By Reader’s Request: Article Commentary

Reader H.A.S. left a link to a really great article and asked me to comment on it. The article condemns the lazy and pathetic “choice feminism” and explains why taking feminism in the direction of “all choices are sacred” will kill the movement:

I am going to smack the next idiot who tells me that raising her children full time — by which she really means going to Jivamukti classes and pedicure appointments while the nanny babysits — is her feminist choice. Who can possibly take feminism seriously when it allows everything, as long as women choose it?

What can I say to this other than, “Hear, hear!” Like the article’s author, I’m beyond tired of hearing the pompous “Respect the woman’s CHOICE!” whenever I offer an opinion about something done by a woman. How would you qualify a philosophy that insisted on the impossibility of ever judging or criticizing any choice made by a man? If I accompanied any suggestion that a man might be an idiot who makes ridiculous choices with an outraged, “But he  is a MAN! Respect his choices!”, what would that make me? Wouldn’t the word be “sexist”?

If we are in favor of equality, we have got to treat everybody’s choices equally. Women are as capable as men. Capable of greatness and stupidity, genius and silliness. Capable of making great choices and idiotic ones, too.

Let’s please be serious grown-ups: real feminists don’t depend on men. Real feminists earn a living, have money and means of their own.

If the movement had been serious about being serious then the idea could not have caught on that equal is how you feel. Or that how anyone feels about anything matters at all.

Again, I could not agree more. You can’t be a feminist – that is, a person who believes that women are valid and complete human beings – and not be, or at least try to be, financially, intellectually, socially and personally self-sufficient. You can still be a great person and feel good about your choices. But you are not a feminist. The word needs to mean something. Some limited range of very basic actions should come attached to it. This is why I agree completely with the following:

And 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.

Of course, we all have difficult moments in life. We lose jobs, suffer economic hardship, get into debt. Everybody finds themselves in a position to ask others for help. That is normal and good. However, if a healthy adult hands over all financial responsibility for her or his life to another adult, there are no other words to call this but a complete and utter dependence. And people who are really secure and happy about their choices, would not need to mask this simple reality behind the pretty verbiage of feminist choices. They would just accept it.

The part of the article I disagree with is the author’s claim that only rich women are housewives nowadays. That is absolutely not true since this is a format of existence that people choose for reasons completely different from whether they can afford it. I know several brilliant young women who chose not to work and who now live extremely modest, not to say piss-poor, lives. These are women who could have made really good money based on their skills and education. I also want to dispel the myth that housewifery is necessarily linked to taking care of children. Once again, this is a choice that is made for reasons that are not really related to practicalities and conveniences. Childless and passionately anti-children housewives are in no way different from the ones who have children.

This is not a class issue. This is an issue of a personal choice. And that choice has nothing whatsoever to do with feminism.

The article ends with a very important thought:

Something becomes a job when you are paid for it — and until then, it’s just a part of life.

This is undoubtedly true, people. I speak foreign languages all day long. However, it only becomes a job several times a week when I walk into the classroom and get paid for speaking these languages to students. What would you think if I claimed that when I speak in Russian to my husband and in Spanish to my brother-in-law that was my “job” and my “career”?

I thank reader H.A.S. and hope s/he keeps coming by the blog with these great links.

P.S. Who wants to bet that I will receive at least 3 comments in this thread exhorting me to “respect women’s choices’?

57 thoughts on “By Reader’s Request: Article Commentary

  1. I won’t say anything about respecting women’s choices.. but both the original article and your commentary leaves a good bit to discuss… will nitpick and vehemently disagree tonight when I have more time 🙂

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  2. What I found to be annoying about this article is the logical fallacy that she places on housewives being of the 1% variety. Personally, I know plenty of Orthodox Jewish housewives who would not be considered part of the top 1%, and plenty of 1% wives do work. Just because Ann Romney did not work (or to put it more accurately, was not part of the labor force) a day of her life does not mean that all the rich men have housewives. Also, I am curious about what your opinion is of a househusband? I am thinking of Joel from Parenthood, who took care of their child while his wife worked as a lawyer. Also, let’s say it costs less for one spouse not to work?

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    1. “What I found to be annoying about this article is the logical fallacy that she places on housewives being of the 1% variety. Personally, I know plenty of Orthodox Jewish housewives who would not be considered part of the top 1%, and plenty of 1% wives do work. Just because Ann Romney did not work (or to put it more accurately, was not part of the labor force) a day of her life does not mean that all the rich men have housewives. ”

      – Absolutely. I agree with this completely, which is why I said that this is not a class issue.

      “Also, I am curious about what your opinion is of a househusband?”

      – I’m all for equality. 🙂 Miserable creatures who have castrated their existence, turned into pathetic depressive losers who cause enormous damage to their miserable children. Just like housewives. I was married to a househusband for 3 years, so I’m speaking from experience. Of course, artists, self-employed people, freelancers, people who work from home, unemployed seeking work, grad students are not housewives/husbands. I speak exclusively of people who have no careers and who are not trying to craft a career for themselves. They continue being a burden to their children (emotionally, psychologically, etc.) even after their children are ready to retire.

      ” Also, let’s say it costs less for one spouse not to work?”

      – Let’s say it costs less for one spouse not to have medical insurance and seek medical care. Will you save money this way?

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      1. What about the individuals that have a career and decide to stay home to raise their children because it makes more sense to them from both a economical and psychological perspective?

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        1. “What about the individuals that have a career and decide to stay home to raise their children because it makes more sense to them from both a economical and psychological perspective?”

          – “What about alcoholics who decide to drink because it makes more sense to them from both a economical and psychological perspective?” I don’t know, what about them? 🙂 If getting drunk / get developing professionally ans socially “makes sense psychologically”, consult a specialist. A small hint: both behaviors are a result of low self-esteem.

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      2. A small hint: both behaviors are a result of low self-esteem.(Clarissa)

        Well, I guess thats the end of that conversation if you feel that all people who choose to stay home to raise their kids have low self esteem.

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        1. “Well, I guess thats the end of that conversation if you feel that all people who choose to stay home to raise their kids have low self esteem.”

          – Please read carefully. I also said that there was another subset: lazy people. A close friend of mine hasn’t worked for 15 years. Her explanation: “Work is booring, why should I waste my time this way? I’d just rather shop, watch TV, talk on the phone.”

          She had no children for 13 of those 15 years. When she did have a child, she placed him in daycare immediately.

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        1. “So I guess that means if you or N. decide to stay home with your kids(if you have em), then you obviously would have great self esteem.”

          – Neither of us would inflict this horrible suffering on our children. I’ll go wash floors at a McDonald’s before I do this to myself, my husband and any of my potential children.

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      3. I love you kind of people, the one’s who pay someone to take care of their infant children for 8-10hrs a day for the early part of their lives. Makes for a healthy economy. Damn those parents with low self esteem who inflict their presence on their children, they should be out being productive individuals for our society rather than rearing their own offspring. What the hell are they thinking???

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        1. “I love you kind of people, the one’s who pay someone to take care of their infant children for 8-10hrs a day for the early part of their lives. Makes for a healthy economy. Damn those parents with low self esteem who inflict their presence on their children, they should be out being productive individuals for our society rather than rearing their own offspring. What the hell are they thinking???”

          – Fits of hysteria are not a productive discussion strategy. If you choose to pretend like you didn’t hear about the horrifying incidence of depression and depression-induced psychosis in housewives, that’s your choice. If you still think that the suffering of children of housewives is a good area for you to practice your sense of humor, then what can I say? If these bromides make you so insensitive to the suffering of people you are talking to, that’s your misfortune.

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          1. “take care of their infant children ”

            – Besides, infants? Who the fuck is talking about infants?? Can you distinguish maternity/paternity leave from housewifery??? Seriously, some people will say anything.

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      4. Actually Clarissa I dont think you know the difference between being a parent and taking a maternity leave of absence to be one, that is the truly scary part. 😦

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        1. “Actually Clarissa I dont think you know the difference between being a parent and taking a maternity leave of absence to be one, that is the truly scary part. ”

          – Huh? So people who never took a maternity or paternity leave are not parents? Which means the absolute majority of men are not parents? I didn’t know you were so anti-men.

          What I do know is what it feels like to be a child of a housewife. And that’s all that matters if we are talking about the damage housewifery causes. And if you want to learn about scary, that’s a really scary experience. Also is your insulting attitude to people who work and have careers. I wonder how you manage to live with the horrible realization that since you work, you are, in your own opinion, a really crappy father.

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      5. I wonder how you manage to live with the horrible realization that since you work, you are, in your own opinion, a really crappy father.(Clarissa)

        I take the financial hit and modify my hours so as to have time with my children. I have been doing this for 15yrs. I may be on the freedom 85 plan but I have something worth more than gold, a great relationship with my children and wife. So when you say that some people castrate themselves to be stay home parents, I say others castrate themselves to be career people. You say tomato, I say tomatoe. 😉
        I just feel sometimes that your parenting advice is about as relevant as my teaching Spanish because I can order a beer in the language.

        Una cerveza, por favor. 🙂

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        1. “I take the financial hit and modify my hours so as to have time with my children. I have been doing this for 15yrs. I may be on the freedom 85 plan but I have something worth more than gold, a great relationship with my children and wife. ”

          – So when you work, that makes you a good parent. When everybody else works, that makes them a lousy parent? Interesting logic.

          “I just feel sometimes that your parenting advice is about as relevant as my teaching Spanish because I can order a beer in the language.”

          – I don’t give parenting advice. What, have you had too much beer? I just give irresponsible parents a small preview of what their children will think of them when they grow up. Those who are wondering why their kids only call them on Mother’s Day and Christmas.

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        1. “Oh by the way, I had to get the proper spelling from my kinda spanish speaking daughter.
          I hope her schooling is doing right by her. ”

          – Yes, keep trying to pretend like you don;t notice how you condemn yourself and every man you know with your man-hating ideology.

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      6. Actually my condemnation goes much deeper than that. At the heart of our sickness(and we all own it) is consumerism. The illusion in the west is because we have stuff and science that we are doing so well, the truth is far from it. I get a card on fathers day, they like to see me cry, shhhhhhh dont tell the patriarchy. 🙂

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        1. “Actually my condemnation goes much deeper than that. At the heart of our sickness(and we all own it) is consumerism. The illusion in the west is because we have stuff and science that we are doing so well, the truth is far from it. I get a card on fathers day, they like to see me cry, shhhhhhh dont tell the patriarchy. ”

          – More meaningless verbiage. According to your own statement, you are a horrible father who has deprived your children of I don;t know what my having a job. How do you live with that burden? Do you deal with guilt by blaming consumerism? What prevents you from consuming less, quitting your job, living on welfare and becoming an ideal father right now? Go on, have the courage of your opinions. Close down that clinic now. It’s nothing but a sign of your consumerism that you still work!

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        1. “Tsk tsk……….you read only what confirms your bias, oh well.”

          – Weird “tsk tsk”, “ooh aah” and “hoopla” start when people lost the argument completely and don’t have the courage to accept that.

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      7. Youre right, you win. Im a crappy parent and any parent who chooses to stay home rather than pursue what you deem to be correct is lacking in self esteem and will damage their children forever. Sorry for my lack of courage, I will now go work on that.

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        1. “I didnt, my reference was to you calling me a crappy parent”

          – Beer will be your downfall. You said that parents who work are horrible parents. I asked you if this meant that you are a bad parent since you work. Please concentrate.

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  3. But if one factors in childcare, the cost can at times outweigh the benefits. Truthfully, I agree that each spouse should his/her own weight. Although, not every situation is ideal. I do not endorse anybody to be a house wife/husband, if there is another choice.

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    1. “But if one factors in childcare, the cost can at times outweigh the benefits.”

      – Maybe people should obtain a profession and learn to make a decent living before procreating. Given that housewives suffer from extreme depression more than any other group of people, why should children have a permanently depressed person inflicted on them all day long?

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  4. // You can still be a great person and feel good about your choices.

    WHAT?! Don’t you say the opposite every second, including in this post?

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    1. “WHAT?! Don’t you say the opposite every second, including in this post?”

      – I know many housewives who are good people and who are super happy with their choices. They have no idea why they are on anti-depressants and why they cry every day, of course. They also have no idea why their children are so miserable. I never said they were self-aware as well as good people, did I? 🙂 🙂

      Nobody chooses this life because they are a bad a person. Usually, it’s a) laziness and b) extremely low self-esteem as a result of being brought up precisely by this kind of an underachiever mother.

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  5. “I am going to smack the next idiot who tells me that raising her children full time — by which she really means going to Jivamukti classes and pedicure appointments while the nanny babysits — is her feminist choice.”

    The feminist choice would be an abortion or a “no conception”.

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    1. “The feminist choice would be an abortion or a “no conception”.”

      – How is depriving oneself from one facet of existence more “feminist” than depriving oneself from another facet of existence?

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        1. “If you look for one reason why women are still treated as inferior than men, there’s conception.”

          – Passive voice again. Treated as inferior by whom? All women I have ever met who are treated as inferior are only treated that way by themselves.

          As for conception, in today’s developed societies, control over it is always in the hands of a woman. A man can ask, pray, hope. The woman decides.

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  6. “All women I have ever met who are treated as inferior are only treated that way by themselves. ”

    In many cases, yes. But there are many men who consider women as inferior, look at the Tea Party activists!

    So the choice of being treated as inferior than men is a feminist choice?

    “As for conception, in today’s developed societies, control over it is always in the hands of a woman. A man can ask, pray, hope. The woman decides.”

    Of course (except in some fundamentalist religious communities) but women are treated as inferior than men in their careers in part because of conception.

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    1. “But there are many men who consider women as inferior, look at the Tea Party activists”

      – Treat and consider are different thongs. 🙂

      “Of course (except in some fundamentalist religious communities) but women are treated as inferior than men in their careers in part because of conception.”

      – My mentor has 4 children, two of whom she brought up as a single mother in the 1980s-90s. She has a brilliant career and I can’t imagine anybody treating her as inferior and surviving. 🙂 I don’t think that parenthood damages anybody’s careers, as long as people don’t want to use that as an excuse.

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      1. But

        1) Many use that as an excuse.

        2) Many men bosses do not tolerate conception by a woman employee

        3) Conception delays job advancement (because of the lack of networking time, which is very important in non-academic sectors).

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        1. “Many use that as an excuse”

          – That’s their problem.

          “Many men bosses do not tolerate conception by a woman employee”

          – Who wants to work for those sexists anyways? If a boss is a sexist, he’ll make you suffer whether you have kids or not.

          “Conception delays job advancement (because of the lack of networking time, which is very important in non-academic sectors).”

          – My sister’s job is to network. Her career advanced enormously since she’s had a kid. (Since doesn’t mean because). It just did.

          David, why are you so worried about women with children? I don’t remember a single woman who’s had children within the last 10 years tell me this damaged her career in any way. Women don’t seem to share your concern.

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    2. “So the choice of being treated as inferior than men is a feminist choice”

      – No, of course not. The choice to do whatever you want and make everybody accept that and shut the fuck up is. 🙂 🙂

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        1. “And that includes the choice to be a housewife?”

          – I was meaning to say “to do what you want with your body”, of course. Sorry, I made it sound like I was advocating sociopathy. 🙂 🙂

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  7. “What can I say to this other than, “Hear, hear!” Like the article’s author, I’m beyond tired of hearing the pompous “Respect the woman’s CHOICE!” whenever I offer an opinion about something done by a woman. How would you qualify a philosophy that insisted on the impossibility of ever judging or criticizing any choice made by a man? If I accompanied any suggestion that a man might be an idiot who makes ridiculous choices with an outraged, “But he is a MAN! Respect his choices!”, what would that make me? Wouldn’t the word be “sexist”?”

    This makes me happy that someone else sees this. Sometimes when I hear things like “I hope this woman beats all the men” I fire back with I hope the dude wins. Not that I think that. When they glare at me afterwards I just say hey it’s just as discriminatory as what you said.

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  8. I can’t make any comment. Never wanted to have any children. Never crossed my mind. I don’t like identity politics and its weird defensiveness of anything, on the basis of identity alone. That’s insane. Even if it produces/d effective rhetoric, I prefer things more complicated.

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  9. Aren’t there kind of two questions here? There’s the choice question, and then the feminism question…I am fine “respecting a woman’s choice” to stay home, raise kids, and do Whatever with her life, whatever impact it may or may not have on her sense of self-worth and all that. (I personally think it’s a pretty poor choice, but whatever, it’s hers.)

    On the other hand…if she decided to stay home, declined actually learning a marketable skill because she planned to marry someone to support her while she took care of the kids, and pretty much lived her life dependent on a man for room, board, and spending money, and THEN called herself a feminist, I’d have a hell of a lot to say about that.

    I do think the sweeping characterization of everyone who chooses this way of life as something in its very nature detrimental to the individual and, if there are children, the children’s well-being, is a little over the top, and the assumption that if one’s job simply doesn’t pay enough to make working while paying child care a reasonable choice one can/should just get a better job a little…well, naive. I think most of us kind of assume we’ll be able to afford decent child care until suddenly we’re in a position to need it, start shopping for it, and go, “OH SHIT, this is INFRICKINGSANE.” (Unless that was just me.)

    Wouldn’t you think there’d be some room, within a parenting partnership, for the pair together to decide that for a time it makes sense to have one stay home and care for the kids while the other brings in the financial income the family needs? As a temporary situation, with a timeline and a plan for what comes on the other side of that? I think I’m hearing the ghost of this possibility in your post and comments, where you differentiate between school/freelance work and “house-wife/husband” situations…but I’m not absolutely sure.

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    1. “Wouldn’t you think there’d be some room, within a parenting partnership, for the pair together to decide that for a time it makes sense to have one stay home and care for the kids while the other brings in the financial income the family needs? ”

      – Let’s remember that “the one” is pretty much always the woman. And according to every study on the subject, she never catches up with her husband in terms of financial and career opportunities. Never. Most actual careers do not tolerate a person who has fallen out for a few years. Most employers are really unwilling to hire such a person, and with very good reason.

      I do not deny the right of anybody to choose to suffer all these consequences. It’s totally up to them. But what bothers me is that the children for whose sake these sacrifices are supposedly made drag the burden of guilt over this with them forever. They always know that one of their parents consciously blighted a humongous part of her existence supposedly for them. It’s not easy to live with that knowledge. This is why I’m a lot more tolerant of childless housewives and househusbands. The sense of guilt whose origins a child cannot even figure out for years is overwhelming. And there has to be guilt if you realize what your mother could have been and then see her in, say, a part-time secretarial job at 50 while your father is running a company or curing cancer.

      It breaks my heart to see how many women willingly give up on brilliant careers because they somehow convince themselves that their husband’s success, career, money and social standing are also theirs. But it’s their only as long as he feels like it. Of course, then preserving the marriage at all costs becomes the primary reason for such a woman’s existence. Again, imagine the poor children stuck in the middle of this.

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      1. You are going into extremes. On the one hand, you said before that older people may make a career in a new field, otoh, say as if taking several years to raise 2 children to school age has to result in “a part-time secretarial job at 50”.

        Besides, most people of both genders don’t (and can’t, not enough places for all to be high bank managers or uni professors) have those brilliant careers that 1 year or even 5 years are going to kill. F.e. my relatives were/are schoolteachers. They didn’t stay at home more than 1 year, yet had they stayed, their careers wouldn’t irrevocably suffer. My mother knows a beginning schoolteacher, who had several kids (she is religious and they usually have more children) and closer to 40 really went into career as a teacher.

        Btw, you would wash floors at McDonald’s rather than stay at home with small children, but many women would feel horribly to do so and would prefer to wait till children are older and get better job.

        I can’t understand why all this guilt on your part. Your mother decided to become a housewife, when you were 17, right? Hardly a baby. You are not connected to her decision at all.

        –el, not my computer

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        1. What’s really curious is that men don’t buy such speeches. Only women do. And then we wonder who keeps women down and denies them access to high -powered jobs and incomes comparable to men. Yes, who is that horrible oppressive entity?

          There are many studies showing that housewives never catch il with their partners on terms of earning power and promotion. There are even more studies showing that getting reintegrated into the job market is extremely difficult. The difficulty grows depending on how long she’s been out of the market.

          But we can always pretend this is not happening and scratch our heads in wonder over the glass ceiling and the pay gap.

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          1. Observe also that in all of these discussions of feminist housewifery it never occurs to anybody to suggest that childcare can be equally split with a man. say, a woman quits her job for 6 months and a man for the next 6 months. (Six months is a period of time out of the workplace that does not require reintegration and psychological rehabilitation. It also looks acceptable on any CV). Or a year and a year, etc. It would be good all around. The father gets to bond with his kid, nobody’s career suffers more than anybody else’s. I know people who did exactly this, everybody is happy.

            One would think that FEMINISTs would look for feminist solutions, yet the solution that might impact negatively a man’s career and earning power is adopted in such a sad minority of cases as to be negligible. It’s like it doesn’t even occur to people that female careers, earning power and self-realization are every bit as important as those of men. Fifty-one comment in, and we are still trying to convince ourselves, against all reason, that it matters if men can’t have careers and make money but it matters absolutely nothing if women can’t. Some feminism, this.

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      2. It’s moments like this I realize yet again, with this odd sort of glee, how atypical our family must be. When we had kids, my husband was the one who postponed career advancement for 4-5 years from preggo-with-one to second-goes-to-early-preschool. I had a solid (but not very high-paying) job with benefits, he had a crappy job with no security, so he shifted to part time contract work in a tangential field to keep our bills paid alongside my job while the kids were tiny. Then he went back to school (he’s in computer programming), got re-certified, and was able to land a way-better-than-mine job in his field. Three years after THAT, I was able to quit my solid job (which I had grown to hate, with new circumstances, co-workers, and boss shifting over the years) and go back to school, and hopefully once I have a new set of letters after my name I’ll be able to get a good job in MY field…

        I guess that’s what I meant by “partnership.” If two people really do look at the possibilities and options, accept that each may CHOOSE to step back from their career aspirations temporarily…yeah, naturally, you’re right, it’s assumed that it’s always the woman because it almost always IS the woman…but that little “almost” is key.

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        1. It’s great when a loving couple compromises and looks for a way that would make everybody happy, like you did.

          Unfortunately, what I hear so often, oh so very very often, is this completely fake, “My husband and I discussed it and agreed that it would be better for me to quit work.” Like there was ever any other option. I especially loved it when a friend who’d been dreaming of being a housewife for years before she even met her husband delivered this speech to me.

          A person who can just say honestly, “I don’t want to work and hence I will not” is so much better than these fake “feminists.” At least, they don;t guilt-trip anybody with their fake sacrifices.

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  10. “Feminism is not about choice – at least not insofar as it’s about saying “Any choice women make is a feminist one and so we can’t criticize or judge it.” Feminism isn’t about creating non-judgmental happy-rainbow enclaves where women can do whatever they want without criticism. Feminism is about achieving social, economic and political equality for all people, regardless of gender. It’s not about making every woman feel good about whatever she does, or treating women like delicate hot-house flowers who can’t be criticized.”
    – Jill Filipovic. I don’t always agree with her, but man is this quote relevant to the discussion.

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