DE: Family Values/Feminist Issues

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I think one of the key values from the Feminist Family Values was the idea of the woman being the rock of the family. On page 157 there is a line which reads, "the burden of sustaining the family, of lessening tensions, of attempting to sustain adequate living conditions for all members of the family, becomes the burden of women." I think this is considered a feminist family value because it's an issue/value that should and easily could be shared between both partners. I think this is also interesting because men are often entitled with being the rock of the family based on them being supposedly stronger, more emotionally stable and the ones "bringing home the bacon". However, today it is becoming more and more common for women to be working full time jobs in edition to being the CEO of the homestead. Thus this value is drawing upon the less modern ideal family where the women manages the home while the man works in the world. Although today this can be opposite, it isn't all that uncommon for a man to stay at home or to be less financially helpful. My mom supported my family for the majority of my life (until recently being laid off) and I would be lying if I said that it didn't have much impact on the home-front. Considering my parents grew up with the notion of the man supporting the family, my dad always felt intimidated by my mother. Meanwhile, my mom was still in charge of maintaining the family (and the household for that matter). This is certainly a feminist family value that needs adjustment, in my opinion. Family maintenance is not a one person job.

4 Comments

"the burden of sustaining the family, of lessening tensions, of attempting to sustain adequate living conditions for all members of the family, becomes the burden of women."

Wow! How did the burden fall only on the women? When two people pro create offspring, the raising of the children should be the responsibility of BOTH individuals, EQUALLY.
Unfortunately things don't always work out this way, and historically this idea has been almost non-existent. It's interesting to me that historically women have been the primary care givers for their offspring considering it takes two to tango! I also agree that this value is outdated and rests upon the idea that the man goes out and makes the money while the woman stays home. As more and more women enter the workforce, out of economic necessity or by choice, it is imperative that the responsibilities of raising children become equally divided among both partners. In my opinion, this is not only good for the relationship between the two parents, but also good for the child.
I think it's interesting and I'm sure common, that your mother provided most of the income and it therefore caused tension at home. It being common that a woman providing primary income in a heterosexual relationship could cause tension. When your mother and father were growing up, it was most likely unheard of for the woman to go out into the workforce and to bring home the primary income. Therefore when your father had a significant other and then children he maybe felt inadequate. I think this idea/social norm of a man providing the primary income is detrimental to women and men. Not only does it put pressure on males to be the primary breadwinner but it leaves them without a choice. What if a father wants to stay home with his child? In the mother's case, these gender roles are problematic because it forces the woman into the primary care giving position. These social norms need extreme fixing; why does a man feel threatened when a woman is providing shelter/food for the family? Why is it expected that a man should be the primary bread-winner for the family? Why can't each and every couple make decisions on work and care in their own situation? There should not be expected "roles." I obviously agree that this value needs an adjustment, actually an entire revamp...like you said, "family maintenance is not a one person job."

Gusto448,
I think you bring up a great point when you mention the dynamics of your own family. You stated that your mom took (takes) care of the family and the household. This statement tells me that for a long time your mom was bringing in the money, taking care of the family, and managing the home. I think this can be said for many families today. Maybe this is the new, modern family's template? Mentioning family maintenance, controlled completely by your mom, makes me think of Ehrenreich's article, Maid to Order. Ehrenreich explains, "...when the person who is cleaned up after is consistently male, while the person who cleans up is consistently female, you have a formula for reproducing male domination from one generation to the next" (88). In other words, when these dynamics are present within families behaviors become habits and "tradition". Sharing housework is a feminist family value that should be a part of every relationship and/or family.

I like the quote you picked. Specifically what caught my eye was the word 'burden'. I wonder what kind of complications can be caused by calling maintaining and sustaining the home a burden? Would this have anything to do with the inequality of housework? By no means am I suggesting that cleaning and such isn't a burden; but as far as taking care of the family as a whole, should the fact that it is often considered a burden be looked at?
Also, I wanted to draw off of your not-quite-traditional family values comment. In my family, my dad has always 'brought home the bacon', as my mother is a teacher at a not well funded church school. However, my mom makes the decisions. As kids, my dad always said, 'go ask your mother'. Although my mom would respond with, 'go ask your father', and they almost always made decisions together, in the end it's my mom who has the final say. However, there is quite a bit of the more traditional roles being taken on as well. Even though my mom work a lot, she makes dinner, does the laundry, cleans, and pays the bills. My dad does the 'manly' work, as in washing the windows outside, washing the car, trimming trees etc. Growing up, regardless that my mom did do most of the housework, my mother was really the head of the household. We went more by the mantra of, an unhappy mother is an unhappy home. I guess I've never thought about this before but my parents never argue about their share of work. Although I think they mostly follow the model they grew up with, if my mom asks my dad to do something, he won't hesitate to do it. Perhaps there's something more to the women's burden. My parents have been happily married for 25 years and while they definitly got mad from time to time, I grew up seeing more discussing and communicating than fighting. I, for one, would not be happy doing all the work my mother does, and I have no idea how she does it all, but I've never heard her complain. What comes to mind here is the notion of 'you're oppressed and you don't even know it'. While I absolutely agree with the Forum and other writings on the matter, and independent of my own views on the topic overall, I think it's important to take context and individuals into account. Rather than trying to enforce what may be our own version of family values, that is, non-traditional values, we should look at people seperately. I used to get slightly angry reading other author's work about being happy within the semi-traditional family values, thinking you silly girl. However, I think it's just as dangerous for us to claim a voice for a group of people we either don't belong to, or cannot possibly belong to each and every group. For me, the women's burden being dicussed is a personal burden. I do believe that this personal burden probably affects more women than not and is still a feminist issue as it does gravely affect women. At the same time, I think a certain level of individuality, intersectionality if you will, needs to be taken into account when dicussing what does/does not or should/should not, account for happiness.

Katie, your analysis of your parents' household dynamic is fascinating and insightful. It's especially interesting to consider the question of 'being oppressed without knowing it.' My first impulse is that every woman – and every family – should have the freedom to create a household structure that works for them, according to each member’s unique interests, preferences and abilities. However, gust0448 also suggested that behaviors and role definitions within individual families eventually become codified into habits and traditions. This makes me question what choices are really possible/available to us in creating our own structures. It’s an issue of what is thinkable. What do we perceive to be choices, when really they are choices that are pre-made for us? A few folks have mentioned that sometimes households adhere to heteronormative standards of behavior not because they are expected to but because it’s what they WANT to do. But what are the ideological mechanisms and constructs in place that influence what we want? We don’t develop preferences or habits in a vacuum – they are always informed by our upbringing and socio-political experiences.

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