Raising children is a Job. And it should be legally recognized as such…

Once again I find myself in the position of defending stay at home feminist moms. Tonight, I’m tossing around this issue because I’ve just had the unfortunate experience of reading Elizabeth Wurtzel’s article in The Atlantic entitled “1 Percent Wives Are Helping to Kill Feminism and Make the War on Women Possible”.

Okay – just to be clear, I find Wurtzel’s brand of pithy offensive and bitterly righteous. For example, I offer up this gem: “When I meet a woman who I know is a graduate of, say, Princeton — one who has read The Second Sex and therefore ought to know better — but is still a full-time wife, I feel betrayed.” Gag. So, if I were say a graduate of Valencia Community College – but had still read Beauvoir – would I be as offensive to Wurtzel? Are only the 1% her issue because there are others who choose wife and mother.

Wurtzel argues that “there really is only one kind of equality — it precedes all the emotional hullabaloo — and it’s economic. If you can’t pay your own rent, you are not an adult. You are a dependent.” Honestly, I think there are more women who think this way than I would like to admit – but I would argue that this completely misses the issue at hand.

Culturally we worship money and power and look down our noses at compassion and care — this framework allows jobs that were traditionally categorized as masculine – doctors, lawyers, politicians, bankers etc. – to be viewed as more prestigious than jobs that were and are still often fulfilled by women – elementary education, child care, nursing, secretarial work and of course mothering. In other words – men – and women enacting roles that were traditionally held by men are seen as more empowered.

This of course leaves stay at home moms sitting on their couches, eating bonbons and doing nothing of importance, which is ridiculous. Raising/rearing children is valuable and needed. The issue is not that women shouldn’t choose to stay home, if they so desire, but rather that the culture does not recognize the value in this endeavor – and reward or respond financially. At Rollins College in Winter Park, FL (my alma mater) I once heard Gloria Steinem say that perhaps the best way to deal with this issue was to work within the system and offer a tax benefit/deduction of some kind for women who choose to take on the challenge of staying home to raise their children – sounds like an awesome solution to me.

I know this is one of my favorite rants – but feminism is about choice and social justice for all people. ARGH!

P.S. Thank You, Mom. You’re fabulous and I treasure the fact that you poured your heart and soul into raising me.


Understanding a little Judith Butler…

So let’s be honest here – postmodern philosophers write using such dense language that I am fairly certain you need a graduate degree to dissect what they’re saying.  Perhaps and undergrad in philosophy can handle the serious post-modernists, but this PhD student (that’s right, I just talked about myself in the third person) didn’t really get a handle on postmodernists until grad school. That said, I think that  no matter whether you choose to agree or disagree with her, grasping Judith Butler is key to contemporary feminist thought/queer theory. In particular, I think we all need to genuinely understand her concept of performativty.

Judith Butler’s book  Gender Trouble (1999) presents the idea of gender as “performative,” implying that gender is not an innate quality linked to sex but rather a series of “fabrications manufactured and sustained through corporeal signs and other discursive means” (2584). Butler uses “the performance of drag” to exemplify “those aspects of gendered experience which are falsely naturalized as a unity” (2549-50). She shows how the very nature of the drag performance – the idea that both physical and mental gender codes can be enacted by any/either/all sexes – unearths gender as “parody” rather than innate bodily function (2550). In other words gender is an enactment separate from our chromosomal sex, which is learned and practiced, quite like playing the piano. Butler’s details an understanding of gender as performance and parody, so that she can underscore the idea that these performances are “repeated…with the strategic aim of maintaining gender within its binary frame,” which in turn maintains the patriarchal and heteronormative dynamic of western cultural traditions. Butler purposes that escape from this binary lockdown could possibly be achieved through the “failure to repeat, a de-formity, or a parodic repetition that exposes the effect of abiding identity as a politically tenuous construction” (2552). More simply, she is saying in order to escape the boxes imposed by culturally constructed gender norms, we have perform and repeat other gender constructions so that they might expose the nature of gender as performance.

If you are interested in Judith Butler’s ideas there was wonderful documentary  about her thinking created by Arte, which you can watch on You tube. Take a look at the first installment:

Work Cited

Butler, Judith. “Gender Trouble.” 2001. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed.Leitch Vincent, et al. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2010. 2540-53. Print.