Where do I start?

(40 Posts)
Petal40 Tue 21-Jun-16 22:29:49

I posted on the chat bit asking if it was possible to be a stay at home mum and a feminist....got directed over here...had a look around ,but where do I start.can anyone recommend any good radfem books? Articles? Websites? Thanks in advance

erinaceus Wed 22-Jun-16 04:56:47

Welcome Petal40

I have lurked on this board for a long time and only started posting recently.

You asked where to start and that is a difficult question to answer. Maybe start where you are? For example you asked whether it is possible to be a SAHM and a feminist. What do you think?

There is a feminist pub on this board, that is quite a good place to start.

Feminist pub thread

DetestableHerytike Wed 22-Jun-16 05:58:48

Hi Petal

Yes, it's certainly possible to be a SAHM and a feminist.

Delusions of Gender is often recommeneded and is a great book. Wifework may also be helpful to you.

Petal40 Wed 22-Jun-16 08:59:26

Erinaceus,I suppose I'm thinking I can't be both ,or I wouldn't of posed the question....I feel like I've been in a fog for years and I'm just waking up and looking at the world feeling is this it? A woman's worth? And wondering where to start...

Petal40 Wed 22-Jun-16 09:00:56

Thanks herty...I'm going to look at getting those books and the feminist pub...I will lurk till I feel feel comfortable posting

redannie118 Wed 22-Jun-16 09:07:49

I always thought that feminism was about choice, the choice to live your life the way you want to regardless of what our gender roles or society dictate. Of course you can be a SAHM mum and a feminist, we need to embrace that all traditional roles are still viable as long as its what you choose to do and not whats forced on you as a woman. If we dont embrace this not only are we throwing away the very principles we fought so hard for, but also alienating people who deserve or support.

Hey Petal. If there's something specific you'd like to know about, or questions you've got, maybe start by posting those. Because there are lots of sources of information about feminism - from women's history, to academic philosophical feminist theory, to activism, and more - so it would help to narrow down exactly what it is you're after.

On your other thread, you were talking about how you had imagined career success, but felt as though you've ended up tying yourself in knots trying to be 'a good wife' and now you're wondering if you can still be 'a feminist' because of this?

IMHO, the answer is yes, you can still believe that women are of equal worth to men, and - I think really importantly in your case - that women's desire for fulfilment, challenge, and recognition should not be squashed down by men, or by society's ideas about what a woman or wife ought to be.

A good starting point that might help you think through that particular point, is the book Wifework, by Susan Mushart.

But it also sounds to me (and sorry if I've got completely the wrong end of the stick here) that you're feeling as though you're waking up a little bit, having spent many years in the whirlwind of small kids and domestic work, and are thinking, hmm, who am I? Am I who I thought I'd be when I was 20? Why not? Do I value myself, what I have done with my life, and do other people value me and what I do?

If that's the case, then I think that's an experience a lot of women can relate to, and is probably something that's better talked about here, where people can share their experiences and you can maybe come to some conclusions about how you feel about the whole thing? Does that make sense?

redannie is feminism all about choice: my answer to that question is, yes and no.

Feminism isn't about taking away women's choices, nor is it about sneering at choices for not being feminist enough (though this does happen, on the whole I disagree with it).

The thing about choice as an idea is that it doesn't require you to think about the context in which choices take place, or the range of options available, because it encourages everyone to stop thinking at the point the choice happens.

For example, a woman might choose to become a SAHM. But if she has made this decision in a situation where it is really difficult to find high quality and affordable childcare that meets her needs, and it's nearly impossible to find a flexible enough job to balance family life, how much can we really, honestly say that we're happy that things are fair, just because she wasn't legally barred from working, or threatened that her family would never speak to her again unless she did what they want?

So for me, feminism's analysis needs to go beyond the simple 'did a woman make a decision' to consider the broader factors that might have made the choices she could have made in theory near impossible to make in practice. That's essentially what radical feminism is - looking at the deeper structures that in may ways trap us into making particular 'choices', and what we can do about those.

chunkymum1 Wed 22-Jun-16 09:54:37

I think it is perfectly possible to be a feminist and a SAHM. As PPs have said, feminism is all about choice (by which feminists mean real choice- not doing something because although there is no rule against a mum having other roles there are in practice invisible barriers). In my view, a feminist does not have to be conquering the barriers to choice in order to call herself a feminist- she just needs to see that they are there and believe that this is a bad thing.

So a SAHM could be a feminist because she has made a real choice to take that role- so she is a feminist and happy with her role as SAHM. Or she could be a feminist who is a SAHM because she feels that this is the best/most practical solution for her/her family given the existing barriers to other roles, even though she would like things to be different.

LurcioAgain Wed 22-Jun-16 09:59:46

One really important strand in a lot of feminist thought, particularly radical feminist thought, is decoupling the value of work from its financial rewards within a capitalist system. Caring work in particular is often very low paid (care workers in old people's homes) or not paid at all (SAHM, women caring for elderly relatives in the community). Choosing to be a SAHM because you believe this is the best choice for your children at this particular stage in their lives is a perfectly valid choice even if it's one which is undervalued by society.

What I do think we need to do as feminists is talk about how to restructure society to protect women against possible adverse effects of this decision. For instance, in the event of divorce (or even more so, the breakup of an unmarried partnership), SAHM are incredibly vulnerable financially. I would like to see some sort of legal recognition that where a woman (or for that matter man) has sacrificed earning potential and employability for the benefit of the family unit as a whole, in the event of a break-up they should get some sort of compensation for lost earnings. And putting more schemes in place to enable parents to re-train/get back up to speed once their children are school age. And making flexible working more the norm.

(For instance, one thing I'd really like a bigger discussion of is what the culture of full-time work, i.e. 37 hours plus a week, as the default, is mean to achieve. There's excellent evidence-based writing on this to suggest that a culture of long-hours presenteeism is actually counter-productive, see for example this summary of Robinson's famous "why crunch mode doesn't work" article, or the full article here. I suspect presenteeism actually functions as an institutionalised form of exclusion, exluding workers not because of lower productivity, but because they have demonstrated by their life choices that they don't put their employer above all other things in life. And that's something we can and should push back against).

As an aside, I think the "feminism is about choices" claim often confuses the necessary and the sufficient. A necessary condition of judging whether (in some mythical future society) feminism has been successful in achieving its aims would be that women have the same range of choices open to them as men. However, that isn't the same as claiming that a choice being made by a woman is sufficient to establish that choice as a feminist action. The action chosen could be neutral (choosing to have a cheese sandwich rather than a bacon one) or even anti-feminist (campaigning to restrict other women's access to birth control for instance).

erinaceus Wed 22-Jun-16 10:08:06

I found radical feminism easier to picture the day I realised that the radical means solving problems at the root. Then, I realised that I am a radical feminist, although I am not all radical feminists.

I also think that the emphasis on choices confuses choice in theory, with choice in practice.

When I hear or read 'feminism is all about choice' it kind of makes me wince a bit, because while it's not wrong it is so ripe for co-option.

By co-option I can think of two ways off the top of my head (there are probably more):

1. You end up being unable to discuss the wider context of choices (and more importantly, whether this wider context leads to unfairness) because people get stuck on choice. To pick an irritating example: 'but I CHOOSE to remove my body hair, and because I have CHOSEN it must be FEMINIST because feminism is all about CHOICE' and then you spend hours of time and loads of energy trying to point out that just because a woman made a decision, doesn't mean All of the Feminism has been accomplished, and we can all pack up and go home; and nor does trying to analyse context mean you're judging or trying to remove CHOICE (I actually hate that word now!) grin

2. It gives ammunition to misogynists, who are invested in maintaining the status quo, and will say things like 'stop whining about unfairness, women CHOOSE to do these things and now they have to suck up the consequence' (consequences like the financial vulnerability that comes with being the SAHP). The 'feminism is all about choice' POV helps misogynists to blame women for the consequences of choices that they really had very little choice but to make.

BertrandRussell Wed 22-Jun-16 10:14:23

Petal- don't lurk. Hold your nose and jump! grin

BertrandRussell Wed 22-Jun-16 10:16:32

Yes, the "feminism is about choice" thing makes me very uneasy too. It's important to acknowledge that a choice does not automatically become feminist because a woman makes it.

scallopsrgreat Wed 22-Jun-16 10:24:22

I also think it is worth saying that Feminism has never really been about choice. It's about women's rights and freedom from oppression. Choice is a by-product of that but as others have said that comes with its own nuances and problems.

scallopsrgreat Wed 22-Jun-16 11:01:05

But yes Petal, you can definitely be a feminist and a SAHM.

Valuing childcare (and children) and the labour therein is pretty feminist. It's just you are aren't living in a feminist world. So that doesn't get valued by society, as a whole. Until, of course, it isn't done! And then its all women's fault.

BertrandRussell Wed 22-Jun-16 11:29:49

<lays trail of treats and little snippets of feminist thinking to lure Petal out of the undergrowth>

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 22-Jun-16 11:37:11

Hmm, I wonder why it is that other liberation movements aren't described as being about choice. No-one says gay rights is about choice, even though there are choice-related things like the choice to marry or the choice to join the army. Likewise racial equality movements, even though choices to work in any career, live where you want, travel safely where you want, etc, are very much part of it. Is this because feminism is inherently different in a way I am missing?

rogueantimatter Wed 22-Jun-16 12:04:56

I'm a SAHM and I consider myself a feminist.

I love it and feel very lucky that DP earns just about a good enough salary to allow for this - and that we don't live in the SE with its massive property prices. We don't have much disposable income though. Having said that, if I didn't have a low-grade health problem I'd probably enjoy WOHM part-time. The freedom to be greener, less structured, more flexible - nice weather? I'll work in the garden etc

IMO we -men and women - need to be honest about this. Some people enjoy domesticity/home-making and some people don't, regardless of its importance - which is most definitely undervalued. It's fine to admit that SAH-ing can be monotonous and potentially unsociable and that you'd rather WOH. It's fine to point out that it's nice not having office politics, a commute etc.

I wish more men would work part-time. The long-hours presenteeism/five days a week model is unnecessary and unhelpful IMO. I honestly don't believe that more jobs couldn't be shared. What a coincidence that so many jobs require attendance for five days a week but I don't think many men want to opt in to joint responsibility for child-care/running of the household/family. Because they don't want to spend three or four days a week doing boring domestic chores.

I am very interested in the representation of females in the media and culture in general, specifically the over-sexualisation of society and the under-representation of women in the news and sport. I still wear my no more page 3 t-shirt and try to avoid gender stereotyping.

I'd be offended if someone thought I wasn't a feminist because I'm a SAHM.

Felascloak Wed 22-Jun-16 12:16:17

I wish more men would work part-time. The long-hours presenteeism/five days a week model is unnecessary and unhelpful IMO. I honestly don't believe that more jobs couldn't be shared. What a coincidence that so many jobs require attendance for five days a week but I don't think many men want to opt in to joint responsibility for child-care/running of the household/family. Because they don't want to spend three or four days a week doing boring domestic chores.

Hear hear grin

Welcome petal. Personally I think the "you can't be a feminist and a SAHM" is crap dreamt up to divide women, by making feminists look like some other type of woman. It supports the feminazi/bra burning type thinking. I just ignore it.
Although I suppose it's possible that less feminists are the traditional kind of SAHM (I'm thinking 50 style doing literally everything at home) because feminists are more likely to have examined gender roles in society and rejected bits they feel expected to do. I could be wrong about that though.

chunkymum1 Wed 22-Jun-16 13:06:31

Totally agree with Bertrand's/Buffy's comments about choice. However, I think choice (ie real choice, not just 'choosing' to do something because society expects it/it's not practical to do anything else) is relevant in the context of a discussion about feminism and SAHP.

In my vision of a future world where feminist thinking is the norm we could still have SAHMs. However, they would be people who have truly chosen that role and do it on equal terms with their partner (ie it does not make them financially dependent on their partner, they do not become responsible for cleaning up after their partner etc). There would also be a similar number of SAHPs on the same terms. There would also be male and female parents who work but are able (without limiting their career prospects) to leave work on time to collect their children and to otherwise arrange working hours to fit with children.

I think it's really interesting what PPs have said about men in the workplace/part time working. I'm not sure how we can get to a where women have an equal footing in the workplace when the idea that anyone who isn't willing to put work before all else is not really committed enough is so prevalent. I have previously worked with men (who are married to a SAHM or who only have weekend visits with their children) who have the attitude that women are just as able as men to arrange their family/child care such that they can 'work until the job is done'. In their minds the fact that fathers in general seem to be able to do this but not mothers is a reflection of the mothers' level of commitment.

VestalVirgin Wed 22-Jun-16 13:32:26

Housewives are, in some ways, the most oppressed under patriarchy. To say they cannot be feminist would be like saying an underpaid factory worker cannot be a communist? It doesn't make much sense.

Except, of course, you are of the opinion that the underpaid factory worker is not a victim of capitalism, but just too stupid to demand better payment.

It is probably because of this choosey choice feminism, that somehow creates the illusion that feminism is some individual thing and that an individual woman can choose to not be oppressed under patriarchy anymore, and that this then makes her a feminist.

That is not how a liberation movement works.

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHorrid Wed 22-Jun-16 13:51:46

Hi petal I definitely think you can be a sahm and a feminist.

I really liked luricos point regarding full time work and the culture of presenteeism not read the links yet but I'll get round to it later

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHorrid Wed 22-Jun-16 14:04:29

It is probably because of this choosey choice feminism, that somehow creates the illusion that feminism is some individual thing and that an individual woman can choose to not be oppressed under patriarchy anymore

I'm a bit odd here as I have less issues with choice.
For example if you look at the pay gap, there isn't much of a pay gap for 22-29 year olds. It kicks in at 30. These women and men are often child free so they have choices.

This makes me think a lot of the issues around pay are child related. When you have kids often one parent takes on the primary carer role and it's often the mother. So she ends up dropping her hours (and her hourly pay). Or leaving work altogether.
I'm trying to split all the child care and house work with dh as we both work ft. It's a constant juggling act and we are both struggling.

I personally think we need to reduce the long hours culture so both parents can put more time in at home.

houseeveryweekend Wed 22-Jun-16 14:14:06

Im a SAHM and i consider myself a feminist. I think that feminism is important in helping people not take our role for granted. Sometimes women have to do all of the things associated with this role and work. its like an invisible extra job. But it is a very important job that someone needs to do, weather its the father or mother or family member or someone external you pay.

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