Once again an inflammatory article caused cyber space to sizzle with indignation. An article in the Atlantic by Elizabeth Wurtzel with the headline: "1% Wives Are Helping Kill Feminism and Make the War on Women Possible." The tag line was even worse: Being a mother isn't a real job -- and the men who run the world know it.
In all honesty, it was a long and rambling piece that couldn't decide if it is the wives of the ultra-rich or just all of the women who stay at home who are a problem. Rita Arens at BlogHer did a great job of breaking it down. The two main thinking points that I think we can take from the article is 1) what IS feminism today? and 2) how DO men perceive women; working and not?
The history of feminism is rooted in the fight for equality. Equality when it came to basic human rights and that biggie -- the right to vote. We seem to continue to fight for the right to choose what we do with our bodies. That battle goes on. In the workplace we have fought for equal pay and ways to smash through that glass ceiling. For many the root of feminism was to be treated like a man. This put off and frightened the more "traditional" women in the western world, especially those from a more traditional and conservative background.
For many -- obviously including Wurtzel -- working side by side with men and garnering their respect was and is key to the strength of feminism. This black-and-white view has been the reason of many women's reluctance to stay at home with their kids, less they be pegged as sellouts or "traditionalists." Suddenly being a mom wasn't "feminist" enough. Suddenly women have to do more than raise our children, they have to earn a living too just to keep their "feminist" card.
Think on how many times you have heard clarifications to the "I'm just a stay at home mom" statement. "Oh but I volunteer too!" "I sell Tupperware!" "I have a blog!" "I have started my own business."
The "us against them," view of feminism that Wurtzel preaches denigrates men and women. It does nothing to serve the cause. It is inflammatory and scandalizing without offering any sort of solution. Unless, of course, those of us who are at home with the children all write to her and apologize for ever thinking we were feminists.
Wurtzel's ideas are not part of the cure, but part of the problem. Her attitude shows that the struggle for understanding feminism and gender issues has got a long way to go. If there is little common understanding or respect from our own "kind,"' how can we expect the male dominated aspects of our society to "get it."
In my online world, there are many examples of this. Look at the condescension women have faced when either labeled or labelling themselves "mommy blogger." You are not a real blogger. You are not a real writer. You are just a mom filling her endless empty hours online. It is sad when being a mother is something to be ashamed of.
You can only imagine how even more confused we become when we try to fill the mandate of the "earn money to be a feminist" and monetize our blogs. Then we are sell outs. A blogger who happens to be a mom cannot win.
For many women who happen to be mothers, the answer is to just avoid the male dominated corporate world and create their own. The proliferation of groups such as this one show how powerful the drive is for women to take things into their own hands and avoid the glass ceiling all together. But even here, the labels pursue us.
I am very proud of Crunchy Carpets, the blog and the brand that has been created due to my love for all things social media. But as I start to venture away from my purely at home role as a mom, I am finding that brand to be a bit of a burden.
Not only does the mantra of people like Wurtzel fill me with doubts about WHY I want to work -- is it because I have to in order to fulfill my feminist instincts, or is it because frankly our family struggles on one income? Do I have real entrepreneurial aspirations or is it because the "real" working world would not give me and my so called qualifications a second look?
What do potential employers see when they look at my CV, or worse, my LinkedIn profile? Is it too much "mommy"? Where I see myself as a qualified woman with children, who can do anything connected to web and social media, others (men and women) see a mom who can only talk about mom things.
It is a disappointing world that equates little skill or knowledge when it comes to taking on the role of motherhood fulltime. In this day and age, where we are connected so easily to the world via the internet, and so many women are, why is it still assumed that a mother has less experience, qualifications and or knowledge than a non-mother or non-stay-at-home-mother?
Our 21st century society is truly struggling with how skill and education is perceived. The baby boomer concepts of good school equals good job equals good retirement don't really work anymore. Long term careers are few and hard to find. Switching tracks and careers is becoming the norm. So why can't that be the same for women who are at home with the kids? In my fields of interest, I can honestly say that I am as updated and knowledgeable as the next qualified person.
I may be a bit older, but that break in CV is not a negative mark on my life track. It was and still is the time I am taking to nurture not only myself as a human being but my children too.
If that means I am not a feminist, then I will gladly turn in my membership card.
Follow Kerry Sauriol on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CrunchyCarpets