Monday, October 1, 2007

A trip back to the Playground

At least in politics, that is.

This morning, the feed update for Jane was a link to this. It's a review of her book, The Gentle Art of Domesticity. Feel free to go read the review, if you'd like. I'll wait . . .

I did leave a comment, but to save you the effort of scanning through all of them, here 'tis.

Funny, isn't it, how when someone is terribly, terribly good in the very area where our insecurities and hidden guilt lie, that we lash out at them? Derision and scorn are unbecoming, Ms. Hunt. Never once has Mrs. Brocket claimed perfection; nor has she ever made efforts to pretend to it. She has shared what she enjoys, and that in which she has chosen to excel.

The villification of women who choose a path counter to the modern, mainstream feminist ideal is so tiring, not to mention misdirected. Why not focus on feminist topics that will actually help women, instead of throwing punches at your own? Women like Brocket are not the enemy. Classification, the narrowing of what is acceptable for women to choose, condemnation of women who choose differently . . . those are the bane of modern women.

If Mrs. Brocket bothers you so much, it's clear that you have issues of your own that need addressing.

You know, Ms. Hunt's kind of "feminism" Really Bugs Me. The whole feminist movement began because women were restricted and tightly controlled by society. The supposed goal was to liberate women from the confines of social strictures, and allow them more freedom to pursue their talents and interests. It has been a seriously rough road, and I reap the benefits of decades of fighting for equality under the law and in the eyes of society. And yet there are still people who, like Ms. Hunt, villify women who make their own choices.

The second to last paragraph here states one of my most treasured truisms of my chosen path. I respect Jane's copyright, and her request to not be directly quoted, so please do follow the link and scroll down. Whether women choose to write, cook, drive truck, bake, knit, build houses, explore the sciences, teach higher math, or whatever other avenue is now open to all human beings regardless of sex, we shouldn't be derisive of one another. We each search for our own happiness in our own way . . . and it's clear that Hunt herself still has quite a bit of hunting to do before she finds her own peaceful destination.


Nautical Knitter said...

Wow, I am quite speechless. Your comment hit it right on the head. All I can say to you is KUDOS and well said!

Annalea said...

Thanks. ;o)

camillaknits said...

My sentiments exactly. I was going to leave Jane a comment, but did you see how full her comments were? I know there isn't a 'domestic goddess' out here who wasn't horrified by the way that reporter treated Jane's book and lifestyle. Ugh. Glad you gave that reporter the proper, rational 'rant' she obviously deserves, though I'm thinking a quick trip out behind the woodshed wouldn't be unnecessary, either. Jane rules, Hunt drools! Cami p.s. I'm starting a strippy quilt this week, to honor Jane and the rest of us, the unsung domestic heroines of our own lives.

beth said...

I thought the point the reviewer ws making was that some of our choices may be more influenced by a desire to please others, not ourselves, driven and supported by a male dominated media, that would only be too happy to see us all back to being unpaid, domestic slaves.

Annalea said...

I'm glad that some people might see the review that way, Beth. There were a couple of things, though, that made me think otherwise:

"But the ridiculous goal of "having it all" was long ago replaced by what women excel at - satisfactory compromise. And they'd all be muddling along quite nicely, stressed no doubt but managing all the balls, if it weren't for domestic evangelists such as Jane Brocket."

"But the media isn't to blame, Ms Brocket. It is you and your ilk . . . "

If Hunt's point really was only to point out that women should choose what makes them happy, then the personal attacks should have been left out. And there are many, many women who find a great deal of personal happiness and satisfaction in making others happy. Whether that's as a homemaker, a nurse, an attorney who secures someone's future from attacks from unfriendly opponents, a Red Cross volunteer, ad infinitum. Not all women find fulfillment in solely personal achievement.

I just hate to see women attacking each other in the name of feminism. Supposedly, feminism means that women should be free to choose to live their lives however they like. But the pressure from Ms. Hunt goes directly against that idea, belying her stance as a true feminist.

beth said...

I disagree. I think she's not attacking Jane personally, but rather the genre of "domestic goddess" media that resurrects the old "ideal," perfect at all domestic things, and looking beautiful every step of the way. There's nothing wrong with despising that ideal since it brings back a not-so-recent time when it was a woman's only choice.

And let's not forget that the job was unpaid. Presently, the majority of people living below the poverty line are women (mothers, I might add). It's really nice to have the personal satisfaction of selfless giving but please don't forget that there are many who have no choice. Meaningful, paid work is not a luxury for many, it's a necessity and it is our right.

And please don't be so naive as to believe that there aren't many, many people who'd prefer that women are not part of the work world and that we all aspired to "domestic goddess," compensated by "personal satisfaction derived from helping others."

I've had many a chuckle at how angry people get about Martha Stewart's terrible crime. I think many of them resent that she grew rich in the previously "free" domestic area of women and home. Then she added insult to injury by getting into the boys' stock market and making a little more money.

I think these are the issues that the reviewer found so objectionable, though her condescending tone was uncalled for. And yes, feminism is totally about choice but we need to remember that there was a time when housewife was the only unpaid and powerless choice.

And let's not forget that Jane is a person, too, who apparently needs a much thicker skin if she wants to write these seemingly harmless books. I wish her well and hope her book makes a fortune for her to spend on herself, any way she chooses.

Annalea said...

I firmly believe that the "Domestic Goddess" never truly existed. There were women who seemed to have it all lined up perfectly--but they were the ones who were private alcoholics, or had some other serious challenge in their lives, carefully hidden from view. There is no "perfect" homemaker, and never has been. It's not worth the energy necessary to despise something that is simply a social construct, manufactured out of whole cloth to repress generations of women. Now, there are women who choose "domestic" life, and love it. Yes, there are many who feel forced into it--but I would hazard to say that there are many who feel forced into not living that life, and resent that as much as the former do.

I don't believe that the position of stay-at-home-homemaker is unpaid. It is paid through the division of labor. Husbands or domestic partners spend their time earning the liquid assets that keep the household running, but nobody disputes that it takes a tremendous amount of work to wisely put that capital to use; not to mention feed and clothe everyone, as well as try to keep the home from going completely south. My husband happens to be able to provide for us sufficiently that it's not vital for me to bring in a paycheck. Yes, it would be nice to have that second income--I could have living room furniture and decent drapes if I did. Our home could look like the homes of most of our neighbors', instead of more like the home I grew up in. (My dad was a small time farmer.) The kids wouldn't need clothes from the thrift store or hand-me-downs. But "his" income is just as much mine as it is his, because it's my work on the home front that makes it possible for him to work as he does. Really, he and I each receive our "own" money each month from the paychecks, and the rest is the property of the enterprise we're joint partners in, also known as a family.

Meaningful work is a luxury--and a rarity that few enjoy. Whether truly necessary or not, few exert much effort to find it. Work of some kind is an undeniable necessity for most, but not a right. (Clarification: The definition of a "right" is something which an individual has, without obligating anyone else in order to fulfill it. I have the right to move, walk, breathe, speak, etc. I do not have the right to leap tall buildings in a single bound. I do have a right to work, since that is a physical action which my body is capable of performing--but I do not have a right to a job, where I obligate an employer in the process. Work is a right, while a job is an agreement between two individuals (or an individual and a business entity).)

Of course I'm aware that there are plenty of chauvanists in the world. Heavens, all I've had to do is go to the local hardware store to get my fill of that, let alone the work experiences I've had in various industries, working with men. And please don't project upon me the naievete of one who thinks that all women are as homogenous in thought, desire, interest and passion as to all find sublime happniess in domestic pursuits. Just because I find no fault with those who choose that does not mean it's the only path I see for women. A woman who champions the right to choose a domestic path doesn't automatically lack the ability to imagine happiness anywhere else. That's the very mindset I've been deploring through this discussion.

I love the fact that Martha Stewart made so much money on homemaking . . . granted, it was homemaking in quite the high style, but it falls under the concept many an artist or designer will tell you: "You're only as good as what you've seen." She exposed millions of women to an idea of making home a beautiful, inviting place. And after the strange designs, unsettling color schemes, and just plain weirdness of the 80's, heaven knows we all needed a good dose of that. ;o) She was definitely targeted and taken down by someone that didn't like her making money in the stock market, though. Supposedly, in order to be convicted of insider trading, you have to have a fiduciary relationship with the company whose stock you are trading, i.e. you have to be able to directly influence the value of the stock. She was convicted supposedly because she sold stock under conditions wherein she influenced the value of the stock to her benefit, and everyone else's loss, when in fact she was simply trading on inside knowledge . . . which is how the really good investors and stock market gurus make their money. Not illegal by any means; it just annoyed the wrong people.

If the issues you mentioned truly were the objective of Ms. Hunt, and her article was in response to a writing assignment at school, her assignment would have been returned to her summarily with a short and to the point note about it being completely off-topic. If she claims those issues were her objective, then she really had a lot of fun venting her spleen, and wasn't very clear otherwise.

To my knowledge, the last time that the position of housewife was the only choice for women was hundreds of years ago, on another continent. Since very early on in the settlement of this country, there have been other avenues for women--whether it was as a seamstress, private nurse, companion, tutor, or something else. Even in the very beginning, women were the ones responsible for the civilization of American soil. There were colonization groups of men who came over in advance of their families, tasked with building homes, roads, and planting crops. When their wives arrived the following year, the men were living in lean-to's and caves, subsisting on hunting and what little food they had grown, drinking and racing what horses were still alive. Powerless? I would say that those women weilded far more power than any historians give them credit for. They whipped their men into shape, and got things going in that instance.

Regardless of the thickness of Jane's skin, she has handled Ms. Hunt's review with class and aplomb. She was simply the reason I knew of the review at all. My reponse to the article was just as I stated in my original post: Hunt's tone was totally uncalled for, and did more harm to the progress of women in our day than good. Can you imagine what the chauvanists and other anti-feminists out there think of Hunt's piece? How it reflects on all women who champion the cause of a woman's ability to make her own choices? Maybe she was planning on preaching to the choir . . . but if that was the case, she chose the wrong venue.