Selfishness as radical praxis

I found out today that one of my good friends (well former good friends, if we’re being perfectly honest) has quit her job to stay home with her little son permanently. My first reaction was to despair for her. I immediately thought that her husband must have somehow strong armed her into it. He decided that his precious son needs this woman there permanently at his beck and call and so he guilted his lovely wife into giving up her career and sacrificing herself at the altar of motherhood.

When I pointed out that she had left (we got the news in a staff news letter) to some of my other colleagues, my single co worker looked a little crest fallen (“I know. I think she left ages ago though” *sigh*), but my other colleague, who has two kids said something that actually brought bile to my throat. She said “Yeah I feel kind of guilty. Maybe I should quit and stay home with my kids too.” This is a woman who is half way through her PhD, has a number of research projects going at work currently and made us start a podcast. The idea that she could decide that staying home and being a permanent nanny and leave all of that behind is just so galling to me.

I considered saying this to her but held my tongue and came to bitch about it here instead. This is in large part because every time I bring up feminism someone will say the dreaded “c” word – Choice. I hate it. It’s like they’re completely incapable of critical thinking skills. Just because you choose to do something doesn’t make it right or good and it certainly doesn’t make it feminist.

Now I can hear what you’re about to say: “But Natalie, we can’t all live our lives by very strict radical feminist principles. You make non-feminist decisions everyday. Those shoes you wore today for instance, which hurt your feet. There’s make up on your face. None of these are feminist choices, and yet you made them and you suffer the consequences” and i would agree with you. 100%. Not everything I do is feminist. and not every decision i make is feminist. But I would argue that wearing heels and make up is a hell of a lot  less serious than giving up your career.

She has given up her career and her independence so that she can become the embodiment of everything I hate about being a woman: someone subordinate to her husband and children. Now you can argue that being a homemaker is not subordinate, but i see your argument and I raise you a: We live in a capitalist society and money really is power. If you live in a house and you don’t pay the rent, and you don’t buy the groceries, and you have no disposable income of your own, then you have given up your power. You are at the mercy of whoever is paying the rent and keeping you in house and home.

More on this later. I’ve reached my 500 word limit. Damn.

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