When we got married eighteen months ago, I kept my last name. In some ways that’s almost the prototypical feminist action, right?
I didn’t change my name and I certainly took advantage of the battles of my feminist fore-bearers. I get pissed off when friends and family write to me as Kathryn HisLastName and livid when it’s Mrs. HisFirstName HisLastName.
I didn’t change my last name but keeping it wasn’t a feminist act. I never thought about changing it because of my father who was passionate about our family history, who took me to see our family’s ancestral home months before he died. I kept it because it I already owned the family merchandise and pay my clan dues, and because I’d already gotten used to both saying “no, that’s three Ls” and “no, it’s pretty much phonetic and thus not McLenin, McLennan, McLeod, or McLachlan,” and because HisLastName is Jewish and I’d rather have a conversation about why I kept my last name than why I kept my religion.
All of those are great reasons, but they’re not feminist reasons. I wear my choice with pride and don’t mind that it makes some people think I’m a feminist, because I am, but just because I’m a feminist doing something doesn’t make it a feminist choice.
This is a long way of saying that the second thing I did this morning was to read The Feminist Housewife and the accompaning Jezebel commentary. It introduces a lot of feminist concerns, that housework and childrearing fall on women even in egalitarian households, that the modern workplace isn’t overly friendly to having families, that woman tend to get screwed by a lot of the workplace anyhow, that childcare can cost one person’s wages. In these conditions, becoming a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) is a perfectly fine pragmatic choice, even a preferred one although one that can be fraught with fiscal problems as women unfortunately lose their earning potential.
Although some do, I don’t think that decision makes one a bad feminist or not one at all. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do or even what you want to do. At the same time, it’s not automatically a feminist choice either, even if a feminist is making it, such as our NYMag protagonist. Just because a woman does something, it isn’t automatically feminist. It just is, and I don’t hold it against her one way or the other.
This bullshit on the other hand…: “I feel like in today’s society, women who don’t work are bucking the convention we were raised with … Why can’t we just be girls? Why do we have to be boys and girls at the same time?”
Yes, a woman who calls herself a feminist, who is being called a feminist, just equated having a job with being a boy and staying home, minding the kids as being a girl. That’s some grade-A bullshit there. That’s 100% anti-feminist bullshit and I think we should call her on it. Not on staying home, not on leaving her job, not even on her making a point of massaging her husband’s “work-stiffened muscles,” or that she thinks that maternal instinct is a biological fact, but that she is says such bullshit, on the record no less, and calls herself a feminist. I know that there are people who hear that and think oh, she hates SAHMs (and men, and leg shaving, and…).
I don’t. I just hate bullshit, especially when it’s be sold as feminism. Gender essentialism isn’t cute, even if you use boys and girls instead of men and women. We can’t just be girls, Kelly Makino, because you’ve decided that boys are the ones who work and the rest of us girls over here? We have fucking jobs. We’re doctors, teachers, police officers, social workers, bloggers, and yeah, SAHMs. Stop selling us (and yourself) fucking short.