Monday, March 30, 2009

Froggymama Feminist Confession

I have a Froggymama confession. I listen to Dr. Laura... a lot. I can't help it. Her radio show is the equivolent of watching a trainwreck -- a trainwreck with very judgemental subtitles. It's fascinating, and I guess the real reason is that deep-down it's comforting to know everyone has problems.

Their step mom is mean, their daughter is a runaway, their wedding is going to be a disaster if Aunt Lorraine attends. Everyone, no matter what, has something that keeps them up at night. And there's a camaraderie in this notion that we're all seeking answers, trying to make the right decisions.

Dr. Laura is my mid-day soap opera, my dirty little secret that I enjoy while doing dishes, running errands and boiling nebulizers. I've tried to quit her, to turn the dial to NPR, to listen to my liberal local radio stations. But like a vice, a drug, everyday I rendezvous with this republican, this judgemental, harsh and morally superior woman.

Politically Dr. L and I could not be more different. I'm a Obama-lovin' democrat and feminist. Yesterday while listening, I was especially struck by a point she made about stay-at-home moms (SAHM's). She said that SAHM's are the most hated people in the world. I was eating lunch in my car about to drive into Beverly Hills to run an errand for my boss, and when she said this, I almost choked on my taco salad.

I am a stay-at-home mom and I have never, not-for-a-second felt hated in my left-coast, liberal-lovin' home of Southern California. So how, how, could I be the most HATED minority, when I've only felt love and support? Shouldn't I be feelin' the hate in Los Angeles where we are all career-driven opportunists?

Dr. Laura read a letter from a dad who praised his wife for staying home with their three children. The good doctor then commented on how some women choose fancy cars or big tv's over quality time with their kids, how these selfish "working" women choose European vacations and keeping up with the Jones' over their children. Hmmm.

I am a stay-at-home mom who works from home. I was LUCKY enough to have a job that allows me to raise my child while bringing home some proverbial bacon. It is really tough and I know both Froggy and I suffer from this compromise. Most of my women friends also work... some from home, some not. But here's the thing... my women friends who go into the office aren't working for fancy cars or vacations, for jewelry or to fulfill their selfish feminist desires. They're working because their husband's job doesn't provide health insurance, or because to live in Los Angeles two incomes are necessary just to stay above the poverty line, because to afford life, to pay bills, to put food on the table, they must. It isn't selfish, it isn't a comment on feminism, it isn't even always a choice. It's reality and they're just trying to make ends meet. So to make moms feel even more guilty for all they do, makes me incredibly sad.

Dr. Laura blames feminists for basically all the problems in the world. And she's not alone. I've taken classes in feminist theory and criticism. I'm not just a Gloria Steinem feminist, a bumper sticker feminist, I've read Judith Butler, Germaine Greer, Julia Kristeva, Simone de Beauvoir, Diana Fuss, and Luce Irigaray. And in all of my studies, do you know what I've learned? Feminism is not about man-hating, it's not about being selfish, it's not about putting children second, and it's not about keeping up with the Jones'. True feminism is not even about women being equal to men. Because there is no point in comparing apples to oranges, right? And yes, some of the feminist theory was "way out there" but it had to be. It was challenging a norm and had to challenge those subtleties with extremism. Like the black panthers had to challenge racism, like hippies challenged the war in Vietnam. It couldn't be a gentle transition. It had to be jerky, like an earthquake, a volcano with tectonic plates and magma exploding under the surface of society.

Feminism is essentially about women finding their place, and most importantly finding balance. It is not about making children suffer or about being the "angry wife." Feminism, in it's philosophical form is about women searching for answers, about being an actual human being while playing the role of mother and wife, sister and daughter. Feminism was about breaking the stereotypes so women could just be human beings. Feminism challenged the legality of "domestic abuse," and how by adding the word "domestic," abuse was somehow lessened. Feminism was at it's essence about protecting women and children. It was about strengthening and protecting the family, not about breaking it. And those who say otherwise have never really studied feminist theory.

My female friends are feminists and a lot of them are also stay-at-home moms. Some work a 9-5, some work from home, some are lucky not to work outside the home, some work part-time so they are able to attend soccer and violin lessons. Some have to work from the wee hours until dusk in order to provide for their family. And when I tell these feminist women friends that I work from home and am a SAHM, they always say, "Oh, you're sooo lucky."

I have never, not once felt hated. I've never felt 'less than' because I care for my child full-time. None of my female or male friends have ever questioned my integrity because I make mac n'cheese and do treatments, because I'm a personal assistant instead of pursuing my writing career. No one, not a single woman friend has ever said, "Oh, you JUST stay at home," or "So you don't work, you're just a mom."

Interestingly enough, a lot of my friends who are intelligent, career driven and believe that women can be anything they want, also choose to stay home. In my experience, I've found no correlation between feminism and the judgement or hatred of mothers who choose to stay home with their kids. I was absolutely astounded by the statement that SAHM's are the most hated minority.

So who is doing the hating? Working moms? Not from my perspective. Singletons? No, I have a lot of single friends. Who exactly HATES SAHM's?

Are SAHM's getting killed while picking up their kids from daycare? Are they receiving death threats via email or facebook? Are people spending millions to make "Stay-at-home-moms" an illegal institution? Are religious organizations picketing home of these "rebel moms?" Who in the world HATES SAHM'S?

Here's my answer. I think Dr. Laura is sooooo out of touch with the real world that her paranoia has taken over her ability to think rationally. I think that there is a strange rationale of the majority to feel like they are the minority, to feel persecuted and victimized when they aren't. I don't feel victimized or persecuted as a feminist who chooses to stay home with her child, because I'm not. I don't know of a single person who thinks I'm an idiot for choosing my child over my career.

I will always be a feminist. I believe that women are so amazing that they can be anything, an astronaut, a writer, a president, a mama. And as a mama and woman I know that I am changing the world positively by raising a strong, talented and healthy little girl, probably more so than walking on the moon or ruling the world.

And when Froggy is grown, or spending more time in school than at home... I will fulfill my "selfish" writing desires. I believe that this is the true form of feminism... protecting children, providing love and a foundation of health and success so that someday they will have choices in their life. I don't feel hated. Not for a second. But I do feel patronized, by people like Dr. Laura who choose to manipulate women against each other. We as moms are all in this together. And we're doing the best we can. So stop judging, stop accusing, and just accept the fact that this is a tough job, the toughest job ever and we will prevail.
We will prevail.


holly said...

This is so funny. I wrote a paper on Dr. Laura for one of my women's studies classes in college. Something regarding Dr. Laura being an anti-feminist. I don't remember the exact statement being made. I grew up listening to her because my mother was and still is obsessed with her! I do not voluntarily listen to her myself, but I understand your addiction.
I wait tables part-time. It put me through college, and now it will put me through early motherhood. It's not buying me a BMW, and it's not paying for someone to clean my house, but it enables us to buy food and pay for co-payments. Selfish? I have actually received grief from some relatives because I work. As if it were a choice. Just some others being completely out of touch with the real world I guess.
We will prevail Elise, but until then, I'm sticking with NPR!

Infidel Rooster said...

I haven't been able to listen to Dr. Laura in some time.

Rather than go into a huge rant about her, I'll just say well said regarding everything else. I don't know anyone(men or women) in my generation or the next who has the luxury of 'choosing' to work in order to get that expensive car or fancy tv. They are doing it because the reality of the situation requires them to do things like, provide food and shelter and health care to kids and loved ones. Pesky things of that nature.

So again, well said.

The DutchMac Tribe said...

In all seriousness, do you mind if I link this post on my blog? It's so amazingly PERFECT, I want everyone in my circle to see it to. Let me know if you wouldn't mind, and I'll pass on the knowledge.

Thank you for always writing what I wish I was able to say myself!


Tami Draxler said...

I'm not a radio listener, at all, really. But, I just got satellite radio in my car and I'm getting a little hooked. I happened on Dr. Laura for just a little while the other day. This is about as un-political, or maybe a-political as you can get, but here's what the topic was...
A mom was apparantly in a tiff with MIL over the way a child was disciplined. The child - 5 yrs old- had licked the top of the newly opened carton of ice cream. Licked the ice cream before it was served to anyone else. MIL thought mom was horrile for not allowing child to then have any ice cream. Mom's contention was that child should know better than to lick ice cream, and therefore, would have none that evening. Reasonable, right?

Dr. Laura had a fit saying that the child couldnt possibly know better. Had she been expressly TAUGHT to not lick the ice cream? Wasn't she just doing what kids do?

Whaaaaaaaa? The good dr. totally missed the point. Mom was looking for a way to find a backbone with MIL and Dr. Laura fixates on the ICE CREAM???

Anyway, it has nothing to do with your post, it's just my Dr. Laura story.

For the record, I'm a work outside the home mom. I certainly work inside my home, too. I don't hate you.

Anonymous said...

this is such a hot topic with me. i love my work and feel i am a better mom as a working mom (meaning outside the home) b/c frankly-my job at home is way more grueling than my career...however my work outside the home is VERY stressful. it is a constant battle with the balance. there is no balance for me. still - in these early years as a mom...the journey of figuring it all out is what is most challenging. thanks for posting this. i don't hate you either. you froggy mama, are a super hero in my book. and i moms need to stick together. xo. jcn

Smartix said...

well done!!

"Intentionally Katie" said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who's sick of people pinning women against each other. SAHM vs. moms working outside the home, bottle feeders vs. breastfeeders, homeschoolers vs. public school kids, can't we all just get along and appreciate our differences? I haven't seen women this catty (speaking of moms) since my dating days. I guess I'm just not into being competitive about my choices in life. MY choices.

And I've never felt hated as a SAHM, either. Dr. Laura and her opinions...

cicadalady said...

great post, thank you!