you are probably not a good enough feminist

I’m beginning to have no idea what “feminism” means.

Elizabeth Wurtzel wrote this predictably inflammatory essay in The Atlantic about why some fictional-sounding wealthy housewives are responsible for the “war on women.” In it she said, “Let’s please be serious grown-ups: real feminists don’t depend on men.”

In her supportive response, Jill, of Feministe, writes: “No. Feminism is not about choice”

Wait. Wait a second. But—I was pretty sure—But in my gender studies classes…But my mom…I thought?

OK, the full quote from Jill is:

In any comment section on the internet where feminism comes up, someone will pipe up and cry, “But feminism is about CHOICE!” No. Feminism is not about choice – at least not insofar as it’s about saying “Any choice women make is a feminist one and so we can’t criticize or judge it.” Feminism isn’t about creating non-judgmental happy-rainbow enclaves where women can do whatever they want without criticism. Feminism is about achieving social, economic and political equality for all people, regardless of gender. It’s not about making every woman feel good about whatever she does, or treating women like delicate hot-house flowers who can’t be criticized.

 So obviously there’s a little bit more to it.

(LAME!)

And since we’re criticizing women now, as feminists, let’s talk about how lame SAHMs are. Because that’s a new thought. Wurtzel is all over that. She’s disappointed in “full-time wives,” who are the same as SAHMs, but I think with more nannies and pedicures and possibly servants. She feels betrayed by them. She makes it clear that everything is about money. “… there really is only one kind of equality — it precedes all the emotional hullabaloo — and it’s economic. If you can’t pay your own rent, you are not an adult.” (thankfully, Jill contests this idea.)

Commenters add that being a SATM may make someone happy, but that’s a different thing entirely from being an adult.

OK, so being an adult= misery. 

So I definitely don’t want to be an adult.

Good to know.

 

Motherhood is not a job, both writers agree. Practically any woman can do it. There are no qualifications. It’s not selective. So let’s cut the crap. Stop saying it’s “the most important job in the world!” Men know it’s not. Everyone knows it’s not. It’s not even a job!

OK, maybe it’s not a job. Who cares? Does everything valuable have to be a job? Do we really have to think of everything in terms of money? Yes, Wurtzel would clearly say.

Jill is concerned about the children of these women who aren’t contributing anything to society. She says:

It’s also worth considering the messages that we model to our kids. If staying home is your “feminist choice” and you actually have a full range of choices, what does that say to your sons and daughters about gender roles? Is it in any way challenging an already deeply-held cultural assumption that women exist to serve others? That women are care-givers and need-meeters and housekeepers and emotional-work-doers, whereas men are breadwinners and influencers and public-sphere-operators who are served by women? What is your son going to expect of himself and in a partner? What is your daughter going to internalize?

Well, I can tell you what kind of an example MY mom set. My mom has always struck me as high-powered. That is not an exaggeration or a joke. She was a SAH homeschooling mom. She was intensely organized, viciously smart, and always tuned-in. She knew what was what. She was high-octane. She was intimidating. She had an opinion about everything, and she was pretty damn sure she was right. It took me until very recently to realize that my mom is not “high powered” by standard definitions. I had to learn that “high powered” meant making a ton of money. Meant being the head of a corporation or working at a major Wall Street firm or governing a state.

I have always admired people with grit. My parents are entrepreneurs. They started and ran a business together when they were first married, and for a decade after that. My dad still runs it now. For years and years, they barely had any money, but they were living the life they’d chosen. When my mom chose not to send her kids to school, the argument could’ve been made that my parents didn’t have enough money for that kind of lifestyle. Well, whatever. People make a lot of different lifestyles work with a lot of different amounts of money.

My feminist SAHM was always going. She never, ever stopped. For occasional fun, she grew enormous flower and vegetable gardens. She would read in bed, after the day was done. She taught me I could be anything I wanted. She thought I would be a good lawyer. A good rabbi. She thought I’d be a good professor. She taught me to work hard for what I wanted.

But I don’t just object to the idea that SAHMs are destroying society and are bad role-models for their daughters (such an old argument at this point). I also don’t like how no one seems to be talking about women who work from home here. What about women who contribute to the rent check but can’t pay it in full because they’ve worked out a situation with their partner that enables them to do something they really want to do, instead of working a more standard job? What about women who could pay their own rent if they lived somewhere a lot less safe, but have a partner who makes enough money for them to live closer to a pretty park where they can go jogging in the evenings, and so they live there instead? What about the women who are making absolutely nothing for now, because they’re starting their own business, and they need support for one year before they can become more financially independent? What about the women whose partners support them in taking risks that might lead to big rewards? The men who work terribly boring jobs that earn them pretty good money and are living vicariously through their partner’s awesome, world-saving non-profit career that pays very little? What about the men who are thrilled for their girlfriends and wives because these women are pursuing their dreams? What about the women who aren’t moms yet or won’t be ever or who will be moms but not SAHMs, but who are financially dependent and hardworking?

Especially now, in today’s economy, where it is harder for absolutely everyone to get a job. Where people are doing twenty different part time things at once, and becoming increasingly desperate and creative. Where online business is booming and so many of the people driving that kind of business are creative women. You’d think there’d be more room to think non-traditionally about jobs, as well as thinking non-traditionally about relationships. Sometimes a traditional relationship allows for creative freedom. Sometimes a traditional relationship is anything but traditional. It depends how the people in it feel. How they act. How they treat each other.

Let’s not imagine that the conversation should stop at “the woman is at home.” There’s more to the story.

And God, I don’t want to have a normal job. I have done it, and I would do it again, if I had to. But I feel so incredibly lucky to be a writer. I don’t want to have a high-powered job. I really don’t. I want to make up as many of the rules as I possibly can. I want to shape my own life. Of course I do.

(me, as the worst feminist ever)

Luckily, I never thought I’d make much money. It was never a goal of mine. I don’t make much money now. I make more than I thought I’d make, when I started writing full-time. I make more every year. But on my own, I would still be poor. I don’t think it’ll always be that way. I think one day I will make a lot more money than I do now. But it’ll be a while. When you’re trying to make it as an artist, it usually takes a long time, to make money. You have to build up for it.

Without Bear as my safety net, I would not have the chance to build up to it. Not the way I am now. Not working every day, all day, at it. Not being able to throw my whole self into it.

I don’t think that me having a normal job would be better for the world. I think it would be worse. Not that I am saving the world over here. But I am certainly saying a lot more than I would otherwise be able to. My voice is out there, somewhere, as a part of a conversation. I think that means something.

Should I go get a “real job” instead? For feminism? Should my mom have? I would have gone to school then. My childhood would have been totally different. My mom, maybe, would have not appeared so bold to me. So brave.

“When it’s come up, I have chosen not to get married. Over and over again, I have opted for my integrity and independence over what was easy or obvious,” Wurtzel says, explaining how she is personally modeling her version of feminism.

When it “came up,” I chose immediately to get married. I was in love, after all. And it did feel easy. It felt easy and good and right. It felt obvious. I hope that becoming a mother one day will feel like those things, too. I know it isn’t all like that all the time, but life is friggin’ short, and I want it to be as easy as possible. Which is not to say that I’m not going to work my ass off. But it is to say that I’m not going to restrict myself based on an abstract idea of what women should do in order to fight in this perpetual “war on women” that keeps magazines like the Atlantic flying off the stands.

Do I want women to be paid as much as men? OF COURSE. Are you kidding me?

Things are not perfect. They are far from it. I feel sick to my stomach over the sexism and injustice that are constantly stirred up in our policy-making, national debates, and daily lives. But at the same time, I can’t see a way forward that doesn’t involve allowing people to pursue individual happiness.

I was talking to another writer the other day. She is just getting started. She has a PhD in something impressive from an impressive university. But she wants with all her heart to write all day. Her boyfriend wants that for her, too, and so they are living on his meager salary in a tiny apartment in a city cheaper than this one, where they are very, very happy.

Maybe one day, they’ll break up. And you know what—I think she’ll figure out what to do at that point. Maybe by then, she’ll be totally financially independent anyway. Sometimes you just need to be given half a chance. To get on your feet. To have the room to hone your craft and send a million pitches.

I don’t want to live in fear. That I’m failing women. That Bear might die or divorce me and then what? And then oh my god, I’ll be helpless. I am not helpless. And I have been working since I was a kid. The difference is, now I get to work at something I love.

If that doesn’t fit into whichever definition of feminism we’re going with these days, that’s fine with me. I’ll just be one happy woman, who still believes in choice.

(and even finds babies occasionally incredibly cute)

*  *  *

Unroast: Today I love the way I love to look at the sky.

65 Comments »

Kate on June 27th 2012 in being different, fear, feminism

65 Responses to “you are probably not a good enough feminist”

  1. Sheryl responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 2:00 pm #

    When “feminism” is taken to mean “women must work outside the home to be equal to men” it makes my head (and heart) hurt. Why are other choices so much less valuable? It seems like a shift from women being FORCED to take care of the home life to women FORCED to be breadwinners. Either way there is no freedom, and without the freedom to make choices how are we supposed to be equal?

    How does it support the idea of equality to say women HAVE TO live certain types of lives and careers in order to be taken seriously? Men have a whole smorgasbord of choices available to them, and can make most of them without being told that they are failing their duties as men, so why shouldn’t women be offered that same variety?

  2. Samantha Angela responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    Why does every choice a woman makes have to be there to prove a point? Maybe being a SAHM doesn’t teach the children that women have to be caregivers. Maybe it teaches them the importance of being actively involved in raising a family. Maybe it encourages them to put family first, if they have the means to do that and live on one income. Maybe it teaches them to pursue what they want in life regardless of societal pressure (which is currently that a woman has to work to be useful to society)

    Our mothers and grandmothers fought to be in the workforce to defy stereotypes. It’s pathetic that we now have to fight our way back into the home. Feminism has taken that freedom away from us.

  3. Courtney responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    I haven’t yet read through both articles thoroughly, but I have to say that these arguments both interest and annoy me. I can agree to some extent with the Feministe piece–I don’t think every choice for a woman should be heartily applauded just because it was a woman who made the choice. When people (such as myself) say that feminism’s about choice, I think it means that we want there to BE a choice. The outcomes of the choice are…not irrelevant, but not really what it’s about. Whether a woman should be a SAHM or a career woman is a personal thing, but the point is that the choice is hers and that it exists is what’s important. I agree with what Sheryl said above, that there is no equality without the freedom to choose.

    The thing that annoys me about these arguments is that I think it alienates a lot of people from calling themselves feminists, and makes feminism seem incredibly rigid.

  4. Sarah R. responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    I loved this post. And I love Samantha’s comments, too.

    Building a family (whether that family has children or not, has one or two parents, is a couple, or whatever) is hard and important work. And I find it truly disheartening that most of society thinks money is the only thing with value or power. It’s not that I want to sit at home all day cooking and cleaning and patting the baby on the head, waiting for my big, important man to come home and give me my allowance. It’s that WE, as a family, want to reclaim our lives. And for us, part of that is trading money for time and traditional “power” for the power of shaping our own days/priorities/values.

    Full disclosure: right now I (and my husband) work full time out of the home, but I want (and plan) to eventually be home with the kid(s) and work part time from home.

  5. Iris responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    I agree wholly with this. Myself, I’m from a family that follows very traditional gender roles. Though my mum is certainly “high-powered” in the business sense of the word (she’s the Director of a company and for a while was our family’s main breadwinner while my stepdad was pursuing his dream career), she also does the cooking, the cleaning, the caring for children – while my stepdad does the fixing things, the washing cars, all the stereotypical man stuff.

    As a teenager I watched this with a bit of confusion, not understanding how my mum could be happy with the arrangement and finding the way my stepdad would arrive for dinner and wander off after without helping to tidy up, leaving me and my mum to clean while my brothers also scampered, annoying.

    Then one day I asked my mum about it. Turns out, she just really hates doing all the fixing things and cleaning cars and outdoorsy handyman stuff. She’d much rather be cooking and cleaning while my stepdad takes care of that – plus he’s a really terrible cook.

    I don’t see why we can’t just let people do whatever the hell they want to, whether they’re male or female, staying home or working a high-pressure, high-powered job… if a couple finds a way of living their life that makes them both happy and happens to conform with “traditional” gender structure, then so what? Like you, I’d rather be happy than rich, rather be self-assured than powerful in the eyes of others, and I think making a choice just because it’s the hard, “valuable” one is just as stupid as going the easy way if it’s not what you actually WANT to do. And those are the values I’d want my hypothetical daughters to have, too.

  6. Janet T responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    In the 28 years we’ve been married, I’ve worked outside the home, stayed home with the kids for 10 years, and now we own our own business.
    When I stayed at home it was wonderful for all of us. I used to say “I’m spoiled and so are my husband and our kids” Getting by on one income was rough, but worth every moment of it.

    I have had other women dismiss me and try to make me feel less about myself, because I didn’t work outside the home during that period- strangely enough men rarely did. I certainly never felt as though I should be out conquering mountains instead of helping my kids with their homework or making lunches. And I always felt that if other women needed to be conquering mountains, instead of what I was doing, so be it.

    I think the strongest point about feminism is that it IS NOT about tearing down other women and their life choices.

  7. Sam responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    Yes, yes, yes. Amazing post Kate. I don’t understand what feminism means anymore either. And this kind of argument just makes my head hurt, because it has become so inflammatory lately that women now lose no matter what they do. If I choose to be a stay at home mom, people like Wurtzel tell me I’m not a good enough woman. If I choose to keep working and arrange some form of child care for my (future) children, the attachment parenting advocates like Jamie Lynne Grumet (of TIME Magazine cover fame) tell me I’m not a good enough mother. So which is it? And are those my only choices? Bad woman, or bad mother? And which am I if I decide to only work part time? How depressing.

    When people say things like “feminism is not about choice,” I think what they really mean is “feminism is about choosing MY choice.” Well, that is entirely unacceptable to me. And I’m super sick and tired of being told that every choice I make is a referendum on the feminist movement. How about, I choose what works for me, and you choose what works for you, and we all go on with our lives? Right?

  8. Farida responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    I like this post so much :) I’m totally agree with you, I’ll Tweet it

  9. Melissa responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    If feminism were a monolith and Elizabeth Wurtzel was the high priestess, I would hand in my official issue combat boots and give up. Thankfully, most feminist blogs I’ve seen tackling that article have come to the conclusion that she is kind of a douche. My take on choice feminism is that no, not all choices are feminist choices, but choosing the non-feminist option for yourself doesn’t make you a bad feminist. Refusing to examine your choices at all might make you an incompetent feminist, I suppose. But this idea that having kids means you also need to have a job, unless you want to be a terrible role model and a bad parent and set the movement back thirty years? That’s crap. Add it to the pile of “Things You Must Absolutely Do Unless You Want To FAIL AT BEING A WOMAN OMG.” Also in that pile: shave your legs, don’t shave your legs, breastfeed, don’t breastfeed, co-sleep, don’t co-sleep, etc.

  10. Meghan responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    What really stood out to me was this:

    If you can’t pay your own rent, you are not an adult.

    It’s funny, because by that metric, neither my husband nor I are adults. He’s the one with a full-time job, and he earns most of the money for our household. (Previously it’s been me, but I hated it–now I stay home with our daughter and freelance occasionally.) But he can’t pay the mortgage. I don’t even think he knows how to log into the mortgage account, because his superpower is getting frustrated and then sometimes ignoring bills.

    So he makes all the money, and I do all the budgeting and bill-paying. Neither of us would be able to do this without the other–sure, in a pinch, I’d go back to work and carry us financially, and I’m sure that if something catastrophic happened to me, he’d figure it out, though possibly not before he got a bunch of late payment fees and threats to cut off the electricity. But on a day to day basis, each of us needs the other one to be doing what they’re doing.

    It’s strange to me that people are so willing to dismiss stay at home motherhood as a valid choice–especially because at this point, being a stay at home mother (generally) requires a certain amount of bucking what society expects! Unless you’re part of the 1%, American life isn’t really set up to support families with a single wage earner. To stay home, you give things up–you’re pretty much required to adapt a lower standard of living than you’d have if you were both working. Vacations, second cars, and cable television are all non-necessities–often taken for granted by middle-class America, but suddenly too expensive when you only have one working adult.

    Feminism is, in my opinion, about making sure that women have choices, and that they’re able to make them. Maybe that means being a stay at home parent who doesn’t shave or wear makeup, cooks supper every night, and fixes all the things around the house–that’s me. Or maybe it’s being a doctor who wears lots of makeup, eats a frozen Weight Watchers meal every night, and doesn’t even plunge her own toilet–that’s ok, too. Both of these women are making the right choice for them, and I think that’s all that matters.

  11. Kate responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    @Melissa
    Can you point me to some other responses? I am actually not good at keeping up with blogs, but would LOVE to read more thoughts on this (your own, for example, are fantastic). Please tell me what you’re reading!

  12. Amanda responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    Wonderful post, and great responses from smart ladies. Keep it up.

  13. Kate responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    Oh, and someone wrote me a very thoughtful email about all this, and pointed out that it’s maybe not the right idea to argue “my mom was a working mom/SAHM and she was great/terrible, so this is great/terrible!” I didn’t mean to imply that SAH motherhood is a fabulous idea because my mom is fabulous, but I was definitely defending SAHMs as strong, interesting feminists who inspire their daughters. But the emailer was right– there’s more to it than that.

  14. Kate responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    @Amanda
    I know, right? The comments are AMAZING

  15. Katherine responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 3:58 pm #

    Isn’t part of feminism respecting women? Which would include respecting what they choose to do? Which would mean if it is important to me to stay at home with my kids, then we could maybe give thanks that I am lucky enough to be able to, and then respect that decision.

    (Not that I have kids at all. But when I do, I want to stay at home with them, and I’ve thought a lot about how people will inevitably assume I’m unenlightened or conforming to gender roles and I’m like, who cares? If this is a gender role I WANT to conform to, that speaks to my heart, then don’t harass me or demean me over it. I’m not making you stay home, no one is, so go have your job, and be happy, and leave me alone.)

    Well done.

  16. Melanie responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    Gah! This goes along with my whole philosophy of how people need to stop with the “my way is the only right way” mentality. It creates so much ugliness.

    I was a feminist when I was a broke college student writing for the underground paper. I was a feminist when I worked with children whom I see out and about who still remember who I am, more than a decade later. I was a feminist when I stopped doing what I love in order to be more financially secure. I am a feminist when I choose to drive to see my new boyfriend and all I want to do is curl up in his arms for an hour and have him tell me how pretty and amazing I am.

    Let someone tell me I’m not a feminist. I dare them!

    Also, some of my stay at home mommy friends are the most amazing feminists I know. People need to stop the judging and start the praising.

  17. Cari responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    It strikes me as odd to call a feminist one who forces herself and others into a male-defined paradigm, cementing the values (the economic values) that are already rampant in our society. I understand feminism as somewhat upsetting the status quo and allowing women to be defined as individuals and not by stereotypical gender roles. I don’t want to have to conform to what is traditionally valued in a patriarchal culture!

  18. margosita responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    I agree with you in so many ways.

    But I agree with Wurtzel and Jill, too. Not every choice a woman makes is feminist. Not every choice a feminist makes is feminist! And most choices are going to exist in grey murky ground somewhere in between. Like choosing to stay at home. There are smart and reasonable reasons to choose that path. But no matter what your reasons, it will never be a politically neutral decision. No matter how feminist your heart is, if your husband is out making the money and your only job is taking care of the kids, you are going to reinforce gender norms. Whatever you tell you child, society is still going to line up and say “Women are caretakers and belong in the home” and that idea is going to be supported by your kids experience.

    We are all going make bargains and compromises living in the patriarchy. (Not just women. Men too!) But being a feminist should mean that you’re aware of what your actions mean.

    Like Wurtzel points out, many families are two-income families for economic reasons. Many single-income families (of the type she talks about) are that way because they can afford it (and generally a luxurious lifestyle). I think that’s important. She is talking about CLASS in her piece as much as she is talking about gender. Rich women not working are, quite simply, not feminist. I find it hard to disagree with that.

    I agree with you, though, that the more interesting and relevant conversation would be one around the ways in which women work and parent and deal with the gender expectations of both. How do we raise women who are not helpless and still able to negotiate the family and financial balance that works for them in a society that isn’t always supportive of that?

  19. Michi responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    Ugh, Wurtzel is being such a douche in that article. I hadn’t read it initially, but I’d read Jill’s response and had mostly agreed with her points. The part I think she glossed over is that some choices are easier than others. In a lot of cases, it’s easier to choose to stay at home or work part time than it is to work in a “high powered” field. It can be hard to find a guy who honestly does his share of the housework so that you can get as far along in your career as he does. So you make the easier choice, and work less and care for your family more, and let your dude be kind of a slacker.

    So, I guess what I’m saying is that choices are not all equal. Taking the easy way out isn’t feminist. It isn’t necessarily anti-feminist, of course. After all, no one is *expected* or *required* to fight the feminist fight every minute of every day. But it does, in a variety of small ways, make things harder for the ones who are still fighting.

    I’m a lady scientist, for example. Perhaps soon to be ex lady scientist. Because, it turns out, being a lady scientist is a constant, never ending battle to get dudes to listen to you and/or take you seriously and/or not steal your ideas and sabotage your experiments. When I was young and naive, I thought it was the kind of battle you fought once and won, but it’s most certainly not. So now, I’m seriously considering quitting science altogether. And when I do that, every dude who had a problem with me gets confirmation that women can’t do science after all. That’s not a feminist choice. I’m not making it as a feminist for the good of feminism. If anything, I’m making things harder for those who come after me. But I’m making it because I’m tired and I can’t fight anymore.

    Somewhere along the line, anti-feminists decided that since feminism was for the betterment of women, then any choice any individual woman made was feminist, even if it screwed us over as a group in the long run, which you could certainly argue that opting out of the workplace does (women are passed over for promotions because they might have kids and stay home, they aren’t hired at all or are paid less for those reasons, there are fewer numbers of women in the workplace which makes each individual woman have to fight harder for respect… I could go on). It isn’t right to call that kind of choice feminist. But it also isn’t right to condemn those same individual women for making choices in a world where the cards are stacked against them, and every option is the wrong one in one way or another.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I got the impression that the arguments the articles were making was a semantic one: “Do what you want, but don’t call it feminist if it’s not.”

  20. Kate responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    @Michi
    I’m not really sure that one is actually “easier” than the other. I think it depends who you are and what your skill set is. I think it depends on a lot of things! And I don’t think “easy” equals “non-feminist.” Where did that even come from?

    I’m not trying to argue with you in an offended, angry way here, at all, but I also wonder about the last idea. Who gets to decide what is “feminist”? And is it true that everyone is calling what they’re doing feminist? Aren’t we mostly just living our lives?

  21. Alii responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    So I’ve been puttering around the feminist blogsophere for a while and I’ve sorted out my favorite way to say what feminism /IS/ and have it describe everything I want to say about what feminism tries to accomplish. It’s also a good definition for me to fall back on when the argument gets complicated. Your mileage, of course, may vary, but maybe you’ll find it useful?

    Feminism means valuing the (current culturally-defined) feminine equal to the (currently culturally-defined) masculine.

    I’ve always figured that’s why they called it ‘feminism’ in the first place rather than anything else.

    That’s it. It means valuing women, it means valuing _feminine_ women, it means valuing the abstract feminine, it means men wearing nifty colored nail polish because the feminine isn’t ‘lesser’, and it means your mom is absolutely ‘high-powered’ because of all the reasons you thought she was high-powered as a kid. It means both the masculine version of high-powered and the feminine version are equally awesome. It means that the argument ‘get a damned job or you’re not an adult’ is bullshit because it sort of insultingly implies that because 1950s+ US society considers men the breadwinners and having a job to be masculine, that a woman must adopt masculine traits to be worthwhile. It means that cooking and cleaning are life skills taught to all genders rather than remaining ‘stuff your wife does’, leaving it open for people who like to do it to do it without running afoul of the gender police. It also means that picture of you in the apron is /adorable/ and a perfectly legitimate expression of feminism. :)

    It means that feminists often use the shorthand of ‘choice’ because what we’re really trying to say is that choosing to be feminine should be a valid feminist option and should never be seen as a lesser or inferior.

    I get where the ‘NEVER CONFORM TO STEREOTYPES’ people are coming from, and those sorts are often trailblazers for the rest of us, but it’s not a school of feminism that I would feel comfortable belonging to.

  22. Kate responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    @Alii
    YOU ROCK. That was so awesome.

  23. Hunter responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    A thoughtful piece!

    It’s a difficult matter. It always is, when our individual lives become something to justify or explain or defend.

    Because after all, it is so personal – how we live, and why. I think a lot of people get tied up in debates about it because we feel like there is a sort of feminist archetype looking over our shoulder, evaluating not just what decisions we make but how we make them.

  24. Ally responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    WOWZA!

    Great post…has be thinking and rejoicing at the choices that I have made. I was once on the track to being a “power house:” using my higher education degree, climbing the rungs of the corporate ladder, etc. etc. etc. boring. saddening. heart-breaking. unfulfilling.

    Today I am a full-time yoga teacher because my husband loves me enough, and believe in me enough, to help make it happen.

    Feminist? Not?

    I’m not sure that I care.

    But I do know that I. FINALLY. LOVE. MY. LIFE…and that is more than enough for me.

  25. Brenda responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 6:20 pm #

    “What about the women who are making absolutely nothing for now, because they’re starting their own business, and they need support for one year before they can become more financially independent?”

    Yes, what about those women? What about me? Am I not a feminist?

    And what if those women (who are relying on their boyfriends to support them for a year) have arranged it so that AFTER that year their male partners can quit their traditional job and do what they love, too? What about your dad?

    What if we all just get to do what we want and be happy?

    What then?

  26. Lauren Michelle responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    You just took the words right out of my mouth.

  27. Erin responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    Oh my gosh. I’m a TERRIBLE feminist. Truly awful. But at least I am the hero in my *own* life, if not the lives of women I’ve never met that I don’t give a hoot about.

  28. SolariC responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 10:25 pm #

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while, but this is the first time I’ve been inspired to comment. I thought your post was very powerful and thought-provoking. Even though I of course believe in the equality of men and women and their equal rights in the workplace, etc., etc., I’ve never been comfortable identifying myself as a feminist, simply because I find that the movement tends to condemn anyone who makes the choice to be empowered by a more traditional and/or conventional role (i.e., the SAHM – not that I am one, but I respect them, since I now how much work they do).

    However, I’d be a feminist according to your views. This was an awesome post!

  29. morgaine responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    @Alii – THIS. I was having a similar conversation earlier today, actually. This week, I’m working as a counselor at a camp for academically gifted kids, a camp I attended as a kid. Many of the kids are into traditionally masculine geek culture – video games, computer programming, etc. Not a damn thing wrong with that, but as a camper and a lifelong girly girl, I remember feeling it was overrepresented. As a counselor, I’m happy to be a role model for some of the little girls (and a few boys, too!) who would rather take nature walks and play dress-up than shoot bad guys. Those kids are just as intelligent as their more technologically oriented counterparts, and I really enjoy challenging the assumption that you can wear pretty dresses OR you can be a smart, engaged citizen. Fact is, there’s nothing inherently frivolous about fashion and makeup and baking. We only see them as such because the feminine is still derided. Being strong and empowered should never have to mean abandoning traditional femininity.

    Living one’s life in direct opposition to traditional gender roles is just as bad as slavishly following them. Refraining from staying home with your kids to prove some kind of point is no better than staying home because you feel you have no choice. You’re still letting an external role define you. Framing all one’s choices as political statements creates a society just as rigid as the one we’re trying to escape.

  30. Stacey responded on 27 Jun 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    Feminism has an interesting place in my life. Pretty much everyone in my family, whether they would give themselves the label or not, is what I would consider to be a feminist. They all believe that women and men are equal, and therefore deserve equality in education, the workplace, the home, and everywhere else. I grew up with three unmarried aunts who always worked hard to support themselves, a fiercely independent grandmother who insisted (and still does insist) on doing things like mowing her own lawn even when the men in the family offer to do it for her, and a mother who worked part time, took care of everything around the house, and over the decades has started many successful small businesses. So for me, I never even had an “aha! Men and women ARE equal” moment in my life – I just always knew they were, and always knew women could and should do whatever the heck they think is best.

    But when I married my husband, I was really surprised at the way his family views men and women. For one, they believe that the man is the head of the household, that everything he decides is law, and that women should submit to the men in their lives. They believe a woman should never hold any authority over a man (that includes at church, in the workplace, or in the government) – and not only that, but nearly all of them believe that women should never have jobs. Instead, they should stay at home when they’re young and learn how to take care of the house, and then get married and take care of their own house. They believe wives should never use birth control and should have as many children as possible, and that they should stay at home doing nothing but taking care of the children and the house.

    It’s been a struggle for me to accept these things because they all go against what I believe, but I try to accept their choices because they seem to genuinely believe that they are following the will of God – and who am I to say someone is following God incorrectly? What makes me mad, though, is that some of them, especially the men, think I am sinning because I don’t submit to my husband, don’t want to have children, and want to work. So for me, recently, feminism has become a fight against them, an attempt to get them to understand that just because they want women to stay at home and raise babies, doesn’t mean I want to stay at home and raise babies. And I definitely don’t discredit wives who never want to work, or women who want to stay at home with their children – generally they make those choices because they’re what’s best for them or their families. I just wish that my husband’s family could accept that what’s best for them is not necessarily what’s best for me. And I think maybe that’s the heart of feminism – not only fighting for equality, but fighting for the right to do whatever is best for you.

    Wow, sorry for this novel of a comment. I think I needed to rant a little!

  31. J responded on 28 Jun 2012 at 12:13 am #

    I work nearly 50 hours per week and it’s nowhere near as hard as what my wife does in the time I’m not around to help. Anyone saying that SAHMs don’t have real jobs is an ignorant fool.

  32. Melissa responded on 28 Jun 2012 at 2:03 am #

    @Kate

    Jezebel and The Frisky are the two that spring to mind. I think much of the discussion I’ve seen has been in comments–at the Feministe piece you linked for sure, and the Hairpin’s interview with Anne Marie Slaughter.

    (And now I’m laughing at myself for trying to find more discussion on this. I really hope I haven’t seen too much more coverage that I’m forgetting, because spending that much time reading about a rich lady complaining about other rich ladies would probably make me depressed. Unless it was presented in soap opera format, of course.)

  33. anya responded on 28 Jun 2012 at 7:30 am #

    I think we all get hung-up on the meaning of feminism. If we describe it as a movement promoting equality, yes perhaps we don’t make feminist choices all the time. I was for 6 months in my life a stay-at-home-girlfriend. We both had jobs ( and I was still in school doing my MD) and I just couldn’t stand the commute combined with the job and the weird class schedule and all the homework. So my boyfriend encouraged me to quit. And I did. ( A week later he proposed, which was convenient because I wasn’t dog tiered and could enjoy a nice evening out) . I finished my degree. I went back to work, and I now make just as much as my fiance. I am forever grateful for his support, and the fact that we lived on his income for 6 months. Without it I would have probably quit and surely would have been too tired to look for better opportunities. I know myself. I am just not strong as he is. After 9 h of work and 2 h on the commute am I tired. He suggested we move someplace closer to my work. For him working , commuting and then going to the gym just doesn’t put that much stress . Perhaps I made an unfeminist move. Perhaps the right way would have been to just move to half distance between our jobs. Accept that hellish 6 months of writing a thesis and commuting to a full-time job. But I am happier now, and I can give back much more in terms of support, companionship, smart conversation, etc. I am happier. An in the end, I’m not gonna play feminist, just live my life and pursue my happiness.

  34. cory responded on 28 Jun 2012 at 9:33 am #

    My mom stayed at home when I was young. She had worked a variety of jobs that interested her before having me, but once I came along, my dad was making enough money to support all of us and said, hey, you dont have to work if you don’t want to! And she said, awesome, working sucks! I quit!

    My mom is a badass lady, and she worked hard raising me. She didn’t need any qualifications, but she’d be the first to say that qualifications are overrated. She taught me everything I know about feminism. She sacrificed a lot to look after me, and I am lucky that I got so much attention as a child. But she also made a point to do things that SHE wanted. My dad would finish work early a few nights a week so she could go to some class or other. She did most of the housework, and my dad made the money. So on the surface it’s an incredibly stereotypical family defined by gender roles.

    But the most important thing that my parents taught me is that you can be more than one thing at once. You can be a stay-at-home mom AND a feminist. You can be a republican AND be liberal. You can be a good person AND do what you want with your life. Labels mean very little in the real world and if someone wants to define their entire existence by ideology, fine, but if you’re constantly defending your lifestyle and arguing with everyone about how much more enlightened and free you are, aren’t you just as oppressed as the rest of us? You don’t have to make everything in your life a statement.

    My mom didn’t stay at home because my dad told her to. She stayed at home because she WANTED to, and felt enslaved by boring unfulfilling jobs. She doesn’t think that women who work are more important than the ones who don’t, and she doesn’t think that the fact that my dad makes the money means that her existence is solely for him. I think we need to distance the ideals of feminism from simply who is employed and who isn’t. (If a woman were the CEO of Hooters, would she be a feminist?)

  35. Aurora responded on 28 Jun 2012 at 9:35 am #

    Women should have the right to get a job outside the home and make as much money as men. Women should also have the right to stay at home and raise the classic 2.5 children and a dog. Just because they choose one or the other doesn’t mean they’re more or less feminist.

  36. Sheryl responded on 28 Jun 2012 at 9:48 am #

    @Alii

    Are you in my brain? Because this bit here “It means that the argument ‘get a damned job or you’re not an adult’ is bullshit because it sort of insultingly implies that because 1950s+ US society considers men the breadwinners and having a job to be masculine, that a woman must adopt masculine traits to be worthwhile.” gets to the very heart of some of my biggest issues with this whole debate on feminism.

    Somehow it seems like the only choices that are supported by certain factions of feminists are those that are traditionally masculine. Which inherently devalues traditional female roles. No one should be forced to be a stay at home parent, or to do the cooking and cleaning but if this is a movement about equality for all, and making women and men equal in society’s eyes, how does devaluing the roles that have traditionally been filled by women do that?

  37. Michi responded on 28 Jun 2012 at 10:26 am #

    Wurtzel was the one complaining about people calling their choices feminist: “I am going to smack the next idiot who tells me that raising her children full time — by which she really means going to Jivamukti classes and pedicure appointments while the nanny babysits — is her feminist choice.” I certainly have never met anyone who did that. I was trying to rephrase her argument in a less inflammatory way. Apparently unsuccessfully.

    As for “easier”… Going along with the established gender norms is easier than fighting them. Not necessarily easy in an absolute sense, but definitely easier. You get a whole bunch of social support you wouldn’t have otherwise had, there aren’t as many systems designed specifically to make people like you fail, stuff like that. Still definitely not easy.

  38. morgaine responded on 28 Jun 2012 at 10:28 am #

    @anya…

    “If we describe it as a movement promoting equality, yes perhaps we don’t make feminist choices all the time.”

    “Perhaps I made an unfeminist move. Perhaps the right way would have been to just move to half distance between our jobs.”

    I don’t see how a woman doing what’s right for herself and her lifestyle can ever be unfeminist. “Equality”, to me, means, “equal opportunity to make choices about our lives”, not “absolute equality of result”. Freedom from gender roles means being free to simply ignore them, not being forced to go against them to make a political statement if that’s not what you really want.

  39. Mandy responded on 28 Jun 2012 at 11:10 am #

    Any dogma that states that there is only one way to do things is inherently flawed. Because people are individuals, not identical carbon copies. This is not a one-size-fits-all world, and anyone who tries to say that it is, is not paying attention.

    Kudos on the blog entry, sweetie! Have you been reading my mind?

  40. Kate responded on 28 Jun 2012 at 11:29 am #

    @Michi
    I don’t think you were unsuccessful. I appreciated your simplification. I feel like I was unclear, actually– I wasn’t trying to contest YOUR point– I was trying to contest even the simplified idea. But I was also writing really quickly on the way out the door, and this stuff is sensitive.

    Anyway, I wanted to say that I’ve never met anyone like the women Wurtzel is describing either. Honestly, they sound like a parody of rich people. I’m sure there are some out there, but I wonder if there are even enough of them to make a difference! Which makes me wonder even more exactly what Wurtzel is talking about. In my building, for example, there are always a lot of nannies. But they’re there because women went right back to work after having a baby. None of them are there ALONG with a mother, so that she can get her nails done. I feel like Wurtzel is making whole people up!

  41. Katri responded on 28 Jun 2012 at 11:52 am #

    Many good points were made about what equality actually means, so I’m not going to repeat everyone, just saying that I agree with everything that has been said about choice.

    A point that I wanted to make was that why does everything I do have to be what a woman does and everything my boyfriend does is what a man does? For example, I’m making a lot less money at the moment than my boyfriend who I live with, but I don’t feel like I’m depending on a MAN. He is a person, not some sort of faceless entity. If he could magically change his gender right now, my situation and choices would still be the same, but somehow right now I can’t be a real feminist.

    Also, when it comes to my future children, I want them to know they should do whatever makes them happy without worrying how their choices will make their gender seem like. They’re people, not walking sets of reproductive organs who have to do everything just to make a point.

  42. Kate responded on 28 Jun 2012 at 11:53 am #

    @Katri
    Well said. Thank you for this.

  43. Jenn responded on 28 Jun 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    I couldn’t even finish reading that article because it was making me so angry. The logic doesn’t make sense! I’m fighting for feminism if I work as a teacher or daycare as long as I earn money? But as soon as I teach or care for my own kids I’m a failure? Grrr…

  44. Lasslisa responded on 28 Jun 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    It’s so interesting to see reflected in someone else the ways that society shapes us. Originally we had these two sets of intertwined assumptions: 1. Men can do lots of things women can’t. 2. Those things are more important/admirable/difficult. (“Men are superior” is foundational to all this of course).

    You have different groups of feminists attacking both ends of this. Some people focus hard on saying “traditional ‘women’s work’ is worthwhile!”. Some people focus hard on saying, “women are just as good at traditional ‘men’s work’ as men are!”

    But I think the two are actually often in conflict.

    The more you’ve bought in to the idea that you need to prove yourself as good as the men are, the less respect you pay to things women do (physics has no girls in it, but biology has a lot. I’m going to take physics to prove that I’m every bit as smart as they are!). It still has that implied feeling that things men do are more important than things women do, because – let’s be honest – that attitude still suffuses our culture.

    In fact, if you really do value them equally, I think there can be a temptation to do the one that’s easier (easier not because it’s less work but because there are fewer obstacles), and stop fighting for a place in ‘male’ fields. So the separation of the two groups probably happens from both sides… one group declaring “Whatever you’re doing, I’m going to do it better!” and the other group declaring “What they’re doing isn’t more important than what we were already doing!”

  45. Emmie responded on 28 Jun 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    @Alii your definition of feminist really resonated with me. As as very traditionally feminine woman who also happens to have been at home for the majority of her adult life I find people are often quite upset about the structure of my life because it does fall into gender norms. What gets missed is that I don’t do the majority of the housework because I’m a woman but because I enjoy domestic chores. He works because not working makes him nuts. We don’t have expectations of each other based on our genders but on who we are as people and we value each other’s strengths and compliment each other’s weaknesses.

  46. sami responded on 29 Jun 2012 at 1:10 am #

    I feel like the real issue is not the prevalence of stay at home mums, but the lack of stay at home dads. Why is it the mum, by default? I get it at the start, dad can’t breastfeed ;) but after the child is weaned why can’t there be a reversal? It’s always made me think.

    My dad was home for a lot of my youth, he worked by building and repairing cars in the shed he built out the back. It was great! He would pick us up from school, he’d be there if we wanted to learn something mechanical or just ask for advice. He is still same old dad now that I’m 28. We are very close, he is always a phone call away. I value that and wonder if some people miss out on that kind of excellence in their lives. Dads can be awesome!!

    Same goes for changing your name after marriage I suppose. “But we want to share the same name, so we can be a family!” That’s ace, I get it. But why does that default to the mans name? Do we get an option? Some of us do but most men would be horrified at the idea. Crazy! It should not be like this!

    I think once there’s genuine and serious discussions and decisions to be made when it comes to relationships and babies we will be a big step closer to equality. There should be NO DEFAULT.

    I’m still working out what else feminism means to me though. It’s confusing. We all have different life experiences. It is not a generic catch-all. I love that I can teach my boyfriend where to find the oil filter on his car, and I think it’s great that he vacuums the house (and does a far better job than I). It’s not even intentional. It’s natural. We are getting there slowly!

    Pretty sure that was a jumbled and nonsensical response to this issue but I’m on my lunch break and in a rush, sorry! Hopefully you’re picking up what I’m putting down :D

  47. Maya responded on 29 Jun 2012 at 10:22 am #

    I spend a lot of time thinking about this. I don’t know if I want a “high powered job”, because mothering, someday, is something I think will be important to me, and be a way that I can make the world a better place. And yet- am I letting “the side” down if I choose at some point to work part-time only, or even stay home for some amount of time? It’s a tension that I sometimes really feel…

  48. Jiminy responded on 29 Jun 2012 at 11:24 am #

    It’s tiring, isn’t it, the war we can wage on one another as women in order to validate our own life choices (through invalidating somebody else’s)?
    I admit being jealous of you – and your mom, for that matter, for being able to make choices that do not involve financial independence as a prerequisite. It means, for me, a leap of faith in two directions – that your dream will pay off some day, for one, and that you can depend on someone else without it having consequences for the balance of your relationship, for the other. To me, and I suppose to most of those who declare themselves more feminists than other women, the thing that feminism itself destroyed completely was the possibility of choosing to stay at home with your kids or to be dependent financially (I don’t mean as when you earn less because you work 80%, but you go together on expensive holidays, although that is only further on the scale of possibilities, I mean `if I want to get out of here, I can’t stand on my own salary` dependent). To me, even though I do not define myself and never have defined myself as a feminist, this option is ruined, it’s gone. I do wish that the effort one makes in order to run a house and raise kids could be quantified as equivalent, and I find that it definitely is equivalent, therefore it is not a question of `social lack of productivity` as some people put it. For me, the fact that, if at any point things did not work out love-wise, I would be stuck because of my lack of experience in a workplace or I would have to depend on my family to get me through the period until I got on my feet again feels incredibly scary. The fact that I would spend money someone else earned when deciding which shoes `I am worth` is scary. I know, it may be control freakish, but this is how I feel, even while (all along) I am jealous of people who take the chance and allow themselves to go out on a limb for their worth in something else than money.

  49. Kate responded on 29 Jun 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    @Maya
    I definitely know what you mean. But for me the tension isn’t about being “high powered”, it’s between developing the best writing career I possibly can and becoming a mom. And maybe those things aren’t even mutually exclusive, but often I’m afraid they are

  50. Charise responded on 29 Jun 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    OMG these types of feminists make me crazy. Their definition of success involves everyone suceeding by the traditional, patriarchal, has-a-spouse-at-home model of money and moving up the corporate ladder. If women DON’T choose that way, they say we are hurting other women because the working world will continue to see women as more likely to take time off/leave/not be as devoted/blah blah blah.

    There was another article in The Atlantic recently, where one of the takehome points was that part of the problem was with the corporate America way itself. It shouldn’t just be about a choice between working your butt off in a typical office career type field OR being a SAHM. Our culture needs to change to accomodate more family-friendliness and successs for EVERYONE that isn’t defined just by moving up the ladder and making more money (e.g., by encouraging lateral moves, figuring out an in-office vs work-from-home routine that works, finding ways to be more efficient and not rewarding only those workers who may as well sleep at the office they are there so much).

    I like this idea much better. The type of feminism promoted in the articles you mention is still meant to instill the not-good-enough crazy guilt in women, and that is not good feminism.

  51. Sarah responded on 29 Jun 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    Just because a choice is valid doesn’t mean that it is a feminist choice. Feminism is about creating a level playing field so that women have the same opportunities as men (which clearly does not exist even if things are better than they used to be). When someone does something that works against that aim, it is not a feminist choice. One example is when a woman takes advantage of a paid maternity leave and then leaves her job soon thereafter, thus making her employer think twice about hiring or promoting women in their late 20s-30s in the future. Or when someone (of either gender) lobbies or votes for laws that would move things farther away from a level playing field between the genders. There are many such examples, some of which are more subtle than these. All of them are perfectly VALID choices, and the fact that I may not agree with them doesn’t make me think of them as any less valid, but they are not feminist choices.

  52. Alii responded on 29 Jun 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    @Kate *laughs* Hopefully that helps, at least?

    Heh, the Wurtzel original article seems an awful lot of, “Stop it, you’re making the rest of us look bad and calling it feminism.” Which, well, I kind of agree with. She sidetracks herself with ‘it’s only 14% more work to be a SAHM’ without taking into account the fact that there’s a double standard for working women vs. working men and that the concept of the second shift for parenting women comes into play. But – after reading both of the articles better, I actually don’t disagree with either in principle. The Jezebel one especially makes this point: There need to be more options considered ‘good’ so that the choice is actually a choice. (Hence valuing feminine and masculine in equal measure.)

    @Lasslisa I agree. They do conflict a lot. :( Everyone’s coming at the problem from two different directions – like you said – and they screw up the attack half the time. I don’t see why we can’t mix both attitudes, though, and take the best from each. *grins*

    I do want to say that I really, really do get the trailblazer attitude. Wurtzel describes ME when she describes her ideal feminist: completely independent, own money, own living space, own social life, own… everything. Hell, I’m also a programmer, hate home-maintenance chores (I have to bribe myself to do them), am more likely to make the decisions in my relationships, and, well, a lot of what I like and seek out is very traditionally masculine, and basically I’m just not really all that feminine. I’m one of those people who is on the ‘I’m good at men’s work!’ feminist track because it’s my default. I’m GOOD at traditional men’s work stuff, and it’s where my interests lie. Simply by existing and saying ‘fuck you’ to trying to fit into gender norms, I’m very visible and my life follows a feminist course.

    But my feminist status is why I so fiercely defend people who choose to be feminine or want to feel like rockstars being feminine. For people who default to feminine and are rewarded for it by our sexist society and perpetuate the damage, that’s one thing, and that’s what both articles are talking about. Following the default. Like how the previous commenters call it ‘easier’. It’s always easier to follow the default.

    But for me – my default state is not feminine, and it’s really really obvious when I’m deliberately displaying feminine traits. I get a lot of really wacky backlash where if I don’t try to be feminine, I’m celebrated for it because I’m a ‘laaaaady’ trailblazer of feminism and women-power and if I do try to be feminine I’m punished for it as if I’m not the sort of woman that is allowed to be feminine. This is on top of the ‘but you’re only a programmer to fill our lady quota’ despite all evidence to the contrary and the low undercurrent of sexism that is unavoidable in my field. It’s pretty much a textbook Catch 22. I’m damned every which way to Sunday for trying to be either feminine or masculine.

    Even if I had no feminist background whatsoever, I’d still struggle with all of this nonsense because I don’t fit and I never will. But it means that I will defend the value of feminine options for women just as I will defend the value of masculine options for women.

  53. Olivia responded on 29 Jun 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    Wurtzel is just a smug jerk. She always has been. Even when she was talking about her self-destructive descent into depression and medication, there was still something self-righteous about her writing. And she fucking rambles.

    I always say that I am a feminist so that a woman can do WHATEVER SHE WANTS, be it stripper or stay-at-home mom, and be respected for her choice. Especially by other women. We all know how hard the world is for all of us. Creating smug hierarchies does not make it better.

  54. Kate responded on 29 Jun 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    @Alii
    This is fascinating, and you are so ridiculously articulate. Can you write a guest post for me sometime?

    I’m still stuck on this idea of “easier” though. I think you explained it well– as the “default,” and being feminine in many stereotypical/traditional ways is definitely the default for women. But is staying at home actually the default anymore? Maybe in other communities, but definitely not where I am. I feel like I grew up in a time/place where it was totally expected that young women would go out in the world and get a good job and have a career and be independent. When I decided to pursue writing from home, I was wracked with guilt. I felt like I was failing to do what I was supposed to do. I felt like I was falling behind. And I did it anyway, because it was my biggest dream. But I felt very, very strongly that society would think I’d made the wrong choice. And I know some other young women who aren’t pursuing traditional careers who feel similarly! So I wonder….what is the default now? Maybe it just depends where you are?

  55. Kate responded on 29 Jun 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    @Olivia
    So concise! :-)
    I actually started reading one of her books, after this whole discussion. It’s mostly about her being addicted to lots of drugs. It’s not Prozac Nation, though…another one…I’m forgetting the title. Anyway– she is basically just journaling about her addiction, and it feels very sad and hopeless and messed up. I’m not sure what to make of it.

  56. Lexie Kite responded on 29 Jun 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    Kate,
    This is such a beautiful post! Your sentiments mirror mine. As a PhD candidate, a feminist, and a body image activist running Beauty Redefined, I love your thoughts on feminism and just emailed your post to my boyfriend. Thank you for your articulate words and your voice in this conversation. It echoes what I’m sure many, many young women negotiating the terrain of feminism are thinking. We should probably cross-post sometime because you are awesome at what you do! Have an awesome day and thanks again!

  57. Vanessa responded on 30 Jun 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    I can kind of see where Elizabeth is coming from because I myself partly buy into the idea that job=money=power=freedom. My dad used money to control my mom and would taunt her when she threatened to leave her: “Oh yeah? You, a high school dropout, are going to leave ME? Let’s see how far that gets you. Who’s going to hire a fat, uneducated WOMAN?” (I’m sure you’ve gathered by now that my dad is a dick) Then, the next day, out of guilt (?), he would take her shopping and try to make it up to her with “things” and my mom always caved. She never believed she was strong enough to leave him and let my dad manipulate her. I saw what financial inequality* can do to a relationship, especially to women who face a severe handicap when re-entering the workplace.
    Since then, I’ve made a pact to never let myself get into a position where a man could even have the *opportunity* to try that crap with me. I am admittedly militant in my desire (driven by fear) to be successful and can’t trust men to not use money at some point in the relationship against me.

    *I know many will argue that it’s not financial inequality that was the problem but more my dad was an asshole. I think both are true. The problem is, I think there’s truth behind his comments. Women, particularly older ones who have to re-enter the workplace get SCREWED.

    But on the flip side, like Michi said, I also know of many women who have quit the workplace because they have realized that it really is stacked against them and you have to ask yourself, is it all worth it? I find myself in limbo, not wanting to gamble my trust to a man who says he won’t use his financial power over me, but not wanting to become another cog in the machine that is notoriously rigged against women.

    Ughh, sorry for the rant and a half, it’s just a really personal, touchy subject for me.

  58. Allison Evans responded on 30 Jun 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    I really enjoyed this. My friend sent it to me after I published my own response to it (http://www.wisdomchildbirth.com/no-ms-wurtzel-economic-parity-is-not-the-only-feminist-value/). I am a woman like you, working from home at something that I love. It brings in some money, but my family depends on my husband’s income — for now; I hope over time to grow my business so that he can be a man of leisure! For now, our kids take up a lot of my time. That’s just where we are in our life. It won’t always be this way, but I am enjoying it while it lasts. Like you, I want to be happy!

  59. Kristina responded on 02 Jul 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    Big ups to all you ladies doing what you love. Whether it’s working from home, taking care of the kids, having no kids and travelling the world…whatever. I work a “9-5″ and it’s not what i want to do with my life but I have to pay the bills. Most days I would love to blow up my computer and go out “Jerry Maguire-style” but unfortunately I don’t have the balls yet to walk away. DO what you love ladies; everyone else who wants to judge can take a pill.

  60. Eat the Damn Cake » still really young responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    [...] been very clear to me for a very long time that I had to make something of myself. Especially as a young woman. Because we have that chance now. We can’t just give up and become [...]

  61. Eat the Damn Cake » stop judging my diamond ring, I already know I’m a bad rebel responded on 25 Oct 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    [...] And while I’m talking about my ring, I should say that I’m defensive only because people keep writing these pieces about how stupid it is to have a diamond engagement ring. How wasteful and bad and selfish and outmoded and generally super duper hugely lame. And also, you’re a bad feminist if you have one. [...]

  62. nusu responded on 09 Nov 2012 at 3:12 am #

    The author’s point is that a bunch of over-privileged women use marrying well as an excuse to opt out of society and work in general. These women took spots at Yale, Harvard etc from women who intended to enter the workforce with serious aspirations. They hide behind their husband’s wealth and power and rely on nannies to do the bulk of the work of child rearing. They are a discredit to the women’s movement and our country in general. They are in a huge position of power and privilege (thank to those who fought for their rights) and instead of using it to march society and women forward, they push it backward out of laziness. Most of us who did not go to elite colleges have far fewer choices and very little influence. Our choices are important, but only to us. You can’t move society forward by default. The author makes that very clear, in her obnoxious and rambling way. I find it a little distressing that most commentators completely missed her point and focus on congratulating themselves on their own life choices instead. Sadly, this is what most articles on feminism devolve into.

  63. on femininity as liberation | color me brazen responded on 11 Dec 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    [...] commenter on one of my favorite blogs summed it up really well: Feminism means valuing the (current culturally-defined) feminine equal to the (currently [...]

  64. Kasey Hass responded on 17 Apr 2013 at 10:16 am #

    Thank you for this article! This is exactly what I’ve been marinating on for years. I know that I’m a horrible feminist – I am engaged, my partner supports us while I work at home and yes, *GASP*, I cook, and clean, and do the grocery shopping! One day I might even be a SAHM. But the thing I don’t understand is that all of that does seem fair, and feminist, of me/us. He works all day at an office, I work all day at home where the laundry just happens to live, and where dinner can be put in a oven, and where I have time to step away from my desk and do a load of dishes. I feel like since I’m not paying half of everything that my contribution will then be to take care of the other part of our living arrangement (meaning, making sure that the house will never have an audition for Hoarders). Why does that make me less of a feminist?

    What I truly don’t understand, and what makes me question whether or not feminism really is what I think it is, is that feminism was born out of a time when women were forced into such narrow boxes of acceptable behavior that Houdini would have trouble finding room to wiggle out. So we’re combating that today by…telling women that they’re not “doing it right” or being “the right kind of woman” since they’re not towing the line for what feminist women “really are?” I reject that notion! Feminists are people who believe in feminism, plain and simple. I believe that women and men should be seen as equals in pay, bodily autonomy, etc. But I don’t presume to go further than that and tell women the way that they HAVE to be. Feminism is not a club that you can get kicked out of if you’re not “doing it right.” At least, the feminism that I subscribe to isn’t.

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