Post # 32
@ Arachna: Re: your 2nd to last paragraph – I agree with your vision of how things would be in a perfect world, but how can we expect society to progress toward that goal to if women are afraid to choose to be a Stay-At-Home Mom because it’s “dangerous”? Isn’t a woman who would rather be a Stay-At-Home Mom but who feels like she must work outside the home for the sake of feminism just as oppressed as a woman who feels like she must live out the gendered role of being a Stay-At-Home Mom even though she doesn’t want to?
In my view, the ultimate goal is for work inside the home to be valued on the same scale as work outside of the home. Our society currently devalues the work of primary caregivers, which harms both women and men. I took a course on Feminist Legal Theory when I was in law school and the one of the forefronts of the feminist movement right now is trying to get the work of primary caregivers recognized as just as economically beneficial to our society as work outside of the home. If you had to replace a Stay-At-Home Mom with hired workers, what would you end up paying? It’s astounding, and some estimates are into the six figures. Does a Stay-At-Home Mom have the same social cache as a doctor, lawyer, engineer or other professional who makes six figures? Absolutely not. And therein lies the injustice.
Post # 33
@ Ms.E, I can’t answer for Arachna, but I think you raise fair points. For that woman, what I would personally advice her to be the Stay-At-Home Mom that she wants to be, but to engage it in a thoughtful way with her partner. In that sense, it is a lot like marriage or the wedding process we are all going through. Hear me out.
Taking on a traditionally gendered role, marriage itself, and the wedding are all things that are frought with patriarchal traditions and expectations. Chances are that if you go into any of them without examining the expectations and baggage, you will default to a patriarchal norm. Being a Stay-At-Home Mom seems like the hardest of the three to do in a feminist way, but it isn’t impossible. But it certainly starts with examination.
A few practical thoughts: decide what is important to you in the role, and give up the rest. Find a way to preserve financial independence, whether that means keeping career skills sharp through volunteering or even having your partner fund a trust for you. Demand respect and validation of your role in your family. Seek and prioritize personal fullfillment outside of your children and partner’s success (a MUST). Refuse to allow yourself to become isolated in the home. Maintain a presence in your community.
So, I think it is doable, it isn’t a betrayal of feminism, but it is hard work for both partners.
Post # 34
I agree with a lot of that. However I make a distinction between what is good for feminism and what is good for an individual woman. I have made decisions that are not feminist and are maybe bad for feminism as a whole because that was best for me. So I would never tell a woman who is happiest being a Stay-At-Home Mom and can afford it to not be one (though I would encourage her to devote time and effort to making sure she has an adult support network and participation in things like volunteering/charity for her mental health and happiness). I think every woman should prioritize her own happiness. However, I do think having many women being SAHMs is bad for feminism because I don’t think the end goal we both want can be achieved until there is more parity between SAHMs and SAHDs. The work you mention is great and important but I don’t think it has a chance of succeeding on its own – human beings are just not very progressive in that way – power is still a key thing and in today’s society money is power. Don’t get me wrong I think progress is being made and I hope to see a lot more in my lifetime.
I think being smarter than you would be a damn high bar.
Post # 35
@peanut and dragonfly – Personally empowering and politically or socially empowering are not the same thing.
Moreover, it is possible for a woman to make decisions that are not feminist. They may be best for her, for her family or her community but the fact that the choice to pursue a particular course of action is made by a person with two X chromosomes does not, ipso facto, render it feminist.
Post # 36
@Ms.E – I see your point, but would counter that, until we happen to live in a world where women are afraid to be SAHMs, that’s not a legitimate reason to encourage them to be more conscious and conscientious in considering whether or not their interests or talents are best served in devoting two decades of life to child-rearing.
Post # 37
@ teaandtoast, I think in some communities we’ve already reached that point. I’ve considered the idea of being a Stay-At-Home Mom when we eventually have kids, but I would be very hesitant to actually do it because of the flack I would take from my mother and my grandmother. So although they would be trying to promote my rights as a woman they would also be drawing from my right to make that choice as a person. Just food for thought.
Post # 38
@MichelleMyBell – Those communities, I would hazard, are in the minority. Nor is personal discomfort equivalent to having one’s life choices circumscribed by a broad array of social and economic forces, many of them institutional.
That is, feeling uncomfortable that the decision to be a stay at home mom might meet with disapproval is not on par with being told that one will not be hired because one will later marry and have children, or being subjected to daily verbal or physcial harassment in the workplace because of one’s gender.
Disapprobation and disempowerment often work together, but they aren’t the same thing.
Post # 39
I do think there are communities that frown on SAHMS or at least SAHMS that don’t have another acitivity outside raising the children after the first two years. I think there are communities where not having a thriving career is looked down upon – but I think that even in those communities the power difference between the men and women in that community is still far tilted in the men’s favor. So I wouldn’t think disaproval of SAHMs = equality. If we are talking about mature adults my first guess would be = classism. College students on the other hand tend to be a bit… extreme as they haven’t yet had the time to digest their ideas and see all of the implications and best applications. But yes some such communities probably exist.
Also, your husband would certainly take flack if he stayed home and from more than just his father and grandfather, so even that is still not equal. Even in your community with your family’s flack you are still the one society encourages to stay home over your husband.
I don’t mean to say your family’s disapproval is right. And I think if you made the choice thoughtfully and while protecting your interests and future (which I think you would do from your comments here) and explained it all to your family they would support you.
Post # 40
I think this is why I worry about the label of feminsim. I’m in a field, academic bio science, where a lot of people consider themselves fairly liberal feminists, both men and women. Despite that and despite that more women are entering and finishing grad school, there is an absolute drop off in the number of women who become PIs (director of your own lab). I’ve seen it happening to the women around me already, that choice between having babies and leaving a career track to have your own lab or waiting until you have your own lab to have babies. Lets just say it leaves very few women with labs (and fewer still that have labs and kids). In my deparment (majority men), all the men are married with kids, all the women are single without kids, sorry that just seems a bit biased.
So I’m very much of the opinion that we are failing by saying oh well just treat men and women the same. There needs to be options for women when they get pregnant to be able to continue working and not fall behind but also deal with new motherhood. Equal doesn’t always cut it when men and women aren’t the same, and the choices aren’t there right now for women at all stages to be able to have kids.
Post # 41
I’m not sure if this falls in the same category, but I get treated pretty poorly by a lot of women… although I consider myself a feminist and have spent a lot of my career attempting to help and empower women.
Now I just give a wide birth to discussions about feminism, childbirth, gender and marriage… it’s dangerous territory, at least in my experience!
Post # 42
You’ve gotten a lot of great responses and discussion on this thread. I just wanted to share an essay that you might find interesting. It’s by Jessica Valenti, who’s the founder of the blog Feministing, and how she got a lot of negative reactions when she got engaged:
Post # 43
@ teaandtoast and arachna, I wasn’t trying to imply that the pressure on both sides of the SAHM/SAHD decision were equal, just that two sides exist. I’m sure that if Fiance decided to stay home the backlash would be from almost everyone he knows rather than a handful of close relatives.
@ jduck84, thanks for posting. That was a good article to read.
Post # 44
Almost every woman I know (except for a very few very religious Muslims and Evangelical Christians), are feminists, and almost all of them are married/want to be married and want to have children. Even most of the lesbians I know want marriage and a family. Perhaps it is just the group of people I hang around with, but most (North American) people I know have a very positive view of marriage, and it probably helps that those who are already married have partners who at least share the ideal of equal partnerships. When I go and visit my friends, their husbands usually cook us dinner so we can have more time to catch up, and the husbands all take care of the children/share nighttime feeding duties etc. I do think that one thing in common amoung all of my friends (me included) is that we struggle with what exactly it means to be a modern feminist wife. (I have a blog called On Becoming a Good (Feminist) Korean Wife.) Trying to negotiate between the history of being a wife, the examples we saw in our mothers and grandmothers, our desire to be mothers and career women, and the practical realities of our relationships and contexts can be pretty tricky. However, now that I read your post, I think I need to be more grateful that the pressures I feel about being a wife come more from my own internal debates and not from my circle of friends.
Post # 45
I would just like to add that I’m really impressed with the hive right now. I think this is by far the most civilized discussion of feminism and SAHMs/SAHDs I’ve ever seen on an anonymous internet forum! That says a lot about the caliber of Weddingbee readers!
Post # 46
This is a great thread with so many empowered and intelligent women! And at least one feminist man.
@ MrBee: You can be feminist, I don’t know what is more feminist for a man than to support his wife’s project into a business and run a lot of the day to day guiding and providing advice to thousands of brides. Pretty damn empowered to me!
And those of you who say feminism is about choice? I’m right with you.
If I want to stay in my career after I have kids, up to me. If I want to come home and stay home, up to me too. Same goes with changing my name. I don’t think taking my FI’s name is anti-feminist, it’s my decision.
I think the biggest arguement I see w/ feminism when it comes to weddings is the name changing game. I think using feminism as the reason to keep your own name is kinda flawed, only in that in America, last names are patriarcal. So if it’s not your FI’s name, it’s your dad’s or your grandfathers.
Otherwise I suggest anyone interested in weddings and women’s expectations or feminism related issues to check out http://www.apracticalwedding.com if you haven’t already. Meg over there has some great ideas approaching gender roles in marriage.