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Feminism & Domesticity

Can We Have Both?

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Two weeks after defending my thesis and three months after giving birth to my first baby, I found myself sitting on our old floral couch, pouring over The Flipside of Feminism. It was the second* book that I read for leisure since wrapping up grad work, and it struck me as ironic: baby in the left arm, book about feminism in the right.

On whole, I was confused. As I prepared for graduation, classmates and professors asked, “So what comes next for you?” and then acted disappointed when I explained that motherhood was my foreseeable future. Their disappointment disappointed me. I graduated in Family Studies and Human Development. Isn’t motherhood the penultimate capstone project? Has feminism brought us so far that motherhood is second tier to careers and schooling?

There was a time when I comfortably applied the “feminist” label, but I’m less certain about labels and feminism of late.

What happened to my girl-power stance? I got married.

Please don’t misunderstand me. In some instances, feminism might be just the empowerment that women need, but sometimes I fear that our livid protection of female rights might be at the expense of human relationships and responsibilities.

When I met my husband, I found that my inner feminist didn’t contribute to the relationship. Some women really do need emancipation from ugly relationships, but my husband is an income-earning, wife-supporting, baby-loving, bread-baking, vacuuming sort of guy. Not someone I EVER want to be emancipated from. But my inner feminist pointed out the inequality of our work loads, highlighted every (rare) instance of male insensitivity, and generally ran about shouting about made-up injustices. She got me into trouble by recommending entitlement and discontent at the very moments when patience and generosity were most needed.

So I say to myself, “If you want girl power, this is it!! A friend, lover, and emotional confidant who will provide financially, who lets you pursue your dreams of education and of motherhood. He’s faithful. He’ll be here next week and ten years from now. He is the father to your child, and he pitches in with diapers and dishes and fussy babies. Can we stop with the keeping score? He’s always on your side. And goodness knows when he falls short of the ideal, you could return the favor and go to bat for him.”

As far as I can tell, a good husband and a safe home are the finest objectives of a true feminist agenda.

* The first was “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,” which I strongly recommend. It was the charming, page-turning variety of novel that reconverts one to leisure reading after several long years of scholarly articles.

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Jenny Harris
Jenny is a star-gazing, book-clubbing mother of two. She has a Master’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies, which is mildly comical (but also a boon in parenting and relationships). Her kids will attest that she’s crazy about reading aloud, time out of doors, and creative play. Her family’s goal is the “abundant life,” as prescribed by Jesus. You can read more posts by Jenny here.

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  1. I’d like to recommend the book “I Am A Mother,” by Jane Clayson Johnson. It is a quick read by a Christian mother who intentionally left a glamorous media job for the opportunity to be an instant step-mother and future biological mother. It tells of her journey to make brave choices that do not reflect world views. Thoughtful and different.

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