It was a dark and stormy night…or, at least, his motives were dark and her response was stormy – it was the evening news, so there’s that. Not long ago, a pundit on national TV intentionally set out to provoke a feminist on his panel. He tweeted beforehand that he was going to do it, it worked spectacularly, and he bragged about it afterward.
That confrontation stimulated a lot of conversation about women and whether they should work outside the home or not. The pundit’s statements were the extreme evangelical position (intentionally dogmatic and provocative) while the feminist’s were the usual extreme feminist position. I believe both positions are extremely faulty, as they each try to impose their opinion on all women, with no consideration for individual women (or men!) and their situations.
I also believe a large part of the problem is semantic. English is a rich, descriptive language, and American English even more so, as one would expect from a melting pot of people and cultures. But with such a wealth of words available to describe very specific things, the language of women and their “place” is strangely uniform.
According to the feminists, housewife, housekeeper, homemaker, wife, mother all simply mean “unpaid servant to the patriarchy.”
According to the extreme evangelicals, God has told women to submit to their men and not put themselves forward. They should all stay at home and take care of their families. Pish. He did not.
Extremists seldom get the facts right. In this case, they don’t even get the words right. Housekeeper and Homemaker are not synonymous. A housekeeper is a person who keeps house. They clean, polish, neaten. They may also iron, cook, shop, keep accounts, and get the car tuned. Housekeeping deals with things. It is a job.
A homemaker is a person who makes the house a comfortable, warm, loving environment. Home. They support their spouse, teach and train the children, anticipate needs. They deal with schools, sickness, and schedules. They may handle finances, social activities, plumbers, gardening. Homemaking deals with people. It is a vocation.
A job is about money. A vocation is about passion. A person can be passionate about his or her job, and that passion will greatly improve the quality of his or her life. But passion is not necessary to hold a job. Ask most of the people you know.
Photo: Alexey Tyranov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
On the other hand, a vocation means life’s work, the very stuff of passion. A vocation will include myriad jobs, but the work is all colored by the passion of doing one’s life’s work. There is no comparison, let alone, synonymy, between the two.
Neither a housekeeper nor a homemaker is inherently a woman. A man can be either, and stay-at-home dads are more and more common. Women are particularly suited, generally, for both positions because we tend to be better at multi-tasking and detail-work. But not always. Men are particularly suited for the focus and competition necessary to succeed at business. But not always. Restricting one sex to, or excluding one sex from, staying home or working for money is foolish. That’s like saying everyone with blue eyes must play baseball and no one with brown eyes may play baseball. Dumb. Didn’t Willie Mays have brown eyes? What a waste that would have been!
The important phrase is, “Not always.” Men and women are not interchangeable parts, not woman to man, man to man, or woman to woman. Some folks really want to stay at home and support their families and are willing to make the sacrifices necessary resulting from the loss of income. Some folks really want to work in the business world. Some like the competition, some hate it. Some need the stimulation, some don’t. Some need the money, regardless of what they want.
The truly humane thing to do is to support one another. Instead of insulting or demeaning those who make job/vocational choices you don’t prefer, how about acknowledging their choice as their decision and considering ways that could make their way easier? Surely there is room for compassion in our daily lives? At the very least, we can use the words appropriately and correct those who misuse them. Knowledge is power.
I’ve spent most of this article describing the mistakes of the feminists. The mistake of evangelicals is in telling people outside of Christianity what God has ordained for His people. It is the goodness of God that draws men, exhibited in the lives of His people. Telling, nay, condemning non-believers for not adhering to the lifestyle that is the natural result of an inward belief is not only unreasonable, but un-Christlike. But that’s a whole different article.