The Hidden Empowerment of the Housewife Life | Jennifer Mills
The assault on traditional femininity is a disgrace to the name of feminism.
The feminist agenda has shifted over the last few decades, abandoning the fight for liberty and rights in favour of bigotry and exclusivity. It’s a crying shame that a movement formed out of a will for political equality has turned into a weapon against the most traditional state of femininity. Certainly over the last few years, feminism has become an excuse for its activists and champions to say to traditional women “you know you don’t have to oppress yourself anymore, right?”
It’s insulting and demoralising that a movement supposed to represent women has become prescriptive as to what femininity should be – the very thing they claim to challenge. I am not traditional because anyone told me to be, I simply do what makes me happy and have found myself fitting under this label. In a way, I suppose I should thank the feminists – you have made my life counter-culture.
The benefit of being different – dressing differently, behaving differently, having a different set of values – is that it allows you to constantly check yourself. It’s a lot harder to ignore your faults when you aren’t trapped in an echo chamber. It’s impossible to ever go a day without hearing criticism for my way of life, whether that be on the internet, going to university, or talking to other women. I don’t mind this – I think we should all be forced to engage with opinions different to ours. In fact, it allows us to properly formulate our views each time and helps us learn even more about ourselves. Especially on a university campus, being “alternative” has helped me to step into and fulfil my gender destiny even better every day.
I suppose my quarrel with feminism and the people representing it is the hypocrisy. This is a movement that was created to give me the vote and give me equal rights and equal pay and bodily autonomy, not a movement created to devalue my chosen way of life. How can someone who spends their life screaming for women’s ability to carve their own paths attempt to dismantle the identity I’ve spent decades building and improving – an identity that I am proud of and want to show off as much as they do – by telling me that I am “internally oppressing” myself? It really takes some perseverance and confidence not to be trodden over by these people.
And that has made me stronger, and as a consequence, better suited to a life of traditional femininity. My way of life takes just as much courage, hard work and creativity as any other. The life of a housewife is one filled with its own challenges, joys and rewards. It is a life I have chosen because of how strong it makes me feel and the power it gives me.
There is a lot of confusion in feminist circles about what “submission” and “service” means. Often used within Christian marriages, these terms tend to elicit outcries of “hierarchy” and “inequality” from progressives. My role as a traditional woman is to “submit” in marriage, which solely means that my service to my husband will be to advise, caution and persuade him, but to ultimately seek compromise instead of demanding my own way. Submission is not an act done in response to violence, but rather a way for the peace-weaver in the relationship to seek peaceful outcomes rather than both parties becoming hellbent on selfish endeavours.
Alternatively, the type of husband a traditional woman tends to seek will exhibit complementary attributes such as gentleness and reason. Submission to man without these traits is arguably unequal and a bad foundation for a relationship, conforming largely to the feminist/atheist interpretation of the term. We can all agree that submission should not be done in asymmetric relationships as that does allow room for abuse and damage.
Within a traditional relationship, submission is not bending over backwards or being forced to obey one’s husband, but the compromise a traditional woman must make in order to receive the benefits from the man’s role. It’s a trade – I’ll seek compromise if you approach the problem reasonably – even if it’s a trade most women choose not to make.
In terms of “service”, feminists tend to ignore the service that both men and women fulfil in a traditional relationship. In the past, both sexes were pressured to conform to binary gender roles – roles that should have been informed choices, not obligations. Service is something we all must do in our relationships, romantic or otherwise. There must be some degree of “give” in order for people to grow together. This “giving” must be mutual and balanced, hence why traditional couples already have a rough sketch as to what this service can look like.
There are days I feel like I give the most, and there are days I’m astounded at how much I am given. If I felt like my service was being abused, then I would simply suspend it. The narrative that traditional women are too weak or too blind to remove themselves from situations where their skills are being taken advantage of is frankly insulting. It is my choice to serve, just as I would expect a husband to – and my choice to keep serving; a choice that can be altered if given reason.
I will happily claim that the type of marriage I want is one of submission and service, and that does not make me any less “empowered” than a career woman or feminist activist. I’m doing what I want to do and it makes me happy.
The types of things I do that make me feel powerful include domestic work, which lends me almost exclusive control over what my home looks like and the order it is kept in. My home is like a canvas, or a runway, or a blank Word document – it is mine to display my creative flare in. Should I have chosen to do this professionally as an interior designer or artist, my lifestyle would be far more valuable to the feminist agenda. No doubt these careers indeed bring joy to some women, just not to me.
I get to cook and organise meals, one day for an entire family. I prefer to do this largely from scratch, which I’ve been criticised for – why waste time making bread when I could be out earning? If I had chosen instead to work to become a restaurant chef or catering manager, I’d be praised for my dedication and effort.
I will one spend my days rearing my children, making sure they can talk, read and walk aptly before school. I will help them with homework, encourage their development and give them the opportunity to decide how they want to spend their lives. If I was dedicated to becoming a headteacher or to settle for a fulltime teaching position, then I would be respected and championed by the Left.
Why is my time and passion only valuable to feminists when it makes money? Could it be that the left-wing, socially progressive movement it claims to be is actually one of the biggest advocates for capitalism there is? What happened to “do what you love”? When was it replaced with “you only matter as long as you’re earning money”?
For me, I’m having to multitask every day and I don’t get holidays. But I sit down at the end of my busy days and feel proud of the knowledge that the people around me would function worse without me. My power comes from nurturing, encouraging and looking after those I love – and that is just as valid as any other woman’s choices.
The frustration I feel at feminism for transforming my body into a means of economic production is not an exclusively right-wing position. Marxism is built on the rebellion against defining people by their value within capitalism and how alienated workers tended to feel, disconnected from their labour. As an unpaid wife or mother, how could one feel alienated from their work? Their work is dependent on connection and absolutely separate from the grasps of capitalism, making the housewife an inherently apolitical “career” to have, contrary to what feminism claims. As capitalists, we allow markets to determine income and as there is no direct monetary market in motherhood or companionship, we must appreciate traditional femininity for what it is – a market of nurture and love, which can reap much in return when invested in. Contrasting to feminists, we value such markets equally – if not far more so – than monetary markets. Mainstream left-wing social politics is making an absolute mockery of itself, and I would laugh if it didn’t directly impact my life as a university student.
There are many ways to be a woman in the 21st century, and this is my way. It’s time we finally move away from the rigid gender expectations that large numbers of feminists have and start accepting the choices that women make. I am sick of other woman making vast assumptions about what I’m like and how happy my relationship is based on my choice to be a housewife. As a society, we need to regain some of the respect we used to have for housewives, stay-at-home mums, and traditional women in general. It’s the same courtesy that was extended for other types of emerging femininity years ago, so now it’s time for them to do the same for us.
Photo by Janna Coumoundouroson Flickr.