Feminism has gone out of vogue. Many times when a woman discusses gender issues she prefaces it with, “I”m not a feminist, but ” That is because of the connotations associated with the word: Angry male-bashers with hairy armpits.
On the other side of the fence lies the stereotypical housewife, who also calls up negative images. One thinks of a pathetic woman in an apron resembling Donna Reed.
So what is a feminist reared by a housewife to do? First, attempt to dispel those definitions. I”m a feminist because I believe in the ideal that women deserve an equal shot as men in practically everything. I don”t think a woman should have to apologize for playing hardball with the big boys, or for expecting her opinion to be taken just as seriously. There is nothing hairy or hateful about it.
It seems the feminist movement went awry somewhere, because though it failed to depict itself properly to society, it somehow has managed to cast a negative light on the phenomenon it rebelled against: Housewives. Women who stay home have been made to feel inadequate. They have been cast, somehow, as pathetic because they live their lives serving their families. This has something to do with the subservient term “housewife.” Why not “housemother,” or better yet “houseparent?” Meanwhile, feminists are considered selfish because they only serve themselves.
College is a selfish time, for men and women. And the number of females attending college grows steadily each year. Most college girls I know are not women after finding their husbands, but women preparing for med school, law school and various professions. But some people don”t want these careers. Last weekend a friend confessed that she is such a person: “I know it sounds horrible but I just want to have kids and raise them.”
Though this sentiment is not usual at the University, it”s not horrible. Most modern, Third Wave feminists of today preach that women can do whatever they want to do. Women do not have to remain docile, submit to their husbands and quietly rear children if their passion is to say, climb the corporate ladder. But if a woman”s true desire is to stay home with her kids once she has them then, finances permitting, so be it. Child rearing is a profession of sorts. And it is nothing to be ashamed of. My mother is a homemaker and she has led a good, selfless life. There has been nothing pathetic about it. She does not eat bon-bons she does not watch soap operas. I don”t remember the last time I saw her in an apron. She has dedicated her time to her children and it is a 24-hour job that involves unlimited rides and pep talks and so much more. Her job entailed making soup for me mid-afternoon when I was home with pneumonia. It included listening to me ramble for ten minutes at three o”clock about what I did that day at school (the information mysteriously forgotten by dinner). Hers is the face I associate with my childhood. She has given her life to my siblings and I, and it has made her perfectly happy. I think we turned out better because of it.
In fact, if my mother did not give herself to me as I was growing up, I”m not sure that I would have the confidence to be the person I am. I don”t think I would have always pushed myself the way I did. Maybe without the homemaker, there would not be the feminist.
That feminist in me cannot wait to graduate, grab the proverbial bull by its horns and launch my career. I know that I will never stop writing. I also will eventually want my kids to get the same attention that I got. Every family has to figure details out on their own but I think one parent working at home, freelancing perhaps, with the kids sounds like a good solution. I would ideally like to be that parent. So I want both. I want to have a successful career and be a homemaker. Maybe feminists are selfish after all.
Gina Hamadey”s column runs every other Tuesday. She can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.