Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Burning Issues

I've got a friend with a fire burning. She's hot to organize a group of various women to discuss feminism. Especially interested in having some older women perspectives as she's a young mom herself. I'm looking forward to participating in any way I can.

But today I was taken by something on In a Minute Ago's blog.

" I started to think about how feminists represented the domestic and framed many attitudes towards 'women's work'. A generation of women were raised with the impression that if you wanted to achieve a good life you left your domestic skills behind.
Although feminism wanted to lift the level of satisfaction many women had in their lives it did demean the domestic work of women. The skill involved in creating and maintaining a home was not acknowledged enough."

I once had a 15 year old babysitter for my daughter who did not know how to cook anything. Couldn't make grilled cheese, cook a hot dog, heat soup, fry an egg, make Kraft mac n cheese, etc. (Pre-microwave era.) When I asked her mom about this, she said that she didn't want her daughter to learn any cooking skills. She said her daughter was going to college and was going to get educated, get a good job, and hire people to do the domestic stuff for her. I was appalled. Her daughter was going to starve. How could anyone not arm their child with basic cooking knowledge.

This is an example of someone who had taken the feminist thing to what to her seemed like a logical conclusion. I couldn't help but feel that there was a mental disconnect there.

Why did being "domestic," (i.e. knowing how to take care of yourself!) equate with not being feminist?

Just because you can cook, sew, and clean does not mean you don't have a brain! And if you enjoy any of these activities, good for you.


Anna van Schurman said...

See, this is the thing. It's misrepresentations of history. Back when feminism was getting going, women were defined by domesticity. So there were two roads: 1) reject domesticity and acheive equality and 2) embrace domesticity and try to ge the value of the domestic changed to achieve equality of a different sort. THEY COEXISTED. The people who tell you it was one or the other are the ones who are trying to make feminism look bad: "demeaning domesticity" was never the goal--getting out from under domesticity was. Rejecting isn't demeaning, unless you ask a man who is trying to drive wedges between groups of women. The latter group (embrace domesticity)--and I'm being impressionistic about history here--they were the ecofeminists. The earth mothers, respect the planet, bake bread, have babies--it's a CELEBRATION of womanhood. Liberal feminists took this approach too, but in a different way (Ruddick, et al). At any rate, as feminists were able to make some (small) gains in women's equality, we got the chance to go back and pick up those aspects of "true womanhood" that interested us. I don't have to have kids to be a "true woman", but I can choose to do needlework--and that doesn't make me a bad feminist. How's that?

jo said...

Brava, Anna.
That's it exactly.