...In a Place Like This?


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October 16
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APRIL 16, 2012 11:50AM

A View from a Stay-at-Home Feminist

Rate: 22 Flag

"A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle"

Irina Dunn

venus mars



This little phrase just about put me off the women's movement when I first heard my mother discussing it with some of her hipper friends in the 70's. None of the women in question were what pased for a feminist those days, but they were thinking about it.

I wasn't even 10 years old yet and I was thinking about it. I had eyes. I could see the Betty Drapers in the neighborhood and their lives were not appealing. I could read pretty well and was sneaking peeks at articles in my mom's Redbook and Cosmo and keeping my ears pricked when she spoke with other women.

 My father had a lot to say about feminists. They ranked up there with communists. This made them all the more interesting to me. My mother wasn't “allowed” to hang out with her hipper friends after they got more serious about the “feminist thing”. This seemed wrong, even to a pre-teenage girl. My dad was probably the biggest influence on my own emancipation, albeit a negative one.

 Later I caught up reading Germaine Greer, Betty Friedan, Mary Wollstonecraft (because I was an English Lit. major), Margaret Atwood and the like. I could go along with a lot of it, equal rights, equal pay, equal status, pro-choice yeah!, but I couldn't go hardcore and speak in only gender-neutral terms or (God forbid) eschew men.

 The truth: I like men, all kinds of men. I adore the alpha male strong, silent type. Guys with beards make me weak in the knees, add a hairy chest and I'm in heaven, no boyzillians or clean-shaven legs for me please, but if that floats your boat, ok. A deep, gruff voice and a working knowledge of the internal combustion engine or electronics will send me, but that's because I'm an idiot when it comes to that stuff. I have girlfriends who are ace with engines, electronics and power tools and I appreciate them too, as they appreciate my talents as a mixologist, and organizational skills, but its not the same kind of attraction. I like the cocky boys on the football pitch, the wisdom behind the clear blue eyes of my friend, Lucas, who is no oil painting, but attractive nonetheless, the biker dad who brings his daughters to ballet class, Jan-the-dowser who found me a well in the backyard, The Big Man, The Prince of Darkness, Uncle Hardrock, Cousin Wessel, my sons' friends who mob my kitchen in the late afternoon, eating me out of house and home and making plans for the future...

 I can enjoy the irony of the male sense of entitlement as long as they don't get patronizing and start calling me “sweetie” and as long as they know that I know that sense of entitlement is just an illusion and we're both having fun. Oh come on, I can slay my own dragons, but it makes FOTI happy to slay dragons while I watch on the sidelines and cheer him on. On the other hand, he's been known to take care of business with the threat, “Look, we can solve this issue between the two of us, or you could speak to my wife, and I can assure you, if that happens you'll wish you'd dealt with me.”

The women's movement brought nothing if not choice. Women are no longer doomed to being or wanting to be Betty Draper.

 A friend once asked me if I could call myself a feminist being that I am financially dependent on my husband. I made the choice to stop working when his career took off and the first Imp came along. Due to the nature of his work, we would have had no family life whatsoever if I had a regular job too. We tried for the first 18 months post-Imp; it was almost the end of our marriage. I couldn't see taking a job in a shop for a few hours a week just to say I was contributing to our family finances when there are other people who could use the income from that job more than I.

Stay-at-home mom? I dunno. I'm not in Ann Romney's bracket, but staying at home is something I've never done except when the Imps were very little. My days are filled with volunteer work and any number of creative pursuits. I'd never say that staying at home is ideal, nor would I say that a woman needs to work outside the home purely for her own good and feminist street cred. You do what you have to do and hope for the best.

Motherhood is not a career, a job or a vocation. It just happens and you deal with it. Housekeeping is not a job if you're keeping your own house and not getting paid to do it. Then it is a chore and one I prefer to delegate, because, to paraphrase India Arie, “I am not my house.”

You'd think with all this choice around that the world is a woman's oyster. Theoretically it is. We can be or do anything we want to be or do.

In practice, not so much. There is a criminal pay gap between the sexes. Child-care is insufficiently available to promote financial independence of women who desire it, lawmakers are turning back the clock on a woman's right to choose to continue with a(n unwanted) pregnancy or not...Women are still objectified and judged on appearance rather than ability or, forgive the expression, content.

Part of the problem is that in being told we can “have it all”, we've lost the ability to make informed choices. Sometimes you really don't have to need that do it right away yesterday. Sometimes “good enough” is good enough.

Another part of the problem seems to lie with the fact that we forgot the men somewhere along the way. We women were all so busy emancipating ourselves that we haven't considered the male. What does it mean to be a man? What can men and women mean to each other? Where do we go from here?




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Excellent points raised here, V, that I must mull over. How cute that you call your children "imps." Rated.
I do love my Bonnie Raitt... talk about women's lib, she's among the top ten guitar players in the world... Great post... somebody has to track down those Imps when they go AWOL.
There's a lot to think about in here. I think you're right that "having it all" is part of the problem, as is not putting men in as part of the equation. Nice post.
Well said! I had a subscription to MS magazine but also love the boys. There is a middle ground for each of us and for all of us.
I used to mind listing my occupation as "housewife" on forms back in the day. Great post.
Excellent post. You said a lot of what I left unsaid in my post about motherhood. We're brewing some good stuff here. R.
We'll work something out, sweetie.
Excellent!!! I see the Editors agree. Congrats!
Here's the real problem when a woman "chooses" to opt out of the work force: More than half of marriages end in divorce. I have two women friends who were widowed and found themselves on their own. Women who have the luxury of choosing to stay home really need to make sure they are still skill building. Just in case.
I think you make some excellent points here. And congrats on the EP!
Thanks for all the comments!

Erica: They're both very tall, I'm going to have to come up with alternative nicknames soon. I've got one for Imp 1, but still working on one for Imp 2.

Toritto: You, signore are never boring.

Jmac: Bonnie Raitt is one of those singers/musicians you never weary of.

Jlsathre: Living as I do, in a house of men, they're always part of my equation. I refuse to think of them as "the enemy".

Asia: nice to see you here! It always comes down to searching for some middle ground.

Baltimore Aureole: agreed in part, but there are more jobs/professions where this is not the case.

Sarah: I either claim to be CEO of the ___family Enterprises or "writer of erotic literature" if I have to list an occupation.

Deborah: You've made me curious. Heading over to your place in a minute.

Seer: FOTI and I have always viewed our relationship as a team. He often tells me he couldn't do what he does without me managing the rest. GMOTI was a career woman, GFOTI held the fort at home way before John Lennon made it cool.

Chicken Maan: See I know you're being ironic as only a fine male specimen of poultry as yourself can be.

Mimetalker: Thank you!

Onislandtime: Agreed! Being wife of and mother of just doesn't cut it. A woman needs something that's her own, something she's good at outside the family.
Jennifer, thanks!
I think I was searching for a post like this, without fully knowing it. I've always considered myself a feminist - though not a totally extreme one. When I settled into my new life, I found that I was the one primarily doing homemaking stuff, and it kind of freaked me out. Finally, I've come to terms with it. As you point out here, it's something that happens and you deal with it. I'm not suppressed, oppressed or in any way unhappy. Thanks for being a voice for those of us who are in a sort of paradoxical category.
Yea, Yea, Yea for the EP. You so deserved it for this post. /r
Great story...and thanks for the link to Bonnie Raitt. There are some important concepts to ponder here, but I especially enjoyed your couple of paragraphs describing the attractiveness of the manly man. I wholeheartedly concur!
V,brilliant work..Meaningful questions that I had never thought of.."What does it mean to be a man? What can men and women mean to each other?"..And thank you for the excellent links...Rated..with glads for you being here!!!!!FΡ(meaning a friends ρick!!).
Alysa, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Can't claim to speak for everybody, but seems like its time to cease hostilities for a while and think about what we really want.

Christine, thank you! You are too kind.

SagCap: Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. :)

STATHI, Thanks for your FP!
Seer, I was fortunate in that I did find a man like that. I consider myself a feminist also, but I grew up in a traditional family and wanted to give that to my children. After my husband lost his job, I cobbled together a string of part time jobs and had an ebay business for 10 years, but I was always there when my kids came home from school, always there for the room parties and scouts.

I wish it were easier for families who want to do this to be able to. More flexible hours, better part-time options, etc would help.

My husband and I have a perfect partnership; it's always been a union of equals and we tend to divide tasks by who's better at something (or least revolted by it; I often play plumber but if there is an errant mouse needing disposal he's the man!)
A refreshing and welcome post!