If a woman decides to stay at home and refuses a high profile job to take care of her family, does it make her less feminist?
When Kellyanne Conway, the first Republican woman to lead a successful presidential campaign was asked whether she would take a job inside the White House, she responded by saying: “My children are 12, 12, 8, and 7, which is bad idea, bad idea, bad idea, bad idea for mom going inside [the White House].” Turning down the job “would be my personal choice and not a demand on me.”
Conway was criticized by many women who viewed her choice of being a stay-at-home mother as anti-feminist. They felt that giving up the opportunity of being financially independent meant she was caving into the expectations that her family had from her.
This invites the question: if a woman decides to stay at home and refuses a job because of her family, does it make her less feminist?
What is feminism all about?
Due to the division among feminists, (radical feminists, liberal feminists and others) it is not easy to reach a consensus on its definition. Nevertheless, feminism eventually boils down to one thing- gender equality in all aspects of life.
Some people believe that the fight for equal rights dates back to early Greece while others believe that it was ignited during the French Revolution. However, the modern-day feminist movements began in the 19th and 20th centuries and the aim of these movements was to compel the governments to grant equal political, economic, and educational rights to women. Feminism is not about giving women a higher status than men in society.
Feminism is about the independence of choice; that may mean pursuing the career you want or focusing on raising a family.
Celebrities like Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Emma Watson and Malala Yousafzai are examples of modern-day feminists. All these women carved their own paths rather than settling for a life that was dictated to them. They are powerful females who created the lives they wanted to live and did not become a victim of societal pressure and traditions.
It is important for us to shift our focus from labeling women as feminist or anti-feminist because of their choices. The desire to not be discriminated against on the basis of gender is common to all women and the task at hand is to ensure that women get equality in all spheres of life.
Feminism is a matter of personal choice
Stay-at-home mothers aren’t paid a salary and their work is often not valued because it does not generate an income. Homemaking is not viewed as a ‘job’. However, homemaking i.e raising kids, providing emotional support, acting as the binding agent of the family etc. is an art as well. If a man contributes to a family by earning a living, the woman who chooses to stay at home contributes by taking care of all the family members.
In Kellyanne Conway’s example, she was given the opportunity to work in the White House. Whether Conway would want to take up the job or stay at home and look after her kids is a matter of personal choice. It doesn’t mean that she is not a feminist or does not care for egalitarianism.
However, Conway recently decided to accept the job she was offered and she is ready to take up her position at the White House. In a statement, Conway said that “I’m just really pleased and frankly very humbled to take on this role in the West Wing.”
Kellyanne Conway was neither limited by circumstances nor society in either case. She had the right to pass on the job in the former instance and accept it in the latter. Personal choice and equal opportunities as demonstrated in this example are essentially what entail women’s liberation, whether a woman is a stay-at-home mom or she works at the White House.