The Thinking 

More on Hostility to Home and Womanliness

June 7, 2011


ROBIN writes, in response to this post:

Eleanor writes: “[F]eminists are not against women staying at home and raising children. Part of the feminist movement is the tenet that we need to place more value on what used to be called “women’s work” like cooking, cleaning, raising children. The feminist movement is about giving women options, so that women who are interested in being housewives can be housewives.”

Feminists whom I know would have everyone believe that this is truth; they are very concerned about “empowering” women and creating “value” for women, all the while ensuring that women have the ever-popular choice to become whatever they want to be. However, the reality of it is, once the feminists opened up Pandora’s Box economically by flooding the workforce, they effectively removed the choice for many women; not to mention that men’s mindsets have changed dramatically in response to feminism – why would many men wish to support, protect and provide for a woman who can “kill her own snakes?” (I borrow this term from the late Mrs. Helen Andelin’s fabulous book Fascinating Womanhood, which perhaps Eleanor would enjoy reading.) Feminists have made primary male bread-winning shameful and frightening (with the advent of no-fault divorce) for most men.

Eleanor also states that the economy today makes it impossible for women to be full-time keepers of the home, lovers of their husbands and children. Wow. I am astounded by this statement at least daily. Impossible. Let’s see: my husband and I have done this for two years; one and one-half of which he has earned very little due to broken employment (there are probably women sitting in most of the positions he interviewed for as I type.) We live in a small, frame home built in the late 1800’s. We drive a 1998 vehicle. It is our only vehicle. We do not ever eat at restaurants (with the sole exception of Mother’s Day, when my husband spent his last pocket money to get exactly what I desired to eat on this day – how marvelous!) Our daughter’s clothing comes in lots from EBay auctions; not new from Gymboree or TCP. We view free movies from on our television (no cable or satellite) for entertainment. It IS possible. It depends upon priorities. Very recently, my husband did ask that I begin to work part-time (something I do not personally desire to do, but I do it out of reverence for my husband), and two or three days per week for a maximum of twenty or thirty hours (oftentimes only nine or ten hours) per week, I care for another woman’s children in her home with our daughter present with me the entire time. This is our creative solution so that we do not have to utilize day orphanages for our daughter. Thank God it is available.

On the flip side: When I was searching for my part-time job, I often came across dual-income families looking for full-time child care. More often than not, one of their “selling” points in attempting to attract the right kind of “nanny” for their children was the size of their home in square footage! I was amazed. I remember one advertisement in which the wife described herself and her husband as full-time professional bankers with a 4000 sq. foot home with ample landscaping, a thirteen month-old daughter and a newborn. Asking wage: $3-5 per hour (not per child per hour). Astounding! Does Eleanor believe this woman has a wonderful choice? She and her husband have clearly chosen a home that is too large for four grown people, much less two adults and two tiny children, and is now selling her children to what she hopes to be a well-qualified and mature child care giver for less than minimum wage. Sad. There were scores of other ads like this. While there were a few who were single parents in dire need of in-home assistance (as opposed to the aforementioned day orphanages…another product of the hailed feminism), most were dual-income families with an abundance of “stuff” looking for someone to watch their children over twelve hours per day for pocket change while they both work.

While I do not condemn those women who choose to work outside of their homes, I certainly wish their husbands would put their foot down and tell them to come back home! It is quite simply just a lie that feminism is an advocate for the housewife: feminism is the mortal enemy of the housewife. As Laura says, “The feminist rejects these virtues and idealizes aggression and self-assertion. These traits destroy love. You will not get far as a mother or wife without that.” I personally know many women who trample all over their husbands (who are miserable and some have had affairs) because they are now financially in control – breadwinners. When a woman earns quite a bit of money (or often more than her husband nowadays), it naturally places her in a position of power. She earns it; she says how it’s spent. She loses her femininity by becoming a powerful, financially aggressive woman whether she and her husband realize it or not. The whole scenario breeds contempt from the husband toward the wife whether he realizes it or not, as he begins to feel emasculated. Often he withdraws, and he is prime target for an immoral woman at this point. The women often feel that they are the ones in authority over the children as they become powerful, money-earning matriarchs dictating the rules to both children and husband until the denigration of the family is complete. The poor fool who married her and allowed her to work full-time and try and be a lover of her husband and children has nowhere to go now: he must miserably endure, or he will be cast aside for another as he supports the whole lot of them for the next twenty years in no-fault divorce court.

Feminism is enemy of femininity, womanhood, motherhood and wifely love toward husband and children. Period. Perhaps one day, Eleanor will realize how brainwashed she is by the love-impoverished society we live in today.

Laura writes:

 Excellent. This is particularly true and deserves repeating:

When a woman earns quite a bit of money (or often more than her husband nowadays), it naturally places her in a position of power. She earns it; she says how it’s spent. She loses her femininity by becoming a powerful, financially aggressive woman whether she and her husband realize it or not. The whole scenario breeds contempt from the husband toward the wife whether he realizes it or not, as he begins to feel emasculated. Often he withdraws, and he is prime target for an immoral woman at this point. The women often feel that they are the ones in authority over the children as they become powerful, money-earning matriarchs dictating the rules to both children and husband until the denigration of the family is complete. The poor fool who married her and allowed her to work full-time and try and be a lover of her husband and children has nowhere to go now: he must miserably endure, or he will be cast aside for another as he supports the whole lot of them for the next twenty years in no-fault divorce court.

I have seen this scenario many times. Interestingly, women who make a great deal of money often talk about money all the time. This is very perplexing. It is not the struggling homemaker who is consumed with money, but the career woman. Her existence becomes oriented toward money. It’s a strange psychological phenomenon because you would think greater earning power would bring women relief from obsession over the budget.

                                                                                     — Comments —

Mrs. H. writes:

I’m sincerely glad that Eleanor emailed you her concerns about The Thinking Housewife. I don’t think she disagrees “with just about every word of your website,” since she took the time to defend her understanding of feminism–that it actually protects the woman’s choice to be domestic. She agrees that the housewife “lifestyle” is preferable, and what she would do if given the choice. She argues that feminism offers women the option of either a career or public profile, or the private bliss of full-time homemaker. But ironically that choice is not offered to her (or so she thinks–I do not know her particular financial situation, so I won’t comment on whether she can actually stay at home or not).

I’m glad Eleanor’s mother stayed at home (as my own mother did), because I believe it’s the reason she desires to stay at home. We actually have a lot in common, and might move in the same circles–or even be friends–if we lived in the same town. We both desire to raise children, have a garden, help other women in our “spare time.” There are a lot of women whose religious and political convictions are different than my own, yet we share a desire to live locally, healthily, organically, maybe “off-the-grid”, and give the very best to our families. This encourages me, since I believe the logical end of a natural, local lifestyle is very far from feminism. And whether Eleanor turns her children into “tiny feminists” or not, she would be home with them. I don’t care what philosophies parents adhere to–the more moms at home full-time, the better.

I don’t know what academic or professional community Eleanor is in, but I received the strongest criticism and disapproval from my feminist professors (many of whom I really admire and learned a lot from. One in particular was my favorite academic “mentor”). I “fell” pregnant two months into grad school, three months after my wedding and received numerous rude comments, even before announcing I would probably not return. My experience with feminists was anything but “whatever you want to do, you go girl!” It was rather, establish a career and a name for yourself and financial independence (from a man who loves you, anyway; no protest about being enslaved to student loans), THEN have a family if you want and stay at home. The latter was always subordinate to the former.

Finally, my husband and I never question our friends’ claims that they are financially unable to start a family/support a housewife. Here’s our situation, though, a testament that more people could support a growing family on one income, or even in uncertain financial circumstances: We have 3 children (#4 arrives in August). We live in a city with (approx.) a 15% unemployment rate (and it recently made the top 10 dangerous cities list!). My husband has been unemployed twice (once for three months, recently since March 2010). He has never made more than a 43K/yr salary. Yet we have no credit card debt, are close to paying off our student loans, paid our second-born’s hospital bill in cash, are able to pay our mortgage and utilities each month, and still have a modest amount of savings. We live in a gorgeous 1925 brick bungalow with 5 bedrooms and a relatively large yard. We love our neighbors, and live 20 minutes from both of our parents. While still sending out resumes and interviewing, my husband has started his own business, and we are close to being able to draw a paycheck from it. Yes, we have received help from family and our church, but there is no shame in that. Caritas begins at home. We pray someday we will be able to repay our parents, not only monetarily, but also move them in with us, if it comes to that.

I have tutored Latin and English a few hours a week, and we buy a lot of our vegetables, eggs, and milk from local organic farmers. I have a garden. I make (some of) my own bread, laundry detergent, yogurt. We don’t own a drier, and try really hard not to use the AC. I’m not listing all this to brag (I am addicted to the dishwasher and sometimes when I plan too many bean-based meals in a week, we go out to eat–or even buy some of those wicked greasy cardboard pizzas ). Rather I hope to encourage women reading this who want to stay at home (and their husbands) to really, really consider their finances and what they are capable of. Eleanor is mistaken—housewifery is not an indulgence or hobby, something fun to do if you’re wealthy. It’s a lot of work. And I am really bad at it. My house is usually a mess. I am unorganized (but learning!). I get lazy and tired. I am not talented domestically like some. But when my husband and I collapse into bed after a long day of work, we can not believe we have it so good.

I suggest those considering staying at home to read The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced “decision”). I will never be as frugal as she is, and sometimes she seems to enjoy penny-counting too much, but it’s a good read to break your particular class prejudices. It’s not “poor” to wash and reuse your ziplock bags, or “white trash” to hang your laundry. It’s not “nasty” to have to wash grit and sand off your vegetables (or eggs), or to breastfeed. Out-of-state vacations, dessert every night, a cell phone, owning a house, new furniture, going to the movie theaters (ever) are not “rights.” Your duty is to live within your means, to prioritize your goals, and to be self-disciplined.

I wish Eleanor the best and I hope she continues reading your blog.

Karen I. writes:

Eleanor writes that you do not address the issue of “women being denied basic healthcare, like Pap smears and mammograms”. As a housewife with medical issues, I would like to respond to Eleanor’s statement that women are being “denied basic healthcare”.

The healthcare system in this country is a patchwork and it can be intimidating, but any determined woman can receive the medical care she needs.

There are many ways for women to ensure they receive necessary medical care. Working women are often covered by their own private insurance, housewives are often covered by their husband’s insurance, and poor or elderly women are covered by Medicaid or Medicare. Doctors and hospitals can and do work with insured and uninsured patients to make payment plans and most hospitals have “free bed” funds that patients can apply for. Even insured patients who cannot afford their co-payments qualify for payment plans and can often get their bills reduced. Collection agencies in my town that work for the hospital allow patients to make payment plans up to two years long with no interest and monthly payments! I know quite a few people, insured and uninsured, who have taken advantage of that plan. In some poor cities, mobile mammogram vans even go to underserved areas to ensure poor women have access to care. Also, anyone who is truly sick can go to an ER and receive basic treatment regardless of ability to pay. While it is true that some ERs do not give extensive care to those who are uninsured, even they will work to stabilize a patient and refer them to the appropriate follow up care.

I am sure I could go on, but you get the idea. Basically, where there is a will, there is a way when it comes to healthcare in America. Unmarried mothers with children often qualify for better care than the insured in my state because the children of low income people along with one parent qualify for Medicaid. That means unmarried mothers on Medicaid have much lower co-payments than typical private health insurance.

I am sure Eleanor could come back with a lot of statistics about healthcare for women. I don’t have the time at the moment to do all the research of all the numbers but I do have a lot of personal experience with the healthcare system. I have battled serious chronic and acute illnesses at times during my life and I will be a patient at a cancer care center at a major hospital for the rest of my life.

I can say with all honesty that I have never, ever had difficulty getting the care I truly needed. I have spent a lot of time on the phone to get the care I needed and I have endured many hours of waiting too long. I have been inconvenienced time and time again. I have had to do a lot of research to find the best doctors for my conditions. I have had agonizing waits for tests to come back. I have driven quite far to see the best doctors. I have worried about bills and changed prescriptions to ones with lower co-payments. But a lack of care or a true lack of access to care? That is not something that exists. If it did, women like me would be dropping dead on a regular basis all over the place and that is not happening. Our excellent life expectancy is a testament to that fact. Are there sad stories and women that fall through the cracks? Yes, there are. But, the same sad stories exist for men and children as well. Overall, our healthcare system is not failing to provide care women or anyone else. It is a lot of things, but failing to provide care is not one of them.

On a separate note, I can honestly say that being a housewife has been one of the best things for my health. I do not look, feel or act nearly as sick as I could be, and people usually assume I am several years younger than I am. I am certain that the time I have at home to do simple things like rest enough and cook healthy meals make a huge difference in my ability to function well and I am sure my low status, but very healthy, housewife lifestyle is adding many quality years to my life.

Josh writes:

If Eleanor thinks the “feminist” movement is about giving FEMALES “options” then what does she call the movement that directs females to choose the RIGHT options SO AS to become real women? I say this latter movement appears far more feminine than what Eleanor has in mind.

In fact, unless it is the male/man who is providing these “options” then the movement is just superfulous. Females providing “options” for females means no need for a movement that provides “options” for females; they already have “options.” And because males and not men largely provide the “options” to which Eleanor undoubtably refers, these “options” have the primary effect of allowing males NOT TO BECOME men. And so Eleanor’s “option” to grind it out in the workforce or die on the battlefield is as equally “feminizing” as nursing and nurturing her child in to young adulthood.

Jesse Powell writes:

First of all, “women’s work” was much more highly valued in the past than it is today. The whole idea that “women’s work” tending to the needs of the household and the children; is simply a matter of “choice” on the woman’s part is an insult and a degradation to the value of women’s work. If an activity or a calling is simply a matter of “choice” that means by definition that it is frivolous and unimportant; if the calling had seriousness and importance it would be a duty, not a choice.

The calling and importance of women’s work was taken so seriously in the past that men actually invested their effort and identity into the importance of women’s work themselves; earning the money so the wife can stay at home is the man investing himself into the importance of the women’s work as the man is sacrificing himself to enable the woman to put her concentrated effort and attention upon the work that is the primary foundation of the civilization; the upholding of the household and the well being of the children.

Why would a man treat as a duty the financial support of the household if from the woman’s point of view being a homemaker is merely a “choice?” If women view homemaking as a mere “choice” then men likewise will be inclined to see their wife’s homemaking as optional and be unmotivated to financially support it, denying the woman the “choice” to be a homemaker at all since being a full-time homemaker by definition requires the husband’s support in order to make it practical.

Claiming women have the right to “choose” whether they be homemakers or not implies that men have a “duty” to support the woman in whatever she “chooses” to do; there is a problem with this formulation. “Duty” has a higher order of importance than “choice;” a “duty” regards something important while a “choice” regards something unimportant; if the man has a “duty” to support the woman’s “choice” then what you are claiming is that it is very important for the man to support and facilitate an activity by the woman that intrinsically has no great importance; this is logically unsustainable and contradictory.

On the issue of finances and whether a household can “afford” to have a stay-at-home mother, the idea that married women have joined the workforce in great numbers since 1900 due to economic necessity is absurd. The simple fact is, women initially entered the workforce as the wages of men were increasing. In inflation adjusted terms, in 2009 dollars, a man in 1899 employed full-time in the manufacturing sector earned on average $17,015 while the median earnings for a full-time male worker in 2009 was $47,127. In 1900, 3 percent of white married women worked while in 2009 about 60 percent did.

I wish to further add that, perversely, family finances in the middle-class deteriorated greatly after 1970; women’s gains in earning power and their contribution to the family budget was accompanied by the household budget of the middle-class becoming worse, not better. As the income of wives increased after 1970 the savings rate fell, the amount of credit card debt increased, and the number of personal bankruptcy filings increased as well. Truth be told, women taking on financial responsibility in their marriages not only has been harmful to the well-being of children as they get shunted off to day care but has been financially disastrous as well. To see how family finances deteriorated along with the increase in wives’ earnings watch this video by Elizabeth Warren in March 2007.

Mr. Powell adds:

The period since 1980 has been an era of repeated economic crises and growing financial instability; in general the economic crises have become progressively more severe as time has gone on. I wonder if the loss of effective male authority is bleeding into the economic realm.

In Elizabeth Warren’s presentation about the “Coming Collapse of the Middle Class,” given just a few months before the start of the economic crisis as if she was predicting the economic crisis that was dead ahead but still unknown at the time, she specifically mentions the increase in economic volatility, the increase in the variability of workers’ earnings from one year to the next. She also mentions the shift from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans; a defined benefit plan being where the employer takes on the investment risk while in a defined contribution plan the worker takes on the investment risk. Warren mentioned several different factors that tend to increase families’ economic vulnerability. It seems that masculine protection from uncertainty and risk is harming families’ economic situation while husbands’ relative economic contribution to family income declines. Perhaps this is no accident or coincidence; as male authority in the economic realm diminishes masculine protection from economic instability and unpredictably diminishes at the same time.

Patriarchy creates stability and safety while matriarchy creates chaos and danger; it is as simple as that

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