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I am a feminist and a sahm

(161 Posts)
CountryLifeMummy Wed 10-May-17 10:03:38

I had a discussion with a male friend who believes I can not be a feminist and a sahm.
Bit of background -
I live in the country with some animals. I have one child. I decided to come out of the workplace to be at home with my child before they started school. They are now at school but as a family we feel we like the lifestyle of a house in the country and animals. Because of our rural location school is a bit of a drive away. I am very busy from morning to evening with the animals / school run / housework / laundry etc. I do realise this is a luxury but we budget well and can afford to have one parent at home.
I love my role in my family and feel very satisfied as a feminist that I am doing what fulfills me on a day to day basis. My husband is happy for me too and there is no resentment. He has to leave early for work and I am happily responsible for ironing his clothes and making us all dinner. He makes dinner at the weekend and will help with house jobs then too.
So, I was discussing feminism with my friend who discribes himself as a feminist - supporter of the This Girl Can campaign and Wimens March etc. He is in a relationship with a career driven person and he is very career driven himself. We get along mostly and I applaud his feminist views, usually.
He said to me that actually, how can I call myself a feminist if I stay at home living out a dated social stereotype serving a man and having no career and therefore no self worth.
I am confused but this and I didn't answer him as I didn't want to argue. By believe is that feminism is the radical notion that Men and Women are equal (actually I believe in full equal rights including children as well). Surly if I am happy in my life and my "work" then that's all that matters? Or do I need to have paid employment to really be a feminist?

Neverknowing Wed 10-May-17 10:07:26

Feminism is about choice. If you were forced to work then that wouldn't be Feminism in my opinion as you'd be upset you couldn't be at home with your child.
I know what I mean, I just can't articulate it that well blush

sarahconnorsbiceps Wed 10-May-17 10:10:37

Ah yes, that special moment when feminism is mansplained to you. I'd just start laughing at him and not stop until he's out of sight grin

HomityBabbityPie Wed 10-May-17 10:11:52

Feminism is about choice

In an ideal world it would be but unfortunately we do not live in an ideal world - we live in a patriarchal one. I do think all women's choices have to be seen in the context of a misogynistic society.

I do not think being a SAHM is an any way incompatible with feminism but sadly the fact remains that a lot of SAHMs will be doing it for various reasons which are extremely un-feminist (for want of a better word, I'm tired!!!).

HomityBabbityPie Wed 10-May-17 10:12:47

By believe is that feminism is the radical notion that Men and Women are equal

Again, can't have equality while patriarchy exists. Get rid of that first, then we can start to work on equality.

DueOct30th Wed 10-May-17 10:13:51

It's very sad that he can only find his self worth through his work/ job and judges others by the same standards. I would have been very annoyed if someone had said this to me.

BeyondStrongAndStable Wed 10-May-17 10:15:30

Why are you home rather than DH? I'm gonna make a massive assumption that he's better paid? Feminism imo is not just about choice, but analysing why you made that choice.

I was a sahm before I got ill too btw (technically still one now, but DH is also a sahd grin ), I'm not asking to disagree with you smile

DeleteOrDecay Wed 10-May-17 10:16:06

Rubbish. I am a sahm and I consider myself to be a feminist.

There's more to being a feminist than having a career/job. How sad that he can't see that.

wendywashington Wed 10-May-17 10:16:58

So, if a female were happier at home, she should resist that feeling and go to paid employment?
Is that to help her , to make sure she isn't reliant on a male?

Elanetical Wed 10-May-17 10:19:23

Ah yes, that special moment when feminism is mansplained to you.
grin
^^this
I would have laughed too!

There is a difference between being a feminist and making choices that are not feminist. It is not mandatory for a woman who is a feminist to make only feminist choices. You don't have to be a perfect feminist role model in order to feel that feminist goals are very important.

For example, I wax my legs and under my arms. I fully recognise that there are dodgy patriarchy-driven reasons for this choice ie women-as-ornament, younger-women-have-less-hair-and-are-better-breeders and so on. But I still do it. And I feel I am still capable of being actively feminist.

dangermouseisace Wed 10-May-17 10:19:32

That's bollocks of course you don't have to have paid work to be a feminist.

Your friend has, perhaps unwittingly, absorbed the norms of capitalist culture- that 'work' only has a value if it is paid. Presumably if you went to work, and paid another person (probably a woman) to do your housework and look after your animals, then you would be a feminist in his eyes! If you enjoy what you do, and you are valued equally in your relationship/work as your husband then how is what you are doing not compatible with feminism? And anyway, even if you weren't happy in what you were doing you could still be a feminist as feminism is about working towards the liberation of women, it doesn't mean that you have to actually be liberated to count as a feminist. I'd thank him for mansplaining feminism to you and perhaps ask him how does he know that you aren't actually plotting the overthrow of the patriarchy whilst doing the ironing?

bigmouthstrikesagain Wed 10-May-17 10:25:22

I am a sahm. I am a feminist, I am also a Marxist. I no more see my decision to stay at home as a free choice than I see my participation in a free market capitalist system as a choice. It is my reality. I have constrained choices. I am not immune to the problems inherent in claiming feminism while doing wife work and being financially dependent. The life I have is a compromise that we live with and works well within the framework of the world we live in. I don't see the point in work for the sake of it, I like to be useful and will be returning to work in the course with the right conditions.

Being a sham is not incompatible with feminism, but I often feel like I have to justify myself (like now!) and I don't think it is fair to criticise a women for her choices, especially not coming from a man who can take credit for being a feminist while sidestepping the barriers created by a patriarchal society.

Tw1nsetAndPearls Wed 10-May-17 10:29:03

I am a feminist, I would love to be a SAHM but can't afford to do so.

CountryLifeMummy Wed 10-May-17 10:30:02

BeyondStrongAndStable
Actually no - when I went on maternity leave we earned exactly the same! We discussed it but I felt happier to be at home and it really works for us all.
Yes - I agree I do think he mansplained feminism actually! Thanks all. I don't feel like I need to be a perfect beacon of feminism but I felt uncomfortable with the notion I can not be a faminist and be a sahm.

Xenophile Wed 10-May-17 10:31:16

Feminism isn't about choice, it's a liberation movement.

Having said that, there is no logical reason why you can't be both a feminist and a SAHM. Without women taking on unpaid caring roles such as yours, the country would grind to a halt. It's hardly your fault or your problem that, under Patriarchy, only paid work is classed as important or worthwhile. Without women's (and it is overwhelmingly women's) free labour, we would simply not be able to fund or provide all the childcare, elder care and community projects that voluntary workers do. Your friend is extremely short sighted if he doesn't see the value in what you do merely because it doesn't bring financial reward.

I'm sure you don't need anyone to tell you to keep up to date with issues in your previous workplace and to ensure you have money available to you should the worst happen.

AvoidingCallenetics Wed 10-May-17 10:31:49

Of course you can be a sahm and a feminist. Feminism just means that you believe there should be equality of opportunity.
Now you can believe that equality of opportunity should be a given whilst acknowledging that we live in a world where it isn't and that therefore your choices have been affected by this.

The problem with sah is that men like your 'friend' don't see the unpaid/low paid but important work of looking after family/children as important. It comes with no social status and therefore isn't worth anything.
Sadly society only values paid employment and too many people gain their self worth from their career. This is as damaging to men as women and leads to depression when redundancy happens or when people cannot work for whatever reason.

Your friend is a product of social conditioning. I also think that when people don't have dc, they can't imagine their priorities might change wrt career or that the structure of childcare in this country doesn't always support 2 parents working full time and that it is okay to do what makes life easiest for your family.

I like sah. I have learnt not to care what other people think about it. My aim in life is to be as happy as possible and to teach my dc to choose what makes them happy. Life is too short to do something you dislike because someone else thinks you should!

Xenophile Wed 10-May-17 10:32:19

If you do Facebook, there's a really good feminist SAHM page here

squishysquirmy Wed 10-May-17 10:34:24

Agree with the above, although I would probably describe you as a smallholder, not a SAHM. Looking after animals (and small children for that matter) is work. Often quite hard, physical work.

rogueantimatter Wed 10-May-17 10:36:58

Your friend is jealous of your DH's lifestyle IMO.

Some people don't seem to understand the concept of supporting other people as part of a team. You and your DH sound like a great team.

BeyondStrongAndStable Wed 10-May-17 10:37:52

Ah, that makes a pleasant change smile

Agree with Xeno's recommendation - I 'know' the woman who runs that page and there is no way anyone could say she isn't feminist!!

BelleTheSheepdog Wed 10-May-17 10:39:03

He's more of a capitalist than a feminist imho.

theshitcollector Wed 10-May-17 10:39:19

I am a SAHM and a feminist too. I have tried having a career in a male dominated work place and it is an uphill struggle through treacle. Like many women, I found that my career progression slowed/reversed when I had children, 'flexible' working arrangements meant that I got paid less whilst being expected to do the same amount of work and having to pay for full time child care (as I was frequently asked to work on my 'day off') and having 2 full time (plus some) working parents was not really compatible with the life I wanted for my young children. On the other hand, DH's career progression took off around the time that we had DC so that we could afford to live on his pay alone but not mine.

I know lots of other women with similar stories. After thousands of years of patriarchy society is still designed around women being in the home. Without some serious changes to society/the work place (particularly in well paid professions) women will continue to find it harder than men to have a career and a family. Yet some men people don't want to accept that there are changes needed and prefer to tell women who feel the impact of patriarchy that they only have themselves to blame.

sticklebrix Wed 10-May-17 10:50:52

OP I was a feminist SAHM for many, many years.

The work that SAHPs do is just that - work. Society places little value on such work, because traditionally women do it. But the fact is that if you were looking after somebody else's child and animals you would be paid for your labour. If you got a job outside the home tomorrow you would have to pay someone else to do what you do now.

It has always infuriated me that 'women's work' is minimised and downplayed. Pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding are downplayed. The needs of children are downplayed (not all children need a SAHP, but some do). We are supposed to just absorb parenting responsibilities into our working lives without making a fuss and often without adequate support.

SAHMing can be a feminist choice. As can, of course, WOHMing.

OutsSelf Wed 10-May-17 10:53:42

'no career = no worth' for sahming is neoliberal to the core, and the labour you provide your family makes your family's life possible. Now because of wankers like who have decided that only paid labour is meaningful, unfortunately you will be disadvantaged if you divorce your husband/or your husband is someone who percieves sahming as a pointless hobby for the deluded. But that is because patriarchy has devalued in every sense what was traditionally female labour. The answer is not to stop taking up 'traditionally female' roles but (1) separate those forms of labour from sex class and (b) reject the value system by either insisting spouses pay for that labour or strengthening divorce rights. Tell your friend that if he is such a bloody feminist he can start sahming or paying a wage to his wife. Dismantling patriarchy requires that men change their practices more than women because they hold more power. Requiring those without power to change the system which denies them it simply rehearses the disadvantage the relatively disempowered already suffer in relation to those in power.

AvoidingCallenetics Wed 10-May-17 11:01:36

Excellent post OutsSelf

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