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The Necessary Militance of Housewives

 

WRITING at The Remnant, Solange Hertz wonderfully expounds upon an important subject: the necessary militance of housewives. Home and the entire private sphere of mores and manners that is properly a woman’s domain, she writes, are safeguarded not with gentleness and tact alone, but with the willingness to fight and engage in feminine warfare. Being a rather militant housewife, I couldn’t agree more.

Hertz writes in her essay, “The Housewife as Guerilla”:

While others may cover themselves with glory before the cameras on the video battlefield, the guerrilla is doggedly jamming the channels, sabotaging supply lines or planting counterpropaganda in recreation areas. Women, not because they are naturally underhanded, but because they are women, take to this naturally.

It’s no accident that particularly subtle underground maneuvers are so often confided to them. Like Joan of Arc and the divine Judith, the belligerent woman arises out of nowhere in answer to immediate necessity, usually when the men are about to give up. As patroness of kinder, kuch und kirche [children, kitchen and church] she rarely fights wholeheartedly unless one of these is attacked; but when this does happen, the female is indeed deadlier than the male. With all three under fire today it’s small wonder she’s “emerging.” She‘s been evicted, and she’s furious.

Chesterton slyly noted that women are anarchists by instinct—not in the sense that they don’t support law and order, but in the sense that they have been given custody of those social areas lying beyond mere rules and regulations and defying the quantitative approach. Their institution par excellence, the home, may be said to be the one anarchist institution, older than law, and standing outside the state, if only because it is the mother of the state.

Whereas man has been entrusted with government, his wife has been entrusted with society. His the state, hers the family. To his sophisticated professionalism she brings the happy pragmatism of the dedicated amateur. ”Whenever you have a real difficulty…when a boy is bumptious or an aunt stingy, when a silly girl will marry somebody, or a wicked man won’t marry somebody, all your lumbering Roman Law and British constitution come to a standstill. A snub from a duchess or a slanging from a fishwife is much more likely to put things straight.”

To woman, “almost certainly, are due all those working traditions that cannot be found in books, especially those of education; it was she who first gave a child a stuffed stocking for being good or stood him in the corner for being naughty. This unclassified knowledge is sometimes called rule of thumb and sometimes motherwit. The last phrase suggests the whole truth, for none ever called it fatherwit” (G. K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World).

Motherwit is the very stuff of guerrilla warfare, at which woman excels to the degree that she remains at Adam’s side where God put her. To fight with Adam is not to fight Adam. Each must face, not the other, but their common enemy. In this confrontation Eve’s position is that of the guerrilla in relation to the regular army, which is her husband’s. Like every guerrilla’s hers is ancillary and presumes the existence of the regular; but, again like the guerrilla, she must be prepared to continue the fight alone when routed regulars fall back to regroup.

I daresay this is woman’s unenviable task today, when authority is crumbling all around us. Man has all he can do to restructure it and regain control. Luckily, as Chesterton also remarks, “Government is only one side of life. The other half is called society, in which women are admittedly dominant.”

I highly recommend the whole essay. However, I take exception to one of Hertz’s points. She writes:

A real woman wants man’s role in society as she wants hair on her face. Never would she admit for a moment that man’s way of doing things is better than hers, or that he’s any smarter. She will only acknowledge, quite happily, that he’s different and that she needs him. She will be tireless, on the other hand, in demonstrating how much he needs her. Without me, dear, she tells Adam, you can do nothing!

Yes, a real woman would never trade roles. However, I would say, she is quick to admire, without envying, all that men do in a superior way. She will happily admit that he’s smarter. She will be tireless in demonstrating how much she needs him.

The two essentials of every housewife are these: humility and militance.

—- Comments —-

Lydia Sherman writes:

They are quietly militant and do not waste time announcing changes in their lives. In the late 1970′s and early 1980′s, homemakers quietly withdrew their children from public schools to homeschool them. They probably had no idea of starting a movement or a protest. They saw what their children needed and they saw the ineptness of the public schools, and they took back their own responsibilities. That quiet revolution continues today with homemakers’ blogs, which are a huge influence on the world.

Meredith writes:

Excellent!

Aesop once said, “If the skin of the lion doesn’t fit, one must wear the foxes’ habit.” I have adopted this as a personal motto, and it is the motto for my tiny, very exclusive, private school, that is held around the kitchen table or on the sofa every day. I can definitely see how it applies to the wife and mother as guerrilla militant, although I never thought of it that way before.

I shall remember this as I don my favorite apron (my camouflage?) today.

Natalie writes:

I actually would take an exception to your exception. My husband is indeed a superior being to average run of men, but he is not superior to me. Being my head doesn’t require that I acknowledge his supremacy – only that I accept and honor his right and duty to lead me. We are not at all equals. If you want dinner on the table or a party hosted or your furniture refinished I’m vastly above him in skill and inclination for that sort of work. If you require technical assistance or wish to debate obscure philosophical or political points or even get something off a tall shelf you are much better off with my husband. I don’t want to be him, and he doesn’t want to be me. I would love for my husband to look back on our marriage twenty years from now and say “I couldn’t possibly have done all this without you. I need you more than I can say.” At a very basic level it would mean that I’d succeeded in serving him and, by extension, those around us. This will only happen if I preserve and even prefer some of the differences that make us such a great team.

Laura writes:

You are distorting what I said.

I wrote:

However, I would say, she is quick to admire, without envying, all that men do in a superior way. She will happily admit that he’s smarter. She will be tireless in demonstrating how much she needs him.

Are you saying you would not be quick to admire anything your husband does in a superior way? And would you not “happily” admit the areas in which he is smarter than you?

My point wasn’t that a man is superior to a woman in all ways and I made that perfectly clear in talking at the beginning of this post about the area in which women generally excel. A woman may be smarter than a man in specific subjects too, but she should always be quick to see what the man in her life does better.

You write:

Being my head doesn’t require that I acknowledge his supremacy – only that I accept and honor his right and duty to lead me.

If you accept him as your head, that is supremacy. However, that does not entail superiority in all things. Did you read Hertz’s essay?

Also, you write:

I would love for my husband to look back on our marriage twenty years from now and say “I couldn’t possibly have done all this without you. I need you more than I can say.”

You seem to be implying that I disagree. Being tireless in one’s appreciation for a husband does not mean one does not deserve praise and appreciation from him.

Natalie writes:

I did read what you said, and I maintain there was no distortion involved. If there is an appearance of distortion it stems from us not understanding the terms employed by the other party.

You wrote “She will happily admit that he’s smarter.” That’s rather different than “She will happily admit when he’s smarter.” The first statement is universal while the latter is conditional. However, I will concede that in context “supremacy” may have been the wrong word to use since it can denote either superiority or authority. I used the word in it’s former sense while you took it in the latter sense. As for who needs whom more – it’s not about appreciation. I never took you to mean that wives don’t deserve appreciation. However your closing remarks indicate that a wife’s pride in and preference for her own distinctions and a realization of the ways her husband needs her are actually unwifely.

Laura writes:

You were suggesting that I described men as possessing an all-encompassing superiority over women, and I don’t think I gave that impression. After all, I said, “she is quick to admire, without envying, all that men do in a superior way.” You were distorting my point by stating the obvious fact that women do some things better and possess smartness that men do not possess, as if somehow I had denied that.

To clarify, when I said, “She will happily admit that he’s smarter,” I meant that she will happily admit any superiority he has over her and his good qualities in general. Yes, there is a difference between saying “that he’s smarter” and “when he’s smarter.” I apologize. I should have used the “when” the first time just so anyone who might think I hold to the ridiculous opinion that men are smarter than women in all ways would not be confused. Shout it from the mountaintops. Yes, women are very smart. I think I have made it clear in many things I have written that I believe women possess distinct strengths that men do not possess.

My statement that you took exception to was directed toward these words by Hertz, whose essay I otherwise think is excellent:

Never would she admit for a moment that man’s way of doing things is better than hers, or that he’s any smarter. She will only acknowledge, quite happily, that he’s different and that she needs him. She will be tireless, on the other hand, in demonstrating how much he needs her. Without me, dear, she tells Adam, you can do nothing! [emphasis added]

That is simply too strong. Of course, a good wife would admit that a man’s way of doing many things is better than hers. And of course, she would happily admit to any smartness he possesses that exceeds hers, even erring on the side of aggrandizing any good qualities he possesses.

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