What Women really Want....
“Within the short space of twenty-five years, the role of the middle-class woman has been profoundly altered. In the 1950’s a woman who worked was looked down upon as someone who did not “care enough” to look after her husband and children. Today, however, a quarter century (at least!) after the feminist revolution, a middle-class woman who chooses the life of the house-wife is often regarded as un-ambitious (and therefore less intelligent than her working counterparts) and generally lacking in self respect and female pride. the situation is complicated by the fact that with the higher divorce rate, more and more women have to work.
Thus many women are caught in a conflict between their desires to perform well the traditional role of mother and wife and what may well be an equally strong inclination to embrace the new professional and social possibilities that have opened up for women in our society.
Women who choose to stay at home may thus come under considerable (not necessarily conscious) stress for having opted for this traditional role. In her book, ‘The Cinderella Syndrome’, Colette Dowling captures well the emptiness and restlessness of some of these women. “Despite admitting a certain pride in their husbands’ positions and income, many women admitted to a certain eventless ness in their lives. they couldn’t quite break off from their bridge groups, though they described them as boring. In the empty house, when they weren’t shopping or entertaining or chauffeuring the kids, they read romances.””
Well, yes, I do read romances, but I also read serious history books, thrillers and anything else with the printed word on it.
What made me cross, well, sad, really, about this quote was the fact that one side or the other had to be lesser. House-wife or full-time employee, one has to be denigrated for the sake of the others pride and, usually, the minority gets castigated for being 'different'. This is not female liberation as I want it. I don't think our grandmothers, God bless them, in their flowery aprons and scrubbing the step, since that was the mark of a 'good' housekeeper, would have been too keen to go to work. They wanted someone to respect them because of what they were, not despite. The work we choose in society, paid or unpaid, should not be the deciding factor in whether or not we are worthy of respect. The fact we are human is good enough. Equality for the sexes does not mean making everyone go out to work, it means accepting that everyone is working for the greater good and that the unpaid childcare and domestic servant is as valid and useful as the highly paid chief exec.
That a woman chooses to stay at home for an extended period to raise the future citizens of the country should be a cause of celebration, not of denigration. Am I 'just a housewife'? No, I am a human being. I have a brain and ambition, but I have chosen to put both to use in unpaid manual labour. Does that make me a lesser being? Not in my children's eyes. It makes me their rock and their foundation. It makes me the person they know is there for them after school, the person that they know will have found them a treat for Friday, that will have sought out their favourite comics, their best food, their new clothes. In the eyes of my children at present I am special just for being their Mum.
I am in the fortunate position of being able to work part-time. I was also able to stay off work while the children were at home and I will be in the fortunate position to be able to work full-time at a job that gives me time off with my children when they are off (yes, part of my motivation for being a teacher was its child-friendly aspects; mother and teacher, my two great ambitions. That and a best-selling novellist, but that's on hold for a while), but not every woman has that luxury.
I don't think womens' libbers knew what they really wanted, or at least that those who were most vocal were actually speaking for the majority at that time. When they spoke of equality, they always spoke of women going to work, of equal pay, of being 'the same as men'. I am not a man. I have no wish to be a man (Urgh! Those bits on the outside! The hair!) I am a woman. I am equal to a man, but not the same as a man in the same way as a Van Gogh is equal to a Da Vinci, but not the same as. We are both humans, and that should guarantee us equality. We should both be working together to make the world a better place and accept that either is capable of great things. That some women want to work, that some men want to stay at home, that both sexes want to raise children in a world where the way you are treated is fair whatever the sex you are, the colour of your skin, the religion you follow. That true equality comes with acceptance not with conformity and that rights must be followed by a response. To quote from Uncle Ben, "With great power, comes great responsibility" I can take great pride in my role as a stay-at-home (mostly) Mum without needing to denigrate a working mother and I expect the same response back.
When a CEO can honour his mother as the woman who raised him and extend the same respect to the women who work in his factories for minimum wage, then we will have achieved equality. When a woman is respected for being a human being and a man is honoured for being a father then we will have achieved equality. When all men and women are able to say 'I am useful' and 'I am content' then we will have achieved equality. I just pary that it comes soon, and not when everyone, male or female, has been forced to work because that is the only way to achieve status.
What do I want? I want you to look at my role and say, "That is a good job to do." I want you to look at me and say, "Well done." I want you to feel the same pride in my end-products as I do.
And I want that whether I am male, female, black, white, poor, rich, disabled or not. I want equality, proper equality, not a one-size-fits-all-if-all-fit-one-size equality.