Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Too Fine a Point

I found this article a few months ago, after Google-ing (and what is the verb usage here? drop the e, or not?) something like "feminism motherhood." I didn't make it all the way through on my first pass, as anger and disgust repelled me from my desk. I remember tossing wet baby clothes into the dryer with unnecessary force, stewing over Hirshman's assertion that "elite" women's (oh, yuck, yuck, yuck) decisions to stay home with their children instead of pursuing high-powered (read: high-paying) careers amounts to a "loss of hope for the future," and her re-iteration of the old feminist assertion that housework and toilet training are tasks fit only for animals. I mean, shit--I would hate to be her housekeeper! I stewed and stomped around the house and only later contemplated the irony inherent in the fact that I had been engaged in housework for the duration of my private rant. Hmmm.

So I read the article again, and this time I finished it. Still, it didn't sit well, particularly the part where the author advises young women to "marry down." I get her point, I think--fight fire with fire, do what men have done for centuries, hook up with someone you know will support your lifestyle--but I find the prospect repulsive. But then, I find most decisions made pragmatically to be, at best, a tad mystifying, and at worst, more than a tad repulsive, so maybe its just me. Which brings me to my next point.

So this is the real deal: I sometimes wonder if I am, on a fundamental level, a fighter. I have always been billed as such--as someone who pushes herself harder than she should, who expects a lot from herself and from others, who doesn't take the easy way out of difficult situations. I'm not sure now that I've really earned this reputation--a point which is easy to illustrate in light of my current struggle. Comments made after my last post really made me stop and consider what I bring to this current dilemma. It would be easy, and it is surely tempting, to blame society for my misery, to pin my anger and frustration on the legacy left by the feminist movement, to blame my husband (and his parents and their parents and so on) for leaving me to do the bulk of the housework, but none of that seems to hit the bulls-eye. While these struggles are real, and important, and totally pertinent to my current situation, the larger, looming truth is more personal, and far more painful. I can fairly easily give the proverbial finger to a boss who punishes me for having a family, but admitting my own insecurities, what I perceive to be my own frailties, is far more difficult.

Hirshman reports that

a common thread among the women I interviewed was a self-important idealism about the kinds of intellectual, prestigious, socially meaningful, politics-free jobs worth their
incalculably valuable presence. So the second rule is that women must treat the first few years after college as an opportunity to lose their capitalism virginity and prepare for good work, which they will then treat seriously.

Okay, I find this too repulsive, and I guess that just puts me in a category with the rest of the women she describes: a self-important idealist. But maybe she's right; I've always felt ill-equipped for the corporate work world. The silly hours, the busywork, the terrible lighting--they call this evolution, civilization? It has never made sense to me. I just can't figure out whether this is a perfectly acceptable and essentially intractable facet of my personality or something that is fundamentally wrong with me. I know what a therapist would say about that, but therapists are sometimes full of shit.

I find this quote so painful--so painfully true--that I take it out and read it only occasionally. It is just so incredibly sad.

A man should have the fine point of his soul taken off to become fit for this world.
-John Keats

1 comment:

Leigh C. said...

A lot of the way the world still works is idiotic. Our school schedules from kindergarten - 12th grade have us all getting up at the crack of dawn and ending in the early-to-mid-afternoon, which is great if you are a farming family member, but not if you have parents who work 9-5 jobs. Studies are finding that most kids function better after 9 AM anyhow.

As far as mothers go, we are still damned if we do and damned if we don't. If we are staying home, we are supposedly living that Friedanian Feminine Mystique and diminishing the development of women as equal members of society. If we are working and going with daycare, we are risking being detached from our kids and out of touch with what makes a family and keeps it together. Negotiating this stuff is hard. It always has been and always will be. At the same time, though, no one should be pigeonholed like that. A large part of all of this is resisting the labels in our own ways and just living our lives. Period.

And now I'm going on again. Sorry. 8-S