Note: This article was originally written on July 03, 2005 as a Shrub.com Article. In my process of switching all articles over to this blog, I will be reposting old entries. What follows is in its original form without any editing.
Because of some crossed wires, I’m taking this month instead of johnmoon (he’ll be up for August). Since I’m in the middle of moving, I’m going to shamelessly plagiarize my own comment from a thread over at reappropriate. On our blog, I argued for the ability for people to choose what, if any, parts of traditional femininity and masculinity are right for them. Taking the argument to its logical conclusion, everyone should have the right to choose what kind of life is right for them whether it be working a job or taking care of the house and kids.
When I was younger, I was pretty much against anything feminine. My personality, combined with my having a backlash against what was expected of me, caused me to get into a “male-normative” mindset (meaning that I thought that traditionally male things were “normal” and traditionally feminine things were “bad”): I hated makeup, and “girly” clothing like dresses and skirts, and, yes, I looked down on people who aspired to the domestic. It took me a long time to step away from that mindset but it wasn’t until I got a big dose of feminist theory that I really understood why it’s so important to see things such as domestic labour as valuable.
Now, I can understand fighting hard to give people a true choice in what they want to do with their lives. I understand that, right now, domestic labour is de-valued and, in many cases, can make a woman into nothing more than a domestic slave. However, I don’t think the solution is to further degrade that labour but to show society how valuable it is. To show society that “womanly” things are just as good as “manly” things.
The facts are, not everyone wants to aspire to a male-normative life. Some people, women and men, want to raise a family and keep their home functioning properly. And, frankly, that should be seen as a good thing. Homemakers, unlike the stereotype, don’t sit on their asses all day eating bonbons and watching soap operas. They do work: they can clean, they can cook, they can garden, they can decorate, they can be in charge of the finances, they can have time to have hobbies that they enjoy, if there are children around they can take care of them, too. Society is built not only by the breadwinners, but also on the backs of people (historically women) who have kept the less visible parts running smoothly.
These are people who have given all their time to making sure the people around them are healthy, happy, and in good order. These are people who have sacrificed much of themselves in order to benefit their families. Desiring to be a homemaker is, for many people, about loving one’s family above everything and wanting to be the domestic backbone that keeps things going.
Saying that these people have no ambition, degrading the valuable work they do… that’s what’s been done to them for ages. Calling their valuable labour worthless is calling them worthless for wanting to do that labour. And that is an anti-feminist value. To work for equality, we need to see the value in the traditionally feminine and not just try to make everyone into “men”.