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Jun 24 2012

Breaking: Elite Dubba-You-O-Em-Ay-Ens Frame Feminist Agenda

Years from now, after the revolution, we’ll look back on these wacky times and laugh (“Feminists with housekeepers and nannies? Bwaa!”), but at present one suffers just a smidge of elite-white-women-and-their-problems fatigue.

I allude to the Anne-Marie Slaughter vs. Sheryl Sandberg knife fight over the eternal (since the 1970′s, anyway) question “can women ‘have it all’?” By which is meant “can affluent, highly educated honky women have it all?”, since everyone knows poor women can’t have jack shit. Sandberg says yeah, if you get off your duff and crank it out like a dude and don’t let the bastards get you down. Slaughter says no, the deck is totally stacked against affluent, highly educated honky women. She has written a now-famous essay addressing the particular issues afflicting her bedraggled women-in-leadership-roles demographic. See Friday’s NYTimes for a recap.

The heart bleeds for Slaughter, who apparently has just realized that patriarchy actually exists. She has probably always suspected that it existed for women in what she quaintly calls “the real world,” but now it’s dawned on her that it exists even for people like her, a tenured international affairs professor at Princeton, TV pundit, and former State Department honcho.

What siren call of reason led her to conclude that she can’t “have it all”? It’s hard to tell, since her lengthy lament in the Atlantic is, I regret to say, liberally obfuscated with personal anecdotes about her kids and the many high-powered Washington social events she attended where the discussions appear to have revolved (conveniently, it would turn out, for the success of her upcoming article on same) exclusively around the subject of “life-work balance.” However, it seems that ultimately what got Slaughter cheesed was the gnawing awareness that parenting a rebellious teen is not as highly valued by DudeNation as racking up 976 billable hours per day, and that she therefore couldn’t run her State Department department without feeling torn asunder by the gnarled claw of maternal guilt.

In other words, life at the top is too grueling for the feminist ladies who wish concurrently to participate in the romance of the nuclear family. Lawyering and politicking and other power-professions need to take it down a notch so women can have fulfilling careers and raise their kids. Slaughter’s thesis appears to be that if patriarchy can be made a little bit more user-friendly for the privileged white ladies of the leadership class, it can only raise the happiness quotient of the entire planet.

I certainly want nothing more than for privileged women to have it easier, and I’m pretty gung-ho about chucking out the status quo. But tweaking the system so that supermoms can office-drone (or write national policy) from home computers is not the solution to getting more women into positions of power. Quoth Rebecca Traister in the afore-linked NYTimes article, this whole “have it all” narrative “irresponsibly conflate[s] liberation with satisfaction.”

Liberation is the solution.

Instead of trying to get the State Department to install classified document equipment in your home office, I suggest we begin by smashing up the core of patriarchy: the nuclear family.

One house, two frustrated parents, two neurotic kids: it’s got to go. It’s a weird, irrational, often narcissistic construct that forces the modern gal into an impossible life of stress, isolation, and failure: she’s a sex provider, fetus incubator, domestic drudge, child care professional, inventory maintainer, bacon bringer-homer, and fry-it-up-in-a-panner. The only way a woman in this day and age can compete with dudes in the public sphere is to contract out half (or more) of the labor generated by this inefficient, insular arrangement (and employing nannies and housekeepers just reinforces an already oppressive caste system).

But because the nuclear family model so elegantly screws women and children over, it has become the most cherished cornerstone of the megatheocorporatocracy. The first job of the nuclear family is to indoctrinate its kids with a thorough appreciation for the Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women, so essential for the replication of patriarchal mores. The nuclear family relies on guilt to shackle women to the home. The nuclear family makes women financially and relationshipally dependent, feeds corporate greed, replicates heternormativity, promotes social conservatism, inflicts suffering when it fails (as do more than half of nuclear families), and supports fast food, disposable culture, and poor taste.

Thus do women, raised as masochists, crave the dream.

Germaine Greer — in The Whole Woman, I think — has proposed that we harken back to days of yore when humans lived in communal clumps with aunts, cousins, grandmas. Domestic drudgery and child care are spread across a wider pool of talent, everyone has more time for personal pursuits, old people aren’t shipped off to death dorms, and, most intriguingly, Greer maintains that kids in this more diverse environment don’t whine.

Anyway, the point is, as long as the nuclear family is the familial unit of choice, the future success of the culture of domination is ensured.

64 comments

1 ping

  1. squadratomagico

    Thank you! I can’t believe the number of people who have pointed me to Slaughter’s article as some sort of major feminist manifesto. If this is the manifesto for our times, we really have lost this fit. On the day feminism becomes all about The Children of the 1%, it has no revolutionary force left.

  2. TwissB

    Slaughter seems to have overlooked the “having it all” pronouncement repeatedly uttered by the smuggest voice on NPR, the sainted Diane Rehm: “A woman can have it all – just not at the same time.”

    That is, do as Diane did. Produce and raise two perfect children and then move up from radio station volunteer to fame and awards as host of a talking heads show discussing Important National Policy Issues with an infrequent superficial nod to Women’s Problems. The fact that her lawyer husband had it all at the same time during all those years is never acknowledged.

  3. yttik

    This debate always ends with two choices, get rid of the family or get rid of the career. The thing is that framing the argument and the fix this way misses the entire point. Women can have it all, which really means DO it all. Just ask a poor single mother. Women can work full time, raise kids full time, do all the housework, and save the entire planet in our spare time. The problem is that we’re always exhausted and not compensated for 80% of our work. It’s not satisfying “having it all,” it’s exploitive. Even if you’re a successful white woman, it’s still exploitive.

    What women really want is to be valued, recognized, and respected for their work. And compensated.

    “Domestic drudgery,” really isn’t drudgery unless women are doing it. When men do it, it’s janitorial work, it’s being a world class chef rather then “just cooking,” or being a high end designer, rather than just fixing the place up. So it’s not the nature of the work that’s a problem, it’s the lack of value and prestige placed upon it by society, when women do it.

  4. Notorious Ph.D.

    This stuff is precisely why I’ve decided that spinster-aunting isn’t just good for me; it’s good for the niece and nephews as well.

    To the point: while getting rid of the nuclear family (or making it but one viable option among many) would be better than things as they stand, it probably wouldn’t eliminate the reproduction of patriarchy at the household level. The kinship model you describe (Greer) probably still has women doing all of the domestic drudgery. Granted, it’s not just one person, so that’s better, but I still don’t see the dudes stepping up, even if we abolished the nuclear household tomorrow. They’d just expect the house to be even cleaner and the kids to be even more snot-free.

  5. KittyWrangler

    While my nuclear family may be guilty of its share of “poor taste” I very much doubt that moving in with my extended family would help on that front.

    Echidne also has two pieces up about the article and the “woman question” series that Atlantic Monthly has been publishing here: http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/ (scroll down for the second; headlines are “more thoughts on blogging” and “baby in a briefcase…”)

    “Telling people that they must all fight over the crumbs under the table of the actual rulers, that the enemy is that other person crawling there next to you, not the guys and gals sitting at the table. The mummy/mommy wars are real but they are also excellent devices to keep women divided and thus easier to control.”

    Slaughter framed the pitfalls of the false dichotomy between work and motherhood in the tired, “having it all” language but her article would have been spot on if she had framed it as, “women need more representation in government and this is what holds women back right now.” Unfortunately it seems that most mainstream feminist or even sorta feminist writers lately position their anger and frustration as a snake biting its own tail, sicking “women,” “feminists,” “moms” and female generations against each other rather than biting back at patriarchy or involving men in any way. “Women… we are so complicated. Now about our issues– we’ve messed up again! Is feminism to blame?”

    My parents formed an ad hoc parenting commune with their neighbors and friends when I was a baby but luckily for them their neighbors were fellow lefty intellectuals who were good with kids. It seems entirely up to luck with whom you form your commune; not everyone has a worthy family. In fact such a style might open up more kids and possibly adults to abuse– lots of people have that uncle, then again I suppose kids whose parents are abusive would have a fallback network of support rather than being solely depending upon and isolated with that parent. The commune idea sounds pretty solid to me but I don’t know of any existing communal structures I’d want to emulate.

  6. minervaK

    This “having it all” thing is really just an enormous load of stinking patriarchy-produced crap anyway. It’s shorthand for “participating in the megatheocorporatocracy like the mindless consumer we want you to be.” In fact, I would venture to say that NOT “having it all” — indeed, REFUSING to “have it all” — is the first step in the Revolution. Right arm, sisters.

  7. Anon For This One

    I would rather have my kids ensconced in one of Newt Gingrich’s orphanages than have my childhood family take care of them. I have one sibling who is a fantastic parent, but far too busy to take on my two should Nigel & I meet an early demise. The rest are toxic and quite ill-suited to serve as parental substitutes. We are in the process of appointing non-related legal guardians should the worst happen.

    How I long for a nice village or commune or group of kind, egalitarian people with whom we could split all the work that has to be done, and enjoy community and love besides. Alas, I suspect that such a place exists only on the planet Obstreperon, so I am planning to retire there. I wil see you all, I hope.

  8. Notorious Ph.D.

    Minerva, that’s an excellent point.

  9. Comradde PhysioProffe

    See Friday’s NYTimes for a recap.

    Hey, at least it wasn’t in the Fashion & Style section. PROGRESS!!

    More importantly, can you still buy Enjoli?

  10. Gayle

    “Germaine Greer — in The Whole Woman, I think — has proposed that we harken back to days of yore when humans lived in communal clumps with aunts, cousins, grandmas.”

    I agree with the concept. Does she propose men join these communities or do they come and go like lions in a pride?

    On the one hand, an all women community appeals (for obvious reasons) even to a het lady like myself. On the other, if the community is all women, men are even less responsible for kids, and the drudgery that goes along with them, than they are now.

  11. AMM

    I know this has been better said elsewhere (I believe I’ve read it), but:

    Since bearing and raising children is essential to the continuation of the human species (unlike, say, lobbyists or hedge-fund traders), what would happen if society actually approached “motherhood” as an important and valued activity?

    I’m imagining full-time motherhood (which wouldn’t have to be restricted to women) as a career with:

    * Decent compensation. USD 100,000/yr., plus the usual benefits, doesn’t sound at all high for a high-stress, and initially 24/7, job. Since it’s a 20-30 year hitch, you’d also need job retraining at some point.

    * Appropriately configured workplace. For younger children, it would look a lot like a well-equiped nursery school, but would include break rooms and appropriate services, such as meals, cleaning, laundry, and people with special training for children of that age. For older children, it would look like some sort of residential school. Medical care for the children is, of course, paid for, as is counselling, tutoring, appropriate schooling, summer camp, etc.

    * Appropriate housing. My thought would be cluster housing, so that you could have a sort of night monitor for all the younger children in the cluster, and so parents could help one another with things. Again, the usual housekeeping tasks would be separate services. Cooking, cleaning, laundry would be provided, since they wouldn’t be part of the “motherhood” job description, though, of course, there will be some who love, e.g., cooking enough to want to do it anyway. And, of course, the environment would be safe enough that parents wouldn’t have to watch the children like hawks ever second. FWIW, something like cluster housing seems to happen a lot anyway in housing developments.

    * Appropriate management. At a minimum, professional mentors. People to notice and intervene when things go badly. And, just as in any job, people to deal with parents who just aren’t working out.

    Actually, I think that if “motherhood” were set up this way, you’d see the dudes doing their best to elbow the women out.

    —-

    One of the linked articles mentioned “special needs children.” Since both of my kids were special needs, I can say that a society that actually valued children and child-rearing (in contrast to the one I live in) would have made sure that their teachers, summer-camp workers, bus drivers, etc., who saw my kids would have actually had a clue about how to deal with my kids (or at least been willing to listen to us.) Special-needs-aware babysitters or drop-off facilities would have been nice, too. Both for us and for our kids.

  12. Twisty

    The sainted Diane Rehm indeed! The only time she ever has a woman on that show is when it’s the author of some mediocre work of fiction. I can’t stand it when people discuss novels as though the characters and situations are real.

  13. Owly

    The only reason to have children is to produce competent, well-rounded adults. Not to say that raising them shouldn’t bring parents and caregivers joy, but if we’re going to talk about the continuation of the species, functioning, compassionate adults should be the end goal. The nuclear family is a weak response to this challenge and the patriarchy knows it. Compassion and maturity are counterproductive to the replication of the patriarchy, so it clings to the model of the nuclear family in order to perpetuate itself.

    I can’t imagine raising children in anything but a communal environment. One would be lucky indeed to find such a community, even if it’s a loose bond between neighbors or a family network. To participate, all involved would have to have enough spare time, resources, and energy to devote to watching the children, which is a luxury. So even in an ideal community everyone needs to be privileged in some fashion.

    Where the fuck are the men in all of this? No one badgers men about being “super dads” or compromising their work in favor of a comfortable nuclear family life. How nice it must be to grow up KNOWING that you can indeed have it all.

  14. Saurs

    Men have always been free to “have it all,” but it’s never been called that. It’s just taken for granted.

    I’ve never heard that phrase delivered in anything other than a snotty tone. The nerve of some women–thinking they have a right to… what? I guess, marriage with a dude, a brood, and a job they dig? And less shit to do at home, I guess. A nice, white, middle class existence. It’s actually a really conservative, heteronormative, status quo-enforcing notion–propped up as a dream too far, something to aspire to but never actually achieve. Another way to keep women at the grindstone while pretending they’ve been given liberation.

  15. Owly

    Now to crack open a beer and crankily brood.

  16. technocrone

    “Have it all”? Ha! As a single mom, I never had time to worry about having it all. But I guess maybe I did have it all: I had work, I had kids, and I had an almost overwhelming urge to blow my brains out once or twice a month. And as a radical feminist, I had the added fun of trying not to look/act/talk too terribly different from the other moms, the ones who had nice homes and two incomes and household help and paid-up car insurance. Because of course I didn’t want my kids to pay the high social price of of having a weird mom.

    It’s a hard world — you want your kids to have as many advantages as possible. But with white male children, you also have to communicate that a world in which white skin and a penis confers huge power and privilege is a genuinely shitty world, and they have an obligation to do something about that. So in between working and laundry and meals and working and housework and shopping and working and keeping them entertained and off the street and out of jail and off of drugs and working and keeping alert for potential drug pushers and pedophiles and jesus freaks, I also had to teach them to be moral, ethical beings. Which meant I had to endlessly refute every message from the school, the media, their peers, the culture at large, etc., etc., and then explain why my views apparently differed from those of almost everybody else in the western world. Big fun, yeah boy howdy. Yep, I had it all.

    Now both kids (men) are doing great, better than I have ever done or will ever do. (Well, of course that goes without saying. They’re white and they have penises.) Do I begrudge my white male children their success? No … (well, maybe just a little), but I do begrudge the huge chunk of my life I devoted to making sure they had a good start. My health is all but destroyed from the long years of stress and hardship. I finally earned a PhD at 55, without realizing that nobody offers tenure-track jobs to women my age. The joke’s on me again. Now I really do have it all, and I’m too fucking tired to care.

    Where was their dad during this exciting adventure? Why, he was doing what men do best: as little as he possibly could. I can only be grateful that due to my wise decision to kick him to the curb when the boys were babies, he was doing it somewhere else.

    Yeah, a beer is definitely on my agenda this evening. As for Ms. Slaughter and Ms. Sandburg, all I can think of to say is, “boo fucking hoo.”

    (Bitter? Who, me? Don’t be ridiculous.)

  17. yttik

    Speaking of well off white women who have it all, we just saw Snow White and the Huntsman. Kristen Stewart is now the highest paid actress in Hollywood. The girls I took have grown tired of her after the Twilight series because her acting skills seem to comprise of, “looking scared and making porno noises.” No offense to Kristen, but the kids nailed it. The highest paid actress in Hollywood is so valued because she has the ability to look vulnerable and moan a lot. Needless to say when she realizes this, she’s probably going to feel very dissatisfied and confused about why she’s not happy “having it all.”

  18. KittyWrangler

    @Owly:

    Can men really “have it all?” It’s a question men have been asking since the Manvolution of the ’70s. Men of our fathers’ generation broke down all sorts of barriers, from showing the world that men could succeed as doctors and lawyers as well as any woman, to laws that finally acknowledged the right of men to their own sperm. You go, boy!

    But today’s Masculinists aren’t buying the promises of the Manvolution. Long gone are the days of saggy tunics, hairy cheeks and clunky leather shoes; today everywhere from college classrooms to the halls of the Capitol is studded with the spike loafers and mini-pants of the so-called “Makeup Masculinists” who believe they can hold down a job and still attract the love of a woman– and even someday the joys of Fatherhood. But not all at once. Not in this America.

    While the Wild Oats Sowing Act of 1985 made it illegal for employers to discriminate against men on the basis of potential Fatherhood, men may still face stiff barriers to hiring and promotions– particularly fathers. “WOSA gave us a chance to show that we can be as dedicated to working outside the home as any any woman,” says George W. Bush of Midland, TX, a city councilman by day and father of two. “But men aren’t as likely to advance to management positions because of the stigma of the Career Boy who quits once he meets a woman and has kids. And when fathers are unable to do their jobs because their kid is sick or Little Sally has a dentist appointment it reflects badly on all of us. We as men need to prove we really can have it all, even if it means sacrificing.”

    “The problem is obvious,” confided one employer who asked to remain unidentified. “I’ll be honest, they’re going to want to have kids–they have semen. Pregnancy is a big risk and female employees are just more willing to wait and plan ahead. I need rational decision-makers I can count on; it’s unfair but I just don’t see how it could ever be any other way, biologically.”

    Indeed studies show that up to 72% of men today are opting to trade in their suitsies for baby bottles. Could the ticking of the Biological Cock be too much for men to ignore? [read more]

    Related stories:
    FGOTUS bares his neck in a sexy collarless shirt! Has he gone too far? Take our poll!
    Men in Hollywood: 2012 could be their breakout year! But some say four films isn’t enough.
    Male lawmakers call Speaker of the House a “sperm burglar,” are banned from speaking: “We just want a voice in how our testicles are used!”

  19. qvaken

    KittyWrangler! I was going to opine about women’s life choices, but now I’m laughing too much.

  20. Lockon Liz

    Kitty Wrangler – thank you for “biological cock” and suitsies. Too funny.

  21. Lovepug

    @Kitty Wrangler: Nailed it (especially the tone – this could be straight outta Women’s Day, or rather Men’s Day).

    @yttik: Word. It is most definitely not Have It All. It’s Do It All.

    If there’s one thing my stint as a single mother showed me, you can have/do it all except for one thing: sleep.

  22. Kristine

    Oh my stars and garters, KittyWrangler. Thank you so much for that post! It is simply priceless!

    AMM, I believe that was actually one of the original goals of early feminists, before we got the vote. Of course, the idea of women being paid for the child rearing work that we owe men, god, and country was so threatening to the patriarchy that they set it aside for the much easier goal of suffrage. At least I think that’s what happened, I read it in “The Price of Motherhood,” by Anne Crittendon. Anyways, I think it’s sad that nobody with influence has touched the idea in years. Housework is still considered something the world is owed, and it has the extra baggage of being considered bad for the feminist movement because women worked so hard to be taken seriously in the professional world. Anyone who mentioned this idea on national television would be laughed out of the public eye.

  23. Barbara P

    KitttyWrangler,

    Robust blaming, but with such a smooth texture and sweet air, that even picky Nigels can enjoy it. (You might even try it out on your non-blaming friends!)

    Love it. Made my day better.

  24. TwissB

    The incomparable Peggy Lee and KittyWrangler all in one day! Rhythm and pitch perfect. A pleasure.

  25. Twisty

    That video is pretty remarkable. It starts out with the two ladies telling each other how great they are, but then it suddenly switches gears to fail the Bechdel Test awesomely.

  26. Elizabeth

    MinervaK:
    “This “having it all” thing is really just an enormous load of stinking patriarchy-produced crap anyway. It’s shorthand for “participating in the megatheocorporatocracy like the mindless consumer we want you to be.” In fact, I would venture to say that NOT “having it all” — indeed, REFUSING to “have it all” — is the first step in the Revolution. Right arm, sisters.”

    Exactly. My thoughts, as well. What I’d like to see is a great, united REFUSAL. A disengagement altogether, which is of course at least a little terrifying. It would leave the dudes and those ladies willing to do the dude-work and that have adopted dude-thinking to run the country and to dictate the standards of how we ought to interact with others, view ourselves, and what it means to do “meaningful” work.

    But then, full disengagement, a general boycott of this manufactured, packaged for purchase, reality … I’d just like to exist somewhere else. It comes across as sociopathic and isolationist, I suppose – an unwillingness to engage in a dialogue to change things for all humans, the oppressors and the oppressed.

    I am not articulating myself well. I’ve been reading a long time, but haven’t ever posted, due to jumbly-
    thought syndrome.

    I will say I am grateful to have access to *this* space. It may be virtual, but it truly helps me to remedy the sinking dread that overwhelms me when a co-worker exclaims (knowing my feminist “hang-ups” as my thoughts are referred to in my workplace) that she “fucking hates feminists”. Much thanks to the commentors and Twisty.

  27. tinfoil hattie

    @technocrone, I salute you. Hear, hear.

    @kKittyWrangler, that was brilliant. And hilarious. Thank you!

  28. Discombobulated

    I thought extremely wealthy mothers and fathers/the ruling classes shipped their kids off to boarding schools.

    Thus leaving the mothers free to do whatever they do and the fathers…well, not much difference in their everyday lives, I expect.

    Is that no longer done?

    Huh.

  29. Nicole

    Amen! My grandfather lived with my family until his passing, and I couldn’t ask for a better parental setup. I cherish all the time I got to spend with him. My family is eternally grateful for all the help he provided us in carting us kids around, and I’m happy he was able to be with his family when he fell ill. He descended from a matriarchal Native American tribe and subscribed to less traditional family notions in general. Needless to say, the women in his family kicked ass. I hope I am included in that group.

  30. Helen Huntingdon

    “My health is all but destroyed from the long years of stress and hardship.” “.Now I really do have it all, and I’m too fucking tired to care.”

    I had a sneaking suspicion from a young age that this might well be the deal if I married and had kids, but it was absolutely freaky to see the relentless, over the course of years, pressure to ignore that warning bell — the message was loud and clear and neverending that I should never even question that I would like marriage and children, that I should never even question that there might be a downside to marriage with a particular Nigel if he was so kind as to grace me with the favor of wanting to marry me.

    Since everyone continually told me that I had it wrong, was afraid of commitment, immature, untrusting and all manner of broken to doubt that marriage and children were the greatest fulfillment possible, I wasn’t really sure about that for the longest time. In the end what convinced me that my concerns were real and rational, not the opposite as I had been told, was listening carefully to what individual men said, both in real life and online. It turns out that an amazing number of men simply will not care if their wives are driven into the ground and their health ruined. A startling number of them simply feel sorry for themselves that they got issued a dud model.

    The message gets pounded in that any one particular Nigel is of course not like that (you mean harpy), but when the pattern is so common, the question I keep coming back to is: How do you really know? Until it’s too late, of course.

    So I’m still immature and untrusting and commitment-phobic and single and childless and I get to sleep eight hours most nights. And Nigels occasionally rave that I look so much better and younger than their wives of the same age who married and have children. GEE, YA THINK?

  31. Owly

    KittyWrangler, that was hilarious! The first sentence made me worried that I’d said something stupid and you were calling me out on it.

  32. Le Chat Noir

    Related content:

    “Madeleine Kunin, who was the first woman governor of Vermont and served as the Deputy Secretary of Education and Ambassador to Switzerland under President Bill Clinton, looks back over five decades of feminist advocacy—where progress has been successful and where it has stalled, and at the successes of other countries. In The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family, she advocates for the next feminist revolution­­­ to call for workplace policies that improve the lives of women and families”:

    http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/2012/jun/21/madeleine-kunin-new-feminist-agenda/

  33. minervaK

    The only reason to have children is to produce competent, well-rounded adults. Not to say that raising them shouldn’t bring parents and caregivers joy, but if we’re going to talk about the continuation of the species, functioning, compassionate adults should be the end goal. The nuclear family is a weak response to this challenge and the patriarchy knows it. Compassion and maturity are counterproductive to the replication of the patriarchy, so it clings to the model of the nuclear family in order to perpetuate itself.

    Holy crap. That’s some seriously excellent cogitating.

  34. Notorious Ph.D.

    I’m porting in from another time zone, so I’m late on the draw, but i just want to congratulate KittyWrangler: that was EXCELLENT.

  35. nails

    the nuclear family model makes it really difficult to transition to an extended family household. The set up almost ensures that kids will hate and resent their parents and want to move out as soon as possible. Parents can’t wait for their kids to move out, either, because its such a pain in the ass to deal with kids for so many years. Compulsory schooling helps a lot too- who would want to stay with people who forced them into that 12-year nightmare “for your own good”?

  36. madspinster

    Minerva nailed it. In my experience, nothing frightens them more than turning down their megathewtf offers. Unfortunately, such a move still fails to catch much attention, when they are all so busy preening and telling nuclear offspring how to make it, especially when they can dismiss you as a crazy bitch. I took the further step of shunning several thousand of them, permanently, and they did notice that, but pretended not to notice. Guess a Revolution requires numbers …

  37. yttik

    Communal living and extended families can be just as screwed up as nuclear families. The problem isn’t the nature of the family or the living arrangements, it’s the patriarchy. Some people would eliminate the nuclear family and/or free women from their biology. Both of these ideas do not appeal to me because I think they miss the point. Women need more power and autonomy on the home front, not the elimination of what little power we do have. It’s like we are leaping from “men own the children” to “the community owns the children,” both ideas which completely bypass women.

    It’s not the nature of the work that is oppressive, it’s the fact that women have so little power and control over it. We do all the labor and yet have none of the decision making authority. We hold all the responsibility and yet none of the control.

  38. Anne

    You notice nowadays how people at least try to not let on that homosexual people freak them out? At least in the media? Allude to the same people that the nuclear family isn’t all that, or that masculinity and femininity are artificial BS, and their heads damn near explode from confusion. Very few people see the irony.

    Discombobulated – Boarding schools probably gave trophy wives of rich honky dudes too much of a break so the P put them out of style. Kind of like this “attachment parenting” con it’s working on middle class women right now.

    Helen Huntingdon – Yep. Story of my life. They finally stopped trying to push me into marrying whatever slob would have me when I turned 40.

  39. Jane

    Yttik is right…

    on a couple of things, seeing it from an UNDERCLASS-VERY UNDER DOG VIEW HERE,

    “”One house, two frustrated parents, two neurotic kids: it’s got to go. It’s a weird, irrational, often narcissistic construct that forces the modern gal into an impossible life of stress, isolation, and failure: she’s a sex provider, fetus incubator, domestic drudge, child care professional, inventory maintainer, bacon bringer-homer, and fry-it-up-in-a-panner. The only way a woman in this day and age can compete with dudes in the public sphere is to contract out half (or more) of the labor generated by this inefficient, insular arrangement (and employing nannies and housekeepers just reinforces an already oppressive caste system).”"

    OK I’ve lived this–still do, the Alternative Utopia [bunk] SO MANY spew…so I ask you, What do you replace this all with? Because let me tell you what it really is,

    one house==NO HOUSE, try being on the STREETS, then come talk to me. Two neurotic kids==try either kids taken by thugs of de state [and RAPED THERE, WITH YOU KNOWING, TORTURED TO DEATH, ETC...WITH YOU, HAVING NO POWER WHATSOEVER], because YOU mother single noone dear, with no power, no money, don’t even have the father or sperm donor, which ever, to even at least get Some partial defense…even if you do have one, more than likely he’s no good but you have a better chance at Least, saving your children in contrast to the State,

    sex provider [nuclear], Uh duh DUH ok Virginia what Bubble do you live in, try being a SEX PROVIDER FOR TONS OF MEN, so YOU CAN FCNK LIVE AND EAT…then that bitchin about one man even IF he’s an asshole, isn’t so bad IN comparison, just saying

    incubator, again, try being an incubator for the STATE, and in many nations/in our time pasts THIS has been THE reality, for countless of women–if not an incubator for babies for Armies then incubators for Sperm rods of those Army menz

    domestic drudge, Uh Again…what bubble do you live in Virginia, I was more of a drudge slave Domestic as a single woman/single mother than I am even to abusive Nigel and DARE I revolt against that because it was WHEN I WAS SINGLE PARENT I had to fight off the State including those anti-traditional Women all the damn time..because point being, as a POOR woman, I was expected as a means of WAGES to clean up after Them….and was Just as demeaned, Just as abused, Just as exploited, soooooo [and I cleaned up More toilets, More piss, More shit, More vomit from drunks, More food trash, etc etc etc]

    and a hell of a lot more–including With all that Labor for no Nigel husband [not that I concur with the patriarchal Nuclear family, I do not, BUT....let's put aside the Utopian Myth Bullshit shall we, because for THOUSANDS OF WOMEN in this nation and worldwide who are NOT in an Nuclear Family, their lives S.U.C.K. and I don't see a whole hell of a lot of women doing shit about it]

    why do you Think so many of those NON-NUCLEAR WOMEN ARE ROTTING IN PRISONS? I mean, geesh, if That is what we go to look forward To,

    then I ask, WHAT are you going to replace it with?

    Oh, Communal, more of what we live through now, except now us sucking D for a meal will be confined to a nice communal Cult fence with brother Husband Poly-with all his communal wives…aka like de State,

    see I live in an abusive hell with a Nigel–but I lived years with Abusive State Nigels [and their mistress butchers of Leon for eons who I hate probably more than the Nigels because it was OUR asses that THEY got to ENJOY their so called Liberation from Nuclear Nigelism Hell],

    and I know many who lived in the whole Communal females cook, clean and fuck the ole communal master ‘gawd’ and his ‘philosophical Brothers at de Gates who sit around all day coming up with their Religion Radicalism or their Political Radicalism’ and hey hey Sister if you Just suck on up for de Team–why you’re a Goddess don’t ya know,

    not oppressed like those Nuclear Rapunzels with that ole nasty bearded Nigel there…

    same ole same ole same ole shit.

    Like Yttik says…funny how it’s always replace This master with Many Masters…

    but Nothing about WOMEN HAVING POWER AND DECISION MAKING.

    I am sick–of women being asked to be Ashamed of having one a WOMB, being forced to Assimilate into DICKNESS to arrive at some myth of Respect–and all the while,

    women are in the same ole shit boat.

    On another thing…someone mentioned, children raised in orphanages–Yea,

    OK….children’s home, hmmmm, yep, see because There you get Early training..how to keep your mouth shut while father priest, or juvenile officer, or guards, or house parent daddy, gets to ream you out good–teaching you the Art of Pleasing de Menz

    and NO connection or Mother there to spare you or save you…because you’re nothing but a sex-slave ward of the State in training–

    now days they just Drug you so you too lobotomized to even care–OR remember, and of course, de Liberated anti-Nuclear types, are making big MEGA BUCKS OFF THIS child slavery

    and the Pedo wanks just love it.

    supported by none other than the Feds and Global Family–and IF those children get angry and violent–well there’s always the adult prisons, and of course, Cheap labor–so FREE people can buy goods cheaply made, just wipe de blood off, that’s all.

    I dedicate the last half of my rant here to Cozette, Angie, Mary, Teresa, Lydia, and many more, whom I knew in one of those homes–and to the girls at Girls Town and the rest of the Hell holes out there–who would give Anything to have a Mother and Father or at least ONE of them–to call their own, to BE loved,

    because Statism, don’t work either. Maybe why I learned to hate So many- and why so many I grew up with, wound up with the gangs…seriously, see point is,

    two pole extremes, but no sensible solutions..it’s not just those Upper crusts who are out of touch. Not at all….

    Jane

  40. Val

    @ Technocrone: “My health is all but destroyed from the long years of stress and hardship. I finally earned a PhD at 55, without realizing that nobody offers tenure-track jobs to women my age.”

    What’s happened to our Blamers reading group?!?!? Speaking of the late great Marilyn French, that’s almost a direct quote from “The Women’s Room”… But I guess truth really IS stranger than fiction.

    IBTP

    Salud nevertheless…

  41. tinfoil hattie

    the message was loud and clear and neverending that I should never even question that I would like marriage and children, that I should never even question that there might be a downside to marriage with a particular Nigel if he was so kind as to grace me with the favor of wanting to marry me.

    And comments like THAT one are but one reason why you are one of my all-time favorite blamers, HH.

    And yes, owly. What you said about “the only reason to have children.” On a different blog, someone asked me: “Are we bringing up the idea that part of the job of parenthood is to mold tomorrow’s future ideal citizen, as a contribution to society?”

    Well, yeah. Not “ideal,” maybe, but let’s say: decent, kind, and able to participate in some way. (“Tomorrow’s future” had kinda a nice ring to it, though.)

    Another dude mansplained that all the housework and other crap is “part of the job that the stay-at-home parent sic has to do,” and that’s why raising kids (without being paid to do it) is neither “a job” nor real “work.” Just as Elizabeth Wurtzel said in the article that spawned the Slaughter article. It’s just, y’know, part of life! Not important and PAID, like Manly Man-Work.

    And ’round and ’round we go.

    Meanwhile, at That Other Website, commenters are scratching their heads and asking WHAT is so wrong with white, wealthy women hiring mostly WOC to do their scutwork or provide child care for shitty wages? How is that BAD, they ask? After all, magnanimous white women are providing JOBS that these underpaid WOC “are eager to do.” And hey, one feminist noted: Even if the workers are exploited (which is problematic, said feminist acknowledged), those exploited workers probably don’t want their shitty, underpaid, exploitative jobs to go away!

    I just. I can’t even. I am reduced to starting all my phrases with “I,” so blown is my lobe.

  42. TwissB

    @tinfoil hattie: “Meanwhile, at That Other Website, commenters are scratching their heads and asking WHAT is so wrong with white, wealthy women hiring mostly WOC to do their scutwork or provide child care for shitty wages? How is that BAD, they ask? After all, magnanimous white women are providing JOBS that these underpaid WOC “are eager to do.” And hey, one feminist noted: Even if the workers are exploited (which is problematic, said feminist acknowledged), those exploited workers probably don’t want their shitty, underpaid, exploitative jobs to go away!”

    That is exactly what johns (including those who go in for sex tourism) say about the women and girls they buy for what they call sex.

  43. tinfoil hattie

    @TwissB: Ugh. I knew that rhetoric was familiar.

  44. ivyleaves

    It’s like we are leaping from “men own the children” to “the community owns the children,” both ideas which completely bypass women.

    It’s not the nature of the work that is oppressive, it’s the fact that women have so little power and control over it. We do all the labor and yet have none of the decision making authority. We hold all the responsibility and yet none of the control.

    So, we should be moving to “the women own the children?” And to “women have all the responsibility so they should have all the control?”

    We should stop owning and controlling kids and teach them about how they own themselves and are responsible for controlling themselves?

  45. Molly

    For a woman, laziness is radical.

    I live in a communal family situation. There are three of us (me, F, and R), we co-own a big rambling house and have created a complicated network of wills, beneficiary assignments, and property contracts to simulate the legal benefits of a “marriage”.

    Having three adults to a household makes life so much easier. We tend to have two people employed and one person at home at any given time, and the roles rotate. We get the financial security of two working adults, but there’s still somebody to go to the bank or call the insurance company or meet the cable guy and do the laundry and generally keep the household entropy in check.

    Last year for 6 months F went abroad for work and R and I reverted to a two-working-adults model – it was brutal. No one had the energy to cook or keep the house clean, we were always scrambling to keep up with errands and appointments, we fought more. It’s sick, it sucks the life out of you. As previous commenters said, this setup is designed to keep you subjugated. I smash way more patriarchy when I’m not reduced to tears by the thought of doing the dishes.

    So: Group family living, I endorse it. Single moms, I am in awe. That is some superhuman shit.

  46. shopstewardess

    People used to have children because there was little social, economic or physical way to avoid doing so. But in computer-able societies biology is no longer destiny and there is now a good chance that children will not only make their parents poorer but also be poorer than their parents. Society has not yet caught up with these biological and economic changes, so there is an outdated and harmful societal pressure to have children. Women bear the brunt of that pressure. Its consequences are played out to the detriment of their freedom, their health and their economic wellbeing, and are passed down to their children.

    I’m with Phllip Larkin on this one, if I may be permitted to refer to a male blamer (“This be the verse”).

  47. tehomet

    OT, sorry, but worth reading IMO: Edith Garrud: a public vote for the suffragette who taught martial arts”.

  48. gwyllion

    GAH! i LOVE this blog!

  49. Helen Huntingdon

    Twisty and Jane have articulated what I never could about why the “raise the lot of the women at the top” argument always sounded not quite right to me. I agree that we need women fairly represented at the top, but if we don’t raise the floor as well, all we accomplish is marginally expanding the group of those who are most privileged.

  50. Rachele

    Re: the Slaughter essay: I thought it was bloody bizarre that the assumption that her son was acting out was because she was highly engaged in her work and somewhat more absent was presented as fact. Even though the father was there, doing his dudely best under the trying circumstances of trying to be involved in his own child’s life – and shouldn’t we all just give him a big pat on the back for such devotion – it was totally all the mom’s fault that the kid was back home being an asshole and her presence would totally fix everything.

    I was going to say that I don’t think the nuclear family is to blame, but I have changed my mind. I think the usual model of the nuclear family is to blame in tandem with the lack of community most women experience. I have done my damndest to subvert that model, raise some ferocious blamers, drag my partner kicking and screaming over to the feminist dark side, and now those attitudes and values are seeping into every part of my life and every relationship that I bother putting any effort into. There is much head-scratching and attitude-changing in these parts. I may be mistaken, but I would like to think that there is some value to opting not to complain that the nuclear family is a tool of the P, and instead going, “Yoink.” ‘Cause I’d much rather steal the dudenation’s tools and use them to build something than be afraid to touch them for fear of getting their cooties.

  51. buttercup

    As a single parent to two daughters with very little education, I never wanted to have it all, I would have been happy to just have a moment’s peace. IBTP.

  52. Anne

    Wasn’t it established by the 2nd wavers that “it all” just meant the privilege of working to bring home a paycheck *in addition to* all the old unpaid thankless housework and childcare and husbandcare duties? One of my earliest memories in life is having it explained to me how that Enjoli commercial was a load of hooey. Seemed clear enough when I was three years old. Yet antifeminists and pseudofeminists have been harping on the concept literally my whole life.

  53. Sloopin

    De-lurking to whole-heartedly agree with @gwyllion. Jesus yes.

    I listened to this gal on Fresh Air and it was like, OK, but what’s your damn point? I am not so bright as you fellow blamers so it is great to have it enunciated again and again.

    Also, strong agreement with Twisty that talking about novels on NPR is THE WORST.

  54. stacey

    I’ve been ruminating a lot on “communal duties” recently. The moms at my kid’s school got our shit together this summer and are going to do trade-off days: Kid A will come here for a day (i.e. few hours) to give Mom A some time to finish her PhD; my kid will go to Kid A’s house the next day so that I can… uh… laze around a lot. Mom and Kid B may also be involved for a third day. All I know is that the two or three kids together are a heck of a lot better-behaved as a pair or trio than they are on their own. Kid A and B are on their best manners with me, and so my kid has to step up to their level. It’s heavenly. (And of course, he’s a dream-child when he’s at A or B’s place.

  55. AwhirlinLondon

    Dear Tinfoil: what website is that Other one to which you refer ? I remember that specific battle being waged here a while ago – would like to read the present one.

  56. Embee

    Yttic you are on it, as always. Thank you for pointing out the conundrum of having all the responsibility and none of the power. That was marriage and it will never happen to me again. The pain of living under those circumstances is indescribable.

    Here’s how it works: it’s the wife’s job to keep the husband happy (because it is a patriarchy and we have to please our rulers). Now, if she does not work outside the home, she should have tons of time/energy to do this, and should do an excellent job of mind-reading, child-rearing, cooking and cleaning whilst greeting him at the door looking like a centerfold and eager to jump his pudgy, pale, smelly body. If she does work outside the home, then she needs to compensate for her absence in the home and make him even happier with all the sex-servicing, etc. (Aside: this is why the stay-at-home vs. working mom debate is such bs…the whole thing is a set-up for wife’s failure.)

    Now, husband is motivated to prevent wife’s “success” in pleasing him, because if she does succeed, then she may have earned a measly chip with which to barter at the power-broker’s table.

    So, her objective is to please him, and his objective is to see her fail. He can thwart her objective unilaterally, whilst simultaneously achieving his. She is dependant upon him to achieve her objective.

    It’s a fuckin’ racket. IBTP.

  57. Sloopin

    I just listened to Anne-Marie Slaughter on Slate’s “Double X” podcast and she answered a question that I had not heard addressed before: it is in fact her view that women are “just different,” we just care more about kids and that’s just the way we are, and that is why women are responsible for child care.

    So that cleared some things up.

  58. Helen Huntingdon

    “Now, husband is motivated to prevent wife’s “success” in pleasing him, because if she does succeed, then she may have earned a measly chip with which to barter at the power-broker’s table.

    So, her objective is to please him, and his objective is to see her fail. He can thwart her objective unilaterally, whilst simultaneously achieving his. She is dependant upon him to achieve her objective.”

    Embee, that is so horribly true. The minute you accept the idea that you should be able to keep a husband happy, this dynamic begins and it’s downhill from there. You can’t keep someone happy if they think being unhappy means they get to extract more services without any penalty (that they care about).

    Funny how resistant many guys are to a relationship model of, “Here’s what I’m offering, take it or leave it,” in place of, “I am successfully feminine therefore I should be able to keep a man happy.”

  59. K

    I actually cried reading this. I left my abusive ex and was continually depressed and bereft by how lonely, insulating and hard it was to be a single mother. The last thing I wanted however was for my son to believe that treating your loved ones like shit is the way forward. Fuck the patriarchy.

  60. Fanny Pinkleton

    Hardest thing is to get women to leave the nuclear family shit we set up and feed, resigning ourself to hell and putting all our eggs into one basket. Much better the female enclave, kids roaming, not some trumped up scared bloke at the helm and head of the table, the whole housewife ordeal, when we work too, still expected to be the housewife, Jesus. Poor kids, set them free. Woo-hoo, where do I sign up for this whole busting the patriarchy? Sounds much better than all that fantasy bullshit.

  61. chocolatepie

    Jesus, you are all fabulous. Each and every one of you.

    I cringed through every vapid syllable of the Slaughter tripe-icle. The phrase “having it all” sets off my Automatic Kill setting. Let’s stop tolerating this asinine phrase in serious discourse, for Christ’s sake.

    I would ask how this fuckwaddery gets published, but the patriarchy’s filthy guiding hand in every shit moment of life needs no explanation.

  62. Kate

    Hi Jane,

    I get that you are quite angry, reading between the lines your kids were taken away from you and treated badly in care. And you have had to work as a sex worker to make money.
    You write in a very literate way. I guess there were other bad things going on in your life. I identify a bit with being poor, it is the minor humiliations of not being to be able to afford a dentist at the right time or driving a car that breaks down or finding expensive clothes and makeup in your daughters room that she was “given” or “bought them on sale” but maybe shes stealing.

    I hope it works out for you.
    Kind hugs Kate

  63. K

    Dearest Aunt,
    You have my undying kinsisterhood loyalty badge and all my pogs for this one. i can’t read more than three sentences without waving my hands in the air or yelling “hollerlujer”. Thank jeebus.

  64. J

    Huh.
    Personally, I don’t think the ‘nuclear family’ is to blame. (although Greer’s assumption that aunty and grandma will just jump in and do all the washing and sewing is ‘interesting’, what will grandad do, sit by the fire and read the newspaper?)
    I am 17, and live with my parents and my sister, with an older brother who has left home. Both of my parents work full time jobs, but they also share between them all of the housework. My mother may cook more often, but that’s because she’s a better cook. On the flipside, it’s only my father that does the grocery shopping, because he does it the quickest, and knows where everything is. He does cook a mean fry-up though!
    My sister and I also help out around the house, with me often cooking for both of us when our parents are out, and many of my friends have a very similar set-up.
    So I’m now going to counter your logic of ‘it didn’t work for me, so it can’t work for anybody’ and say that it works for my family, so can’t we all just exist in a family topography that suits us?
    (Also, and this is just interesting, my brother is actually my half-brother, as his mother left my father when he was young, leaving my dad as a 19 year-old single father, until he met my mother a few years later.)

  1. Working and Raising a Family « Charlotte's Web

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