I got really angry about an article in the Huffington Post last week. I didn’t want to link to it, because I don’t want to drive more traffic to the site, but then I thought, how will anyone know what I’m talking about if I don’t? So there it is. Now fasten your seatbelts, because I am about to RANT.
First I shall sum up the article thus: “all you women aren’t feminist enough because you like BAKING and GARDENING and KNITTING, and you are too girlie, and not badass enough. You are setting the women’s movement back to the 50’s with your CRAFTINESS and your liking pretty things.”
NEXT I must say I found it telling that all of her “badass women” were either fictional characters or leather-wearing rock stars, while all of her examples of too-girly women were regular, real-life women. (Not that rock-stars aren’t real live women. But they DO have highly unusual lifestyles, compared to the average person in the developed world.) After my anger cooled I realized that the author is just really far gone from the real world. Fictional characters and rock stars are her only examples of appropriate womanhood. She had precious few examples of “badass women” who weren’t entertainers.
But it wasn’t the fake heroines that pissed me off. It was quotes like this one:
“And now that so many women have seemingly retreated from our reign of awesomeness to immerse themselves in the feminine past-times of yesteryear, it does indeed appear that we’ve lost sight of what it means to be a badass, strong, tough woman.”
I felt like the author was saying that, in order to be a credit to liberated womanhood, you must eschew the domestic arts, you must refuse to look pretty, you must not be tender-hearted or loving or creative or kind. You must be powerful, and “power” in the author’s universe is narrowly defined along patriarchal terms. Power is always power over; it is aggression and domination. Only traits traditionally seen as “masculine” are valuable; traits traditionally viewed as “feminine” are beneath contempt. To be a liberated woman, you must out-man the men.
This viewpoint might work all right if you are a financially well-off woman living an urban life, with no children or dependents. But it requires a certain amount of blindness to hold on to such ideas. You have to ignore the fact that if you do not prepare your own food, or clean your own house–because cooking and cleaning are domestic arts, and are therefore “girly”, and are therefore unacceptable for a badass–someone else has to do it. And unless you are wealthy enough to eat at the finest establishments, chances are the person making your food is poor. Too poor to choose only activities that fit the badass manifesto. Is it all right for one woman to set feminism back with her domesticity so that another woman can pursue her badass dreams?
Once you enter the real world, there’s no way to avoid domestic activities. SOMEONE has to do them. You either do them yourself, or you foist them off on someone else.
Or you dwell in squalor whilst starving to death.
To be fair, the article did NOT say that you couldn’t cook or clean for yourself. It merely said “but there’s so much emphasis on, well, ultra-femme domestic activity these days. This weird retro world of cooking, heirloom tomatoes and Jane Austen is starting to feel a bit smug and smothering. Where’s the fun?”
So maybe all of the above is just me speculating and blowing off steam.
But housework aside, the entire premise of the article felt anti-woman to me. Using “girly” as an insult suggests that the problem with the women who write knitting and cupcake blogs is that they are . . . women. They are female. To me, the implication of such language is that female-ness is inherently bad.
And all of this leads me to wonder WHY the domestic arts are considered inferior to all other activities. We all need clothing and food and shelter; they are basic human necessities. Learning how to generate and maintain these necessities with creativity, beauty, and pleasure seems like a really worthwhile pursuit to me.
Look, I have a college degree. I’ve worked a professional job. I’ve lived in a variety of places. I’ve supported myself and lived alone. I’ve volunteered for planned parenthood, attended a women-only goddess temple, briefly created a feminist ‘zine, gone to Ani DiFranco concerts, shaved my head, and dated other women. I have plenty of feminist cred.
But I’ve always loved flowers and Jane Austen novels. I’ve sat in a bookstore in New Orleans with a shaved head and combat boots and an issue of Martha Stewart Living while my then-girlfriend read a book on baking. I once took my bisexual married girlfriend to the Rose Garden in Portland. And now I help my husband haul manure to our garden beds every spring, I run my own Etsy business, I grow flowers and herbs, I write, I cook, I wear an apron, and I listen to the Indigo Girls while I knit. I wear Doc Martens with dresses and striped kneesocks, I volunteer at the library, I vote, and I encourage my daughter to be whatever the hell she wants to be, and not to let anyone else tell her how to be a woman.
Because THAT is the core of feminism to me: To allow women to live life on their own terms, to CHOOSE what they want to do and who they want to be. No woman should be confined to the domestic sphere if she doesn’t wish to be. And no woman should be exiled from the domestic sphere because another woman says it isn’t worthy of a feminist.
I refuse to buy into dualistic thinking that says I can’t be a feminist and wear an apron. I refuse to limit myself to old-fashioned male definitions of power and prestige. And I refuse to let anyone else make me feel like I’m a sell-out because I choose to do the things that I love every day instead of trying to mold myself into someone else’s definition of an empowered woman.
How dare anyone–ANYONE–tell me or any other woman what is and is not a valuable use of our time? How dare ANYONE try to dictate which passions are worthwhile? How dare anyone try to tell me I can’t be a badass homemaker?
Of course, in the end my cynical side is convinced that the article wasn’t really about voicing an opinion so much as it was about stirring up a big fuss to increase traffic to the Huffington Post website. All publicity is good publicity, right? You have to buy a book if you want a copy to burn, and you have to click on an article if you want to leave an irate comment. I’m seeing a lot of these offensive, extreme opinion pieces lately, and I think they’re just another device to generate buzz. And the device works. There were pages and pages of comments. If there is ad revenue to be had, that article probably generated a lot of it.
Fortunately my life is not about buzz. Here in the real world, I need to sharpen my ax, and make pickles, and finish my novel, and wear an apron because life is much messier than a movie.
But somebody needs to make me a Badass Homemaker t-shirt.