Don’t Tell Me I’m Not a Feminist Because We Are Not There Yet

In a recent article Elizabeth Wurtzel begins by comparing 1% wives (the richest non-working women in America) with all stay-at-home moms. Apparently I can’t be a feminist unless I earn an income.

This was the response that I originally intended to post to as a comment to her article, but I decided to put it here instead:

Come on Liz, don’t conflate rich moms with nannies with ALL stay at home moms. I have an education and I want to have a career, and I worked before I had a child, but for personal reasons I’m just not cut out for a full time job while I’m trying to raise my little ones. And I wanted to have children.

I don’t think it’s my duty sacrifice my family or my desire to have a family just to go out in the world and have a career “for the betterment of all women.”

I don’t think it’s my duty to help Feminism, but I think it’s Feminism’s duty to help me. Stand up for my right to work AND have a family. Come on Feminism make it easier for women to have a career and a family and they will! Where are the policies for maternity leave, family leave, breastfeeding rooms, daycare, etc?!!!!! I don’t not have a career because I’m lazy. I do it because we are not “there” yet.

You are absolutely right that we still don’t earn as much as men for the same jobs and we do not occupy all the top positions. My husband gets to be more successful in his career and life simply because he has a wife. The reverse is not true for me. But I don’t want to fight that fight while my children are small. I choose to sacrifice my career – for now – because my husband and I make a good family unit.

I do not romanticize staying home. It is a sacrifice I make.

But I am still a feminist.

I plan to earn my own money someday because I want to experience that fulfillment of my full human potential. But whether I do or do not – I am still a feminist.

You chose to not get married and not have kids – perhaps you never wanted those things – but perhaps it’s because you knew you couldn’t do that AND have your career. Brava! You have solved nothing for women. A working feminist without a husband or kids – who completely ignores the issues surrounding working mothers – is not a feminist.

(Incidentally, my husband does all the cooking after coming home from his job as a physician, so I’m not sure I’m *completely* losing in this situation.)

In a response to the article on the blog Feministe, the author, Jill, at least separates the act of staying home from whether or not someone is a feminist (emphases are mine):

“…she tries to draw lines around who’s a “real feminist,” which is a pointless exercise, and she defines a “real feminist” as someone who earns a living and has money and a means of her own. Obviously there are plenty of “real feminists” who don’t earn a paycheck. Obviously there are plenty of people who, because of age or ability or socioeconomic status, are dependent on someone else and are still “real adults.” And obviously stay-at-home wives can be feminists, even if I cock an eyebrow to the claim that staying at home full time is a “feminist choice.”

But that aside, Wurtzel poked some things that needed to be poked – “I choose my choice” feminism first among them.

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.

And maybe Jill is right by criticizing “I choose my choice” feminists instead of all stay-at-home moms. And maybe you can argue that my “choice” to stay home wasn’t exactly feminist – at least that separates my action from whether or not I’m a feminist. But I’m not a “I choose my choice” feminist either, just because I don’t work. I don’t feel it’s really an equal choice. Again, for me it’s not a “choice” it’s a sacrifice.

Saying that “feminism is about achieving social, economic and political equality” – but saying that that should be achieved by all women going to work and men stepping up at home just isn’t effective. It’s shooting us all in the foot. What we need is policy that prevents women from being punished for working AND having children.

Show me the feminists who are working on those goals.

5 thoughts on “Don’t Tell Me I’m Not a Feminist Because We Are Not There Yet

  1. Very well said! Especially the part about being a “feminist” without having the responsibilities of a family involved. Very good point!

  2. I am so with you on this. You can’t do both. Homeschooling makes that truth an even bigger deal for me. Some homeschooling moms say that we who are able to homeschool are lucky. I completely disagree. I choose to homeschool, and in doing so, completely f___ myself to try to help my children. I’ve noticed employers want their employees to be dedicated, not just good workers, but workers who put their job first. As a mother, I can’t do that. That makes me unemployable until attitudes change.

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