoming a slave, a coolie or a shuckin' and jivin' stereotype.

The fact is that America is a capitalist society in which money greases the wheels. Too many domestic abuse situations revolve around one partner controlling the other through economic means for me to believe that there's no level of ownership involved when one partner is the breadwinner and the other yearns to be kept.

Your mom may have been a stay-at-home parent, but was this her life's ambition? If so, do you think anything excuses her from the possibility that she could be subject to criticism by feminists?

6/24/2005 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

(incidentally, i'm still making the distinction between those who are homemakers out of circumstance and those who believe their life's goal is to be a homemaker. if a woman meets a rich man in college and marries him, that's circumstance, if a woman goes to college ONLY TO meet a man, that's far more insidious)

6/24/2005 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

The problem for me starts when women with obvious intellectual and other economically viable gifts so desire marital bliss and the safety of traditional gender roles that they forsake the logical use of their ambition and talents for stay-at-home parenting, and then call it not only a virtue, but the highest expression of womanhood possible. Both elements are present in Ms. Barber's statements.

That's the problem for me; when the desire for the stereotype is defended as the highest virtue for the particular demographic, forsaking all others, even when the rest of the society misuses those who spend their lives fulfilling the best examples of the stereotypes' positive aspects.

It's not an exact carbon-copy, but it's similar to any African American NBA players who believe that their expert ball handling is the highest moral example of modern American blackness.

That may sound absurd, but if any of them felt that way, and spoke publically about how other Black people who become professors or businessmen or scientists were not 'authentically Black', you'd have a similar situation to Ms. Barber's pronouncements.

We need great parents in our society. Your mom, K, is a great example of what this society needs; a woman who not only makes her own choices, but also supports the other choices of women like your sister, who's going to be an excellent lawyer very soon. (And will hopefully take any of my politically motivated cases pro bono!)

6/24/2005 11:30:00 AM  
Anonymous different anonymous said...

Jenn, I can't help but feel that you are missing a strong and evident point when you say that it is wrong for women to aspire to be stay-at-home mothers.

In the case of Ms. Barber (I haven't read anything beyond this post, and the comments) she has shown that she is perfectly capable of sustaining herself, financially; she would simply prefer to stay at home and raise (and school, let's not forget!) the children.

I thought that the ultimate goal was to give women (and men) the freedom to choose their path in life, and not to be restricted in their choice of day-to-day occupation. If a woman's choice is to be stay at home and raise the children, is that necessarily wrong?

Yes, it's wrong if the woman has grown up not realizing that such is not her only choice; yes it's wrong if that choice is imposed on her, be it through power dynamics, guilt or what-have you. But it shouldn't be wrong if she makes that decision with open eyes.

In fact, the more unfortunate circumstance is if a woman is forced into that role "out of circumstance," as you put it. Much better that she be a stay-at-home mother as her true choice in life...

(As for the problem that James points out of women extolling this as "the highest expression of womanhood possible," I agree: this is as bad as ANY situation in which all members of one group are told that they must make one choice, or behave one way, or risk being deemed inferior.)

6/24/2005 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger Karlos said...

Jenn,

1) My mom *is* a feminist, but nothing "excuses" anyone from criticism by anyone else - that's a ridiculous question, and you, of all people, should know that.

2) The most important thing in my mom's life was raising her children - not cleaning, cooking, and generally being an appliance for a man (if cleaning a house and preparing your spouse's dinner is the extent of your life's ambition, then yeah, I think that's pretty sad).

3) You seem to be talking about raising children as a sort of side-dish to the main course of being a domestic servant. I guess my next question to you is: When you say you have a problem with "describing [being a stay-at-home parent]... as some sort of life's ambition," do you mean to use "stay-at-home parent" as a synonym for "domestic slave" or do you really think that a person's life ambition should involve making money?


James,

1) I don't think raising children is the highest virtue for a particular demographic; I think it's a pretty high virtue for anyone, if they can do it right.

2) Sorry, man, my sister wouldn't even defend *me* pro-bono; she'll be like, "I'm gettin' PAID, muthafucka!"

6/24/2005 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Karlos said...

well said, different anonymous (you might want to work on the name, though; it keeps evoking images for me of a masked crime-fighter, wearing a big cape with "d.a." stitched on it ;-)

6/24/2005 12:49:00 PM  
Anonymous different anonymous said...

I don't know... "different anonymous" is growing on me. Any other name I'd use would be too generic to be anything beyond anonymous anyway. Besides -- this is sort of my name now, given that I'm using it even before any anonymous commenters join the discussion.

(And there must be some deep politico-philosophical significance to the name "different anonymous". I'll get back to you when I figure out what it is.)

6/24/2005 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Hi Diff. Anon! Good to hear from you. I gotta say, my problem with the Barber complex (women aspiring to be stay-at-home moms, on their own volition) is that no one knows how influenced her desire is by living in a patriarchal society that doesn't value women's labor at all. If a woman's desire to be a homemaker only "shouldn't be wrong if she makes that decision with open eyes," then an outside observer would have to be convinced of her openness to all professional possibilities, which isn't possible.

A woman who desires stay-at-home motherhood while her male spouse works as the major breadwinner may not be displaying free choice in that respect, simply because of the pervasiveness of traditional gender roles in this society. She's been socialized like everyone else to believe that womanly virtue equals chaste matrimony and motherhood, without exhibiting her own labor outside the home.

How free is her choice if she chooses to exude society's most damaging expectation? I don't call that freedom at all. Tim Duncan is an amazing basketball player, but I won't pretend that the NBA doesn't remind me of an indoor plantation.

6/24/2005 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger Karlos said...

"If a woman's desire to be a homemaker only 'shouldn't be wrong if she makes that decision with open eyes,' then an outside observer would have to be convinced of her openness to all professional possibilities, which isn't possible."

J, I think you just proved that we, as observers, can't be *certain* a female who stays at home to raise her children isn't a symptom of our society's misogyny, which, while true, is kinda pointless. How can an outside observer be convinced that your relationship with Jenn isn't a result of your being bombarded with the hypersexualized Asian female stereotype and her with the mandingo warrior stereotype?

Fuck the outside observer.

btw, man, "Barber complex?" Good way to belittle stay-at-home parents. Shall we call any black man's desire to become successful in the corporate world a "Pierre Delacroix complex?" Attaching a specific name to a general concept is always going to turn the details from the specific instance into connotations on the general, which usually don't hold true across the board. It's cute and convenient, but basically, it's stereotyping.

6/24/2005 01:31:00 PM  
Anonymous different anonymous said...

By your argument, James, the burden of proof lies with the woman to justify and explain her choice to society-at-large, whose prerogative it is, then, to judge her the victim of gender roles in the mean time.

Granted, traditional gender roles are still too ubiquitous, and are not questioned nearly often enough. But I don't feel that one is accomplishing anything by way of a solution (or even a partial solution) by assuming that all who choose to stay at home with the kids (if they are women) are brainwashed, and therefore unable to come to a proper decision. That just seems like another path to taking away (or at least, limiting) a woman's decision to choose her own career.

6/24/2005 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

"J, I think you just proved that we, as observers, can't be *certain* a female who stays at home to raise her children isn't a symptom of our society's misogyny, which, while true, is kinda pointless. How can an outside observer be convinced that your relationship with Jenn isn't a result of your being bombarded with the hypersexualized Asian female stereotype and her with the mandingo warrior stereotype?"

you can't. i'm never surprised when someone accuses me of it. they are within their rights to do so and i am within my rights to argue with them.

... the rest of this stuff i haven't read yet. but k, i will say this: you can be a self-identified feminist and live a life that is in some ways counter to the ideals feminism movement. otherwise, you're basically arguing that every activist is a) socially or morally unimpeachable and is always aware of every action on a racial, sexual, oppression level and b) every feminist is basically the same. Neither of those are true.

6/24/2005 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Diff. Anonymous said:
"In the case of Ms. Barber (I haven't read anything beyond this post, and the comments) she has shown that she is perfectly capable of sustaining herself, financially; she would simply prefer to stay at home and raise (and school, let's not forget!) the children."

Diff. Anonymous -- I suppose therein lies the difference. When Ms. Barber extolls her choice in the way she does, she uses it not as a simple expression of her hopes and dreams but also as an attack on feminism. She does highlight the era of women's rights as an end to womanhood. However, her post and blog are linked; I am a semi-regular reader of her stuff and I suggest you check out her entire post before judging me.

Is there a choice? Sure. But do you expect a person who recently pulled themselves out of poverty to extoll the virtues of a rich person choosing to live unemployed and on welfare? To me, it's like that -- voluntary indentured servitude and oppression with the added caveat that what a woman like Ms. Barber extolls affects my ability to choose a path as a careerwoman because of men like Mr. Ecclestone who see Ms. Barber as a justification to continue to refer to women as "domestic appliances" and apply that belief to women like me.

6/24/2005 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

oh... one more thing D.A. -- there is a difference between trying to give people choice and agreeing with every choice they make. Pro-choice and anti-abortion can be mutually exclusive. I believe that every woman has the right to choose to do whatever she wants in her life -- but that doesn't mean I can't criticize her for making a choice with distasteful gender politics connotations.

6/24/2005 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Karlos said...

Ooh, quote-responding marathon:

1) "you can't."

it was a rhetorical question, but yes, precisely.

2) "i'm never surprised when someone accuses me of it. they are within their rights to do so and i am within my rights to argue with them."

They're within they're rights to think it, but personally, I take that as a sign that they're a person who's not worth your time/energy. Fuck 'em. If you enjoy arguing with them, have at, but you're not gonna change their minds (people sometimes make the mistake of thinking that's what arguing is for, but it's not).

3) "... the rest of this stuff i haven't read yet. but k, i will say this: you can be a self-identified feminist and live a life that is in some ways counter to the ideals [of the?] feminism movement. otherwise, you're basically arguing that every activist is a) socially or morally unimpeachable and is always aware of every action on a racial, sexual, oppression level and b) every feminist is basically the same. Neither of those are true."

I can only guess that you're trying to respond to my statement about my mom, but if anything, my clarifying that my mom *is* a feminist only serves to prove that not all feminists are the same (since some other feminists seem to think there's something inherently wrong about the very lifestyle she chose). Point was, she's not a person who would choose to stay home because she wanted to serve a man - not that she had a membership card and feministic immunity.

4) "But do you expect a person who recently pulled themselves out of poverty to extoll the virtues of a rich person choosing to live unemployed and on welfare?"

I wouldn't expect them to "extoll the virtues," but I still think they're risking making an ass of themself by judging someone else's life.

6/24/2005 02:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Kaede said...

FYI Ecclestone is well known in these parts for getting himself into verbal scrapes...it's called the 'open mouth, insert foot' syndrome.

For those who don't know - he's the leader (president, CEO whatever you wanna call it) of the Formula 1 circuit and runs that sort of thing here and in Europe. I'm not sure of all the whatsits, but yeah, that's sorta what he does. He's been known to get into trouble about all sorts of things, most recently their insistence on allowing tobacco advertising on racetracks. Even going so far as to de-certify (or whatever) the Canadian Grand-Prix for not allowing cigarette adverts...That's been sorted now or so it seems (altho there may have been more to it than the cigarette advert issue...) but yeah...he's not exactly the most...liked person in Europe right about now....

6/24/2005 07:09:00 PM  
Anonymous tekanji said...

I'm jumping a little bit late into the discussion, but I have to say that I was a bit shocked and disappointed by the tone of the article. Jenn, I've come to think of you as a "middle ground" type person, someone who (without compromising her own morals) tries to see things from both sides and find an acceptable solution for everyone. I don't understand why you would make some of these sweeping judgements about people who want to be stay-at-home parents or homemakers.

Now, I can understand fighting hard to give people a true choice in what they want to do with their lives. I understand that, right now, domestic labour is de-valued and, in many cases, can make a woman into nothing more than a domestic slave. However, I don't think the solution is to further degrade that labour but to show society how valuable it is. To show society that "womanly" things are just as good as "manly" things.

Not everyone wants to aspire to a male-normative life. Some people, women and men, want to raise a family and keep their home functioning properly. Homemakers, unlike the stereotype, don't sit on their asses all day eating bonbons and watching soap operas. They do work: they can clean, they can cook, they can garden, they can decorate, they can be in charge of the finances, they can have time to have hobbies that they enjoy, if there are children around they can take care of them, too. Society is built not only by the breadwinners, but also on the backs of people (historically women) who have kept the less visible parts running smoothly. These are people who have given all their time to making sure the people around them are healthy, happy, and in good order. These are people who have sacrificed much of themselves in order to benefit their families. Desiring to be a homemaker is, for many people, about loving one’s family above everything and wanting to be the domestic backbone that keeps things going.

Saying that these people have no ambition, degrading the valuable work they do… that’s what’s been done to them for ages. That, not their wanting to stick to domestic life, has been the tool for abusers to exercise their control: calling their valuable labour worthless is calling them worthless for wanting to do that labour. And that, I’m sorry to say, is an anti-feminist value. To work for equality, we need to see the value in the traditionally feminine and not just try to make everyone into “men”.

6/25/2005 02:41:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

tekanji,

Jenn said at the beginning of this discussion,

"seriously, i don't want to come down as saying that all stay-at-home moms are somehow anti-feminist though. i think there's a distinction between being a stay-at-home parent and desiring to be nothing else."

Jenn hasn't denigrated stay-at-home parenting in any sense. If anyone has, it's me. And I have no problem with it.

At the end of the day, traditionally women's work can not be 'reinterpreted' as feminist, especially after generations where men have forced women into the homemaker role in order to control them.

So-called 'male-normative' activities are never going to be seen as equally important as so-called 'female-normative' activites in a misogynistic, patriarchal society. It's still a man's world.

The 'traditionally feminine' realm of housework as a life's vocation, while utterly necessary, is too historically saturated with female oppression to be changed into a feminst virtue. Hell, Americans can't reclaim the 'n-word' as a term of endearment without disrespecting all of Black America no matter how often rappers attempt it.

It's not trying to turn women into men to suggest that active, intelligent women like LaShawn Barber should aspire to more than honorable subservience to a man's needs and desires.

If Ms. Barber expects a man to be the main breadwinner, she expect him to have majority control over their lives (she only consumes, while he produces and consumes). Seriously, when a fellow Black person like Ms. Barber speaks with such eloquence about wanting to be a man's "godly wife, partner, homemaker" without working for her own money, I wonder how the house negro imagery escapes her.

6/25/2005 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

Karlos and D.A., I think the disconnect we have in this discussion occurs because of personal reflection over societal typecasting. No, it's not another privilege argument, but I do believe that real danger in the Barber complex is that regardless of motive, Ms. Barber desires to place herself into an inferior position in relation to a man, and I can't perceive how that desire makes her in any sense feminist.

When people fulfill society's expectations of them, knowing that that fulfillment makes them less important and/or controlled by the society (and other people) I do not see how the person has committed an empowering act.

Societal admiration of motherhood and child-rearing does not alter the dangerous power dynamics assumed by people like Ms. Barber. It's absurd (to me and me alone) that a opinionated woman and small business owner like Ms. Barber would want to give up everything (especially her individual buying power) to be a Mom.

What's more absurd is that those of us who could not ever face such extreme societal pressure to sublimate ourselves to other people as an element of gender virtue (read: men) wish to support Ms. Barber's psychosis in varying ways because to speak against it sounds too close to dissing our own mothers.

No one is speaking against women who are stay-at-home mothers; no one is denigrating their sacrifices by critiquing the desire to do only that.

But those of us who are privileged enough to reasonable never have to make the choice should think twice about the supposed feminist benefit of the 1950's style homemaker.

6/25/2005 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

tekanji, i'm sorry that you are disappointed as i greatly value your contributions to this blog. my criticism of those who desire to be subservient to men is a reaction to the fact that women have long been oppressed as domestic servants -- while I do believe that choice is most important, I cannot fully accept or applaud a choice I feel is tantamount to voluntary servitude, primarily because women who parade domesticity as their own life's ambition usually do so specifically to tear down choice.

I'm thinking of the Phyllis Schlaffleys of the world, of the La Shawn Barbers who point to my choice as suspect, and who are ignorant or uncaring of how their choices lead men to conclude that my choice is invalid.

Again, as I tried to distinguish in this post, I'm not coming down on stay-at-home moms. As a choice, itself, it's not one I would choose, but any other woman who exercises her choice and comes up with becoming a wife and mother is fine (especially given that there are many circumstances under which such a choice is understandable and indeed the most practical) -- what I have a problem with is women who tout this as the epitome of womanly virtue, and who make such a choice without realizing how they may be helping the perception of women as domestic appliances.

If you realize you'll be playing into a stereotype and do it anyways, (and preach that all other women should do the same by using your choice to tear down the feminist movement) then more power to you, but then don't be surprised if I or other feminists get a wee bit upset.

6/26/2005 01:02:00 PM  
Anonymous tekanji said...

James, I don't have the time to give a good response to your post right now. Unfortunately, I'm packing up my apartment (I need to be out by Friday) and that's my priority right now. If you're willing to wait until next week, I promise I can get into a good discussion on this with you (perhaps even with cited sources, yay!).

Jenn, I most heartily agree with you on this point:
what I have a problem with is women who tout this as the epitome of womanly virtue, and who make such a choice without realizing how they may be helping the perception of women as domestic appliances.

But, really, that just goes back to the whole choice thing. Forcing one's desires onto another person – whether it be touting homemaking/being a stay-at-home-mom as the "epitome of womanly virtue" or espousing the view that all women (and men) should want to have a career outside the home – is what I'm against.

People should have the right to pursue the course in life that they desire without shame (assuming it isn't killing people or something like that). What got my goat, I think, was that the line I originally saw you drawing was between women who were working in the home because of convenience and women who wanted to work there. I disagree with that line; I think that either woman could be a feminist. It's the "my choice is the only right choice" camp that I feel espouses anti-feminist views. Like you said, the ones who use their choice to make yours/others look suspect.

But, speaking of playing into stereotypes, I have another personal anecdote. I have a friend who is overall feminist in thought/action, but she doesn't identify as feminist and has a generally negative impression of feminism (despite her having known me since high school). One of the reasons she has a negative impression is because her goal is to eventually be a stay-at-home mom. She loves kids; when she was younger she did some nannying and she realized that she loved taking care of kids, too. She also loves a lot of domestic things; she loves to cook, to decorate her house, etc. For her, her services inside the home would be just as valuable as her potential husband’s services outside of it. This isn’t a woman who dreams of being a “servant” to her husband, but she sees the value of domestic labour and wants a husband that does too. Because of this, she has been given hell by some feminists. I believe that their actions were highly anti-feminist because they were shaming her because of her choice. She has never degraded other people’s choices in this way, in fact, she has always encouraged me in my dreams to be in the video game industry and when I told her that I am childfree (I don’t ever want kids) she was inquisitive but entirely supportive. She knows that her dreams are not right for everyone and she respects their right to be who they want to be. In this situation, who’s espousing a feminist viewpoint, her (the non-feminist) or the feminists who degraded her and her choice?

I’ve actually written a short piece on this (using parts of my original comment) for July’s Shrub.com article. It’ll be up sometime early July, although I can’t promise it’ll be up on the first because of the moving situation. I truly believe that this issue is a core feminist value and is wrapped up in the discussion of forced choice versus real choice.

6/27/2005 04:12:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home