Yesterday, as I was scrolling through Twitter and contemplating paying $3+ for an avocado so America’s toddler president can build a wall, I saw this:
This post on The Cut parsed a Washington Post interview with Kellyanne Conway — who’s been described as “the living embodiment of ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray,’ because every lie she tells appears on her face” — and zeroed in the part in which Conway directly links her blasé feelings about feminism with her righteous feelings about motherhood. This is dangerous for a number of reasons, but it’s also anti-woman propaganda. No, women don’t HAVE to be feminists, but feminism is simply the core belief that women and men are born equal and deserve equal opportunities, equal pay, and equal respect. Being a feminist is actually much MORE important, more vital to human progress, and more helpful for children than all women everywhere growing up to be mothers. In an era when more women are choosing not to become mothers, or choosing to have kids later in life, Conway’s remarks are annoyingly archaic. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, given the way Trump and Conway ran the president’s campaign (along with everyone’s favorite fake feminist, Ivanka Trump):
What could be worse than a pack of old, white men, along with their subordinate wives, daughter, and campaign manager, preaching about what a woman’s “most important job is”?
We never see the opposite of this, because it would sound equally as ridiculous. Funny how equality works like that. Just imagine the tagline: “The most important job a man can have is being a father.” Can anyone picture a politician saying that to get votes? It would sound preposterous. And yet, women not only get told what to do with their bodies by male politicians all the time, they also indulge in the same tactics when running for office, because they’re after that same slice of the unprogressive, all-American voter pie.
Running on a platform of “being a mom” sounds like a piece of satire from The Onion, but it gets trotted out in election after election. Imagine if a woman politician parroted Donald Trump in this way to gain voter approval. “I make the BEST peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I do the BEST laundry and roll your socks up better than anyone. When you need somebody to remind you to put on a hat because it’s cold outside, I’m your #1 gal. If you need a ride to soccer practice, I’m a phone call away. I do the BEST grocery shopping — no one can touch my grocery cart maneuvering skills, ask anyone — and I know how to make lasagna great again (just add nutmeg to your Béchamel sauce — it’s an old family secret passed down through generations of dutiful wives such as myself).” Ugh. Even some academic institutions employ this condescending language as a way to keep women in their place:
How come if a stay-at-home mom starts a business, she’s a “mompreneur,” but if a stay-at-home dad were to start a business, he’d just be called a goddamn genius? Women are repeatedly told by people who don’t identify as feminists that “there’s no need for feminism” because “everyone has the same opportunities,” but if that were truly the case, why do women still get encouraged to cook and clean and shut their mouths while their men watch football (lest they be “slapped!”) by guys like councilmen like J.R. Doporto from New Mexico?
This weasel-faced douchebag was *just* fired from his day job after posting the above statement on Facebook (because politicians DGAF anymore and flap their lips all over social media until they’re caught saying something discriminatory), and he’s already quoted as saying he has “no intention of resigning from the council” and “he might even run when his term is up in about a year and a half.” Oh, to be a man in 2017. Not only can guys like Doporto keep their seats, they’re also surrounded by defensive wives who will do anything to protect and stand by their men. His wife is quoted as saying, “For those of you that wanted him to fail, congratulations. As a father of our four beautiful children, he is now jobless because of one single
post.” Somebody call the waaaamublance! I hear a lady crying because she’s married to a sexist toad!
Seriously, though, Kellyanne Conway’s remarks are terrifying NOT because it’s uncool to have kids and be a proud mom. They’re frightening because they shows that she’s more complicit than ever in endorsing an anti-woman agenda in the new administration. She’s an advisor to Trump, but much like the other woman close to Trump’s ear — not his wife!, but his daughter — Conway is declaring herself a mother first, and a feminist never. The women who are in the White House are women who believe that a woman’s purpose, above all, is to serve in the roles of “mother and wife.” (Or, in Ivanka’s case, “mother, wife, and sycophant daughter.”)
This attitude will have rippling effects throughout Trump’s presidency. When women aren’t given the equal pay and paid federal family leave policies they deserve (and have been fighting for for decades), it will be because they should focus more on their families than their jobs. When single mothers can’t make ends meet, as costs of everything from childcare to healthcare to education to housing to food continue to rise, Trump’s administration will say, “Too bad, get a man who can support you.” And when women aren’t able to support themselves after being forced to carry babies to term because Trump’s policies make it harder to get an abortion, the administration will remind everyone that being a mother is the most important job a woman can have (even as her government fails to help her). Conway’s comments are reaffirming this position to a nation of women who marched in droves in cities across the country to make their voices heard. She’s saying to those millions of women, “I don’t hear you, I don’t see you, I don’t care about you.” It may SOUND like she’s exalting motherhood and reflecting on how wonderful it is being a mom to her four darling kids, but what she’s saying is, “Men are in charge of the decisions. Women are in charge of dinner. I’m in charge of promoting Trump’s agenda.”
Given this turn of events, I’d like to make a request: Can stay-at-home moms please stop calling themselves “CEOs of their households”? If that was ever a feminist title, it’s really not anymore. Being a mother or a wife is not currently a paid occupation. Women have worked very hard for several decades to be seen as more than mothers and wives — to be celebrated for their skills, their brains, their wit, and not just their relationships to others. Women are more than “single” or “married,” “childless” or “mothers.” It’s infuriating that in 2017 we’re still having this discussion, but at this point, the glass ceiling can get lower before we even realize it, so we must all pay attention.
About a decade ago, mothers who chose to stay home (as opposed to feeling financially forced to stay home) started to own their “power.” They looked around and realized, “Hey, being a mom is HARD, and I’m doing a pretty good job. Plus, I make all the financial decisions in this house!” Some of those women started side businesses or launched blogs (“mompreneurs”) and earned extra income for their family. Some even gave themselves new titles that reflected the demands of their job (which, as everyone knows, include being a chef, chauffeur, doctor, nurse, maid, teacher, plumber, photographer, event planner, alarm clock, referee, etc.). And for a while, that shift appeared to have roots in a feminist/choice-driven foundation. For some moms, it felt better than just saying — or writing on a form/application — “stay-at-home mom.”
Now, however, I think playing up those goofy job titles is hurting the cause. The more women identify as “CEOs” and “COOs” of their household, the higher the chances that “Make America Great Again” will result in women being encouraged to “focus on their families.” I can already hear Kellyanne Conway on cable news talking about how men make great Fortune 500 business CEOs, just like women make great domestic CEOs.
Instead of being “COO of my family,” maybe stay-at-home moms should change their bio to “SAHM and women’s rights activist,” or “SAHM and force to be reckoned with,” or “Feminist, Mom, and Street Fighter.” Sure, it’s no “domestic engineer,” but what is that, really??
It’s time that women stop negatively correlating feminism with motherhood. You can be both a feminist and a mother. It is an “alternative fact” that the most important job a woman can have is ‘mother.’ It is also an alternative fact that a woman whose favorite title is mommy can’t also be a feminist and the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Kellyanne Conway doesn’t know any fucking thing about feminism. Don’t let her rhetoric change the conversation.