education, feminism, girls, growing up, long blog posts, mom blog, parenting, politics, stay at home mom

Is “Post-Feminism” Feminism a Thing Yet?

To read something written by a woman that belittles the choice others have made to be stay at home moms — in the name of “feminism” of all things — is just one thing that disappoints me about the current state of our society.

But alas in an article for The Atlantic, Elizabeth Wurtzel does just that. In fact, she criticizes many different types of women as she accuses THEM of perpetuating the “War on Women.”

Among her claims:

[. . .]Being a mother isn’t really work. Yes, of course, it’s something — actually, it’s something almost every woman at some time does, some brilliantly and some brutishly and most in the boring middle of making okay meals and decent kid conversation. But let’s face it: It is not a selective position. A job that anyone can have is not a job, it’s a part of life, no matter how important people insist it is (all the insisting is itself overcompensation). Even moms with full-time jobs spend 86 percent as much time with their kids as unemployed mothers, so it is apparently taking up the time of about 14 percent of a paid position. And all the cultish glorification of home and hearth still leaves us in a world where most of the people paid to chef and chauffeur in the commercial world are men. Which is to say, something becomes a job when you are paid for it — and until then, it’s just a part of life.

She has a world view I cannot relate to at all. Which is fine — not everybody has to see the world like I do — but I wish she wasn’t so mean to women. Apparently she considers herself a feminist. I had no idea they were so mean.

I thought feminism was about wanting women to be allowed to do what they choose to do, instead of what they are told they are allowed to do (by men – or oppressive women?). You know, all Title IX and “You go, girl!” and all that stuff. Boy howdy, was I wrong.

Somehow when I was looking into this feminism business, I came across a beautifully written, but heartbreaking piece by Rebecca Walker from 2008. Her mother is a well known author and a fervent feminist. And by Ms. Walker’s account, she was (and still is) a terrible mother. And not in the funny way.

Ms. Walker states:

You see, my mum taught me that children enslave women. I grew up believing that children are millstones around your neck, and the idea that motherhood can make you blissfully happy is a complete fairytale. [. . .] My mother’s feminist principles coloured every aspect of my life. As a little girl, I wasn’t even allowed to play with dolls or stuffed toys in case they brought out a maternal instinct. It was drummed into me that being a mother, raising children and running a home were a form of slavery. Having a career, travelling the world and being independent were what really mattered according to her.

Ms. Walker is now a mother herself and I can only imagine how she must be reliving parts of her childhood as she watches her own child grow. (She wrote a book chronicling her pregnancy, Baby Love, which I have just added to my reading list.)

Not every woman has to choose to be a mother like I did, but to not support a woman in whatever she chooses for her own life (obviously provided it’s not a self destructive choice) doesn’t seem like a very good principle to stand behind. Or in front of. Or on top of. Or near.

So what do you call it when you want women to feel empowered and treated as equals in whatever path they choose for their lives? What do you call it when you want to raise daughters (or sons!) who are strong and confident and independent and loving and happy? What do you call it when you support women instead of criticizing everything that is different about them?

Is there a movement for that? Well, maybe there could be.

Anne-Marie Slaughter has been living with this reality as well and wrote an amazing essay about it for The Atlantic. As she explains her position that “woman can’t have it all” she shares how she came to that conclusion:

Women of my generation have clung to the feminist credo we were raised with, even as our ranks have been steadily thinned by unresolvable tensions between family and career, because we are determined not to drop the flag for the next generation. But when many members of the younger generation have stopped listening, on the grounds that glibly repeating “you can have it all” is simply airbrushing reality, it is time to talk.

As I read Ms. Slaughter’s article, I couldn’t help but feel as if I was peeking behind an elusive curtain of sorts; even though our lives are not similar at all, I related to so much of what she said as I knew many of my career decisions were affected by my desire to be ever present in my (at the time, future) children’s lives. The article goes on to discuss how the current work culture in the US is not conducive to a healthy work/life balance and how changing that could be the basis for creating opportunities for more women (and families) to succeed. It’s a very long article, but I promise: you will not regret the time you spend reading it.

And after I read her article, I was given great hope as to what our society could be. I was given hope that I am not the only one not satisfied by what is currently accepted as the path to being a successful woman. I was given hope that cherishing your children and your family does not mean you are any less smart or any less ambitious. I was given hope for my daughters and the opportunities that will be available for them.

I don’t know if an actual “post-feminism” feminist movement exists. (And really, that’s a terrible name; let’s not go with that.) But I know that I am not alone. And that is enough to push me forward today. That is also what I needed to know to keep me from moving to Canada. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, eh.)

Lovely. Let’s keep them that way.

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