Hello You Shy, Confused Feminist Housewife, You

That last post was apparently fairly popular. More views than any post yet on this here blog-o-mine. Which leads me to believe that feminist housewifery is a hot topic, and that perhaps quite a few ladies, errr, womyn, out there are grappling with these same issues.

About a year ago, when I was scheming my next venture (my last was a zine and then blog, called Subsist/Resist), I sketched out ideas for a name on a scrap of paper. Apron Strings had been kicking around in my brain for some time, but I do love me a good subtitle, and I was really torn on whether to use the word “housewife.” Was the punk/DIY/feminist/liberal world ready for such a blasphemed word? I really wanted to see it reinvented, but could it be done? In the end, “Revolutionary Housewifery” was just too clumsy a mouthful. “Revolution Starts at Home” not only rolled better off the tongue, but said succinctly what I meant. “Housewifery” was relegated to the sidebar description. But I still have quite an unusual fondness for the word, precisely because it makes me (and everyone else I know) uncomfortable.

After the popularity of that last post, I can see I am not alone.

I don’t particularly think of myself as a feminist (though of course I most certainly am). I grew up with hippie parents– dad as likely to be cooking dinner and mom as likely to be fixing the plumbing. (Both more likely to be devising a new business plan.) I was shown how to use a power drill at age 6. I never really got feminism at all until I left home. And even then, though I had plenty of opportunities to get riled up, and listened to more than my share of Ani DiFranco when she was still pissed off, Alaska is a relatively progressive place in the gender department. Women hunt, fix cars, cut firewood, all in a day’s work. Check out the Talkeetna Mountain Mama contest.

But even more than that, dogmas tend to get my back up. Liberals make me want to flaunt my hunting rifle, greenies make me want to drink out of a styrofoam cup, and feminists make me want to brandish the word housewife with a teeth-gritted pride.

Because how in the world did the work traditionally and even, dare I say, biologically done by women, get to be so thoroughly disrespected?

Let’s go back to the beginning.

Birth.

I, personally, believe patriarchy started with birth– the most sacred, most complete, most mind boggling power of all. The boys got jealous, and who wouldn’t? We women could do it all. Grow another human being in our bellies, push it out into the world, and nurture it to independence. I thought all this before I was a mother, but now, having seen birth particularly, I really understand the significance. The raw power of a woman in labor is not to be underestimated. Anyone else in the room must feel small. Powerless. Insignificant.

Patriarchy is a big wheeled truck attempt to hide feelings of…. well, inadequacy.

I think over the course of history, our culture became more and more dictated by a giant Napoleon Complex. Men scorned women’s work because they feared it. For a long time women said, ‘Whatever, screw you. We know what’s going down.’ But as time went along, things got worse, and the men with their little ego stoking got out of control. They had invented new kinds of power, and seated themselves as Kings. Women lost eventually patience and got pissed. Enter the Feminist Movement.

But I believe, and I know I tread dangerous ground here, that the feminist movement made a vital mistake. Things had gone too far, and the male mindset had infiltrated our strong female selves. They had convinced us on so deep a level that the work we did was meaningless, that when we looked for change, we took a wrong turn. We tried to claim our own seat in their big wheeled truck. When what we should have done was torched it.

Don’t get pissed off too quick. I am not saying “a woman’s only place is in the home.” Of course a woman should be able to do whatsoever she chooses, and get paid and respected equally to any man.

But in the heat of the moment, let’s not forget that we hold the ultimate power. Let’s not forget to value and respect it. Let’s not forget to kick some ass in our very own, uniquely female way.

Because true revolution starts at home.

17 thoughts on “Hello You Shy, Confused Feminist Housewife, You

  1. I love you.. you put things in such a way.. all I have to do is smile and nod.. I’m glad you liked the article ; )

  2. Just found you through the Down to Earth forum, and I feel slightly weird to be adding the second of two comments containing the words ‘I love you’. =)

    Excellent post. Can’t wait to read through everything else you’ve written!

  3. Frankly, due to large bouts of illness in the last few days, I don’t have the mental capacity to respond with anything meaningful right now… other than that I’m enjoying your musings, and I’ve printed out the article you directed us to last post so that I can actually read it some time, maybe whilst da brats are hitting each other at the park or something. But keep musing… I’ll keep reading. I definitely agree that feminism (the fruits of whose labours I enjoy but which I freely like to diss!) gone too far in proclaiming that equality has to equal sameness in role and function. Third wave feminism anyway. Or is that second wave? Meh. Best brush up on my feminism if I’m going to knock it.

    You asked me where all the punk mamas are, not just the punk crafters. Well, the fact is that a lot of “punk crafters” ARE the punk mamas, they’re just more into the making of stuff than articulating why or what it’s about. It’s about all of those things you identify with, the kind of ‘sticking it to the man’ anti-consumption, anti-mass-production, anti-ballsy-feminism.

    Funny thing is, I’m a pretty lame mama and there’s nothing particularly ‘punk’ about me, officially. But I do love to think and challenge my own assumptions and those of others, and I love that you make me think too.

    1. “the fruits of whose labours I enjoy but which I freely like to diss!”

      so, so true.
      i realize you punky crafters are mamas too. just that, since i don’t sew, knit, crochet, or apparently use the loom i so, so wanted for xmas, i can’t connect much on the crafty level.
      surely you’re not a lame mama. oh the guilt we are plagued with the moment those beauties take size in our wombs!

    2. yes, this is what gets me, is equating equality with sameness. Why does it have to be that way? Why is it so prevalent? It seems lumped in with the general removal of subjective, individual judgement being a good thing anymore – in order to avoid the appearance of discrimination, favouritism, unfairness generally, we have to reduce everything to objective measurements, measurable achievements… bleh.

  4. is this legal? charmingformice left such a coherent and thorough comment on the original article at darkpurplemoon, that i am putting it here too, in case anyone might miss out.

    “I love this sort of discussion, and I love what you’ve said. I feel like I’m in the same boat – reevaluating and returning to values and priorities and goals I had when I was younger (and wondering how I drifted so far away from them). I wonder how much this is a natural progression – apparently midlife crisis is a normal and non-gendered thing, and we have more than one, and it’s a healthy thing (or can be).

    This isn’t a fully-formed thought, but: as a society (or subset of a society) we seem comfortable talking about interdependence, but this appreciation of interdependence seems to be on a sort of village-to-global scale. I think that if we think of it in terms of a family unit (of whatever size) we’ll see that it’s completely natural and necessary for there to be some specialisation. I mean, once we take as given that no one individual of us can be completely independent (we can, obviously, to a certain extent, but for most people this is unpleasant or unsustainable, and it’s certainly inefficient) – then we can stop thinking of dividing everything equally, 50/50, between members of a male/female couple as being the only fair way of doing things. As long as there’s no power imbalance in the relationship, as long as one partner isn’t property, then there shouldn’t be any problem with even the most stereotyped division of labour, if that’s what works for the people in the relationship. Nevertheless, we remain shy of a two person, male/female interdependence…

    Maybe it isn’t feminism per se that’s the problem, but how the vast majority of Other People perceive it and judge others? Obviously we all have our own guilt about this or else we wouldn’t be talking about it, but I wonder how much of what I feel is feminist guilt and how much is consumerist guilt. A lot of what gets discussed, and a lot of what I’ve felt, is along the lines of ‘I feel I’m not contributing/I feel I’m being judged for not contributing equally/doing my share’ – and the concept of contributing is exclusively financial in nature. In a society where we’re judged based not even on what we earn, but what we spend… That’s what someone who’s not earning is failing to contribute to – because there really can’t be any argument about whether a homemaker is contributing to the basic functioning and quality of life of his/her family…

    I think maybe that women/homemakers get saddled with the responsibility for greeniness because it does take time and isn’t the quickest/easiest option – and I know that when I’m working fulltime at something, I’m usually stressed and rushed and only have energy for brainless and easy and quick things – ready meals, eating out, reading/watching stuff that’s fairly escapist, buying stuff… But when I’m not working fulltime, I have the energy and time and psychological space to make the effort to be greener, live lower on the consumerist food chain, etc. I think that it’s a natural (and non-gendered) thing that some family members will have the time and mind-space to do some things and others won’t.

    I guess there’s a part of me that wants to see the issue as a plutarchy (?) thing instead of a partriarchy thing. What better way to keep people on a treadmill of earn, borrow, and spend (so that their money can make money off someone else’s work) than by making them pay someone else for things they can’t do/make themselves because they’re out working? Feminism asked for equality for women as humans, but everyone is suffering from the culture of the Golden Arrow of Consumption.”

    1. hee. i just saw this! i say it’s legal ;) and i’m sure jen wouldn’t mind. she seems really cool from her blog.

      i don’t think anyone’s ever called me coherent before. i’ll have to write that down. tanks!

  5. So I loved the article and want to read the book. I have lots of thoughts I want to share with you on this topic because I’m coming to the same place as you via a different route. But I’m sure we’ll come back to it again and again.

    BTW what is the flickr group for? I’m confused. And a little slow. I blame childbirth for THAT, frankly…

  6. and i’m not sure how long it’s ok to keep chattering here, or if this is the appropriate time and place for this – but your post also made me want to ask you if you’d read Marge Piercy’s _Woman on the Edge of Time_. when i read it i was 19 or 20 and was puttering along in life feeling fairly genderless and taking all of what feminism had fought for for granted (it never occurred to me, for instance, that i didn’t need to think about whether i’d register for selective service when i turned 16 – i was in a state over it leading up to my 16th birthday and someone had to tell me – or that my fantasy of hitchhiking across the country was more risky for me than it would be for a male person).

    anyway, in this book she has a utopia wherein no one actually gestates a baby in their body – cos that’s unfair, since men can’t do it. so babies are grown intentionally in special (things i forget the name/description of) (and then men and women both take some sort of hormone treatment to start lactation so they can share that). and when i read that, i just blew a gasket. it was a great big ‘NUH-UH. NO.’ – for some reason, i could not tolerate the idea that that would be taken from a woman. i read it in a great class, with a fantastic marxist/feminist male teacher, and there was a really good discussion on that issue – would i be willing to trade the ability to carry a child and give birth for true equality? what is equality, what is mere same-ness? in the utopia there was an easy willingness to see that some people had talents and abilities that other people didn’t, that certain people were better than others at some things, that people were different. but this… this difference was not allowed.

    oddly, i don’t know if i would mind adding things (maybe i only felt this way just by comparison to the idea i was horrified by) – i didn’t object to male lactation, and i don’t think it would bother me if men could carry and give birth somehow, but the taking it away from women, no matter what the trade-off – the idea just induced practically hyperventilating rage. and that was before i’d even gotten pregnant/given birth/etc… but maybe that was because of the dehumanising of it instead of the theft of this very powerful thing from a woman?

    anyway, excellent book.

    1. actually, i did read that book. one of a very few i read from that genre. don’t remember much about it, tho. didn’t even remember that element, so it must not have enraged me…. but yes, it sure would now. i think it is more the dehumanizing than a gender issue, for me.

  7. Brilliant post. It is encouraging to see women who are thinking for themselves and embracing homemaking as something intrinsically valuable.

    For most of my life I have been pretty skeptical of feminism, because I felt that it tried to blend the genders into a sort of androgynous middle. Then I was given a book by a friend that was so misogynistic and disrespectful of women, that I could hardly believe I was reading it. I began to see that feminism happened for a reason. They were rebelling against a real problem. Unfortunately, like you said, they took it in the wrong direction. Instead of asserting the value of their role, they wanted to be like men. Instead of broadening their scope they actually narrowed it. And yet, if it weren’t for their efforts, who knows what things would be like today.

    Anyway, I admire your rebellious spirit…

  8. I was a therapist for high risk children and teens before I became a wife and mom and honestly it was a logical choice to be a stay at home mom, despite the emotional turmoil. I decided instead of fixing everyone else’s kids and leaving mine to fend for themselves that I would make sure I grow mine up right from the start. It’s been difficult as the first woman in three generations of working moms to stay home full time. I knew my 60 hour work weeks went against every maternal instinct. At first I couldn’t even call myself a stay at home mom because I felt like it belittled me. I referred to myself by alternate titles such as former therapist, guitar teacher or musician, much in the way other women find selling crafts on Etsy necessary. Being a working mother was so engrained in my training that only now that my daughter is 14 months old can I now call myself a stay at home mom and not feel a rush of self loathing… And that’s the problem with feminism as it was, putting my family and my own health (the stress from my job was destroying my health) ahead of having extra money to blow on things (that I have learned to live happily without) seemed like I was doing the wrong thing according to my cultural/familial upbringing…when my maternal instincts were screaming a contradiction that has led me into a much happier family, marriage and life.

      1. What is interesting is that after finally coming to terms with being a SAHM (thanks largely to finding your blog) I have found myself more inspired than I have been in half a decade. I have several projects in the making now. All of which I can accomplish, and hopefully help the world in the process, without having to sacrifice time with my family.

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