Feminist rant of the week (with a special treat at the end).
A very good friend told me recently that she isn’t going back to paid work when her maternity leave ends. She’s got two kids, and would make no money if they were both in nursery. She wanted to look after her kids, but everyonbe was telling her what a terrible mistake she’d be making. What a waste, they said – why would you want to be a housewife? Wasn’t she a feminist after all?
Because of my place in this debate – that I do about 75% of the childcare, and work in the remaining time and my spare time but make very little money – I took the comments of my friend’s friends to heart. I told her they were c*nts. Then I qualified that a bit. If someone chooses to spend most of their time caring for their child/ren instead of continuing in paid work, they can still be an egalitarian and a feminist. You don’t have to work for money to be committed to a belief that women are equal to men.
But how does that work? If a woman believes that she should be entitled to the same political, social, and economic rights as men, how does devoting many years of her life to bringing up children entitle her to those rights? Motherhood isn’t paid, and therefore what she does leave her at the financial mercy of a partner (read, in most cases, a man), or on benefits, unless the paid work she did before she became a mother made her financially independent.* She is not helping herself to those rights. She does not deserve the respect that ‘working’ women deserve. She doesn’t exist in the world of work, or finance, or politics, or any societal structure outside that of the family, and therefore will not ever contribute to the progress achieved in obtaining those rights. She is, as many people, including a hell of a lot of feminists, a waste of an education.
So therefore the 868,000 people in the childcare sector** should do their jobs for free, because looking after children is not real work. Someone needs to look after my child, but if it’s me, that means I’m not making a contribution to the economy because no money is changing hands. And I should be ashamed ofbeing dependent on the Deckhand because, for the most part, he earns the money? Funnily enough, he’s dependent on me looking after the Stowaway, so he can do his paid work. It’s called sharing. I’m not ashamed of the way we do things.
I could be wrong, but I thought feminism was about being entitled to the same rights and respect as men. To me, that means that if I choose to do work, for now,which is traditionally women’s work, which does not involve me fighting against men to get to do that work, then I still get to have those rights, to be respected and taken seriously. I’m not asking to be paid for the work I do. I’m asking to have my work recognised, socially, as important, valuable work. And no, I’m certainly not saying that all women should ‘stay at home’***. What I’m saying is that my contribution to society and feminism doesn’t (shouldn’t) be judged on how much I earn and whether or not I’m spending my time doing things traditionally barred to women.
I like my jobs. Doesn’t make me lazy. In my spare time and when the deckhand does his dadding, I write. We try to live simply. Both of us made sacrifices, financial and otherwise, so that we can live our lives doing the things we really want to do. Equal Opportunities, is what that is.
OK, all done. Off to make the dinner and succumb to my nightly beating now. The treat mentioned in the title, btw, is that the next chapter will be up this evening.
* in which case she’d be in a highly unusual position, given that even if women do the same job as the man in the office/shop/factory/racing car next to her, she will earn an average of £10,000 a year less than he does.
** Office of National Stats, 2010.
***An execrable term I fucking loathe. I have spent about ten days ‘at home’ with the Stowaway this year. I don’t nob about in a 4×4 worrying about my nails, and I don’t lounge around watching telly. I spend time every evening thinking planning the things I’m going to do with my daughter the next day, making sure she has fun, learns stuff, interacts with a wide range of people, finds out about the world, gets decent nutrition and plenty of exercise. We get wet and muddy. The TV is on for about 20 minutes a day when I make dinner.