Guest post: They were proud, because they were real women

Originally a comment by iknklast on She described the situation as feminist because it is her choice.

while (some other) feminists made homemakers ashamed of that choice.

I heard this trope from my mother and sisters for years – but none of them were ever ashamed of that choice! They were proud, because they were real women. I am sure there were women out there who were ashamed of that choice, and perhaps feminists who made them so. I haven’t actually met any, but I haven’t lived in such a way that I know absolutely everyone, or even more than a tiny fraction of everyone, so I can accept that.

The problem is, this is presented as it stands. It never receives the proper response, which is that women who chose to be homemakers have for a very long time done everything they could to make working women ashamed. And since they are usually the ones getting the positive attention in the magazines, newspapers, and other venues (the Mommy wars?), and women are still expected to give birth to, clean up after, and chauffeur children, it is definitely an issue. In addition, there is still a lot of noise about how women “have” to work because of the economy and how horrible that is – usually coming from the left, who (rightly) want a better distribution of wealth and use that old trope to try to shame Washington (men) into propping up the social safety net. There are a lot more support systems for homemakers than for mothers who work outside the home, as well, and almost no support systems for childless women who work outside the home.

So, go ahead and acknowledge the fact that (some) women feel ashamed of making that choice, but please don’t leave it standing as a trope on its own without noticing that a lot of homemakers do their best to shame working women. My mother never let a day go by without throwing some crack out there about “real women”, by which she meant women that were girly women, didn’t do “man” things, did not work outside the home, and had no fewer than six children (conveniently, the number she herself gave birth to). I spent a dozen years in therapy, by the way, and a lot of it was from this sort of crap – being made to feel not just less female (I don’t give a rat’s ass about that), but also a lot less human.

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