“We might be mutually co-dependent”
“I believe we call that socialism.”
I spent a lot of time this weekend at a wedding mostly hanging out with powerful, smart accomplished women who spend a lot of their time caring for powerful, smart, accomplished dudes. Whether its remembering the sunscreen or ensuring promptness, these dudes, all of whom hold white-collar jobs and are successful members of society relied deeply on the women in their lives to make them functional. In the case of my husband, and I, this dependence runs two ways. Together we make one fully functioning adult. For any of my girlfriends in a healthy relationship, this is true for them as well.
I’m told this is supposed to be problematic for a feminist but I sort of think the whole “complete independence” thing is a lie we tell ourselves to justify a system that is exploiting our labor. No one lives in a vacuum. In a million ways we rely on each other, and in working class communities, we know this well. The jerk is the one who doesn’t get to borrow eggs for breakfast to feed their kids. At no point in my life have I ever felt I didn’t owe my position to the hard work of a lot of other people, even though my relationship with my family is horrible. There was still my friend’s mom driving me to the SATs and teachers teaching, and a whole alternative community around me that has supported me over the years. So I’m not really bothered by the idea that we are mutually co-dependent on each other, I think it’s what brings communities together and I think the idea that we can do it all alone is a sham.
This mythology really doesn’t serve to benefit anyone, except to provide an excuse as to why we don’t provide social services when people are in need. The feminists who promote this ideology are coming from a good place. Working class women know too well what a death trap marriage can literally be if you marry the wrong man, but there isn’t a working class woman alive who hasn’t relied on her other (mostly) female community members. We’ve made it such that women have come to feel guilty about needing help or asking for help, which is contrary to our very nature as a species.
The only human lone wolf story that is ever real is the one in which the wolf is dead at the end. The entirety of human civilization, indeed every advancement ever made, has relied on our ability to cooperate. Our entire species relies on the unique labor that women have historically provided to their families and communities and yet we act as though those who continue to provide that labor are somehow intellectually or morally inferior to the women who employ them. That’s not feminism, that’s just classism.
And it’s not good for upper class women either! So many of my higher income friends are struggling with issues that would normally be solved by a community of women around them. They are alone. Disconnected. Stressed. Burned out. Some of us do this for a period of time, but all of us end up crashing and burning at the end because it’s not sustainable to act as though we exist without the help of others.
So yes, I am dependent on my husband. And my friends. And my family. My husband is also dependent on me, and his friends and his family. We co-operate in a mutually beneficial way that allows us the freedom to be our best selves. We always know we will have help in our goals and are therefore free to take more risks. We take actions to support each other because the success of one partner is good for the others. This is the basis for strong relationships in general, even if marriage isn’t your thing. So it is fine if you work really hard and still need to call your mom for help. And its fine if your friends fill that role. And its fine if it’s your immediate family too. The point is that no one should be alone or feel alone, and that community is essential for our survival.
The idea that we have to “do it all” has not been used to liberate us, it has been used to keep us in a trap where we constantly run on a hamster wheel trying to achieve unattainable things. It confines us, restricts us, and divides women into camps that have no reason to exist. There’s always been working mothers and they are great, and stay at home moms are too, and we need childless women too, and shouldn’t we just let people do what fulfills them and makes them happy? They’ve covered up the bare reality for most women that don’t feel like they have much of a choice. Many stay at home moms are mom’s that realized that to work and get childcare, she’d have to give up her whole paycheck AND miss out on raising her kid. Many working moms are supporting their families wholly and don’t have the choice to stay at home. We’ve constrained all of these women and then told them it’s their fault if they fail to measure up. That’s not love, that’s not liberation.
Real love is liberation.