Discussing feminism with friends/family - your sticking points?

(74 Posts)
LRDtheFeministDude Tue 04-Dec-12 17:58:37

I wondered how you find it when you end up discussing feminism with friends/family, and if you reckon you've changed how you debate as a result of feminism (ok, I know some posters have been feminists for decades, but I'd still be interested to know if you reckon you've changed your style of talking to people as a result of anything to do with feminism).

Two things got me thinking. One was talking to my mum. I was mentioning how several friends who've recently got married/into long-term relationships seem to have changed their feminist principles quite noticably, eg., a mate who used to be adamant that for her, not changing her name was important, has changed her name, and another who wanted to finish her degree is now unsure because her DP wants a baby and she's tempted too. Obviously these are individual decisions and I get why people make them, but I'm interested in the fact that quite a lot of women I know are making decisions all in the same 'direction', towards what you might call a traditional married-woman lifestyle.

My mum's constant refrain was 'oh, but don't say anything to her!' - No, mum, I wasn't planning to. 'But you mustn't say anything, it's her decision!'

She doesn't seem to get that I might be interested in these things as social trends, rather than decisions someone I know has made. I ended up being puzzled that we were talking so much cross-purposes.

The other thing is talking to an old friend whom I've not spoken to for a while, I realized I was do a lot of saying 'I don't agree, but that's fine' rather than pretending I did agree or feeling I had a responsibility to explain my point of view instead of just stating it and moving on. I'm not sure if this is influenced by feminism but I'd like to think so!

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Mon 10-Dec-12 11:42:36

YY NCG.

MmB, just provide me with an explanation of how childcare can be achieved without using one of my above options, and what should be done if there are no willing relatives and paid childcare is unaffordable for the couple.

Full time childcare for two DC would cost me and DH something like £29k p.a. from taxed income. That's a decently paid job.

namechangeguy Mon 10-Dec-12 11:47:41

Childcare is prohibitively expensive in the UK. Also, I'd rather bring up my own children than give that responsibility to someone I don't know.

One of the more interesting strands of feminism I have discovered recently is the group who don't like and/or don't want children. Is that where you are coming from, MmB?

MariaMandarin Mon 10-Dec-12 12:02:49

Of course you can be a SAHM and a feminist. My partner is female too so although we made that decision for the same reasons as other posters here, I'm not relying on a man at all. Not really an answer for everyone, I know smile

Just this weekend dp had quite a shirty exchange with her dm. Christmas presents arrived from her brother's family abroad, and horror of horrors, from the handwriting dm could tell that db and not his wife had wrapped and posted them. This was evidence that his wife was not looking after him properly. The discussion about this was rather heated.

MmBovary Mon 10-Dec-12 12:39:59

This thread is turning into a playground clique feeling attacked and fighting back. However, a coherent logical explanation hasn't been given to me so far.

Maybe that explains why feminism as a movement carries the seeds of its own failure with it.

EleanorGiftbasket Mon 10-Dec-12 13:00:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

namechangeguy Mon 10-Dec-12 13:07:33

MmB, you are right inasmuch as you should practice the principles that you preach. The problem occurs when those principles are so rigid as to exclude the majority of the people that they are meant to be helping.

I do agree with your last statement too, with one caveat - strident feminism is doomed because, like a religion, it has no room for discussion or disagreement. Like George W said, if you are not with us, you are against us. And we all know what a smart cookie he was!

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Mon 10-Dec-12 13:22:55

What is incoherent or illogical about pointing out the economic cost of childcare?

GalaxyDisaster Mon 10-Dec-12 13:29:51

I am a feminist. I am currently a SAHM. It is short sighted to say that I am 'dependent on my husband for survival' IMO. In fact, DH and I were having a conversation last night about how I needed life insurance of a level pretty similar to his - because if I died, buying in those services so he could continue to work. Or indeed to fund him working less.

Also, my status has not always been the case. And will not always be the case. WE have both worked, worked part time, etc. At this point in time DH is contributing to the family financially and I am contributing in childcare and other home aspects.

MariaMandarin Mon 10-Dec-12 13:37:30

I think the SAHM thing is a bit of a red herring. Somebody has to raise children and there are good arguments for it being the child's parent.

The real issue is why women are still earning less than men, meaning it is almost always women who stop work. And also that working practices just don't support families with children. It would be good if both parents could work flexibly to fit in with other commitments, but well paid jobs usually demand full time hours, meaning it comes down to a choice of work or don't work.

MariaMandarin Mon 10-Dec-12 13:41:04

Good point Galaxy about the economic value of childcare. Nannies earn a reasonable salary. Having been a nanny I have to say it is pretty demeaning to have that work dismissed by people who feel childcare is a waste of their time and talents.

LoopsInHoops Mon 10-Dec-12 13:57:28

I absolutely agree that you can be a SAHM and a feminist. Someone needs to take care of children.

Feminism is the belief that women and men should be allowed equal opportunities. I chose to be SAHM for a couple of years and was very glad to do so. In that time I focused on my child and on myself - my academic and political passions.

Now, DH is a SAHD. Nothing has changed philosophically. Just I got a job when he lost his. confused

Sometimes the extreme view muddies the water and detracts from the cause. It does no-one, lest of all the general feminist movement, any favours if it is perceived as a stringent doctrine. Opportunity and choice. smile

EleanorGiftbasket Mon 10-Dec-12 13:59:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

snowshapes Mon 10-Dec-12 14:06:56

>>Childcare is prohibitively expensive in the UK. Also, I'd rather bring up my own children than give that responsibility to someone I don't know.<<

I think to be able to bring up your own children, you do have to rely on someone else financially, or have a substantial private income, so this is not an option for very many people. I do hope, NCG, that you share the care 50/50 with the mother of your children, or you are a SAHD, if you want to make statements like that.

To the question of whether you can be a SAHM and a feminist, of course you can. One of the founding tenets of feminism was maternalism, which was advocating and fighting for the recognition and value of women's social role as mothers. The fact that being a SAHM makes you financially dependent on a man is a reflection of how society is organised, not the intrinsic value of the role. It is perfectly feminist to argue that the circumstances of women's lives are different from men's (in so far as women have children).

Also, the economy would not run if it was not for the unpaid hours which carers (mainly women) put in, many men could not advice professionally if they did not have a woman at home looking after the children etc. Somebody needs to do it. The feminist point is not to question the task or the role, but to question its lack of value and why it is usually women who do it (the two points being linked).

namechangeguy Mon 10-Dec-12 14:26:06

When they were first born, my wife stayed at home to look after our kids. It was an economic decision. I was more highly qualified than her, and earned more money. If that had been reversed, I would have stayed at home. I did my share whenever possible - feeding, changing, being puked on grin - I would not have missed a second of it. They were our children, not hers, and she is a fantastic parent. I hope she thinks the same of me. Looking down on people because they decide to stay at home and bring up their own children is ridiculous.

My feminist views haven't changed much in 40 years. I'm now 54, but I find myself alone these days among friends. I'm the only person I know who stuck to it and didn't change her name. I work with colleagues whose views are from the dark ages and I have to be very diplomatic.
DH has always supported my choices but with the DCs his tendency to play devil's advocate in every discussion has, I think, led them to misunderstand some of his opinions.
DS2 at 14 is also at the age where he likes to promote the opposite opinion to that which he perceives to be mine. Some of the things he says I am shock until I see a cheeky grin and realise he has been trying to provoke.

MmBovary Mon 10-Dec-12 15:07:05

Choices aren't necessarily feminist just because a woman makes them! It's a big mistake to confuse feminism with choice. That's the problem these days.

Can you be a feminist lap dancer? To me, that can't be possible.
Can you be a feminist escort? No way.

Feminism is about choice but only those choices that promote real equality, and independence of thought and action for women. Being stuck at home for years, depending on the income a male brings home is not a feminist choice, it's a big kick backwards to feminism.

It's not about "feeling equal", it's about doing the numbers, like all men do at the end of the day.

I'm all for women choosing, but I do have an issue with those women who make anti feminist choices and call themselves feminists because it's "a choice made by a woman".

If being stuck at home for years was such a great job, there would be men demonstrating outside Westminster to do it. The reality is that most of them avoid it like the plague, even those who earn a lot less than their wives. So don't tell me it's always a financial choice.

The issue of expensive childcare should definitely be tackled and that is certainly something feminism is committed to doing.

GalaxyDisaster Mon 10-Dec-12 15:12:36

I agree with you about choice feminism. I agree that societal pressures often result in the woman being the one who stays home. Issues like women's lack of pension provision because of years out of the workforce or derailed careers are big issues.

I don't agree that staying home for some period is inherently unfeminist and I would consider that you are taking a very materialistic view of family life. My DH doesn't 'do the numbers' at the end of the month. It isn't 'his' money. He hasn't 'earned' it. We as a family have earned it (though as I mentioned above, I do recognise the pension issue).

By your reckoning one could be a feminist working in a nursery as a carer, but not staying at home with one's own child. Because one creates material wealth. I am sorry, but I think that is misguided and, quite frankly, bollocks.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Mon 10-Dec-12 15:26:40

If lap dancing or escorting was eradicated, the world wouldn't stop.

It's not an option to eradicate childcare.

namechangeguy Mon 10-Dec-12 15:31:55

I could not have earned the money I did if my wife had not stayed at home to bring up our children. Therefore, she earned it too. So she wasn't 'kept' - she did as much as me to earn that salary. It's ironic that you place so much emphasis on material earnings, when this is one of the biggest flaws within the so-called patriarchal system you hate.

MmBovary Mon 10-Dec-12 15:37:28

Namechage, you're a vivid example that the kind of men feminist forums attract are never the brightest in the pack.

I know why that is, because the brightest ones are in the City, sitting in their big cat chairs, earning big money to suppor their feminist wives at home. Making the whole capitalist machinery move on and on.

snowshapes Mon 10-Dec-12 15:38:47

>>Feminism is about choice but only those choices that promote real equality, and independence of thought and action for women. Being stuck at home for years, depending on the income a male brings home is not a feminist choice, it's a big kick backwards to feminism.<<

that misses the point, though, someone needs to have children, someone needs to look after children, and for biological reasons, it is women who take a career break of however long, even if only a Xenia like 2 weeks, to have children. That break and what women do in that break, have and look after children, should be valued.

It is inherently unfeminist, I would have thought, to suggest that women should erase all difference with men to be seen as equal, rather than looking at what both sexes can do to minimise the financial imbalance which having children causes, whether that is through a proper child allowance system or by more men taking on more roles at home.

NCG, I think my point was that it is unhelpful to make statements about not wanting children to be brought up by 'strangers' when many women, and indeed men, do not have a choice if they wish to remain solvent.

namechangeguy Mon 10-Dec-12 15:40:53

Insults are the last resort of someone who has lost an argument. You carry on alienating women all around you. See how far that gets your cause.

GalaxyDisaster Mon 10-Dec-12 15:41:47

Insulting the intelligence of someone just because they disagree with you. That's constructive hmm

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Mon 10-Dec-12 15:51:51

Wow, MmB. Did you just say that only men who are not the brightest in the pack are on feminist forums? Is that a point about forums or about feminism that you are trying to make?

snowshapes Mon 10-Dec-12 15:53:57

>>I know why that is, because the brightest ones are in the City, sitting in their big cat chairs, earning big money to suppor their feminist wives at home. Making the whole capitalist machinery move on and on.<<

Whereas both parents working slows it down?? That makes no sense. Both parents in the City, or wherever, capitulates to capitalism even more, unless they are on a job share.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now