Posts Tagged ‘housewives’

And so now the Mail Online tells us that the newest chick at the checkout line is the feminist housewife.  More precisely,  she’s a young, well-educated Britster who has decided to throw career to the wayside and instead stay home and bake cakes.

Haven’t we heard this one before, at least on our side of the pond?

The American version was called the “opt-out revolution” and it featured similarly educated women, most with high-flying careers, who likewise decided to trade workplace for housework.  Except of course, that it wasn’t exactly true.  As census data — and many analysts, news stories and blogs, including ours — suggested a few months back, the only women who truly made the trade were either:  lower income women who, given both their job skills and the high cost of day care, were never really able to opt in; and upper income women, ably supported by spouses with killer jobs.

Without rehashing what we wrote back in October, the Cliff Notes version is this: For the vast, vast majority of women, the choice was not — make that is not, especially in recessionary times — an option.  What the dust up pointed to, in fact, was the need for structures to change to accommodate families.  Not just Mom.

And yet the trend story crops up once again, this time adorned with a photo of a giddy mom in flowered frock, with a cherubic toddler in one hand, and a pink feather duster in the other.  Let’s read:

The last time Ellen Fletcher saw her university friends they were graduating from one of London’s top colleges with the world at their feet.

Four years on, they all boast high-flying careers as City executives – all except Ellen. And when she reveals how she’s chosen to spend the intervening years to them, their jaws drop.

‘They couldn’t believe it when I told them I have chosen to be a full-time mother,’ says the 27-year-old, who lives in South-West London with her husband Richard, 30, a teacher, and her children George, four, and Verity, two.

‘I could tell from their reaction that they couldn’t help assuming I must be bored stiff  –  but that is simply just not the case.

Of course, there are days when I am untying my pinny, my hands covered in flour from baking a cake, when I think of all the glamorous things I could be doing with my life.

‘But then, when I see the look on my children’s faces as they hand me drawings or I read them a story, I know that what I am doing is just so worthwhile.’

And Ellen is not alone in holding what many women might perceive as an antiquated view  –  a growing number of young, well-educated British women are striking back at the have-it-all generation and choosing motherhood over careers.

After decades during which the number of women who work has steadily increased, it appears the tide is turning back to a more traditional family model.

Really?  There aren’t many real numbers to back up the claim (in fact, there’s again a lot of  “weasel words”  like many and more).  Nor does the story address what it takes in terms of money to live on one income.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I have nothing against housewives.  My mother was one — and damn good at it, I might add.  And there have been days when I have wanted to either be one or have one, for that matter — more days than I can count, in fact, when untying my pinny or washing the cake flour off my hands sounds like nothing less than pure bliss.  But still: what I really wonder now is why this new breed of housewife is dubbed “feminist.”  (Or why, in fact, these moms seem to be in such sharp contrast to those portrayed in the latest New York Magazine cover story, appropriately entitled: “Why Parents Hate Parenting: All Joy and No Fun”)
The story goes on to quote Jill Kirby, director of the Westminster think tank the Centre for Policy Studies.  She describes this new take on the work/life balance as ‘maternal feminism’.  Again, really?

She explains: ‘Feminism shouldn’t be defined purely in terms of the work place. I think a very important part of choice for women is the ability to devote time to children and motherhood, too.

‘ Women who are choosing motherhood early and saving their careers for later are becoming mothers at a time of peak fertility and also the time when they have the energy and the enthusiasm to enjoy their children.

‘Women that choose motherhood early, saving their careers for later, have the energy and the enthusiasm to enjoy their children’

‘Children have really lost out by being parcelled up into day care. Surveys show that young children thrive through getting one-to-one care from a loving adult.

Get that.  (But does a loving adult have to be a full-time mom?  What about dad?  But that’s another post.) And part of what feminism is/was all about is allowing women to make their own choices, rather than having choices made for them.   And yet.  Something about this rankles.  The feature duster.  The flowered dresses.  The smugness of it all.
Sure you can be a feminist and a housewife.   And of course you can be a feminist and a mom.  And hell yeah, trying to combine work and family — and succeed at both, given the lack of supportive structures and policy — can drive Wonderwoman to the nearest bar.   But I have to wonder: would a feminist really see herself in terms of Donna Reed?  In 2010?
What’s going on here?  Do I smell backlash?  I just can’t figure out why.
But maybe it’s this: another version of the “extreme homemakers” and their chicken coops, wherein women have  to frame raising children or chickens as feminist– AND DO IT PERFECTLY– in order to legitimize their choice and/or assuage their ambivalence over choosing it.  Rather than just arguing: this is what I’m doing, and screw you if you don’t think it’s okay, because, you know, what you think doesn’t really matter to me.
Now that would be a trend worth writing about.

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