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Genki des!



parenthood and the pursuit of happiness

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things women say
Train Sleeper
The closer I get to forty, the more pissed off I am. So, it's been hard to write happy pleasing things here.

I’m more pissed off at the stupidity of humans in the world, in general, but I’m pretty pissed off specifically as well. Today, I woke up with three conversations in my head. One of them, I'll save for another day. The other two are essentially the same conversation, so I'll purge them at the same time.

Over the past four years, women have said things to me that have stuck in my head. They stuck, in part, because I’ve been pondering the validity of the statements, and in part because I don’t even think these women really understood the implications of what they were saying.

These are not stupid women; in fact, I’m fairly certain, they are all lovely, intelligent people, but social conditioning has made them say things. THINGS. Normally, my writer-self would have a bird about the non-specificity of this word and replace it, but I suspect it works here because the statements in discussion are indeed objects. Objects with some weight.

The first thing.

“Yeah, I’m working. I needed to get out the house.”

Statements like this are just... LOVELY. Because, well, she could be home all bored and lonely, but instead she’s decided to fill her day time with putzing files around an office for pin money… in 2017. Pin money in two thousand and seventeen. Way to minimize! She was clearly a hardworking member of an office team. Why trivialize your work by making it into a hobby for which you get paid?

I guess if you grown up in a neighbourhood as evangelical as mine (as ours), you’re bound to internalize the notion that the only true occupation for women in a family is as their role as wife and mother, and all other jobs must be minimized in deference to the importance of family. Right.

I don’t work for pin money. I work to support my family, as do billions of other women who work. What offends me most about this statement, interestingly enough, is what it implies about men’s work. Imagine if a man said this? I don’t know many men are working just to “get out of the house”.

It’s mostly middle class white women who are the only ones with enough privilege to say shit like this, by the way. They’re the only ones who work “for fun”, and the work many do is largely self-indulgent; that is, it’s “for me” and “so I can get out of the house” or “use my creativity”, and so they sell knitting or start blogs (ha!) or work as a file clerk during school hours instead of run the county garbage truck. How many men are lucky enough to do this?

These women choose work that fits into a life at home with kids or jobs that are WORTH being away from their families. I get it; I’m living that privilege myself. The demands of three children and my privilege have made it so. Noticeably, my work, when I discuss it, is not trivialized by me, but by others who can’t imagine this mother of three could possibly hold any kind of serious job. Their surprise is palpable. And how many times have I been told, “You have three children, working full-time is too much take on”? Maybe 20 times. WORDS MY HUSBAND HAS NEVER HEARD.

Most women I know that are “following their dreams” are doing so because their partners are actively supporting them. In a world like this, how is women’s work ever going to get the respect it deserves? When are men gong to the have the particular occupational freedom women get by virtue of their lady parts? (The vice versa of this has been in discussion since the 60s, so I’ll just assume you get that without me pointing it out.)

And besides this, if you’re working for fun in an economy as bad as the one we’re in, you best get your ass home and let a person who actively needs a job have yours. (I say that just cause I feel like sounding like a pompous right-wing conservative.)

Speaking of home… Thing 2.

“I’m not returning to my job after my maternity leave. My husband and I are lucky enough that I don’t have to work.”

I read this in a Facebook post and pretty much shit a brick. Who the fuck says this in 2017? Poorer women stay home with their children more often than rich, so this is not a choice of economics, but one of desire. She obviously felt being home with her kid was more important to her than going to work, so be honest for fuck sakes. Say it. Say, “I want to be home with my kids. I don’t want that job any more.” But here she went, announcing her privilege like a public service announcement, treating a job like earning pin money.

The saddest part of all this is that these women needed to feel like they had to justify their choices, because women’s choices have become public choices, and men’s are not. Men don’t feel the need to justify their private choices in public, and so they don’t. (Unless, I suspect, they have chosen to stay home with their kids while their wives work, effectively regendering themselves. But that’s a post for another day.)

Stop sayings these things. These things have more weight than we can imagine.

Just stop. Stop defending your life choices in a Facebook post. Stop using “I needed to get out of the house” as a defensive manoeuvre when no manoeuvre is necessary. Stop using men to follow your dreams without affording them the same choice. Women’s choices, whether they are about our bodies or our work, are as private as men's, and it is time to stop justifying them against what our communities expect of us.

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