Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stay At Home Moms are Pathetic and Blah Blah Blah

A few months ago I wrote a post entitled, "Housewives Can Be Empowered Too." It was basically about the notion that people who stay home to raise their children are bad feminists and the judgment stay at home moms often receive. I recently got a comment so ridiculous I've decided to just make a post about it.

gulabjjamun:
what? so who is paying for your "choice"? your husband has to fund your emotional needs. what if your happiness comes from making your kids sandwiches? what if your husband wants the same thing? someone has to work. your deciding to be a housewife instead of being able to financially support yourself (using a method besides sexual barter and maid/nanny services around the house) is not excusable. everyone needs to financially support themselves. that's it. no mooch. no considering emotional needs. none of it. the reason some people are unhappy at their job is because it is a JOB. not everyone works because they want to. when working isn't a choice for everyone then why is staying home one? no. i absolutely disagree with this post. men think exactly like that cartoon you posted above because you think there is a choice. if there were no such law that requires married men to give you 50% of their earnings upon divorce, you'd have a powerless position should the unthinkable happen. it's why so many abused women stay with men who mistreat them today even. why worry about self respect when you can have a meal ticket and a free ride to stay home and play with your kids? how under deserved.
Me:
Your response is rather ridiculous. I understand what it is you think you're saying, but I disagree. Being in a partnership is about two people coming together and making decisions on what's best for the family. Money is not the only thing worth value in a partnership. Your whole comment is indicative of the devaluing of the work women mostly do. So don't give me your bullshit.
gulabjjamun:
So why isn't it that men gladly do that work? If you ask the majority of men to do it, they'll scoff at you and walk off because they know the value of being able to support yourself. Don't call it "devaluing of the work women mostly do" because they shouldn't be mostly doing it. Why wouldn't a man do "what's best for the family" by staying home and doing it? Most won't. Because whoever has the power to strike out financially can always quit it all to be like you, but you could never get those years of experience and career development in the blink of an eye like people with a career. Doubting me? Just go and seriously ask a guy to give up his career to stay home while you work. See how many of them will say they have been stripped of their masculinity. I feel ashamed of being a woman when you group self-sustaining people into "the work women do". BTW? A chef, nanny, or any combination thereof, including mutually working and taking care of the family can replace the other thing that you think is of worth in a partnership. You can't get back the respect you lose in the eyes of people who do everything without giving up their ability to self sustain. If you wanted to stay home, why crowd universities trying to get an education? Just stay home from grade school onwards and have babies and cook for your man. Give an opportunity to someone who really needs to utilize and constantly grow as a person regardless of her marital status.
This comment is full of so much absurdity that I'm not going to touch on the individual comments so much as the overall assumptions gulabjjamun makes. I doubt it's worth the time since anyone who feels the need to criticize the life of a random person of the internet is probably an asshole anyways, but since I'm a stay at home mom just waiting for my meal ticket why not?

I do want to point out that when I said "the work women mostly do" I was referring specifically to housework, cooking, and caring for children (since that's what this conversation is about). I was not talking about every job or type of work that has ever been done by women. I also think it's amusing that working in a cubicle is apparently good for the growth of your character while all activities outside of paying work aren't. (I'm sure all the people volunteering would like to know that.) I'm not going to touch on the university comment because I don't think it makes much sense, especially in my situation, but I do think it shows a certain amount of vitriol that undermines this whole conversation.

These are the main issues I have:

1. This whole conversation is bullshit. I don't care if you think staying at home is the most horrible thing a woman can do today. Your opinion has nothing to do with me or any other woman. It may make you a judgmental asshat to be around, but beyond that you're free to think whatever you want. This entire conversation sets women against women and depends on the idea that there is only one right way to do things. There isn't. And I'm really tired of people, using the label of "feminism" as an excuse or not, thinking they're responsible for telling other women how to live their lives. Your choices are not the best choices for all women. Neither are mine. There isn't one right way of doing things and anyone who says otherwise is way too full of themselves.

2. Most people are just doing the best they can. It's easy to take the personal out of the equation and think of issues like this in political contexts. While I think those sorts of conversations have a time and a place, we can't forget that most people are just doing the best they can. It's not anyone else's place to decide if that best is good enough. Worry about your own life and give people the benefit of the doubt that they know more about what's right for their family then you do.

3. "Women's work" is valuable. This was the main point of my other post so I don't want to get too repetitive, but money is not the only valuable contribution in a family. A paycheck does not make your work valuable anymore than lack of a paycheck makes your work redundant. Are you really going to tell me that working a telemarketing job where I tried to get people to use a certain internet domain is more valuable than raising my son? Obviously it isn't. And what about the people who are unemployed right now? Are they no longer valuable members of society? This really boils down to the belief that earning money, even if it’s doing a job you hate, is more valuable then not making money and I think it is one of the main reasons women do two-thirds of the world's work but receive only 10% of the world's income. That makes it a feminist issue for me. The fact it's empowering to raise someone else's kids, but distasteful to raise your own is bullshit. And we can't forget that even people who work often rely on their partner for financial help or stability. Are you seeing a theme here? Partnership. Ryan couldn't do the work he does without me and I him. That is the reality of our lives.

4. The idea that since men aren't staying home in large numbers it must be a bad decision is sexist. Why? Because that statement assumes that the choices men make are more authoritative and rational than the choices women make. First, I want to point out that the rate of stay at home dads has increased 60 percent between 2003 and 2008. Also, you can't ignore the reality that women have been considered the one most responsible for caring for the children for thousands of years. We value women so much for their ability to be nurturing that we're extremely critical of women who reject parenthood and/or are proud career women. And on the flip side we value men for their ability to bring home the moolah. A man is not a man if he can't provide for his family and I think that's why there will always be less stay at home dads than moms. Gender roles are hard to fight against. Even today women aren't respected in many fields of study and these women have had the hand of feminism to help guide them. To expect a sudden reversal in our gender roles, and by that I mean more stay at home dads, is ridiculous. The amount of stay at home dads has no bearing on the validity of doing so anyways.

5. This conversation ignores the bigger problems women face. Is it true that taking time off from your career to raise children will hurt you when you decided to re-enter the work force? Yes. Do we devalue the work that women mostly do (and it doesn't really matter if you think they shouldn't be the ones mostly doing it because they are)? Yes. Will our devaluing of this work hurt women if they do need to support themselves if something happens to their situation (divorce, death, or a medical emergency)? Yes. Is it a problem that men do far less housework than women? Yes. Are many parents forced to either work or stay at home because of ridiculously low paying jobs, a business environment that makes one choose between being a parent of working, and a lack of affordable childcare? Yes. These are the real issues here. This is where our anger should be targeted. Not on the individual partners who‘ve made personal decisions that work for them and their families (because both members make the decision, not just the woman).

You don't need to tear down other people's choices in order to feel validated with your own. We put so much effort into thinking we've done the right thing, it can be easy to be judgmental of other people's choices, but that's no excuse. We are not here to criticize or validate the choices of others and using feminism as an excuse is wrong.

Best quote I could find on the matter:
I think the problem is that a lot of people who identify as feminists seem to think that feminism is primarily about either validating or criticizing the choices other women make. IMHO, that is completely missing the point. It puts all of the attention on the choices people make and fails to look a the context in which people make those choices, which *should* be the task of feminists. I think the end result tends to be anti-feminist, because it puts the burden for progress onto individuals in the choices they make, rather than aiming for actual systematic change.

To use your example, it's not my business or concern whether a woman wants to be a stay at home mom or a working mom. I don't think feminists should be making those kinds of individual value judgments. What should concern feminists, IMO, are the social forces shaping those choices. I know women who wish they could be at home with their kids, but can't, because many employers do not pay a full-time worker enough to support a family. I also know women who wish they could work, but they can't because they don't have access to good, affordable childcare. Those are both issues that I think should concern feminists. It concerns me that employers don't pay workers enough to reasonably support a family on and it concerns me that it can be extremely difficult to find and afford good childcare. That's where I think the energy of feminists is better spent. Employers should be challenged to pay full-time workers a real living wage so that families don't need to have two parents working full-time unless they want to, and affordable day care should be readily available for people who need it. And, social forces matter, too. It matters if as a culture we tell people that traditionally feminine roles such as caretaking are a waste of time and that our worth as people is determined solely by the size of our paychecks; it also matters if as a culture we tell women that they are selfish to want to work or that their children will suffer if they don't devote all of their time and energy to them. Those attitudes matter and need to be challenged. But it's much easier to get caught up in discussions about the choices an individual woman makes, rather than really looking at the factors that shape those choices.
The absolutes that frame this conversation are only hurting women. As I said before, don't be a housewife if you don't want to be one. The right way to have a family is going to look different for everyone. If we don't recognize that then what's the point? I'm not saying women shouldn't give serious consideration to their own financial independence, but at the end of the day the decision is theirs. I can't believe I even have to defend parents who want to stay home while their children are little. Who the fuck is supposed to raise all these children? This conversation relies so much on the assumption that women have plenty of options and that there's always a choice that I'm getting seriously pissed off. Many women don't have a choice.

Where is the outrage about that?

9 comments:

  1. And in case you don't follow my every move and are unaware about my college situation, I am a stay at home mom because I'm in college. That's why I found the comments so silly. After i finish school I have every intention of going back to work. I don't believe in the all or nothing tone of these conversations.

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  2. Wow, someone sounds bitter.

    I will never understand the mentality of people who aren't secure enough in their choices so they have to tear down the choices other people make. There are so many points to argue, and you've done well in pointing out the flaws in the arguments against stay-at-home mothers(and fathers).

    One of the things I noticed is that made a remark, straight off the bat, about 'sexual barter'. Misogyny, anyone? Women don't have anything of value to offer in a relationship, if they aren't contributing financially, aside from their vagina. Those whores.

    Like you said, it's a partnership, and we make the best decisions we can for our family and our situations. Success and value aren't solely determined by the amount of money you have in your bank account.

    Another thing I take issue with is the idea that all sahm should work, as your commenter said, in case the worst happens. I prefer to trust that my husband will honor his marriage vows and communicate with me instead of living in fear that he's just going to up and leave me with 4 kids on my own.

    I think some people just like to have something to bitch and moan about. If it makes them feel better to judge me and other sahm for making the choice that's best for our families, as I'm sure they've done for their situations, then so be it. I know, for a fact, they'd be whistling a different tune if they walked a mile in my shoes. Part of the judgment comes from the idea that we're taking the easy way out. I'm not trying to claim it's the hardest job in the world, but it is a thankless one a lot of times, and we make a lot of sacrifices to do it. I just hope it doesn't hurt too badly when they get knocked off of their high horse.

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  3. Oh that "sexual barter" comment pissed me off too and I totally agree it relies on the notion that a woman's sexuality is a commodity.

    And like I said, a lot of people who work still aren't financially independent. When I worked I wasn't. I still relied on Ryan to help pay for everything and to be with Holden while I worked. So I don't really see where this huge dividing line is.

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  4. I think the bottom line is, it's a PARTNERSHIP.

    Nowhere does it imply that one is superior to the other, nowhere does it imply that one is inferior.

    It seems like gulabjjamun may have never been in an equal relationship. Perhaps, but I have doubts.
    Or maybe it's just envy?

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  5. Oh no!

    I have been so out of touch with my blog reading due to an insane schedule. This was the first blog I have checked in weeks . . . and now I have to read about some clueless a-hole revealing a deep and frightening ignorance? It has to be fake. Surely, no one could be so stupid to think that tending to a family and home is not work or not pulling your own. Or has anything to do with laziness. It's not that stay-at-home parents are never incompetent or lazy or in the wrong . . . so is everyone, including those who are fully "employed." I just have to wonder what is this poor person compensating heavily for? It must be REALLY bad.

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  6. Good grief, that commenter is ridiculous! I almost went off on someone on FB yesterday for making a really nasty joke about Obama making everyone else pay for "the guy in front of them at McDonald's" because it completely disrespects people like me (or you). Yes, I'm on unemployment, but good freakin' grief, it's not like I CHOSE this!

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  7. Mac and Star: I agree with both of you. These comments are far too overblown and it's the main reason I made this post. Major wtf.

    Meg: That pisses me off more because you were a teacher and while people may give some lip service to teachers, cops, firemen, and the like, the reality is people don't give a shit about the contributions these professions give to society. I'd trade one lazy ass who pays as little taxes as possible for a teacher any day.

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  8. I've only just come across this. The person giving you crap, has to be a troll, surely. No one can be that willfully ignorant.

    I'm a stay at home mum. I'm also university educated and had a career before having my first child. Y'know what? Hated every minute of it. The stress, the deadlines, the dressing downs you used to receive in front of everyone because your boss was too incompetent and unprofessional to have a quite word in their office, the daily bullshit of office politics.

    I'm happy to spend my days creating a mess with the kids. Going to the park, taking walks. All out our own pace, no stress, no politics.

    It worries me that so many people place the value of another human solely by how much is in the bank. It's very shallow and insulting. Also makes me believe that that person is very insecure and feels the need for constant validation and pats on the back.

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