I know this will come as quite the shock to some but I am an actual human being in normal life. I say this because some people have acted as though me and my life choices are somehow symbolic or worthy of public comment mostly because I’m a woman but also because of my social class and visible presence as an activist. I’m sure these people mean well, but I want us to understand that real life doesn’t fit so neatly into the parameters of “what is appropriately feminist” and that sometimes that is ok. Feminism should liberate and yet we often find ourselves socially circumscribing and regulating behavior based on an ideal that only works for a subset of the population. For millions of working class women, work isn’t liberation from being a boring housewife, it’s just time stolen from their children. Upper class women who do work outside the home rely on the labor of working class women who don’t have a choice.
In my case, this has led to lots of invasive judgment about how I spend my time and in my case it’s actually destructive. You see, I’m such a raging workaholic that I had to actually be banned from teaching for medical reasons. I ran my body and life into the ground trying to live up to the radical social justice image set for me and that I set for myself. I’m a sick person and for such a sick person I’ve accomplished a lot. But I need time to heal from decades of suffering, which includes very severe abuse and horrifying childhood conditions. I’m taking that time now because my husband has graciously given me the ability to do so. But instead of acknowledging how much he’s liberated me from the martyrdom that would have killed me eventually, people are worried that my marrying him has suddenly confined my life to submissive servitude. It is true that I spend lots of time cooking because I like to and take pride in contributing to my family but my husband doesn’t make me do anything.
Now, after what I’ve been through, if I wanted to spend my life doing nothing but that, I’d be justified but I don’t. I have about a million other projects going on. I’m working on my third draft for a book, I’m making this blog better, I’m drawing up plans to found my dream school, I’m still a very active mentor to lots of kids and none of my activism has stopped (except for the stuff I can’t physically do anymore). Oh, and I’m working very hard at being healthy so I can do more in the future. This break is temporary, like gap years men take that are financed by their parents that no one seems to feel any guilt about. This doesn’t exactly sound like the agenda of an oppressed housewife and none of it was Ross’ idea. That of course is not counting all the female labor I engage in for him or my community, which is valuable but never gets counted. My husband treats it all like real work because he was raised well. It’s not like I’ve ever been paid for any of these things except before I had to work and ruin my health to survive in addition to doing all of this.
My husband and I obviously had long talks about this before we made these choices, like all happily married people do and this arrangement is what works best for us right now. It’s a privilege that I have the option. What if, instead of assuming that anyone who makes different choices is wrong, we assumed that our female peers are grown adults who made choices that worked for them? Doesn’t that seem more pro-woman?
And besides, when you pressure me about work you are enabling a hardcore workaholic who will then do silly things like type this out one handed on her phone. Support my recovery by joining team “Heather needs a nap” if you sincerely want me more active in the future.