Friday, July 17, 2009


I think that's an awesome word. The first time I saw the noun "housewife" adapted to refer to a skill that one might possess, I was reading Wendell Berry, and I was thrilled. It seems that the word "housewife" has collected many a negative connotation in its day, and I am here to correct these slightly misplaced ideas. Pardon my arrogance in even attempting this post, as I claim to be an expert in nearly nothing, and especially not in the precise history of feminism.

Once upon a time, most people were farmers with farmer wives and farm children and farmer neighbors and farm towns. Men did the hard outside work because women did the equally delicate and equally respected work of caring for the household and raising the children (to which they also, incidentally, gave birth). Men and women were required by their environment to possess certain skills and a certain level of creativity and ingenuity. All sorts of real, in-your-face problems would appear, day after day, and you had only your family and friends to help you. No "experts", no "consultants", just everyday intelligent folks.

Times were good, but some people thought that they could be better. The era of industrialization appeared on the horizon, and with it came inventions such as tractors, delivery trucks, and milking machines. Some farmers began to buy into these seemingly helpful devices and their farms grew larger and larger, and the increase in production decreased the cost which increased demand. Enter the evil villains like the Chicago meat-packing factories (please see The Jungle by Upton Sinclair for further information). These factories that appeared called for men to come to work for them, since only a few farmers were needed to actually farm and the rest of the farmers needed new work. It was at this time that the man's job began to support his household by earning money for buying things.

Slowly, as industrialization took more and more farms and more and more ex-farmers were going to work in the factories, the women became restless. Their men were at work all day doing some job that the women did not see them doing and so could not understand. Instead of coming home from farming, a job that women can and must take part in, he came home from a "work" outside the household and community, creating distance between man and his wife. She began to feel at once unimportant (or at least less so) and curious. What does he do all day? What does his work produce?

Enter the beginnings of feminism. Feminism did not begin as a man-hating, bra-burning, free-sex movement designed to allow women to be as masculine as they wanted/needed to be of use in the world. It began as an effort on woman's part to experience this new world, to be appreciate again, to "contribute" to the family by earning money instead of by taking care of the household and family as they always had done. Of course, once "contribution" became the goal, it followed that men and women should be payed the same amount so that each could "contribute" equal financial parts to the household.

Well, we all know where this leads. Now, women are encouraged to be as masculine as possible, presumably so as to be worthy of earning as much as men, of being hired for the same jobs as men, and being hired for the same reasons as men. The housewife is a thing of the past. If a woman today is a housewife, it is assumed that she has little to no self-respect or business skill, is completely subservient to her husband, or has no ambition to make a "contribution" to the world. Having more than the average 2.5 children is thought of as insane, and spending more than ten minutes on dinner because you care about your family's health is snobbery and a waste of time.

But I say NO (I'm sure you didn't see that coming, ha-HA!). For you women who are in business of your own choosing and enjoy it, I applaud you. I applaud you further if you remain feminine in the process. Men and women are different. By fighting this basic truth, we unwittingly yet forcefully acknowledge its verity. Use your femininity to your advantage, and don't worry so much about how much you make. Fairness is an illusion, anyhow.

For the women who are housewives of their own choosing and enjoy it, I embrace you. In this day and age, being a businesswoman is likely just as good as being a housewife, but I think it's especially important to encourage housewives since they are a dying breed. Ideally, your being a housewife suggests that at the very least, you feel that your work is appreciated by your husband and your friends, and perhaps at the most, your husband's work is familiar to you and it does not necessarily "contribute" financially to the household as much as it contributes to the value and sanctity of your work together.

All that is to say, I plan on being a strong, mighty housewife (Lord willing) with many children (screw birth control...pun intended) and more skills than the Catskills mountains. That doesn't mean I won't work at all--housewives can work a little bit, as they always did on the farms of the old days--but that I will also be quite adept at cooking, cleaning, mending, sewing, fixing, teaching, and rubbing the old man's shoulders when he comes in at the end of the day. I will not be subservient, nor will I be bossed around or unappreciated. As declared by Athena of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, "It's true, de man is de head of de house...But, de woman is de neck, and she can turn de head a-ny way she wants!"

I bought a skirt really cheap at a thrift store today, but it's too big. I'm taking it in on my overnight shift.

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