As a woman, I do not understand how you can form a website based on such a disgraceful idea. Everyone is obviously entitled to their own opinion, but your opinion lacks intelligence and is solely based on ignorance. Feminism is not about shunning the idea of being a housewife, etc. In fact it has nothing to do with that. It is simply a choice. For whoever wrote the article I was reading, how can you say that feminists basically look down on women who are housewives? I have never in my research, schooling, etc. heard such a ridiculous comment and criticism of feminism. I suggest that your website educate itself more on what feminism is all about before you contain ignorant articles on your website.
The quote above comes from one of many “Scorching Rhetoric” notes we’ve received here at LAF. One complaint we often hear is that we know nothing about feminism and that what we claim feminism stands for (or has stood for in the past) is not true. As will be obvious to anyone who takes the time to carefully read this site (particularly our Theme Articles), we do not seek to lump all those who call themselves feminists into the same category. Even feminists disagree about what feminism means (see “What Is Feminism?”). You can no more stereotype feminists than you can stereotype all women. Just as there is no consensus within the Church about what constitutes a homemaker (sadly enough), there is no consensus within the feminist movement about what constitutes a true feminist. This can make it extremely difficult to nail down just what feminism is about and where the movement desires to take women and society in the future. But we can learn about the various objectives it has promoted and claimed as its own down through the decades.
Those who read widely and who have studied the feminist movement from its earliest roots to the present know that some of the most prominent women (and men) involved in the movement have been rabidly anti-homemaker. In fact, the more radical feminists of the 19th and 20th centuries wholeheartedly embraced Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, which called for women to be pushed out of the home and into factories, since the labor of men and women must be made “equal” while capitalism and private property were abolished. Engels wrote, “The overthrow of mother right was the world historical defeat of the female sex. The man took command in the home also; the woman was degraded and reduced to servitude; she became the slave of his lust and a mere instrument for the production of children” ( The Origin of the Family, 1884). This view of the woman at home as some poor slave “reduced to servitude” and “a mere instrument for the production of children” is echoed over and over again in the writings of feminists who are now enshrined as patron saints of the women’s movement. Let’s allow them to speak for themselves:
“[The] housewife is a nobody, and [housework] is a dead-end job. It may actually have a deteriorating effect on her mind…rendering her incapable of prolonged concentration on any single task. [She] comes to seem dumb as well as dull. [B]eing a housewife makes women sick.” ~ Sociologist Jessie Bernard in The Future of Marriage, 1982.
“Housewives [are] an endless array of ‘horse-leech’s’ daughters, crying Give! Give! — [a] parasite mate devouring even when she should most feed [and who has] the aspirations of an affectionate guinea pig.” ~ Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics: A Study of the Economic Relations Between Men and Women as a Factor in Social Evolution, 1898.
” We must now say proudly and without any exaggeration that apart from Soviet Russia, there is not a country in the world where women enjoy full equality and where women are not placed in the humiliating position felt particularly in day-to-day family life. This is one of our first and most important tasks…. Housework is the most unproductive, the most barbarous and the most arduous work a woman can do. It is exceptionally petty and does not include anything that would in any way promote the development of the woman…The building of socialism will begin only when we have achieved the complete equality of women and when we undertake the new work together with women who have been emancipated from that petty stultifying, unproductive work…. We are setting up model institutions, dining-rooms and nurseries, that will emancipate women from housework…. These institutions that liberate women from their position as household slaves are springing up where it is in any way possible.” ~ V.I. Lenin, The Task of the Working Women’s Movement in the Soviet Republic , 1919.
” The chief thing is to get women to take part in socially productive labor, to liberate them from ‘domestic slavery,’ to free them from their stupefying and humiliating subjugation to the eternal drudgery of the kitchen and the nursery. This struggle will be a long one, and it demands a radical reconstruction, both of social technique and of morale. But it will end in the complete triumph of Communism.” ~ V.I. Lenin, International Working Women’s Day Speech , 1920.
“A parasite sucking out the living strength of another organism…the [housewife’s] labor does not even tend toward the creation of anything durable…. [W]oman’s work within the home [is] not directly useful to society, produces nothing. [The housewife] is subordinate, secondary, parasitic. It is for their common welfare that the situation must be altered by prohibiting marriage as a ‘career’ for woman.” ~ Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 1949.
“[Housewives] are mindless and thing-hungry…not people. [Housework] is peculiarly suited to the capacities of feeble-minded girls. [It] arrests their development at an infantile level, short of personal identity with an inevitably weak core of self…. [Housewives] are in as much danger as the millions who walked to their own death in the concentration camps. [The] conditions which destroyed the human identity of so many prisoners were not the torture and brutality, but conditions similar to those which destroy the identity of the American housewife.” ~ Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, 1963.
“[Housewives] are dependent creatures who are still children…parasites.” ~ Gloria Steinem, “What It Would Be Like If Women Win,” Time, August 31, 1970.
“[The husband’s work] provides for greater challenges and opportunities for growth than are available to his wife, [whose] horizons are inevitably limited by her relegation to domestic duties. [This] programs her for mediocrity and dulls her brain…. [Motherhood] can only be a temporary detour.” ~ Nena O’Neill and George O’Neill, Open Marriage: A New Lifestyle for Couples, 1972.
“Women owe Frieden an incalculable debt for The Feminine Mystique…. Domesticity was not a satisfactory story of an intelligent woman’s life.” ~ Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Feminism Is Not the Story of My Life, 1996.
“Being a housewife is an illegitimate profession… The choice to serve and be protected and plan towards being a family-maker is a choice that shouldn’t be. The heart of radical feminism is to change that.” ~ Vivian Gornick, University of Illinois, “The Daily Illini,” April 25, 1981.
“[As long as the woman] is the primary caretaker of childhood, she is prevented from being a free human being.” ~ Kate Millett, Sexual Politics, 1969.
“[A]s long as the family and the myth of the family and the myth of maternity and the maternal instinct are not destroyed, women will still be oppressed…. No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one. It is a way of forcing women in a certain direction.” ~ Simone de Beauvoir, “Sex, Society, and the Female Dilemma,” Saturday Review, June 14, 1975.
“Feminism was profoundly opposed to traditional conceptions of how families should be organized, [since] the very existence of full-time homemakers was incompatible with the women’s movement…. [I]f even 10 percent of American women remain full-time homemakers, this will reinforce traditional views of what women ought to do and encourage other women to become full-time homemakers at least while their children are very young…. If women disproportionately take time off from their careers to have children, or if they work less hard than men at their careers while their children are young, this will put them at a competitive disadvantage vis-a-vis men, particularly men whose wives do all the homemaking and child care…. This means that no matter how any individual feminist might feel about child care and housework, the movement as a whole had reasons to discourage full-time homemaking.” ~ Jane J. Mansbridge, Why We Lost the ERA, 1986.
All of this would be bad enough by itself, but the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s did not stop at verbal attacks against wives, homemakers, and mothers. They pushed relentlessly to change laws which both protected wives and mothers and which encouraged men to provide for their own families. They did not rest until they had triumphed through the elimination of the “family wage,” the reduction of tax benefits for single-earner households, and the passage of “no-fault” divorce laws. Sociologist Jessie Bernard (quoted above), remarked that the “very deprivation of assured support as long as they live may be one of the best things that could happen to women” ( The Future of Marriage, 1982). In other words, if men can walk away from marriage easily, leaving women with no support, women will be forced to take up careers whether or not they desire to do so. Carolyn Graglia explains this in her book, Domestic Tranquility: A Brief Against Feminism (Spence Publishing, 1998):
“A primary factor contributing to the feminization of poverty has been the change to a system of no-fault divorce under which divorce is easily obtained, even when opposed by one of the parties, and men are often able to terminate marriages without providing adequate alimony or child support. The feminist quest for female fungibility with males has led the women’s movement to support the invalidation of laws benefiting and protecting women. This was the thrust, for example, of litigation directed by Ruth Bader Ginsburg when she was director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union and, often using male plaintiffs, secured invalidation of laws that favored women. The theory was that obliteration of all legal sex distinctions would ultimately be in the best interests of working women; those women, including homemakers, who wished to retain the benefits of protective legislation were never the women with whose rights the Project was concerned” (p. 295).
So, in the name of “all women,” the feminist movement cavalierly did away with the very rights that guaranteed the wife peace of mind in her choice to remain at home and bring up her own children. Mary Ann Glendon, writing in Abortion and Divorce in Western Law (1987) states, “Divorce law in practice seems to be saying to parents, especially to mothers, that it is not safe to devote oneself primarily or exclusively to raising children.” We don’t need to recite long lists of statistics here, I trust, though they are readily available from the Census Bureau and other government entities, but in the past thirty years, divorce and abandonment have skyrocketed, leaving women the victims of poverty in far greater numbers than men. Instead of admitting culpability, feminists have moved on to push for taxpayer-funded daycare and greater welfare benefits for those mothers left in the lurch. Again, Carolyn Graglia:
“[F]eminists nevertheless often try to disclaim responsibility for no-fault’s results. Liberationists of the 1970s blathered mindlessly about the oppressiveness of the family, exhorting women to break the chains of their confinement, to cease being parasites in their suburban havens, to cease holding husbands in marriages the men no longer wanted, and to set out on the road to true fulfillment and equality by finding some rewarding career. Yet, having been taken seriously by every state legislature in the country and with the divorce revolution accomplished, feminists seek to absolve themselves of blame, as if society should have known better than to listen to them. No longer concentrating on the oppressiveness of the home and family for women, feminists argue instead that, unfortunately, married mothers must remain in the work force to protect themselves from the very likely possibility of becoming single parents by divorce. This is a likelihood, they choose not to remember, their movement was highly instrumental in creating” ( Domestic Tranquility, p. 296).
Now we live in a culture where the term “trophy wife” isn’t just a joke and where men can abandon their wives and children as easily as they shuck off their dress shoes at the end of the day. Instead of deploring this development, women have been urged to become just as promiscuous and irresponsible as the men. Somehow, if we all descend to the lowest common denominator, we’ll find happiness in the mess we’ve created. “There isn’t a venerable history of women celebrating promiscuity;” writes columnist Frederica Mathewes-Green. “[I]f anything, women’s wisdom over the ages taught that emotional security was the precondition for sex being fun, and a wedding ring was the best aphrodisiac. But again, what did stupid old housewives know? Men called them prudish, so that’s what they were. Thirty years later women are still going morosely out into the night in dutiful pursuit of fun. And if it’s not fun, she presumes, it must be because something is wrong with her.” So now those of us who reject the doctrines of the sexual revolution (which had their roots in the “free love” movement of Marxism in the 1840s and in Margaret Sanger’s writings in the early 20th century) are expected to just go along with the “brave new world” the radical feminists created in the name of all women. We are not supposed to protest when tax laws are changed to favor double-income households that use state-funded daycare or when laws protecting widows and orphans are obliterated in the name of “gender equality” and “fairness.”
Brian Robertson, in his book Forced Labor: What’s Wrong with Balancing Work and Family (Spence Publishing, 2002), notes, “Here it is that the fallacy of ‘neutrality’ in the tax system and providing women with a ‘free choice about taking jobs’ is laid bare. If government decides that it will no longer [through tax deductions] defray the cost entailed for families raising children, this does not so much allow mothers more freedom of choice in the matter of work as it compels them to seek paid employment outside the home to supplement insufficient family income” (p. 128). The feminists cannot have it both ways. They cannot with one hand sweep away the very protections that have guarded wives, mothers, widows, and orphans for centuries while at the same time insisting verbally that they are not against women making the choice to stay at home instead of getting into the career track. The “choice” to remain at home has now become a financially painful one for many families. But women hurt by the “advances” of feminism are told to sit down and shut their mouths, because, without feminism, we’d (supposedly) go back to some kind of Dark Age where husbands chain women to the house and treat their wives like parasitic slaves and sexual objects.
While feminists can claim women were “objectified” and “used” prior to the women’s movement, we have only to look at the rampant pornography and astronomical rise in rape and abuse over the past forty years to see that something doesn’t ring true here. Take a walk down the “Women’s Studies” aisle at any bookstore today, and the contradictions will leap out at you in bold print. Titles like Whores and Other Feminists (which praises porn stars for their “liberation”) share shelf space with The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women. The feminist movement of today is splintered and schizophrenic. It includes conservative pro-lifers and lesbian goddess worshipers. This is precisely why we at LAF have been careful to define exactly what it is about feminism that we oppose (again, see “What Is Feminism?”). It must also be pointed out that not everything that is slapped with the “feminism” label belongs exclusively to the feminists. This leads us to yet another complaint we regularly receive from visitors. Here is one example:
“If you say that you are not a feminist than [sic] by saying that you mean that you dissagree [sic] with the three things mentions [sic] previously [education for women, financial equality, and laws against wife abuse]. And if you dissagree [sic] with those, than [sic] god help you. Are you saying that you would love to work in the same job as a man and gladly receive a lower salery [sic]? Are you saying that it is socially acceptable to rape, beat, sexually abuse women, or any person? Are you saying that not all humans should have equal rights?”
This is an unfortunate case of illogical argumentation run amok. The logical fallacy goes like this: “If Jane Doe is a feminist, then she is against wife abuse. Jane Doe is not a feminist, therefore she is not against wife abuse.” In classical terms, this is called “denying the antecedent.” We should be able to see at first glance that this line of argumentation will not hold water. We could just as foolishly argue, “If Jane Doe is a Christian, then she will give to the poor. Jane Doe is not a Christian, therefore she does not give to the poor.” There are many fine people all over the world who give generously to the poor but who do not call themselves Christians. In the same vein, there are many of us out here who are most definitely against wife abuse, the sexual exploitation of women, and child abandonment (to name just a few causes) who are not feminists. Some folks who write us claim, “You are feminists and just won’t admit it.” But this is also illogical and doesn’t bear under the scrutiny of history and common sense. Feminism has tried to plant territorial flags on “discoveries” it did not make. Being opposed to spouse abuse did not start with the feminists. Being in favor of fair inheritance and property ownership laws for women did not start with the feminists. Being opposed to rape and incest did not start with the feminists. As we’ve pointed out in our FAQs, the Bible was already there (see “Myths of Feminism Exploded”).
While there are many feminists out there who are most definitely not in step with the radical anti-male, anti-homemaking elements of the movement, they still need to understand that when they continue to use the word “feminism” to describe their beliefs, they are bringing along the historical and legal baggage that comes with the term. They should not be surprised when perfectly sane, intelligent women choose to reject feminism (even in its noblest forms). Yes, feminists have, indeed, pointed out real ills in the past (drunkenness, abuse, abandonment–particularly at the beginnings of the movement in the 19th century), but that does not mean the feminists of the 1960s or today have the cure for the disease. Asking a radical feminist to help put a stop to divorce laws that trample innocent women and children would be a little like asking an arsonist to help put out a raging house fire. Yes, there might be token “buckets of water” in the form of platitudes like, “We’re not against women choosing to stay at home; we just want to be allowed to choose careers if we want” — but that does nothing to alter the fact that the feminist movement (on the whole — again, we aren’t painting all feminists with the same brush) has harmed women, especially those who would prefer to remain at home as the primary caregivers for their children or even as help mates to their husbands when there are no children.
Today any woman who claims to oppose feminism is quickly stereotyped as narrow-minded, uneducated, and backwards. Feminists do not all wish to be lumped together, yet it seems to be kosher to force all non-career women into a suffocating “Stepford Wife” stereotype. Once again, Carolyn Graglia hits the nail on the head:
“Those who would defend anti-feminist traditionalism today are like heretics fighting a regnant Inquisition. To become a homemaker, a woman may need the courage of a heretic. This is one reason that the defense of traditional women is often grounded in religious teachings, for the heretic’s courage usually rests on faith. The source of courage I offer is the conviction, based upon my own experience, that contemporary feminism’s stereotypical caricature of the housewife did not reflect reality when Frieden popularized it, does not reflect reality today, and need not govern reality. Feminists claimed a woman can find identity and fulfillment only in a career; they are wrong. They claimed a woman can, in that popular expression, ‘have it all’; they are wrong–she can have only some. The experience of being a mother at home is a different experience from being a full-time market producer who is also a mother. A woman can have one or the other experience, but not both at the same time. Combining a career with motherhood requires a woman to compromise by diminishing her commitment and exertions with respect to one role or the other, or usually, to both. Rarely, if ever, can a woman adequately perform in a full-time career if she diminishes her commitment to it sufficiently to replicate the experience of being a mother at home.” ( Domestic Tranquility, pp. 369-370)
Christopher Lasch has noted that, if the feminist movement was truly fair to all women and open-minded about the choices they make, it would not seek to marginalize wives and mothers: “A feminist movement that respected the achievements of women in the past would not disparage housework, motherhood or unpaid civic and neighborly services. It would not make a paycheck the only symbol of accomplishment…. It would insist that people need self-respecting honorable callings, not glamorous careers that carry high salaries but take them away from their families” (quoted in Forced Labor, p. 33). Our materialistic society today is so focused upon how much we are “worth” in terms of a paycheck that we have lost sight of what we are worth as human beings. Ironically, this is exactly what many early feminists wanted society to acknowledge: that women are just as important and just as vital to the human race as men. This is no breakthrough epiphany; it is a simple statement of fact: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).
Both male and female together make up the image of God. Humanity is not complete without one or the other. Both are needed to display the full-orbed beauty of God’s design. “He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created” (Gen. 5:2). It’s that simple. “Mankind” is male and female. You don’t have to be a feminist to affirm this. To then proclaim that man and woman were designed for complementary roles–not competing roles or overlapping roles–is not to say that one role is less important than or inferior to the other. We aren’t talking about “yin and yang” here — opposites locked in an eternal struggle. We are talking about mankind, male and female working in a beautiful union and communion that creates nourishing families, hospitable homes, genuine care for the poor, help for the widow and the orphan, justice for the truly oppressed. We cannot achieve this if we build upon socialistic foundations that insist all human beings must be treated the same no matter what. That kind of “equality” always tramples underfoot those who cannot keep up and ends up supporting the very tyrants who claim to want the best for the rest of us.
Feminism isn’t the answer. It never was. Occasionally it has pointed out real evils. Every now and again it has done noble things. But, on the whole, it is built upon a foundation of radicalism that hurts the very women it claims to want to help. This doesn’t mean every feminist is an evil man-hater. We’ve never painted feminists with that broad brush. But it would behoove those who want to claim the title of “feminist” to look carefully into the history of a movement that has done real damage to women and families in the name of “equality.” It also wouldn’t hurt to consider that the woman who chooses to reject feminism and remain at home is not a mindless doormat who has been robbed of her “core of self.” I’ll close with a quote from Jennifer Roback-Morse:
“Some women assume that child care is mind-numbing, spirit-killing drudgery, and that only work outside the home is fulfilling. These are not necessarily statements that women would come up with spontaneously, in the absence of feminist tutoring….It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that my two children needed me at home more than they needed anything my income would buy for them. It took even longer for me to realize that placing my intellect at the service of my family was a greater challenge than my ordinary life as a university professor. I had accepted far more feminist premises than I had realized.” (“Why the Market Can’t Raise Our Children for Us,” The American Enterprise, May/June 1998)