This article on ‘How Feminism Has Left SAHMs Behind’ has been doing the rounds on social media the last few days, and I wanted to comment on it pretty heavily since it discusses a few things I have plenty of opinions about. Also, I’m just back off holiday and I haven’t blogged in a while so this is as good a place as any to kick things off again.
Here we go:
Like the rest of the stay-at-home moms I know, feminism has left me behind.
The problem here, as I see it, is that the author is of the belief that corporate feminism is the only type of feminism. Corporate feminism has its place, and of course it’s important to see women at the top of organisations and governments, but it leaves behind far more women than it pushes forward and is still pursuing a patriarchal, capitalist model. The fact that a feminist Stay At Home Parent feels left out of this kind of feminism, is one of its self-created problems.
( As an aside whilst we’re at it, Stay at Home Parents might be a thing now, we definitely have Stay at Home Dads, right? But we sure as hell don’t have Work Outside the Home Dads. I think I’m going to try and get that off the ground.)
Feminism doesn’t see our child-rearing, much less all that goes with it, as valuable. There is no glory, no glass ceiling in poo-wiping, or mac and cheese cooking, or alphabet-teaching.
Yes, feminism absolutely sees the value in this. A patriarchal, capitalist society does not.
I’m a breastfeeding activist. I spent years teaching women to babywear. I want to become a leader with Attachment Parenting International. I teach the occasional homeschool class to other kids.
Look, she really wants you to know she’s not *just* a Stay at Home Mom , OK? She has a brain. She was doing a PhD you know? Sorry, that’s unnecessarily snarky. I know that feeling. I always want to tell people that I have an MA after I’ve told them I work as a PA. I do it because I want people to know I’m more than my job. I wonder why the author here is doing it? Would she feel the same about her SAHM status if she didn’t have the PhD background? Does she think differently of SAHMs who can barely get themselves dressed in the morning let alone homeschool?
No one could possibly authentically want to do what we’re doing, which is to put our children before ourselves.
Uh – oh. Here comes the old ‘who loves their kids the most?’ debate. SAHM’s put their children before themselves, mothers who work outside the home are selfish harridans.
Because I chose this stay-at-home mom thing for my own self-actualization, and that of my children, it’s as feminist of a choice as any.
The author makes sure to emphasise that we know she chose to stay at home with her children. This line implies that it is the fact of the choice which makes it feminist, rather than the fact of being a SAHM. Are you less of a feminist, then, if you are staying at home out of financial necessity rather than choice?
I work outside the home. I don’t consider it a feminist choice, hell I don’t even consider it a choice. Would I still work outside the home if I didn’t have to? Who knows? I’d be a different person then. Certainly the frantic mornings, the battling with the (lack of) guilt society dictates I should feel, the juggling, the overwhelming tedium of the daily grind – well, none of those feel like particularly feminist things.
That’s why SAHM or WOHM, what needs to change is the system, not the woman.
I was a feminist in grad school. I’m a feminist now. I refuse to jettison the term just because others claim I don’t have the right to it.
I’ve been thinking quite a lot about this lately. About who has the right, or otherwise, to call themselves a feminist. I don’t like to tell anyone how to do feminism, for me it’s a place of continued learning, so I don’t like to accuse people of not being feminist enough, or not doing feminism how I want them to. But when Leo Varadkar can call himself a feminist, I think there’s something damaging about the casual appropriation of the term. Anyway, more of that on another day. Suffice to say in this case, I’m pretty sure the author is a feminist, she just needs to stop reading Sheryl Sandberg.
If feminism means making your own choices, the chance to live a fully realized life without outside pressure to do or be something, we are feminists. And while some days may be difficult, while sometimes we may want to sell the children and run away to Vegas, we are happy in our choices. And in the end, that’s what feminism means.
The emphasis on choice in this piece is problematic, as is the privilege which is wafting off it in waves. A woman’s right to make her own choices is vital. However, we must always remember that being able to make a choice is a position of privilege. It’s glib and reductive to say that feminism is about being happy in your choice ; that’s just a satisfying, and elusive, by-product.
All this being said I can empathise with the author. Motherhood can be diminished , I often feel this, and as much by other women as anyone else. But I don’t blame feminism for this, I blame a society that values all the wrong things, and a system that has been constructed to benefit white middle class men.
Let’s end on a positive note though and go back to this quote:
I’m a breastfeeding activist. I spent years teaching women to babywear. I want to become a leader with Attachment Parenting International. I teach the occasional homeschool class to other kids. I have a life of the mind; I have a life of feminist activism.
I think she sounds like an excellent mother and feminist – I hope she finds her tribe.