Monday, August 20, 2007

A response to someone who thinks I'm betraying the movement

Firstly, I would not put limitations on what stay-at-home means. You have said that being a stay at home mom doesn't include artists or students. We do not really know what women are doing at home. For some cooking, gardening, homemaking itself is an art and an education. This is very challenging and interesting work when one engages one's mind. What makes it drudgery is when no one helps and no one appreciates that it is work, and honorable work. This includes other feminists who go along with the patriarchal notion that "woman's work" is inferior work. I would, (and did) stay at home even when I was not a student. Homemaking is an honorable and ancient career with many rewards. I honor my ancestors' love of the domestic arts. My ability to manage my family's limited finances, organize and keep a "green" home, cook and nourish a vegetarian/vegan family of fussy eaters on a shoestring budget, homeschool my children, garden, crochet, do laundry, etc. are all work that benefits my family and feeds my soul. I utilize the my feminist background and education to enhance this experience. I am no man's servant, but the matriarch of my family. Homemaking is not for all women, but for some of us, homemaking makes us "life artists" There is something deeply satisfying about devoting one's time not to employment and career, to the fuss and grind of the workforce, but to fully engaged in making children, and gardens and relationships grow. I have had the blessing of being the one who taught my children how to read. Like the women you mention of other cultures, I too wear my babies in slings on my hip, often breastfeeding them while I hang laundry in the sun or while I teach my older children. Unlike my own mother, who wishes she could have stayed home, I have missed little of their funny, wonderful, beautiful childhoods.Susan B. Anthony was also very critical of well-educated women who chose to stay home with their children. She felt it was outrageous. But her best friend, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, knew that a woman's life is not wholly defined by her career and activism. She raised her seven children relishing the art of homemaking as well as a life of an activist. They were one of feminism's greatest partnerships. Both women blessed the early movement with their choices. There is no one way to be a feminist. And this is only one period of what I hope is a long life. Just because I choose not to follow the traditional masculist life trajectory does not mean that I am not a feminist. Who made the rules that that we get our college educations from the ages of 18 to 22 then follow this with dedication to a career in our twenties and thirties? This is not a life path that makes sense to those of us whose pregnancies, lactation, and childrearing interrupts and complicates college and career. We have to develop patterns that fit our lives and make us happy. We have to stop taking the old ways (the men's ways) as being normative. In fact, my staying at home has inspired my husband to challenge the traditional career path for himself. He also chooses to forego a career-driven life to spend more time with his babies. Also, for women, many of the most productive years of our lives are after menopause, when as wise old women with children out of the nest, we can begin new adventures. My life is not completely defined by my childbearing years and what I choose to do with them. Children are little for so short a time and my heart would break if I could not be with them. Thank the Goddess I have the right and the opportunity capitalist patriarchy has taken from so many of my sisters, to stay home and mother my own children.Finally, as a spiritual feminist, my life at home with my children reflects the deepest part of my most radical feminist rejection of patriarchal emphasis on greed and acquisition, on competition and the impoverishment of relationships. I live out my love for Mother Earth, my own body, my intellect and my art with this decision. I trust other women to make decisions that make sense for them. I doubt my right to judge them. Homemaking is not for everyone, but for those of us who love it and choose it, it is a calling.


Violette said...

What I find most disturbing is the fact that you've had to defend your stance on homemaking and motherhood. I agree with everything you said about choosing that particular lifestyle- homemaking & motherhood can be a very empowering and creative way to live. The fact that it comes under fire from elements within the feminist movement is the reason I've never been able to fully embrace feminist activism. It seems to me that in this respect, some feminists are making the exact same mistake as they accuse patriarchy of committing, by devaluing women, especially in the realm of women choosing to work in the home. It's the same old trap. I think that there are a great many women who are also repelled by the more radical aspects of feminism in regards to homemaking and that the feminist movement at large has lost a lot of needed support from women exactly because of this element within the movement. Betraying the movement? On the contrary, I think you are living its principles to a wonderful degree.

Ravin said...

Another thing to consider is that in making a green home, you have in several respects reclaimed some of the industry of the home from the modern industrial and service complex. Your labor is displacing some of you dependence on the Electric company, machines manufactured for the home (such as the clothes dryer), factories that produce convenience food and cheap clothes, etc.

I see the industrial revolution as having been an intrinsic part of devaluing "women's work".