The Retro Feminist may be The Real Feminist
I have a confession to make: I am a woman who is vexed by today’s feminists.
For example, just because Margaret Thatcher wasn’t a “social justice warrior” as one of the most influential Western leaders during one of the most formative times in the modern era, Feministe blog deems that the the Iron Lady was “not a real feminist“.
And it turns out that, like me, many women are also opting out of of “feminism”.
According to a new partnered survey cosponsored by ForbesWoman and TheBump.com, a growing number of women see staying home to raise children (while a partner provides financial support) to be the ideal circumstances of motherhood. Forget the corporate climb; these young mothers have another definition of success: setting work aside to stay home with the kids.
I am a consultant with a home-based business, which allows me to be home when my son is out-of -school. It also permits me to readily adjust my time, so I can run errands for my husband and be available for vacations and other activities without trying to juggle a second work schedule. One of the reasons I chose this career was for the family friendly flexibility, and it is a good match for my clan.
The model for this approach was an article I read many years back, which was a historical analysis that most families had both parents working to manage a business (e.g., bakery, brewery, farm). So, children were exposed to the concepts of work, budgets, time management, and other common sense skills that they needed to learn.
As a result, my son is an avid writer who handles homework, fencing practice, and Boy Scout achievements well. We are still working on his ability to put clothes in the hamper — but I am hopeful.
However, I wouldn’t hold up my example as a template for everyone else; nor would I denigrate a different path chosen by someone else. And here is where my independent-conservative take differs from that of Lisa Miller, a writer who recently interviewed a woman with an advanced degree from a prestigious institution who stays home to raise her two children.
Miller’s New York magazine piece is touted as a fair analysis of educated women who choose to be stay-at-home moms. A few remarks in the lengthy article, entitled the Retro Wife, caught my attention. The reeked of progressive, self-righteous derision at those who take a traditional view of families. For example:
Two of the fastest-growing religious movements in America are Mormonism and Orthodox Judaism, which clearly define gender roles along traditional lines. It’s difficult not to see the appeal—if only as a fleeting fantasy.
Fleeting fantasy? Not only is this statement disrespectful to women of specific religious faiths, but its conclusion that the appeal is “fantasy” is exactly the opposite of what the interviewee reported. In fact, stay-at-home maven Kelly Makino seems to be making an wonderful reality:
Alvin benefits no less from his wife’s domestic reign. Kelly keeps a list of his clothing sizes in her iPhone and, devoted to his cuteness, surprises him regularly with new items, like the dark-washed jeans he was wearing on the day I visited. She tracks down his favorite recipes online, recently discovering one for pineapple fried rice that he remembered from his childhood in Hawaii. A couple of times a month, Kelly suggests that they go to bed early and she soothes his work-stiffened muscles with a therapeutic massage. “I love him so much, I just want to spoil him,” she says.
Then, toward the end of the piece, Miller had the temerity to ask Makino what would happen of her husband left her. Frankly, what sane man would leave a woman with Makino’s affectionate domestic approach? I doubt Makino “wrestles with these questions all the time”: That statement sounds like projection.
However, the aspect that irked me most was how housework was discussed:
Despite their stated position, men still do far less housework than their spouses. In 2011, only 19 percent spent any time during the average day cleaning or doing laundry; among couples with kids younger than 6, men spent just 26 minutes a day doing what the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls “physical care,” which is to say bathing, feeding, or dressing children.
Taxes, budgets, car-care, home maintenance, and many other chores often fall in the domestic sphere of men. I believe if the typically male household items were included, most arrangements would have more of an even partnership.
I will gladly clean all the toilet bowls all the time to avoid doing the tax paperwork my husband does. He and I are both good with this arrangement.
The Atlantic published a follow-up piece, because of the strong reaction to Miller’s article: This Is (and Is Not) the ‘Retro Wife’. Sadly, a comment regarding Makino’s concern about the New York magazine piece serves as an opportunity for a dig at conservatives:
“My biggest fear, though, is that it will encourage the conservatives and the people who don’t believe in female equality and they’ll use it as fire.”
No. Conservatives are good with people making choices, as long as they are willing to accept the consequences of those choices. And it seems to me that the feminists who see their “gender equity” approaches abandoned by a new generation of women are struggling with this concept.
In her piece, Miller writes has a line that offers insight to the thinking that taints progressive discussions about family roles: “American women are better educated than they’ve ever been, better educated now than men, but they get distracted during their prime earning years by the urge to procreate.”
I didn’t “get distracted” by having my son. I was blessed. And my choices all revolve around that worldview.
So, in rebelling against the transformative goals of feminist activists, we “retro feminists” are the real deal!
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Great rebuttal piece. Bravo! I couldn’t agree more with the assessment and am so sick of feminism and feminists. Just be authentic and everything else should fall into place. I am more than my parts.
Well, all this points out the wisdom of Simone de Beauvoir’s remark that this is why you shouldn’t give women a “stay home” option–if you do, too many will make the wrong decision.
By the way, another aspect of the class bigotry of the feminists is the assumption, tacit in most of what they say, that the choices are: 1. A stultifying life as a housewife; or 2. An exciting career as a professor, doctor, lawyer, business executive.
But most women who work are not in that class. They’re sales clerks, secretaries, nurse assistants, that nice lady at Costco who is always so pleasant when I go to the food bar, and so forth. What the feminists want is a society in which the kind of people who become feminists have things arranged their way. Surprise!
By the way, what for want of a better term might be called establishment feminists lost any claim to be for “all women” by the end of the Clinton administration. And this also showed the class bigotry.
Remember people like Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones. These were uneducated women, lacking connections, the sort of women you’d think feminists would find it their duty to protect.
Instead, although both made decent prima facia cases that they had been assaulted, they were dismissed as “trailer trash.” Juanita Broadrick made out a decent case that Clinton had raped her, so she was simply ignored.
And remember the feminist adoration of Teddy the Pretender? You can read about his approach to women. His compulsive womanizing wasn’t necessarily mutually respectful relationships. A lot of his activities were with women of a much lower social class. It’s pretty disgusting, but look up “waitress sandwich.”
It would have been one thing to say, “Look, the guy’s a creep but he’s our creep and he helps us a lot.” But taking that attitude might compromise the self-image of most leftists as pure, virtuous, and moral.
By the way, the great majority of American women do not, I say again do not, support abortion on demand at any time during the pregnancy. The feminist insistence that they do is founded either on willful ignorance or on prevarication.
I came of age in the era of Betty Friedan et al and it took me several years to figure out that I had been duped. I didn’t gain “freedom and excitement,” I just gained a second full time job. I worked full time my whole life while raising four kids. I also spent some time in school during that time. There was nothing exciting about what I did, just a lot of hard work. Feminism made little boys of most of the men I knew, including my ex-husband, who whined when I took 6 weeks off to have my second child because he would have to be sole support as there was no paid child leave in those days.
I watch my daughters who are home with their kids – one runs a cell phone store and goes in when the kids are off to school, the other does the books and office work for her self employed husband. They are so much happier and relaxed than I ever was and their kids reflect all time and energy devoted to them. I know my kids suffered – they made it but they would have been happier to have had a full time mother.
Leslie, thank you for writing this.
Some might be surprised to look at the backgrounds and lives of the leading 70s feminists: childhood abuse, family and personal dysfunction, many who never married or had children, unhappiness, etc. Most of them have no business telling other women how they should live their lives.
I recently had to attend an awards dinner for the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (I say had to because given a choice I would not have). The average award recipient’s age was about 80-85. These were hard-core “feminists” in the old mold. I have never been in a room with so many massive shoulder chips. Every woman was portrayed as a victim and the victimization was ongoing and severe. In that room, old-style feminists were just a bunch of cranky old broads.
If indeed they were 80 -85 years old – that. Is wonderful. If one were born 1928 -33 then their lives have been through many different eras. old luck to them that they have their. Wits about them.
You are right you ought not have gone. Why go & then be hostile?
Hehe . Hate that auto spacing = full stop. #firstworldproblem.
Why go? My MIL was one of the recipients for her work with the UN. I did not wish to attend because one of the recipients was being awarded for running an organization that proudly paid for over 100 abortions. I’ll get darned hostile when asked to applaud for someone who pays to murder children.
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