Thursday, March 18, 2010

Response to "The Femivore's Dilema"

Through The Voracious Vegan, I found an article in The New York Times by Peggy Orenstein titled "The Femivore's Dilema". (Pause while you click on the link and read the article...)

I'm feeling pretty darn insulted by the thing. It's just so... limiting. It makes a general assumption that all women want the same things, that just being a house wife (or family manager, the term I prefer, thank you) is not enough of a role for any woman to find fulfillment with. We have to look to some other JOB or ROLE or something to find ourselves, I guess. The women discussed have done this through gardening and raising chickens, of all things. Hooray for them; I'm happy that these women have done something they find interesting and beneficial both in their lives and for the planet and that is to be celebrated.

As for me, I don't raise chickens. I don't garden. Well, OK, I try to garden, but when I can’t even get milkweed to survive for the butterflies it’s pretty much a given that I’m not getting any tomatoes from the shriveled up plants in the backyard. I’m not into canning veggies or re-covering an old couch I found on the side of the road. I admire people who have the skill, desire, and patience for those types of things, but they are not for me even if I take the random stab at being crafty. I admire women in the workforce who have found jobs they love, too. I chose my major poorly when I went to college and wound up in a job I was not suited for at all, back in the day when I earned a full time paycheck. I actually loved my last paid job, which was part time, but the job dissolved so it’s not something I could go back to anyway. Which is why I stopped working for money; I was laid off when the program was closed and it was a pretty unique job. The Eldest was 4 at the time so I decided I would stay home for a while. There was a period of about a year when it was really strange to be home but it made my life so much easier. I loved not having to get up to the alarm clock every morning and I loved the extra time with my husband. Prior to that we were ships passing in the night; I worked in the morning then he would leave for work after I got home and worked late into the evening, often coming home after I was in bed. Why would I possibly want to continue doing that if I didn’t have to?

As for this statement in the article:

“…though today’s soccer moms may argue, quite rightly, that caretaking is undervalued in a society that measures success by a paycheck, their role is made possible by the size of their husband’s…”

I say SO WHAT. My husband’s paycheck, our health insurance, and our financial stability are dependent on his employer just as much as I am dependent upon him. Unless you are an entrepreneur, everyone’s paycheck is dependent upon someone else. What the women profiled in the article are doing is getting out of the 9 to 5 rat race, which is far more significant an action to me than making some feminist statement. Not that there's anything wrong with feminist statements, they are great and necessary things, I just don't see this as one of them. I know one woman, for instance, who is self sufficient along WITH her husband and neither one of them earns a “regular” pay check. They set their own schedules, work when they want doing what they love, and have a great life. (And they don’t raise chickens either, but they are homeschooling some great kids.) Is the husband in this case a “manivore” simply because he doesn’t earn a regular paycheck?

That’s how I see my life, too. I have opted out of the rat race, which to me means I have stopped working for pay at jobs I wasn't happy with. (I don't mean to insult anyone who is working in corporate America; if they are working at a job they enjoy then they are NOT in a "rat race" kind of a situation.) I do what I want when I want to do it. My husband chose his college major better than I did and likes the work he does. He likes working for his company and that company pays him well. If he didn’t like it, we would look at other options. He supports our family financially because he enjoys doing the work. I didn’t have the earning power he did when I drew a paycheck, plus I didn’t enjoy my work like he does, so this is how we arranged things between the two of us. (Again, I chose poorly in college; no one forced me into a major with a low income potential.) It’s something we both agreed to and we are both happy with. When I want to go back to school to finish my Master's degree, then eventually back to work, I will do so.

I guess that’s what I have the issues with in regards to this article. It sets up this feminist thing when it should really be about individual choice and women who have found happiness through non-traditional work (by going back to very traditional work, funny enough). I am happy living my life; I am a housewife and proud of it. (Even if I prefer to be called a family manager.) This is my choice, even if it depends on my husband’s income. I find fulfillment in many, many ways, all of which are possible because I no longer work for a paycheck. I volunteer and I blog and I take classes and I go to a book club and a women’s group and yes, I even homeschool my kids. I sleep in when I want and take vacations when I want and set my own schedule and decide on my own projects and activities instead of working towards someone else’s deadlines.

Wow, I must really be depressed and feel a niggling sense of purposelessness since I’m dependent on DH’s paycheck. Can’t you tell?

(And I have a friend who raises chickens, btw; she’s dependent on her husband’s paycheck too. So far I haven’t seen any evidence of depression in her either; must be the chickens.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So essentially, if you are a "housewife" you are a parasite? I like the term "Family Manager," maybe if Ms. Orenstein took a moment away from congratulating herself, she might think long enough about others to stop setting women back 50 years by asserting that we are dependents. I can see how a few of my clients would fall into this category, but this is quite an unfair pigeon hole. Can you be so Feminist that you are anti-woman?? I think they've accomplished this. Great response Mrs. S!