Sunday, March 1, 2009

Thank you Feminism... if only you knew

Who knows what "feminism" really is? We vilify the movement as the impetus for birth control and abortion, yet we benefit from the doors its pioneers busted down for us. We have fabulous college degrees and didn't even have to consider gender when choosing our professions.

So, today I would like to thank feminism for what I see as a "professionalizing of the home front." I am a better, more capable, more fulfilled mother and wife then I ever could have been in the pre-feminism days. I am getting better at what I do in our home because I have learned that it is seriously important work. The feminists who went before me and women like my mother who served 24 years as a Naval officer gave me all the options of which I could ever dream. And I have chosen this -- to be a homemaker. A domestic engineer. An apron-wearing, crayon-using mommy. I wield my hunger for books and my Excel spreadsheets in the home: reading about faith and recipes and homeschooling and organizing my chores into manageable chunks on a pretty colored spreadsheet. I can maintain our home and our spirits in only this way. This "women's work" is important and deserves the same professional management as I gave my work outside the home as an Army intelligence officer.

Nonetheless, I suspect that if I had been placed in this same role sixty years ago my struggle would have been much greater. Without the current professional options available to women today, I think I would fall prey to the temptation of self-pity and a feeling of being trapped. Maybe it sounds strange to say that I am grateful for the options of which I am choosing not to take advantage, or maybe you understand exactly what I mean. Whatever the case, I just can't help but smile when I think of Gloria Steinham watching me now. What a blessing to be living in the age in which we were placed, truly!


B-Mama said...

Great thoughts, AWOL. While Steinham didn't set out to encourage the stay-at-home mother, she did just that. In the end, we can be more empowered SAHMs and others can see our choice to be home as, indeed, a choice! This is my chosen profession! Thanks for the reflection.

This Heavenly Life said...

I understand exactly what you mean! I've been thinking about this alot lately, and I feel very blessed that I am allowed to be so fulfilled in this role as mother. Domestic engineer ;) cracks me up.

Alex said...

Amen! Beautifully put, AWOL Mommy.

Kat said...

Well said, AWOL :) You've had a few different experiences - working woman with no kids, working (outside the home) mommy, and stay-at-home mommy - and it's nice to hear your perspective. "I am grateful for the options of which I am choosing not to take advantage"...Makes perfect sense to me! :)

Rory said...

This is a great point. The choice to stay home and raise a family is a different experience for us than for our grandmothers' generation. Part of the reason is the broader array of options we have as women, but part of it is that, because of feminism and the loosening of gender roles, men have a broader array of options too. While it is still somewhat unusual to have a father as primary caregiver, less rigid gender roles mean that nobody looks askance when a young father does the dishes or changes diapers or cooks a dinner (things my own grandfather, for example, never did even once, in a family with 5 children). I have read that even in very traditional Christian homes where labor is divided along gender lines, today's dads do more housework and childcare than a generation ago. They might not attribute it to feminism, but even something as simple as doing dishes was unquestionably "women's work" fifty years ago.

kathleenob said...

While I think we are all blessed to life in such a free and open society, that presents such wonderful opportunities to men and women, let’s not let the hijacking of history and popular culture by the left – and yes, radical feminists – cloud what feminists like Gloria Steinem are really responsible for.

First of all, equal rights for women and the embracing of the dignity of the human person has been the position of the Catholic church since the beginning. There were female doctors of the Church, great intellectual, political, and spiritual saints centuries before America was founded. In more recent times, the Church embraced education for women and thousands of nuns helped hundreds of thousands of women improve themselves.

As much as AWOL mommy has come to see her own choices as valuable and wonderful, the whole problem with Gloria Steinem, et al., is that they don’t. Modern feminists degrade the family, motherhood, and the spiritual and emotional fulfillment that millions of women enjoyed 60 years ago and insist that they were actually slaves and prisoners of the patriarchy. They do this while at the same time embracing “reproductive freedom” (meaning the wholesale murder of millions of unborn babies) as the most basic building block of equality. They have written dozens of books railing against marriage and the family, leading even Betty Freidan, perhaps the mother of modern feminism, to write “I think we must at least admit and begin openly to discuss feminist denial of the importance of family…”

The earliest American feminists, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and others were pro-life, pro-woman, and pioneers for legal equality. The modern feminist movement glorifies Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, who embraced racial eugenics and social engineering through forced sterilization and abortion of minorities, the disabled, and the illiterate.

AWOL Mommy, I share in your joys of staying at home with the kids, but we know its so much more than a profession, its our God-given vocation. I think modern feminism seeks to devalue the exact choices that we have made. Thankfully our Holy Mother Church has always affirmed us in our dignity.

Gloria Steinem says “A liberated woman is one who has sex before marriage and a job after.”

kathleenob said...

I realize that my comments may sound a bit harsh. I just disagree that modern feminism has helped women in embrace their important role in the home. I think it leads many woman, (I struggled with this when I first stayed home) to feel dissatisfied serving their families in the quiet unseen way. Modern feminism seems to focus on the self (as does modern culture) "how am I being fulfilled, and if I am not feeling completely happy and fulfilled than I need to do what makes me happy." It also feds us this lie that we can have it all. Women are not told to consider whether they are called to marriage and motherhood when they are making choices about college and careers, maybe taking on debt that can burden the family when they want to have kids. Women who have bought into the feminist lies about sexual freedom and think they can have many sexual partners, be on the pill for 15 years and then when they are 38 conceive, no problem. When in reality the sexual baggage can hurt their chances at a stable marriage and hurt their chances of fertility.

I think Hollywood, NOW leaders and Planned Parent try to vilify domestic life of the 1950s (Revolutionary Road and those greeting cards with the house wives). We sort of nod our heads and say "Yes, those women must have felt so trapped." But did they? My grandparents had wonderful marriages and fulfilling lives and one of them never went to college. My Grandfather had to meet my grandma's father and family to take her out and you bet he was going to treat her with respect, knowing her Dad was at home waiting for his princess. Women were protected from sexual exploitation in the 1950s, while now little 13 year olds are solicited by predators on my space and Pornography is a massive empire.

We are told we can be anything we want to be. But I don't think that is true. I think I've mentioned on the blog before that their are certain professions that are less compatible with the vocation to motherhood. If a woman feels called to one of these professions maybe God is also calling her to the noble vocation found in the single life or religious life.

But again, a great post to discuss some of these issues that are close to home for a lot of us.

~ said...

Amen! Great post! I am a WOHM and although I work 50+ hours/week, I think I have it easier than my mothers generation had it (in terms of choices/support). And as an engineer, every day I see new opportunities for women. The feminist movement isn't perfect, but it's been pretty darn good. I am grateful!

AWOL Mommy said...

I really appreciate your fire and the Catholic and historical additions you have brought to the table. thank you. I also want to point out that I, in no way, meant to belittle the women like our grandmothers who chose to stay at home with their families. I only meant to say that I know it would have been more of a struggle for me personally. I like everyone's comments here, thank you for being the best sounding board anywhere.

Juris Mater said...

AWOL, I love this post!! And Kathleen, I really appreciate your comments too. I still struggle--more often than I'd like--to see myself as doing something worthwhile as a stay at home mom, and this is largely, like you said Kathleen, a result of being pumped full of "feminist" ideas that are very detrimental to our good spirits and self-worth in this vocation. My husband has a much, MUCH clearer and more dignifying perspective on this than I do, and I frequently have to straight up ask him to "remind me again".

This blog and the other wonderful Catholic mom blogs are SO encouraging on this front. Thank God for you all!

Juris Mater said...

By the way, Rory, your comment here is great. Not only has "women's liberation" given women more options, it has blurred the gender distinction a bit in household and childrearing matters. A great deal for moms at home there! My husband is so helpful and far more attentive to the household than I can imagine men three generations ago being, and as a result he's very quick to pitch in and certainly to notice and thank me for the things that I do. I still think it's very important for a SAHM to accept the whole household as her responsibility as the default, for the sake of generosity and efficiency and avoiding fights or resentment or failed expectations. But it is GREAT to have a helping husband!!

Maria said...

While I am very grateful that as a woman today I enjoy the same legal, educational, and professional freedoms as men, I don't think the "modern" feminist movement is to thanks. The leaders of “First Wave Feminism,” like Susan B. Anthony, are who we have to thank for actual legal equality.“Second Wave Feminism,” what I would call modern feminism, focused on “unofficial” inequalities, sexuality, family, gender roles, and reproductive rights. The right to vote came far before modern feminism. There were women's colleges before Margaret Sanger. After World War II, what exactly did feminism win for women, besides guaranteeing legalized national access to contraception in 1965 and abortion in 1973. Not exactly what I consider real victories for women. Well, I guess it did win the Title IX funding regarding equal spending on sports education for men and women for us, but I don't think a good of a women's basketball team at every college outweighs the long-term detrimental effects of modern feminism on our culture.

Even if the modern feminist movement had actually gain real freedoms for women instead of just claiming the work of those true feminists before them, they would have purchased those freedoms with the lives of millions of unborn children, and millions of more marriages broken by no-fault divorce and widespread use of contraception. It would be hard to convince me that any small steps forward for women would be worth denigrating the true meaning of our sexuality and the lives of our unborn children as a holocaust.

One other small thing: I think it is great that as educated women, we can put our professional skills to work in the home. However, I also think that in some ways homemaking has become much more difficult for young mother today, despite their added professional skills. Young girls used to be trained to run a household well; now we are trained for a professional career and just muddle our ways through the first several years of homemaking and parenting. And while we may be able to create elaborate budgets and chore charts, many of us (at least in my case) lack many of the skills my grandmother had, i.e., sewing, knitting, canning, gardening, butchering, etc. I think we have lost something of the art of homemaking thanks to modern feminism, which often does not deemed to be a skill worth learning. Thanks to modern feminism, the home economics course at your local high school is now teaching your child about safe sex and STDs instead of how to cook a nutritious dinner or mend your own clothes.

Maria said...

I guess that came out a little heavy, but I am angry about what feminism has done to the sexual morals of our country. My younger sister went out on a first date this past week. After a nice dinner and drinks with pleasant conversation, she went to left. The young man pressed her to go home with him. When she refused, he turned into anothe person and began yelling and cursing at her because she wasn't "putting out." He truly felt that because he had spent $50 bucks on a date, he was entitled to sex. He went so far to tell her that "if I weren't a such a good guy, you would be getting raped right now." The fact that my sister was raped almost two years ago - by two "nice, wealthy, college-educated guys" - just made a really awful experience into a truly tramatic event. But in a world of "Sex in the City" how can we really be surprised that this young man was shocked that he wasn't getting laid on the first date.

This is just one of many examples I've seen of how the feminist ideal of the sexually liberated woman has resulted in the sexually victimized woman. By working so hard to remove all sexual restraints in society, feminism has not freed women; it has simply succeeding in allowing men to objectify women with no guilt or punishment.

Right Said Red said...

Kathleen and Maria--I really appreciate and very much agree with your perspectives. While I think there are some positive things to be gained from the "feminist" movement, such as better educational opportunities for women and women's college sports, overall, it seems the negatives FAR outweigh the benefits. As very educated women, I think AWOL mommy and others see the feminist movement as providing them with more choices. While this is definitely true, it did so at a huge expense to our society, as Kathleen and Maria have rightfully noted in their comments. The expense of millions of innocent lives, rampant sexual promiscuity, AND millions of broken families. This expense is an extreme price to pay so that a very small percentage of us can feel better about our role as stay at home mothers. And lets be honest, while we have chosen the noble vocation of motherhood over career pursuits, VERY, VERY, VERY few women make this choice. I live in a fairly mixed semi-urban community. The women in my town are all mostly well educated. Most of them work. Why? either because they think working will help them feel fulfilled OR because they have to work to help pay the bills. Years ago families were expected to be single income, so the pressure to work for financial reasons wasn't as great. In addition, a woman didn't feel pressure to have a career and justify her education.

The number of women who actually feel a sense of satisfaction about their ability to choose is so incredibly small while the number feeling the negative effects of the feminist movement is far higher than I could EVER imagine. For this very small percent of women, like AWOL and others here, we can see a silver lining in an otherwise very evil movement. It's good to see the silver lining, but positive thinking can go too far. I guess even communist Russia had some bright spots, right?

Anonymous said...

I think Maria made a very good point about "first wave" feminism and "second wave" or modern feminism. You may have heard about Feminists for Life; they try to be a lot more "first wave", although they are sometimes not as appreciative of those of us who left careers to stay home as I'd like.

While picking up "The Feminine Mystique" (because of an argument with a student in my 9th grade CCD class), I also stumbled across "Just a Housewife", which traced the values and expectations society placed on housewives through women's magazines and cookbooks. It was very illuminating, if you can ignore the backflips to justify the modern feminist revolution at the end. Among other points, the author pointed out that feminism, in its efforts to make homemaking more respected, tried to make it more scientific, which actually led to denigrating housewives as old-fashioned and backwards in order to sell the new methods and products. And, BTW, saddling housewives with excessive new expectations (anyone washed their walls down with bleach every year lately? Our grandmothers were told they should.).

Good post- this is what feminism SHOULD have done for housewives. It isn't what it actually did, but it's more in line with what the early feminists set out to try to do.

kathleenob said...

Hey AWOL, I would like to commend you on becoming a SAHM as the pressure to remain in the Army can be strong especially coming from a top college and ROTC program.

I will give Princeton this credit. I remember them featuring an article in their Alumni magazine awhile back about a princeton couple who had a large family (some were adopted) and the wife stayed at home and I think home-schooled. (My husband's the Alum, not me.) Anyway, I found that a refreshing feature of a a different type of successful Princeton woman.

Kat said...

Thank you, ladies, for this great discussion. I appreciate being reminded of the history of the feminist movement, as I often just associate feminism only with the second-wave of the movement. I agree with many of you ladies that in some ways, the second-wave feminists have made it harder for us stay-at-home moms to be at peace with our vocation. Like Juris Mater, I find myself almost daily trying to think of ways that I can earn some money for our family. Should I babysit for someone else's children? Maybe I should join one of those "work at home" groups and sell organic cleaning products? Or maybe I should teach music classes out of my home? Or get started on writing a book? There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these jobs, but what IS wrong is my lack of peace. I KNOW in my heart that taking care of our children and our home is my calling at this point in my life, yet I still feel a pull towards earning some money for our family. Why? Of course it would be nice to have some extra money for savings, but I think that the real reason is that I am too influenced by the idea that I am throwing away my education by not using my degree outside the home. Again, I KNOW that this is not true, but I have to remind myself daily that what I am doing is important, dignified, and a great service not only to my family but also to society.

Rory said...

I'm sorry your sister had to go through that. It sounds horrible. But I can't think that there's a feminist out there who would defend that young man's behavior for one second. It's horrifying. Even if sex on a first date is typical in his social circle, the idea that sex could be an obligation your sister could "owe," a quid pro quo for a nice dinner, is not a feminist idea. Her body, her choice, right? The idea that women have sex in exchange for financial security and a man to provide is, to my mind, an old fashioned idea which we are well rid of.

Maria, I'm not denying that there are connections between feminism and birth control, or feminism and abortion, or feminism and changing social and sexual mores. There are, and as a religious person these are problematic. However, my own life (as a stay-at-home mother) is different because of feminism, because of the sports I played, because of the education I got, and because of the expectation I have with my husband that while we follow pretty traditional gender roles in terms of division of labor we are in important ways equal partners in our relationship. This comes down to things like, we both pay the bills. Neither of us would spend large amounts of money without consulting the other. We make decisions about our children jointly.

To draw some distinctions with my grandparents again: my grandfather gave my grandmother a weekly "allowance" on which to run the household and if she ran out she shorted the kids' lunch money because she had no way of getting more. She never wrote a check or used a credit card or knew how much savings they had or how much he earned. My grandfather expected linen and crystal on the table every night for a formal dinner. My other grandfather decided to move the family to a new state and bought a house without ever consulting his wife. These weren't oppressive monsters. They were nice, respected men who believed that their judgement was superior because they were men.

Feminism has made great changes in society, bad and good. Ultimately I think there is a way to reconcile being a feminist with religion and motherhood. My grandmother believed women were as smart as men but the way they showed it was by how cleverly they could manipulate men. I just don't think that is a holier way to live.

Anonymous said...

An interesting and related post: