When you hear the word 'feminist', you might think of a modern, progressive, gender-fluid riot grrrl wearing a 'Cats Against Catcalls' t-shirt. You might picture Gloria Steinem or any number of other famous feminists and what they fought for. Maybe you even imagine the original suffragettes getting thrown in jail for fighting for our right to vote back when the world was much more black-and-white. Who you likely don't imagine when picturing what a feminist looks like is me: a stay-at-home housewife.
I do all the cooking, from scratch, as well as all the cleaning, and I make a solid effort to look pretty when my husband gets home from work. "That's not feminism at all!" you're probably thinking, outraged. "That's oppression!" Well, I'm here to tell you that you're wrong.
Feminism is all about giving women as much power as men, and part of that power includes the freedom to choose how to live their lives the way they want to.
Most self-described feminists are all for advocating for women to be doctors, politicians, entrepreneurs, and general Titans of industry, but they look down upon women who use their power as a feminist to choose to live in more traditional ways.
I, too, completely support seeing females in male-dominated industries and emphatically celebrate all female victories in our patriarchal world, but from my cozy, neat home while a hot dinner sits on the table, with a fresh coat of mascara on my eyelashes, waiting for my husband to come home any minute.
I often feel so unwelcomed- if not outright ostracized- in feminist circles because I don't have kids and I don't have a job. My husband makes more than enough money to comfortably support us both and our dogs, so I don't need to work; why should I? As far as children go, I have reproductive issues and physically can't have kids, and I grew up knowing this, so I never really developed a desire for them. My husband doesn't want any, either. Many people think that if I at *least* was a stay-at-home mom, it'd be better than being what they think of as a 'stay-at-home-nothing'; an oppressed waste-of-space.
I am something, and I'm allowed to take up space. I'm 'mom' to my two rescued mutts. I'm a published writer. I'm a wife, and my feminism includes my right to want to be the best wife and partner that I can possibly be to my husband, the keyword there being 'partner'. What makes my situation different from a traditional nuclear family structure where the wife is horribly oppressed is that I'm equal to my husband, and he knows it.
My husband and I fight about things. We disagree. We discuss things, arrive at decisions together, and respect each other mutually and completely.
I love my role as housewife as much as my husband loves his traditional role as the provider. Scrubbing floors and doing laundry relaxes me, and there's nothing more soothing to me than the soft churn of the dishwasher. I had a successful career for years, but I always wanted to be a homemaker and am so glad that I have the opportunity now to be one. I genuinely delight in thinking of ways to make my husband's time at home as great for him as possible because I'm completely in love with him, and his happiness is my happiness. He feels the same way and is constantly showering me in gifts and finding other ways to show me that he loves and appreciates me. I'm completely whole and satisfied in this relationship, and that should be a valid enough reason for feminists everywhere to accept my traditional lifestyle choices.
The bottom line is this: If your feminism doesn't include the right for a woman to choose to live traditionally, it's not really feminism.
So many people look at my situation and think I'm pathetic, oppressed or wasting my life by playing the role of childfree homemaker and dog-mom instead of going out and taking on the world with my fist in the air while bucking traditional gender roles. What you're telling women by not including people like me in your feminism is that you're fighting for a woman's right to live how YOU deem acceptable, not however's right for them, and that's not okay. That's not feminism, and that makes you no better than the oppression we're fighting against.
So, the next time you meet a stay-at-home parent or housewife, don't pity them or think of them as repressed and ill-treated; accept their choice to live traditionally as just as valid as your choices and move on with your life. That's true feminism, and something I think we can-and should-all get behind.