Tuesday, September 23, 2008

your mother's feminism

I saw the link to this excellent (and brief) analysis of Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique" on Reed's blog. I agree with Sommers, especially here:

Friedan made a fatal mistake that undermined her book's appeal at the time and permanently weakened the movement it helped create. She not only attacked a postwar culture that aggressively consigned women to the domestic sphere, but she attacked the sphere itself — along with all the women who chose to live there.

Friedan described herself as "Diogenes with his lamp," going from suburb to suburb in search of a mentally sound housewife. (None could be found, she concluded.) The job of housewife, in her estimation, was intrinsically unworthy and undignified, an occupation best suited to "feeble-minded girls." She called the suburban home a "comfortable concentration camp" where women suffer a "slow death of mind and spirit." Like the inmates of the camps, she said, American suburban housewives had become "walking corpses."

This sweeping relegation of housewives to the loony bin is so absurd it makes me laugh in disbelief that someone would say such a thing. Though I may be completely nuts, I know other at-home mothers who are perfectly sane.


Reed said...

I grew up watching my mom fight feminism - a battle she probably thought she lost -

Feminism was very hurtful to my mom because it negated her life as a stay at home mom.

Mom won the battle in a way, however, in the sense that both of her sons appreciated the value of a stay at home mom and my brother and I have enthusiastically encouraged our wives to be full time at home moms.

Feminism has done more to contribute to the break down of the family than any other social/moral problem in our society.

It's time people ask the question of what benefit has feminism given us?

I'm not saying there should not equal opportunities for women - just questioning the benefits of pursuing exact parity in the career world at the expense of the family.

Calandria said...

That was probably a poor title for my post. I didn't mean to suggest that our mothers embraced this particular form of feminism--mine certainly didn't! I meant to distinguish it from all the other forms of feminism--all reactions to each other. Friedan was part of the second wave of feminism. (As I've said before on this blog--I hate the word "feminism." It means everything, and thus, nothing.)

I think the pursuit of women's rights and equal status in the workplace has given us a lot, actually. Though I choose to stay at home, I feel deep gratitude to the feminists who paved the way so that if I had to or wanted to, I COULD pursue a well-paid career in the workplace. I could participate in the workforce without being condescended to because of my gender, at least more so than in the 50s, for example. While I agree that some negatives have resulted from the harsher forms of feminism, I think that by and large it was positive for women.

In the late 90s, early 2000s it seemed I couldn't pick up a magazine without reading about how some high-powered CEO quit her job to "get a real job," as was often said, staying at home with her children. I know that's not for everyone, but it's great that we have the choice. It makes it that much more fulfulling to choose either one or some combination of both.

Gabriela said...

Hi! Wow, you've been busy posting while I was away. I loved Georgie's owl, and Lidia's dress, your dreams were funny, and that's cool you went to a rally.

I like how you touch on subjects in your blog that aren't your run of the mill topics-and you do it in a way that always makes me think. Thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

I like to study history and literature. One thing that always comes up is the lack of rights women have had for hundreds of years putting them in horrible situations. Before feminism is discussed and criticized, there needs to be a definition of feminism.
We must not forget that feminism allows us to go to school, read and right, vote and work in jobs other than prostitution. In countries where women still do not have rights many are imprisoned when they are raped, they are sold as wives and lack of women's education is the one constant in poverty.

My mother was a single mom. Not by choice but she ended up having to support 4 kids on her own. She did not get the same pay for the same work and had to join the union just to make ends-meat.

I am an at home mom and have no problems with it. I like the fact that I have a choice, my daughter will have a choice and now that my children are older I can think about working a real job. Not just doing the dirty work that women usually do for jobs. So I guess that makes me a feminist. So shoot me.

Anonymous said...

I was a stay at home mother during the hay day of early Freidan type "feminism".

It often happens that when there is a popular movement seeking to redress long established injustices, the reactionary pendulum swings to an extreme. I well remember a faintly (and sometimes not so faintly) contemptuous attitude towards my chosen vocation (e.g. "But what do you DO all day?!?")from some family, friends, and new aquaintances.

It was sometimes hurtful to be a stay at home mother in the vanguard of the women's movement but I am grateful to have had the opportunity to swim against the tide because true and correct principles are worth defending.

Certain aspects of the movement were and are destructive to society (e.g. neglect the family to "find oneself", denigrate the traditional role of women as wives and mothers) but these are counterfeit beliefs and have been fraudulently attached to the basic truth that men and women should have equal opportunities in the work place.

Anonymous said...

Amen sis.

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ProMom said...

I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on stay at home moms. Maybe you already did comment. I'll have to read more of your archives. I've struggled with defining myself for 20 years and still haven't gotten it yet. My mom stayed at home and seemed totally unaware of feminism. She was too busy, we were a handful.