Given the history of the last 50 years, it is funny to see the specific philosophical underpinning of modern feminism. From Wikipedia:
For her 15th college reunion in 1957, Friedan conducted a survey of College graduates, focusing on their education, their subsequent experiences and satisfaction with their current lives. She started publishing articles about what she called “the problem that has no name,” and got passionate responses from many housewives grateful that they were not alone in experiencing this problem.
Friedan then decided to rework and expand this topic into a book, The Feminine Mystique. Published in 1963, it depicted the roles of women in industrial societies, especially the full-time homemaker role, which Friedan deemed stifling. Friedan speaks of her own ‘terror’ at being alone, and observes in her life never once seeing a positive female role-model who worked and also kept a family. She provides numerous accounts of housewives who feel similarly trapped.
Oh no! Housewives feeling trapped? How could it be? Fortunately feminism slayed the evil patriarchy which was the root of this feeling. Otherwise we would be bombarded in the media with women carping about feeling trapped, bitching about their lives, and consumed with a constant sense that they are missing something.
The post feminist world is a world of constant bitching. Women are either not being treated as if they are the physical equals of men, or men are victimizing them by hitting back. Women bitch about men not doing the housework and they bitch about men doing the housework, calling them a kitchen bitch (emphasis mine):
I first heard this term in Sandra Tsing Loh’s recent Atlantic story about her divorce. She used it to describe a friend’s husband who was anal and fussy and altogether too feminine—he belonged to an online fennel club, for God’s sake. Loh’s bitch was wholly unsavory, a prop designed to justify universal divorce…
My husband is less likely to freeze and label porcini-infused risotto—the Loh version—than to hover menacingly two inches away while I am chopping vegetables. “Shouldn’t they be smaller?” he asks, restraining himself so he won’t grab the knife. My mother would have been grateful. I am not. Instead, like Weil, I am often left seething with petty rage and self-pity.
Still, despite my stint as the postpartum playground crank, I could not bring myself to stop breast-feeding—too many years of Sears’s conditioning, too many playground spies. So I was left feeling trapped, like many women before me, in the middle-class mother’s prison of vague discontent: surly but too privileged for pity, breast-feeding with one hand while answering the cell phone with the other, and barking at my older kids to get their own organic, 100 percent juice—the modern, multitasking mother’s version of Friedan’s “problem that has no name.”
I’ve gotta say, these patriarchy guys are good. I don’t know how they do it, but they have women trapped in unhappiness no matter what they do. Especially baffling is how all of the pressure to breastfeed in the article above was coming from other women.
Fortunately I did find one example of a happy feminist in an article in The Progressive titled Happy (Feminist) Mother’s Day. The author tells us about a recent conversation with her neighbor:
A neighbor and I were sitting on a park bench, watching our children play, when we got talking about the perennial issue of housework: all that thankless toil that takes hours out of your life you might have spent writing a great novel, or at least reading one. “I used to feel resentful about it,” my neighbor said. “But then I thought about my mother. She had eight kids, and her house always looked great. That was her art. She had such a beautiful life.”
Spending a lot of time caring for your children hardly makes people into more narrow, self-interested citizens.
Aha! Finally a woman who isn’t bitching about her lot in life! What is her secret? How did she outsmart the patriarchy and manage to find meaning in her life of drudgery and thankless toil? The author elaborates:
Before you start writing that outraged email, let me add: that neighbor is a part-time stay-at-home dad. His wife, a corporate lawyer, puts in long hours, and doesn’t have much time for cooking, cleaning, and daycare pick-up. He is a photographer whose flexible schedule allows him to be the on-the-scene parent weekdays. So not only does he proudly support his wife’s career, he genuinely admires his mom, and is following in her footsteps.
I’m starting to suspect the problem of women being unhappy with their lot can’t be solved by feminism.
Friedan photo from wikipedia commons.