Tag Archives: women

Should I Be A Housewife? A Social & Economic View

By Nadja Briscoe


Is Michelle Obama, a former lawyer and now first housewife of America, helping reintroduce and redefine the modern housewife?

There is a typical argument, usually postured by what I like to call ‘amateur feminists’ (and I count myself as one,) which follows: “With a brain like yours, why would you waste your talents cooking dinners and cleaning house?”

If by choosing to be a housewife, I were to become fixated on keeping a perfect household – think 1950s television – the argument would be compelling. However, staying home supposedly no longer means becoming a sheltered woman.

My colleagues and I have had numerous conversations on the role of women, both in society and the family. Is she forgoing her comparative advantage as the home’s primary care giver, nurturer, bearer of children, and first agent of socialization and instilling of values to the children, in order to have that for which we have fought and died – the right to have a corporate job and the right to be the career women? The right to CHOOSE!

Feminists are horrified at the very idea of a woman with an MBA making the choice to be the domestic supporter of her family – washing dishes and doing laundry – but, they also discount the fact that they can also be socially active bloggers, readers, entrepreneurs and rearers of socially aware children.

Is it possible to have it all? As housewives, can we continually exercise our minds as well as our domestic muscles? Can we prevent ourselves from any backsliding that could occur from ‘perfect household syndrome’?

Linda Hirshman, in her 2006 book “Get to Work … and Get a Life Before It’s Too Late,” disagrees vehemently. Linda Hirshman claims “the family — with its repetitious, socially invisible, physical tasks — is a necessary part of life, but allows fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than public spheres like the market or the government.” This view point is easy to run away with, especially after watching my mom be the domestic supporter of a family of 8, do the same repetitive tasks for 20 years, as my father had a social life and was never home. As much as I adore and admire my mother, this is something I never wanted for my life; and, neither is it something that she wanted for me.

But, as we examine the economics of the two income family, the fact that women earn approximately 60-80 cents for every dollar a man earns, the inability to create wealth due to the financial cost of daycare, and the social cost of not having a constant supervisor at home when a child arrives from school, maybe we need to re-define what it means to be a housewife and the importance of that role.

The opportunities of today’s world offer an essential difference between the housewife of today and the housewife of our parents’ generation.  We now have easy access to contraception, which allows us to more effectively decide how many children we would like, and when to have them. We thaw most of our family’s meals, so there is no need to prepare the night before and spend hours cooking. Sewing is limited to replacing buttons. And, while we adore gossip in all forms, it is much less over picket fences, but rather over the Internet.

Neil Gilbert’s book, A Mother’s Work: How Feminism, The Market and Policy Shape Family Life, describes how women have responded to the contraceptive revolution, advances in civil rights, and the changing structure of the labor market since the 1960s. He notes that recently there has been a significant decline in childbearing, childrearing, and household production. The rate of childlessness has climbed to historic proportions for a period of relative peace and prosperity. Women are having fewer children; and, early childcare is being passed on to other women, as mothers shift their labor from the household to the marketplace. Feminists would say that women have finally been given the chance to do what they want, and rightly so. Others like myself would argue that it is out of economic necessity and desire to be independent of men, who have a history of using their financial power to oppress women, that drives women to the market place. However, Gilbert argues, and I am sure my colleague William would agree, that women are moving to the marketplace for three reasons: 1) the culture of capitalism undervalues the economic worth of childrearing activities and domestic production, 2) prevailing feminist expectations overestimate the social and emotional benefits of labor-force participation, and 3) that the family friendly policies of the welfare state create incentives that reinforce the norms and values of capitalism and feminism. So, as my dear friend William would say, despite societies needs and predilection, when women have to decide how much to invest in childrearing and paid employment, the majority of women chose to invest their time and energy in the latter despite the lack of economic and social sense to do so.

As a result, instead of critically evaluating important questions such as: Does having children make economic sense? Is sexual division of labor a rational choice? How has the time devoted to childcare by employed and non-employed mothers changed overtime? What are the educational and social outcomes of children in homes with non-employed mothers vs employed mothers? There is an emotional response to avoid these questions out of fear that the answers might result in retracting to traditional ways, which would deny the progress women have made over the past couple of decades.

The financial and social cost that society is paying, as women try to redefine their role in society, is typical of every stage of progress and evolution, which eventually runs into its own inherent limitations, creates a type of turmoil, even chaos, and causes the system either to break down (self-dissolution), or escape chaos by evolving to a higher degree of order (self-transcendence). This new and higher order escapes the limitations of its predecessor, but then introduces its own limitations and problems. As a result, old problems are solved or defused – in this case women are no longer as oppressed, and are given the right and the choice to engage in civic, political, and economic activities, but comes at the price of introducing new and more complex difficulties such as higher divorce rates, dysfunctional families, and a negative birth rate, just to name a few. Despite these complicated and difficult problems however, it is perverse to take the problems of the present, compare them with the accomplishments of the past, and thus claim everything has gone downhill. I feel this is what my friend William often does; although, maybe no worse a tactic than the opposite of comparing the problems of the past with the accomplishments of the present and saying everything is for the better, which I may be guilty of.

I agree wholeheartedly with retrogressive romantics like William, who argue passionately, and at times convincingly, that we need to honor and acknowledge the many great accomplishments of past, and attempt to retain and incorporate as much of their wisdom and accomplishment. But I also argue that no mater the problems we have now, the fact of the matter is that the train, for better or worse, is in motion. And, driving while looking in the rear view mirror is likely to cause an even worse accident.

The fact of the matter is that for most women, though not all, the labor of motherhood is undervalued; and, the personal benefits of paid work are overestimated. We all fantasize about work that uses our creativity, is self-directed, happens during the hours we choose, and occurs in an attractively lit setting with fascinating people — you know, jobs like women have on TV. Oprah’s job!

But, in this reality, it is probably more realistic to be a housewife with a supportive husband, who encourages you to start a business or work from home.

So, with all this said, as I move closer to 30 while childless, well educated, and on the verge of having the career that I have always wanted and worked so hard for, what will I decide? Will fear of the known – my mothers depiction of a housewife with repetitive menial tasks, and allowing a husband to be my provider who might use this financial power to oppress me – prevent me from having the image that my white educated women portray of the housewife: the NPR-listening, car-pooling, yoga expert, avid volunteer, foundation director? To be honest, I really don’t know. But, even more important to me is the question: if I do decide to be the career women that I am on the verge of becoming, am I doing a disservice to my community?

Ms. Briscoe is a graduate of the University of West Indies with studies in International Relations and Management Studies. She also holds a dual MBA from Brandeis University in Social Policy & Management and Marketing. Her work has seen her spend time as a consultant for major hospitals in New England and now serves as a business development analyst for a multinational healthcare company.

Augusta National Golf Club: A Pacifier Not Empowerment For Women

By William A. Foster, IV

“Power only steps back in the face of more power.” – Malcolm X

APTOPIX Masters Golf

I always start with this example when discussing group power. Oprah Winfrey, who is roughly worth $2 billion, moves into a neighborhood of nine European Americans. Now for the sake of this example they could be Arab, Asian, Latino, or if you want to base it around gender with nine men and it would not change the dynamic and point. The neighborhood she moves into each household is worth $500 million and share the same fundamental and cultural values (social capital). Who has control of the neighborhood? Inevitably, because most people do not understand group dynamics and strategy they tend to assume Ms. Winfrey does. Let us examine why she does not from a SEP (social, economic, and political interest) point of view. Socially, she is the outsider who does not share the cultural or gender values of the group. This is not to say they have nothing in common but there are some fundamental differences that they differ on based on their social and cultural norms. Economically, from the outlook it seems as once again she is the winner. Wrong again, as the social values bind them it also binds their economics as a defense weapon against outsiders. In this case the nine households versus Ms. Winfrey equates to $4.5 billion against her $2 billion. Politically, it is pretty obvious to see she is at a loss. Any voting done on new neighborhood policies she would be outvoted 9-1 almost every time (see Supreme Court and party lines). This is not to imply these nine will always act in step. It is to say that the probability they do is highly increased in their favor and not in hers. Ultimately, that is what it is about. Ensuring the probability or odds are stacked in your favor for success whatever you deem that to be.

My views on Afrocentrism do not differ from my views on feminism. That is to say my view on any group that is seeking power will never gain the power it seeks if it is always seeking to force its way into institutions only to still be socially, economically, and politically outgunned as you saw in the example. Martha Burk would have you believe there was a victory in the admitting of two women at Augusta National Golf Club. I am going to examine the social, economic, and political realms as why I do not believe it is a victory and you can decide.

I have never believed in going anywhere I wasn’t wanted especially when I have the capacity to define where I want to go myself. The social implications of this situation didn’t empower women. It just re-validated that in order be of value you have to be where the men are. Are you still not giving the power to men? Yes, actually you are. If you wanted to impress upon the networking power that Augusta National Golf Club holds then these two women who were admitted would have said thank you but no thank you we can build our own. These women are going to socially be viewed as tokens that were admitted under public pressure and still will be social outsiders in the club. Just because you let someone in through the initial barrier does not mean you will not have different ways of excluding them. The beauty of protecting ones SEP interest is that as groups infringe on certain barriers you have created your strategy for creating new barriers evolves. I dare say the conversations that use to be had at the bar potentially now will only be had in the locker room. Are we to assume they will let the women in there as well? A more powerful statement would have been for young women to see those two women along with others in business form their own country club for women where they would be able to set the values of the club that promote the greatness of women in business and allow them to open networks with each other and discuss challenges as well as opportunities in industry amongst each other. To go even further would be a country club designed by a leading female architect, financed by a leading female banker, and anything else that would go into establishing of a place for women, built by women, and for women. What looks more powerful, two female members out of three hundred or three hundred out of three hundred and a foundation laid in every facet by women?

The economics of this admittance again we can examine the obvious. Dr. Condoleeza Rice is worth millions and Mrs. Darla Moore-Rainwater is worth based on her philanthropic donations in the hundreds of millions. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett who are members of Augusta are worth approximately a combined $100 billion. That’s just two of the two-hundred and ninety-eight men. Imagine now for a moment a golf club with the likes of Dr. Rice, Mrs. Moore-Rainwater, Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook), Marissa Myers (CEO of Yahoo), Sheila Johnson (Co-Founder of BET), Linda Johnson-Rice (Owner of Johnson Publishing Company), and the list could go on and on. Now that is a room of economic might for women who dare I say would be able to make business deals among themselves and increasing the probability and opportunities for wealth into the arms of women. No separate locker room needed.

Politically this would boil down to the policies and outreach of the club. At current there is no LPGA Master’s Tournament. How hard do you think that would be able to get sponsored by a golf club that is socially and economically controlled by women? It would be like waking up in the morning and turning on the light switch. If you want it to be sponsored by the Augusta National Golf Club you would have to get 50% of the male membership to side with the two female members. Assuming they don’t feel socially pressured to not look like they are just voting for it because they are women. Now, where have I heard that accusation before? Again, if they control the club socially, economically, and politically nobody would question their motives because the motives are part of the very fabric of the club’s purpose.

As I stated in the beginning the unfortunate assumption that always kicking your way into an institution you would not have control over is somehow progress is missing the point of what capitalism is built on. Capitalism is built on ownership. As someone who has a teenage daughter I believe it is more powerful for her to see three hundred business women interacting with each other and making decisions in her interest than for her to see two women out of three hundred members where her interest for better or worse are marginalized. She no longer would feel like the odds are stacked against her. Success as a woman would be seen as the rule as opposed to the exception to it. She would know there is a place for her that doesn’t see her as a token they see her as just another businesswoman who is in the locker room headed out to the greens to network and maybe make the deal of the century. Tee-off ladies.