Listen up, y’all. That big ole’ flagrant housewifey propoganda has been a bit of a thorn in my side. I labored over writing it, feeling a continually growing discomfort that it was exclusionary. I tried to re-work it several times, attempting to include everyone, but it just didn’t work. Dilution made it weak when I wanted it to be strong. So I settled on just saying it out straight how I myself needed to hear it and hoped that in the context of the rest of this blog, and the usually very inclusive nature of my writing, it would work out.
When the overwhelming response started rolling in I was flattered into complacency. Perhaps I had alienated some of my readers who do not for whatever reason fit the punk housewife mold I so strenuously extolled, but I had certainly attracted more. It all comes out in the wash right?
Blogs are a wonderful and slightly dangerous medium. I write one post at a time, you read one post at a time. But each post is only one tiny slice of me and whatever it is I believe. Longtime readers have gotten a much more whole picture, but I wonder if even they can keep it in perspective when they read a particular strongly worded post.
Fortunately Trish at Little Eco Footprints left a (very respectfully phrased) reminder in the comments about working mamas who “outsource” some of the domestic duties. She wrote a post about it in fact, on her own blog. I really appreciate that she commented though, because I suspect she spoke for many other working mamas who wonder where their place is in this so called revolution.
Then I got a long email from a very dear friend asking more or less the same question. She is considering going back to school, and thereafter back to work, and considering the possibilities of paying someone to do the jobs she’s been doing for years now. I know her email was mostly talking to herself, she and I often act as sounding boards for one another, but there was a small implied question of what I thought. Based on my very ballsy post, would I still respect her if she payed someone to hang her laundry. Could she still respect herself?
And I thought, holy fuck, what have I done?
I want first of all to say that those who work outside of the home and “outsource” some of the domestic jobs do of course have a place in the choir! Believe me, there’s room for anybody who cares to join in.
Independence, almost a moral commandment in this country, was the goal of the 1970’s back-to-the-landers. But I like to think our generation has learned the essentiality of inter-dependence. I have certainly been learning it. The central point of inter-dependence is that everyone has their special inborn talent, their calling, and if everyone does their special job then– taken as a whole– we can cover all the bases in the most effective manner. One person or even one family trying to do it all is absurdly inefficient. Especially in these modern times when we are learning all these skills from scratch! As if that were not enough to expect from ourselves we are also, audaciously, trying to do all that and continue to live as a part of the society around us. And most of us are doing it without any young girlslaves or elderly granbabysitters. Jesus H.
I honestly do not feel that I have some higher moral ground to preach from. I want to create a space to validate what I do, what many of us do because, yes, I believe it’s good. And I want you to stand up on your soap box too and feel proud of what you do, whatever that is.
I linked to it in both the original post and the after-post, but here it is again– if you have not read Why We Do What We Do, go read it next, please. Although the two posts were written many months apart, they are more or less inseparable volumes.
I wanted to say all of that, but there’s something else. Something more. I have been trying to formulate a post on this ephemeral topic for months and I just can’t pick it out. It’s a thing I have felt ever since I started parading my own ideals and achievements around here in the ethernet. A particular discomfort.
Writing is very hard. There is only one clear way to do it, one formula– set the scene, present the obstacle, overcome the obstacle, summarize the moral. There is no space in writing for the incredible, insurmountable complexity of life. No matter how hard I tried, I could not write in seven directions at once. Well that’s not quite accurate, I can write that way, but it is not good writing. No one would want to read it, me least of all. The way to decent, coherent writing is to set out with a single concept and illustrate your linear path to the conclusion.
As I have, dare I say, become a writer, this has been a continual sticking point for me. The deeper I delve into it, the more I have discovered that the original sin lies in our thinking. We are so heavily moralistic, so thoroughly black vs. white, good vs. evil, that my brain almost cannot escape. I feel like I am stretching up on tiptoes just to wonder if there is another way to see the world. What would that even mean? What if me doing things my way and believing it was good in no way implied that your way was wrong?
That my friends would be revolutionary.
Because in addition to including the working mothers who cook down farmer’s market fruit into jam on the weekends, I also want to include those mamas who don’t want to do any of it. The mamas who are passionately working for social justice and buying prepackaged food. The mamas who are stuck in a job they hate for a corporation they despise just so they can pay the bills. The mamas who don’t have to work outside the home, but nevertheless can’t summon the energy or desire to do all this crazy shit after they’ve finally gotten the baby down for a nap.
As Bill Staines says, “All God’s critter’s got a place in the choir. Some sing low, some sing higher. Some sing out loud on the telephone wire. And some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they got now.”
The bigger the choir, the louder the song.