I am a housewife. Well, I have a set of four-year-old twins, so, technically, that makes me a stay-at-home mom. And I do a lot freelance for pennies from my comfy orange couch in the living room, which I suppose makes me a work-at-home mom. I also go to grad school, so I guess I, instead, could define myself as a student A studentlike, work-while-staying-at-home mom who cooks and cleans.
To some, this immediately disqualifies me from housewifery. Oh, they say, yes, you can still be a feminist. You’ve earned it. To which I reply that I didn’t know feminism was something to be earned. You see, much like my definition of myself above, feminism is confused about what it really is, what it actually does and how to prioritize. But that’s another topic for another day. For the purposes of this article, I am a housewife. I cook all the food, clean all the things, and do all the childcare with a smile. I am a housewife. I am also a feminist. Now, there are many who don’t believe this is possible. They look at a woman staying at home with her children (perhaps she’s even taken her husband’s name) and they point. And they yell.
Your choice to stay home apparently affects the cause in such a way that you are singlehandedly unraveling it from the inside. As you go on the defensive and begin to wonder if maybe your decision to take care of your kids and house for no money is truly to blame for the income gap and lack of women’s rights in health care, you must know this: you are not the problem.
The problem is within the movement itself. When we moved on from the second-wave of feminism, the post-modernists have rightfully included personal choice in the crusade. It is the next logical step, and someday it will be looked at as a turning point. Unfortunately, that day is not today. Why would women choose to give up the power other women have worked so hard to give them? The answer is because other women have worked to give us that choice.
Now, I’m a firm believer that anyone who wants equality for women is a feminist. So, in my book, you’re most likely already in, just by existing. However, if you’re looking to be a little more active, here are some simple things you can do to be both a housewife and a feminist.
1) Be on board with your station in life. At first I wanted to say choose it and be comfortable in your choice, but the truth is, many people don’t choose to be a housewife. Staying at home is chosen for some in the same way that say, being poor or having twins is chosen (raises hand). It’s just something that happens, that makes the most sense at the time, that cannot be worked around. And if that’s the case, own it. Understand that while you may not be actively choosing to stay home, you are actively choosing to do what makes the most sense in your life. Your happiness counts for a lot; it’s a large part of the post-modern feminist movement.
2) Talk to people. I’m online a lot for my livelihood (if you count the nickel I made last week as a livelihood). Being who you are and reaching out to others in simple interactions through Facebook, the phone, or internet forums can make a greater impact than you know. I’ve found that more people change their minds about their ingrained viewpoints through gentle repetitive messages from someone they like and respect than they do when they’re shouted at intensely by feminist publications and groups.
3) Keep an eye on those publications and groups just mentioned. Being a homemaking feminist catches a person in the middle of a crossfire. As much as you can educate your friends, family and internet strangers about their unwitting submission to the patriarchal society and ideology, you can also teach your feminist leaders to re-evaluate their definition of woman strength and equality. You’re working the cause from both ends. You’re pretty much super-valuable. Believe it.
4) Do things you want to do. The reason I’m a student and an editor and a freelancer and a novelist is because I want to be. You don’t have to fit into the 1950s’ role for the housewife title anymore. On the other hand, if you are fulfilled by caring for your kids and keeping your house clean, there is nothing wrong with that. The point is, we need to stop beating ourselves up, and start taking whatever steps we can to make ourselves happy. We are women, too, after all. And if the point is empowerment for women, well, may as well start with the one you love best (hint: that’s you).
5) Talk to your children, if you have them. The most powerful way to send a message forth is into future generations. Misogyny, sexism, rape culture, and the patriarchal ideology are woven into our language, our backgrounds and everything we do. Kind, consistent words from you about others will give your children a framework of compassion and understanding. Standing up for yourself and your fellow women will show them strength and perseverance coming from the one they trust the most. Believing in them will give them the self-confidence to follow through with their ideas when the world would rather laugh at them. Correcting the seemingly minor infringements on woman equality in language, advertising, and media will give them a balanced view of the world and show them the importance of agenda setting before they’re even old enough to understand the phenomenon.
As a homemaker, stay-at-home mom or whatever you want to call yourself, you are important. You are important to yourself, to your fellow women and to the movement. You fill a unique role, personalizing the crossroads at which feminism finds itself. You prove each day how individual choice can work within the unified front of the wave instead of against it. You can be a housewife and a feminist at the same time. It’s a big job, but you can do it.