I’m strong and opinionated and driven to succeed. Does that make me a feminist? I think so. Many people take one look at my philosophy about wanting to serve my husband and family, though, and they’re not so sure. Under a traditional definition of feminism, much of how I live my life actually looks anti-feminist. Nevertheless, I consider myself a huge feminist. My hope is that you will consider my philosophy and that it might help you reconcile traditional and non-traditional gender roles in your own life story.
Maybe it’s an oxymoron to say I am an independent, subservient woman, but that’s the best way to describe it. I firmly believe women should be financially independent, and I see no disparity between being super-competitive at work and still a traditional wife and mom on the home front. I like knowing I don’t have to depend on anyone, but I know I still can.
I want to say right off the bat that I am absolutely pro-women’s rights. But I also want to dispel the notion that embracing traditional female roles implies a belief that men and women aren’t equal. I believe it’s perfectly acceptable to be a traditional, conservative woman and a feminist. The labels are not mutually exclusive.
I consider traditional female roles to be those exemplified by my mother. Stay home. Do the laundry. Do the cooking. Have sex with your husband. Take care of your kids. Your husband works and makes the money. You and your husband each have your roles to play; they’re different, but not necessarily unequal.
Many feminists practice what I call “convenient feminism”—they invoke feminism selectively. There’s an expectation that everything must be split 50/50 between men and women, but that’s not how it usually plays out. For instance, many women think it’s fine to compliment a male co-worker on his new shirt, but can still get offended if a male officemate comments on his female assistant’s new dress. Some women insist on absolute equality among men and women, but still expect the man to pick up the restaurant check after dinner, or even get offended if a man merely agrees to let a woman pay for dinner after she offers.
Don’t get me wrong—a 50/50 split sounds great. If you can manage it all the time, more power to you! I haven’t found it to work that way in the real world, though. The problem with convenient feminism is that it fails to acknowledge the reality that men and women are different, and they act differently in different contexts. I think that’s fine. At work, I expect men and women to play the same roles. At home, not so much. At home, I want my husband and I to play more traditional roles. I want chivalry to stay a thing.
The truth remains that some things are better done by women, some things are better done by men. I think we should acknowledge that.
That said, the reality is that it’s not any easier to maintain traditional roles every day than it is to split everything 50/50. Sometimes, my husband and I have to switch roles, and that’s okay, too. The fact is that I work and bring in a larger portion of the money. That doesn’t make me less feminine. My husband is often the one cooking, doing the dishes, or folding the laundry. That doesn’t make him less masculine. The distinction is we don’t expect those things of each other; we are just grateful when the other one picks up the slack. We don’t necessarily like this to happen, but occasionally it’s simply necessary for him to do the laundry. Role switches like this sometimes make our world go around—especially if I don’t want to send my boy to school wearing shorts in the middle of the winter. But these role switches don’t necessarily reflect our core beliefs. They certainly don’t make us less equal.
To me, being a feminist means having the power to choose my role at home and in the workplace. I want feminists to focus on choice as opposed to placing some unrealistic definition on the word “equality.” Having the choice to be a traditional wife at home and a badass in the office is, to me, the ultimate expression of my female power.
Excerpt from Diapers, Date Nights and Deadlines, a French Working Mom’s Guide to Success and Survival (Release Date: December 2018).