Often times I find myself sitting in a coffee house or sifting through sales at the mall with a friend I haven't seen since high school, and invariably I get the comment, "I never thought you would get married and take care of a man. You used to be such a feminist." Usually I brush away the comment, knowing the friend didn't mean any harm by it. But those comments are starting to concern me more as I get older, especially as those old high school friends change and develop into the people they were meant to become. They've missed the mark somewhere. Their naivety has become ignorance and I really feel something should be said about it.
Brent and I were married when I was 19 years old. I've always been stubborn and opinionated and wild and, despite all those things, an old soul. He knew this about me before he decided he wanted to spend eternity with me and asked me to marry him anyway.
My husband is beautiful. He's the kind of person who exudes kindness. He's compassionate, friendly, helpful, warm. He's the kind of person who, when he walks away from a group, leaves behind the happiness that overflows his aura on a regular basis. And more personally, he's the kind of man who will work a 40 hour week and still offer to clean the dishes in the sink, or watch the baby because he wants me to have time to create and sew, or get out of bed to get me a glass of water because I forgot to do it and it's too cold to leave the toasty covers. He's amazing.
Now, the root of feminism is the woman's right to chose for herself. I'm not entirely sure I would consider myself a feminist. I'm not one to attend bra burnings and I really don't read up on the subject all too often, but I do believe women should have the same rights as men. And just because a woman does, well, womanly things, doesn't mean she's a submissive Stepford.
I don't love ironing Brent's shirts, but I do it because I want him to feel good about himself at work. I don't always want to cook dinner, but I do it because I like my food MUCH more than Brent's. There is nothing in me that yearns for yard work, but often times I will go out and scoop poop or pull weeds or, in much rarer cases, mow the lawn, not because I feel I HAVE to as the SAHM, but because I want to. I do it because I love my husband and doing things for people is how I show my love for them.
Brent and I don't follow gender roles. I don't do the dishes. The thought of using my bare hands to wash away someone else's coagulated spit off a fork they were too lazy to rinse for themselves makes me physically sick. Brent knows this about me and always offers to do the dishes. I clean the toilets. I have no problem with toilets. Probably has something to do with the long stick brush that keeps me a few feet from the actual mess at all times.
I cook. Brent bakes.
I handle vehicle maintenance. Brent takes out the trash.
I dust. Brent vacuums.
We are a team. We work together to make our home function smoothly. Where I am flawed, Brent steps in.
Like many of you, I sew. I quilt. And sometimes, that means I fix ripped jeans and make Angry Birds stuffed toys for Brent's friends and iron his shirts. Like many of you, I like to DIY. Like many of you, I am an artist. I make cards, scrapbooks, baskets. I spray paint just about anything I can get my hands on. I have a weird fascination with chalk and paper tape and I like to make my own bubbles for my daughter. I'm a hands-on mom. All these things, however, do not add up to my lacking feminism.
I had grand plans as a teenager. I was going to leave this state, see the world, become a doctor. But the truth of the matter is, I grew up and realized I didn't really want those things at all. I had read so many amazing stories I wanted to emulate, but I was looking at the glorious end picture and not all the strokes it took to make it. I didn't travel because, as it turns out, I'm terrified of the ocean (TERRIFIED. That's a long story. I'll save it for another day.) I didn't become a doctor because, as it turns out, I don't like bodily fluids. Remember the whole spit thing? I was pre-med for two years and I swear I almost didn't make it through that last biology class (we have to type someone else's blood?! Are they crazy?!) I'm still in Arizona because, as it turns out, I live in an amazing state, full of natural beauty, great hiking spots and a thriving cultural center. And my family is here. And my friends. And everything I've ever known. My dreams changed as I grew up and I'm living them now.
I could have been the career type. I worked in the business world for a few years, long enough to know I didn't like the person I was while I worked there. I'm a good leader. I pay great attention to detail. I finish my work and have no problems letting colleagues know when they aren't doing their share. I was a great employee but I wasn't a great person. Working in business changed me. I know I could have been promoted quickly. I know I would have found great amounts of success, but I also wanted a baby, and I didn't want my baby to know this version of me. It was then I realized I wanted to be a SAHM. And Brent, being the aforementioned AMAZING person he is, said that he wanted whatever I wanted, and so we began to plan.
We paid down debts and put the dreams of buying a huge house on the back burner. Losing my income wasn't easy, but we manage. We keep to a tight budget and thankfully have not incurred any major costs since Maze was born. It took me two years to get pregnant with her. I know many people struggling to get pregnant, and I know our wait was nothing compared to what some couples go through, but it was a lifetime to me and I wanted her more than she will ever know. Wanting a child does not mean I am against feminism.
In the 1950s, a cultural phenomenon swept the nation known as The Cult of Domesticity. I won't go into a long-winded history lesson here (even though I SO want to) but basically, here's what happened:
- WWI ends. Country goes all crazy, banning alcohol and whatnot. Women's skirts get shorter. Promiscuity ensues. The Great Depression hits. Bam.
- Some women are forced to work to help care for their families. WWII begins. America watches from the sidelines. Economy is growing as America ships parts to other countries. Women don't have to work as much. Women told to get those hemlines down.
- Pearl Harbor gets blasted. America joins WWII. Women turn around and go back to work.
- WWII ends. Men come home. Women turn around and go back to the homesteads.
- 1950s. Hollywood shows nip, tucked, and starved women dressed to the nines baking cakes, mending clothes, and keeping garden. Suburban housing communities start showing up. The neighbors get a refrigerator. Now you need a better refrigerator. Lady neighbor wears a new dress she made to trim the roses. Now you need a new dress. And roses. Keeping up with the Joneses becomes a "thing".
Women in the 1950s were expected to tend to the home and children, and since suburbs were becoming more popular, women started trying to out-do themselves (or at least the woman next door). They cleaned. They sewed. They cooked. They baked. They were machines. They were programed to do these things by society, hence: The Cult of Domesticity.
Then the 60s happened. Then the 70s. 80s. 90s. You get the idea. Things changed.
Nowadays, I've seen this resurgence of home-making; of women WANTING to stay home. Women WANTING to cook. Women WANTING to sew, to organize, to decorate. Women are being called back to domesticity, but instead of the "Cult" part looming, I've been seeing modern women enjoying these tasks.
And I believe that is where I am.
I ENJOY all these things but I still sew in my sweat pants. I go to the farmer's markets in my band tees from 10 years ago. Sometimes I wear make-up, but only when I want to. I clean my house before people come over, but if I'd rather be doing something else, I don't clean my house and my guests just have to step over toys and shoes. I haven't been forced into any of this by someone else and I don't let my "responsibilities" to my house ruin my life. Brent does not dictate what, when or how I do anything. As I mentioned before: we are a team. We both do whatever is necessary to keep things moving smoothly. I GET to stay home to raise my children, I don't HAVE to. I GET to clean and decorate my house the way I want it, I don't HAVE to. I GET to be myself.
So, am I domesticated? Yes. Do I need your pity? Absolutely not. And I don't want it. I may not call myself a feminist, but that doesn't mean I am a mindless body doing what I am told to by a man. I am a strong, educated, confident woman who just so happens to also love to cook, clean, sew, and love my man.
And there's nothing wrong with that.