Feminisms is a series of weekly feminist diaries. My fellow feminists and I decided to start our own for several purposes: we wanted a place to chat with each other, we felt it was important to both share our own stories and learn from others’, and we hoped to introduce to the community a better understanding of what feminism is about.
Needless to say, we expect disagreements to arise. We have all had different experiences in life, so while we share the same labels, we don’t necessarily share the same definitions. Hopefully, we can all be patient and civil with each other, and remember that, ultimately, we’re all on the same side.
I was going to do a big diary tonight on this subject drawing on all the things I've been reading and re-reading for my sociology of the family class. But it's been a long day and I'm tired, so this will be more rudimentary than I had hoped.
The gendering of household labor is often taken for granted (albeit in different ways) but is also a common subject of struggle within couples or families. So many household tasks are considered "women's work," even as women have become much more likely to work for pay outside the home. This raises so many issues. How should this work be divided? Should it matter who works more hours outside the home? Should it matter who earns more? If someone is going to reduce their career commitments to take care of things at home, who should it be or what should be the basis for the decision?
If there are children, is caring for them considered household labor equivalent to vacuuming, or should a parent excused from vacuuming due to his or her career commitments still be expected to spend time and energy caring for the children? Is one parent better suited to devote more time to children? If so, who? How is that decision made - is the presumption that it will be the mother?
All of these are enormously contested decisions, and ones that, let's face it, women bear the brunt of in the majority of families. I've been thinking about this while preparing my class, but I also can't help but think of it when I hear about a woman I know who, having been ordered to bed rest due to high blood pressure in the final weeks of pregnancy, was up vacuuming because if she didn't do it, it wasn't going to get done. (It's not like men are always the bad guys, of course. Another of my friends was on similar bed rest a couple months ago and her husband was absolutely doing the vacuuming, and bringing her food, and all the rest of it. But the thing is, women so often feel lucky for ending up with a man who will do these things, so much more often than men feel lucky for ending up with a woman who does equivalent work in the household. We shouldn't have to feel any more lucky than they do.)
Some books I'd suggest on any of this (most of which I'm sure I've suggested before):
Arlie Russell Hochschild and Anne Machung, The Second Shift
Francine Deutsch, Halving It All
Ann Crittenden, The Price of Motherhood
Mary Blair-Loy, Competing Devotions
Kathleen Gerson, Hard Choices and No Man's Land