Did You Know You Need to Earn Money to Be Feminist?

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Writer Elizabeth Wurtzel dropped a bomb on SAHMs this week with her Atlantic piece, "1% Wives Are Helping Kill Feminism and Make the War on Women Possible." The tagline? "Being a mother isn't a real job -- and the men who run the world know it." Despite The Atlantic being one of my favorite magazines and consistently putting out stellar editorial, my first reaction was, "What a load of crap!"

working mother

Credit Image: Jerry Bunkers Kim on Flickr

For at least twenty seconds, my mind couldn't stop sputtering over the tagline, even knowing that Wurtzel most likely did not write it. But then I began reading and came upon this.

Let's please be serious grown-ups: real feminists don't depend on men. Real feminists earn a living, have money and means of their own.

But as I am trying not to just pop off and attack people online without truly trying to understand them first, I read the article three times and realized I am confused by Wurtzel's theses. There seem to be two: 1) Rich wives of the one percent who have Ivy League degrees, full-time nannies and no need to earn their own money annoy her and 2) You aren't a feminist if you don't work for money, because money is the only way to measure equality. Or: Money is the only way to measure the success of feminism.

In another Atlantic piece, Wurtzel quotes a researcher who says men view all women the way they view their wives with a sort of benign sexism, thinking they are protecting when in fact they are stifling.

As the research shows, all most women seek is the opportunity to be judged as individuals, rather than viewed through the narrow lens of someone else's marital kaleidoscope. Perhaps Desai and her colleagues will spark the conversation that reminds male leaders that though their wives may expertly run their homes, that does not mean that other women cannot succeed in the workplace by pursuing a different set of choices.

I think there's a whole lot going on here in the one-percent SAHM article, and it seems to be in line with Wurtzel's other writing about what's keeping women down. She wants more women in positions of power, and I do, too. She wants rich people to stop being ridiculous with their money, and I do, too. So I agree with her ultimate wishes if not her methodology for us getting there. And ... I still think this article is ridiculous.

I could say she's full of it because I have friends who are SAHMs and I know they will be offended by this and I feel like I need to defend them, but that's not it.

I disagree that feminism boils down only to money, even though money has a lot to do with power and in a capitalist society, power is most closely equated with either a) fame or b) money. Wurtzel diluted her argument by both separating out and lumping in one-percent SAHMs from the rest of them, because clearly anyone who is wealthy enough to both not work and employ domestic workers is, well, one percent. As in not really worth talking about, the exception to the rule of how most people live.

By lumping SAHMs who clip coupons and buy groceries at Walmart and get all their kids' shoes at thrift stores with SAHMs who, as she puts it, "going to Jivamukti classes and pedicure appointments while the nanny babysits" is problematic (for one thing, I had to look up "Jivamukti classes" and I went to college and have a job and everything). And also problematic is more thesis confusion, because she spends quite a bit of time talking about how most working women work out of pure financial necessity. Which point is she making? They don't go together at all. First she says failing feminism is a problem of the wealthy, then she says this:

Hilary Rosen would not have been so quick to be so super sorry for saying that Ann Romney has never worked a day in her life if we weren't all made more than a wee bit nervous by our own biases, which is that being a mother isn't really work.


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