Monday, January 9, 2012

The Monday Muse: The F Word.

Hmmm.  It appears I am not a feminist.  I thought I was, but, when I recently came out as a "stay-at-home," homeschooling mom on a feminist internet forum, I was told that I am not.

I object.

But first, a few notes on that "F" word, feminism --

The word "feminist" conjures different images for different people.  For some, the word evokes thoughts of brave, trailblazing women loudly proclaiming, in the midst of patriarchal and misogynistic societies, that women should have the exact same rights as men.  Hooray for those women.  Their efforts resulted in women having more opportunities today, opportunities that did not exist for females in 1970, the year in which I was born.

For others, feminism brings to mind angry, negative women, women who claim that in order to be a real human being, one must NOT stay at home with the kids, that motherhood is NOT something worth spending your whole life doing, that to move society forward, every woman must strive to be a doctor, a professor, an engineer -- any kind of job that has been traditionally occupied by men.  Boo to these women, I say.  Equal rights is not about deciding what some other woman should or should not do.  There is nothing better about being a doctor, professor, engineer, etc. than being a stay-at-home mom.  Motherhood -- hands-on, involved, 24/7 motherhood -- is important and difficult work, just as important and difficult as any other job/career under the sun.  Anyone who says otherwise hasn't tried it.  I mean really tried it -- months on end, 24/7, responsible (little to no TV or videos) trying it.

I'm not into the "mommy wars."  I don't proclaim that I'm a better mother for "staying home" (such an inaccurate description!) with my kids.  I also don't believe that Jane Smith is a better person than me for putting her kids in daycare so she can go to med school.  I believe that each woman needs to examine her life, her family, and her kids and decide what's best for her children first and herself second.  If staying home with the kids means you end up sinking into depression and hating life, then by all means find good childcare, continue your out-of-home career, and do what you need to do to take care of yourself and your family.  If working outside the home means you barely see your kids and they grow up raised by inattentive daycare workers, then by all means, have a seat and rethink your priorities.  (These words don't apply to those women who absolutely must work outside the home else their children would starve -- such women, unfortunately, don't have the luxury of choice).

There is no right answer, there is no one way to be a mom.

There are, however, many ways to put women down and stomp all over their equal rights.  The devaluation of stay-at-home motherhood is one of them.  As is looking down on a woman's choice to homeschool her kids.

If you're one of those women who think you're better than your SAHM neighbor because you have a PhD and work as a neuroscientist while the neighbor has a high school diploma and stays at home with her six kids -- guess what?  You aren't a feminist.

If you stay at home with your kids and talk trash about the woman who uses a great nanny to watch her newborn -- guess what?  You aren't a feminist either.

Peace, people.  Women, stop banging on each other.  United we stand, divided we fall...yes?  Respect each other's choices, realize that everyone is doing valuable work.  Chill out already.  Turn your anger toward the stuff that's why women still aren't paid the same amount as men for doing the exact same job.  Like why people still think "cry like a girl" is an acceptable phrase.  Like why the toy sections in most stores are divided into "girl" toys and "boy" toys.  Etc.

We're our own worst enemies, ladies.  Knock it off already.


unstrung said...

here, here~

Anonymous said...

Great post.

Leigh said...

I identify as a feminist AND a homeschooling mom - and anyone who doesn't like it can just deal.

Women have been fighting for agency and the freedom to make our own choices forever and a day... choosing to homeschool is pretty freaking radical -- it's about not being compliant and just taking whatever educational options are offered to you. It's about choosing better history social studies books that include minorities and women for gosh sake!

I'm thinking that feminist forum is misinformed in more than one area.

And BTW there are a growing number of women with advanced degrees who are choosing to be SAHM's esp. in secular circles.

Thanks for the great post!

Patricia Ellis Herr, Alexandra Herr, and Sage Herr said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone. Leigh, I too feel that homeschooling is a radical choice. We do it primarily for freedom. Freedom to find the best methods, freedom to find the best books, freedom to learn from experiences instead of text, freedom to make our own schedule, and the freedom of finding our own friends of all different ages and backgrounds. I feel homeschooling frees us from all artificial limits.

To me, I can't possibly see how homeschooling equals anti-feminism. Doesn't make any sense.

Patricia Ellis Herr, Alexandra Herr, and Sage Herr said...

PS -- Please don't take my comments to mean that I think homeschooling is for everyone. It isn't. There are lots of kids who thrive in public and private schools. I also have the utmost respect for teachers; they do the best job they can in the underfunded situation they're in. I personally know many wonderful teachers whose students are lucky to have them. I feel my own kids are better off homeschooled, but that doesn't mean ALL kids are better off homeschooled.