Saturday, April 22, 2006

Privilege is a Lace-Edged Frame

There's a big flap right now in the blogosphere (Echidne of the Snakes has done a bunch of writing on the subject, for instance) about right-wing shill Caitlin Flanagan's new book, in which she exhorts all of us female types to embrace our inner housewives and learn once more to love The Man. However, the problem with her rhetoric is that she's deliberately placed herself in a frame where it's obvious she doesn't belong. According to her, she's a sort of latter-day Happy Housewife, perky and shiny and making sacrifices in her aspirational and professional life (which she undoubtedly has) so that Hubby and the Kiddies can enjoy the "home" she's "made" for them.

Unfortunately for her, if you poke behind the June Cleaver facade a bit, you'll find that she doesn't so much "make" her home as administer it, and that in a similar capacity to a skilled Human Resources professional, since she employs a nanny, a maid, and a "personal organizer," whatever that is, and doesn't seem to do much in the way of her own cooking, childcare, or housework. On top of that, she had a semi-regular writing gig with the Atlantic Monthly and is now on staff with the New Yorker, aside from having a book out, which she's busily flogging.

In other words, Ms. Flanagan is hardly a dilletante housewife with a few "little magazine" poems to her credit; she's a money-making writer for some of the biggest slick mass-market magazines out there, with a sterling rep that could likely get her past even the hardest-assed editor and into the pages of pretty much anywhere she pleased to be. That is to say, she does pretty much exactly the same job the same way as I do...

...which makes me rather frustrated and amused by her. I wish she'd be honest about her job. I don't care what she truly believes or her political philosophy (although I'll say that if she truly does believe she's in a "traditional" marriage, she's either blind or stupid), but I wish she'd be honest about her actual job description.

Ms. Flanagan, you're a telecommuter, not a "stay-at-home-mother" or a "housewife" or any of those things. You're just fortunate enough to have a lucrative gig of your own, plus a high-earning husband, and enough domestic help and manufactured moneyfolk suburban bliss to ensconce you in a veritable fluffy cocoon of white, upper-class, able-bodied privilege, which lets you get away with calling yourself whatever you want to be called.

Out here in the real world, where people often don't make enough money to hire an army of staff and therefore have to do their own housekeeping, cooking, and everything else, we'd call you self-employed...

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Out here in the real world, . . we'd call you self-employed.."

Beautiful.

-Dan S.

5:25 PM  
Blogger LeoPetr said...

The wife in Atwood's Handmaid's Tale was a similar character -- an former ardent preacher and advocate for destruction of women's rights back when she had the right to be an ardent preacher and advocate, she was forced into the actual listless housewife role by the very Gilead she had worked so hard to create.

5:29 PM  
Blogger Interrobang said...

Yeah, Leo, and Atwood was just rehashing Phyllis Schlafly, Aimee Semple McPherson, and the rest of the "Ladies against Women" brigade, which is hardly news. I'm not sure Atwood herself has ever actually had an original thought, although she does express cliches in fairly non-standard ways.

12:16 AM  
Blogger Anne Johnson said...

Hello, first visit. I guess by this fluffy lucky gal's criteria I'm a happy homemaker too! Why, just today my whole work schedule got shot to hell because my daughter's braces fell apart at school. No nanny in this household to handle such emergencies, and no "personal organizer" either. (My distant ancestor had them, but in those years they were called slaves.)

That makes me "the mother of my child!" Oh, am I so lucky!

Nothing ticks me off more than self-righteous people who pretend to be one thing (happy housewife) while really being another (cutthroat highbrow journalist).

Gee, I'm wondering why the name Rick Santorum suddenly springs to mind???

Thanks for alerting me to another spark in the moronic inferno.

4:59 PM  
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