Feminism In The Time Of Recession

Image and video hosting by TinyPicIt’s no secret that I was laid off back in November. It’s also no secret that I’m a bit of an optimist, viewing every skinned knee as a chance to get a cheery, smiley-face Band-Aid. So it’s no surprise that I would embrace unemployment as the nudge I needed to stop planning my career and create it.
The surprising thing is, I came to the conclusion that I don’t actually want a career, at least not in the traditional sense. I’m not saying I want to sit on my couch in ratty sweats (I don’t even own a pair of sweats!) and eat bonbons (refined sugar is a no-no, except for gummy worms, yum), but I’m tired of taking the crowded road to the top, doing what I’m “supposed” to do. I finally realized that perhaps the thing I had been chasing—a spot atop the masthead of a magazine of my own creation—might actually suck once I caught it.
This wasn’t the first time I’d had this thought. A few years ago, I had a touch of the quarter-life crisis. I was toiling away as an assistant-level editor making no money and working until my brain hurt every day, when one weekend I started to worry that I would never achieve the things I’d long said I would, to wonder if I would let down the people who had helped me along the way and, worse, to contemplate if I even still wanted those things. But I pushed those thoughts away and went to work the next day.

What changed? I guess the difference is that when the questions came up again in November, I actually took the time to answer them. Why? I’ve learned a lot since then, and experienced even more. Five years later, it’s a lot easier for me to recognize that I have things in my life that matter more than that career. And those things, the good and the bad, have helped me put things into perspective and made it harder to ignore the voices in my head. Now, there’s a very specific freedom in scrapping my whole plan; deciding to live my life off the page and just deciding to be happy every day, rather than waiting for my happiness to come “one day.” Right now, that means writing for mags and websites, working on my books and connecting with you lovely Parlouristas each week.

Wanna hear something else that’s surprising? I plan to continue living this way. I think some folks think the widespread embrace of the full-time freelance life is a defense mechanism since there aren’t any mag jobs out there anyway, so why pine after them, sour grapes, blah, blah, blah. And, really, who’s to say what may happen and what my financial needs may be in the future; I’ll do whatever is necessary to help take care of my family. But for now, my new plan is to live the life I want to live, and to be—wait for it—a stay at home mom.

Yup. I wanna have brown babies, breast feed ’em ’til they get teeth, coerce my hubby into changing their poopy diapers and be here for their milestones, rather than trusting them to the babysitter and a shitty digital camera.

To many (namely, those same folks who think turning away from the career ladder is a fad brought on by the recession), it may seem like I’m stepping out of the bright lights of women’s lib to lurk in the shadows of the man’s world, flushing the gains of feminism down my scrubbed-with-a-toothbrush toilet. But the truth as I see it, is that feminism is what allows me to make choices, what gives me the autonomy to use my skills to take care of my family in the way that I choose. Am I setting the struggle back 40 years? Maybe to some. But I’m happy, and that’s all that matters to me.

Do you think I’m stomping all over Gloria Steinem’s agenda? Were you pushed into a major life decision this year? Are you in the throes of your own quarter-life crisis? Do share!

Last 5 posts by kenrya

  • Leilani

    I don’t know if I could be a stay at home mom. Since my father was raised during the depression, I’m always worried about having enough money, savings, health care. But I have considered working part-time in a few years. We will see.

  • Derek

    Good post, K. You’ve hit upon one of my pet peeves. Let me put it bluntly: The idea that every woman must elevate career success to the highest priority is a totalitarian impulse, and is in its spirit completely antithetical to the urge for freedom that gave rise to feminism in the first place. There’s nothing liberal about it whatsoever, in the classical sense. And if you really examine the practical impact of this idea, you can see what it’s really accomplished, which is to create a culture and economy in which two-income households are the hard-and-fast norm. This creates more consumer “need,” both real and imagined, and is simply fuel for the fire for consumerism and the continued rise of the corporation. Anytime the markets embrace (or co-opt) what should be perceived as a threat to the status quo, take note: Somebody smells money, and they’re happy to accept your cash while stealing away your humanity, all in the name of whatever values you profess. I say stop the madness. Whether you’re a woman or a man, start making choices based on the fact that you and your family are human beings. Real freedom means choosing who or what you will serve, absent ideological obligations no matter how well intentioned.

  • Van

    I applaud you!! I too have been laid-off since April of this year and guess what, I am happy!!! I am not ready to jump back into the commuter crunch, from Baltimore to DC, back to Baltimore to school. . . I am quite content now. I have the opportuntity to spend more time with my family and friends (even though I still juggle that because I am Blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life!)

    I have about 6.5 years before I reach the half century mark 🙂 I do not know what the future holds, but I have decided that I want to fulfill my potential on this earth while I am here and it does not necessarily mean that I have to achieve success by conventional means. Success can be what I choose for it to be for me.

    So go on K and have your brown beautiful babies and do not worry about Gloria Steinem’s agenda because to be quite frank, I never thought that feminism was truly for women of color. It is not my intention to offend, but there was a time when women of color did not have to option to stay at home, take care of the children and not work. Some, not all of the women from my Mom’s generation had to work at some point during our childhood in order to assist in providing for their families. I’m glad that times have changed and we now have the opportunity to make choices to work at home, start your own business or whatever it is that enables one to survive and still be content in life.

  • marye

    I’m in favor of people who make the choice to become parents taking on all of what that means. It seems to me that investing your time and energy in forming a new person, with the years of dedication that entails, is one of the most worthwhile choices a person can make. The alternative of handing over the raising of a child to someone who has no vested interest in how they turn out has to be fraught with problems. In households with two working parents this is all too often the solution. However, Derek’s post above seems to suggest that women are choosing to prioritize career success over family as if simply for its own sake. The working mothers I know have careers that they do care about, but their careerism is not about some misguided feminist notion about being able do it all, and most of it better than men. These women continue to work because they are surrounded by real life examples of what happens to the dependent partner when things fall apart. The sad reality is that marriage today is, for the most part, a temporary arrangement. This is not simply a cynic’s view of the world, it’s a statistical reality. The partner who chooses to stay home, be it the man or the woman, is placing themselves very squarely in the hands of the other. All well and good when things are new and rosy. Few people marry believing it won’t last but given today’s divorce statistics, accepting financial dependency on another is a gamble many people are not willing to take. I for one don’t blame them.

  • julie

    i’m in the same boat, i can’t be happier, i’ve been freelancing full time for over a year already, and have no stupidity or stress of the office politics in my life. I love my life now. I say, to each its own, ultimately, we have 1 life, and no time to waist on fulfilling some other people’s dreams and/or paths. Each person has to make him/herself happy by doing whatever is needed and works for their individual case. Feminism, shmeminism, it’s just a label. My definition of feminism is my ability to choose my life path and not to be obligated to achieve…

  • Stephanie Crawford

    ” deciding to live my life off the page and just deciding to be happy every day, rather than waiting for my happiness to come “one day.” ”


  • Shera

    Right on K. and Derek! I jumped off the corporate chuck wagon three years ago and then spent the time since beating myself crazy with work, seeking work, freaking out about so much work, wishing there was less work, being afraid there wouldn’t be enough work/money. I have way too many girlfriends who are torn asunder over needing to work (not necessarily jobs they love) and care for their little babies. It’s ridiculous. But most importantly, do what YOU want to do?

    I got a quote from a “Creating the Work You Love” seminar by Tama Kieves (fab) last weekend. Here it is: “The trappings of success mean nothing to the blessed.” Be blessed and appreciate that. Success is inherent in that.