Today in my Gender and Multiculturalism class, a conversation about feminism and the Women's Movement gave way to disturbing insights into the views of supposed feminists. I and one other student are the only two women's studies majors in the class. This particular student was discussing how she and all other feminists have worked so hard to achieve equality for women, and because of that, it is insulting when women choose to stay home with their children rather than go into the outside workforce. My teacher then highlighted a New York Times piece that told of women who get into Ivy League schools, work for 5 years, and then decide to quit in order to have and raise their children. The attitude towards these women was "what's the point of striving to make the playing field of Ivy League admissions better for women, when they would give up their education in the end to stay home and raise children."
As someone who very proudly identifies as feminist, I was shocked at the language of my fellow women's studies peer. The idea that there is a "cat-fight" going on between feminists and housewives, which detracts from looking at the ills of patriarchy, highlights a failure on the part of feminists who participate in such oppressive tactics. The woman in my class who claimed to be a feminist while at the same time blasted women who choose not to work, exemplifies the dangerous practice of fighting patriarchy, yet acting in very patriarchal ways. Putting aside the valid argument that husbands and fathers should be more socially encouraged to participate heavily in child-raising, and that the responsibility of that burden should be lifted off of women's shoulders, if we, as feminists, assert that women who go out into the workforce are some how better, or superior, than those who choose to stay at home with their children, we are using the same card men have been playing for decades. Corporate and professional work has been deemed more important than housework and child-rearing by (some in) the male population as a means of further reducing a woman's life and worth. It is alarming to me, that women (who say they are dedicating their lives to the support and affirmation of women's voices) are doing the exact same thing.
Feminism isn't about pushing women into the workplace - it's about getting women their right to be there with equal pay for equal work and without threat of harm, discrimination, or manipulation, simply because of their sex. Feminism isn't about putting into practice the very patriarchal systems of power we are supposed to be fighting. We must be careful not to distort the goals we have set.