Monday, January 15, 2007

The Feminist Mistake

I went to Vassar College . All the jokes about Vassar that abound in our popular culture are, to some extent, true (think Lisa Simpson). It has a reputation for strong women who crave power and who wish to defy cultural stereotyping (by the way it has been co-ed since 1969). I ADORED my department (anthropology), my advisor was like a second mother to me. I HATED college life. I remember someone asking me "what I wanted to do" after Vassar. I responded that I wanted to get married and raise a family. The response? "Well then why are you at Vassar?" The implication being that such a goal meant that I didn't need, or even deserve, a college education, much less a rigorous one.

Yesterday I read To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife by Caitlin Flanagan. In it she explores the notion that in this modern era of hard-won equalities for women, women are still pulled toward and responsible for the traditionally feminine spheres of homemaking and child-rearing. She is curious about the narrative of "opression" as it pertains to family/homelife that the early feminists of the 1970s "imposed" (her words) on women. How have those 1970s lessons played out for today's woman?

It was an interesting read and it stirred up old thoughts and emotions about how I feel being a woman in the year 2007. I love the "domestic arts," cleaning, cooking, crafting, planning, budgeting, washing clothes etc. I LOVE being a mom. I regret that "being a feminist" has evolved to connotatively mean that I am supposed to shun the traditionally feminine sphere. I don't feel less of a human being because I am most fulfilled by being with my family. I also don't feel like less of a woman because my husband does most of the cooking. I am glad that times have changed. I am glad my daughter can be an astronaut, a construction worker, a paleontologist or an Olympic archer. I think the mistake of early feminism that has trickled down to us is that it is not socially or economically as acceptable for my daughter to want to be a mommy.

I wish I had a short-hand way to say all that. I wish I could flash a card that said "It is cool to be a mom, it is cool to 'keep house,' our minds are sharp and our contributions are valuable--let's celebrate that this path is good too." Remember the bumper sticker that says "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people"? I want people to remember that mommies are people too.


Eluciq said...

It is so cool to be a mom! Jenn I had the same goals as you did when you went to college...however I was not at Vassar...giggle:) And well I failed to accomplish my goals while at college...I waited two years after graduation.

Loving my life as a mom to two really cool kids with their own personality/individuality!


Tracy said...

I recently told someone that being a feminist means it is AS okay for my son to become a stay-at-home parent as it is for my daughter. I hope we eventually arrive at the point where we value people more than we value positions or careers. Love coming across other mothers who feel the same.