What do we think when we think about feminism? Elizabeth Wurtzel asks–and answers–this question in the recent Atlantic Monthly, but more specifically she goes for the wealthy few, arguing that wealthy women who choose to stay at home with their children are not feminists, but worse, are creating a war on women and even worse, are sending women back into the 20th century via Leave it to Beaver. Writes Wurtzel:
Let’s please be serious grown-ups: real feminists don’t depend on men. Real feminists earn a living, have money and means of their own.
And this on economic equality between men and women–or more, between wives and husbands.
And there really is only one kind of equality — it precedes all the emotional hullabaloo — and it’s economic. If you can’t pay your own rent, you are not an adult. You are a dependent. But because feminism has always been about men — our relationships with them, our differences from them — as much or more than about money, it’s had few consistent tenets.
Miri and I are going to attempt to break down this article and thought process.
I was offended when I first read it. Wurtzel says “Who can possibly take feminism seriously when it allows everything, as long as women choose it?” As a stay-at-home mom (who also is a freelance writer and editor), I made a choice to stay at home after my son was born. I don’t want anyone telling me that my choice to do so depletes my feminist mind set.
But then, I realized, I’m not the person Wurtzel is discussing, at least initially. She goes for the wealthy few. Those who are getting pedicures and massages and yoga-ing out all day. She’s going for Ann Romney. Not me. As she points out… and as I agree:
Being a rich mom — even with five sons, bless her heart — is not even sort of a job.
I don’t agree that Ann Romney did not even have sort of a job. But I think the sentence is clever and funny. For the purposes of calling the 1% to the mat, I agree. As in I agree that using specific examples to make sweeping generalizations can make you sound super smart and funny. But in a series of additional clever sentences, Wurtzel goes on a tangent about the silly, easy, little non-job of mothering.
Okay, okay. Her sentence is funny. Maybe it’s not entirely true about Ann Romney not having “sort” of a job.
When she sticks to her economics of equality she makes an interesting argument, but when she starts slapping all mommas, well, that’s just not cool. I think she makes fantastic points about the economics of equality. She states that she has avoided all forms of relational merger to avoid the selling out of her feminist ideals. I also don’t agree that if you don’t pay your own rent you’re not a grown up.
Here’s where her argument got foggy for me. If a person is home with children, man or woman, and caring for offspring and doing laundry, are they doing a job and thus “paying their portion of the rent”? Or does there have to be currency generated to make you a real grown up? That seems simplistic and she’s way too smart for such. Hayley?
Yes, that point is condescending and absurd. People have families. It’s not so cut and dry, obviously.
Granted the feminist movement began in a different place, as Wurtzel writes: “with… women [who] were losing their minds pushing mops and strollers all day without a room or a salary of their own.” But modern day families, at least from my experience, SAHM’s are making equal choices with their husbands. In fact, most of the mothers I know run the finances of the home–even if hubby is bringing home the bucks.
I think a woman can have a “room” of her own, ala Virgina Woolf, yet still be independent of her husband as long as boundaries are set. Meaning, that together the couple dictates that there is a division of labor–i.e., she takes the kids and he takes the office job–and that the money is theirs.
I don’t think I’m being idealistic. Or am I?
I think it is idealistic to imagine that equality can be created inside a domestic arrangement. But I also think said aim, is necessary. There is no perfect arrangement and perfect equality probably doesn’t exist. I always thought that creating a 50-50 system was absurd because the couple would be figuring out whose turn it was to change the kid while the kid sat in a pile of shit…but if everyone could just respect the needs and efforts of the other…blah, blah, blah, you know, just get along — now who’s idealistic? It’s gotta at least be in the consciousness of a couple doesn’t it? Are couples more aware of each other as equals when parenting today rather than seventeen years ago, when I started changing diapers?
According to the studies, yes. Here’s my situation: Even though I do a majority of the domestic work around the house, my husband doesn’t expect this, nor does he believe I’m lesser than him because I’m home. It just turns out that I’m better at some of those jobs and he’s better at playing with the kids! I tend to think couples are more aware of each other as equals, but that doesn’t say that there aren’t those who have more traditional roles and who choose to have traditional roles. I also want to add that it’s hard to have equal partnerships even when both people are working. Wurtzel clearly has no understanding of this either.
Wurzel’s big flaw in this article is her lack of experience inside domestic; partner, kids, life. She has no frame of reference. She discounts any woman who does not traditionally PAY her own WAY. I don’t think, by the way, that she is alone in that tenant. I certainly felt as if I wasn’t doing enough as a stay-at-home mother and when the definition of my job became part of a divorce agreement? Look out! Nobody thought I’d been working. My ex didn’t think so and neither did the judge!