This past week, a woman became the speaker of the House of Representatives for the first time. I watched the television with glee as Nancy Pelosi accepted the gavel, and then I turned and punched Kevin in the arm.
“Woo hoo! It feels good to have a woman in charge!” I announced. “Don’t you think?”
“Sure it does,” he answered, knowing full well that it’s always best to quickly agree with everything I say when I’m on the You Go Girl Bandwagon.
After that little moment of celebration, I walked over to the kitchen and pulled out the gift my sister Stephanie gave me for Christmas – probably the best gift I received this year: Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook. A big old bowling ball of a book, the Homekeeping Handbook is a veritable bible of home management, and recently I have found myself totally engrossed in it. Later on that night, while on the phone with my friend Melissa, I even found myself convincing her to buy it.
“Did you know, for example, that you shouldn’t use anything too acidic to clean ceramic tiles because it will break down the grout?” I spazzed. “This book tells you how to clean and do practically everything.”
It wasn’t until I was going to bed that the irony struck me.
Back in college, when I was in my radical feminist days, I figured housewifery was The Man keeping women down, and I decided I was never going to lift a finger to clean or do anything in protest of all the women who had been enslaved at the stove for generations before me. The problem with that belief system was that when I started living alone, I realized I didn’t know how to cook, clean, sew, or do anything practical for myself. Forget whatever man might show up eventually. At that moment I needed to know how to put a button back on so my pants wouldn’t fall down while I was walking into work.
Going through the process of becoming a wife has made me realize there is something useful and good about running a house, and there is even a sense of pride that comes with cleaning or making something yourself. It sorts of creeps me out that I feel this way sometimes, but I’m learning to enjoy it. And I’m learning it doesn’t make me less of a feminist.
When I was thinking of blogging about this, I had high hopes about writing something really profound. But the truth is; I don’t know how to put all my feelings about this topic into one coherent message…and certainly not one that will fit into this prescribed space.
But what I do know is this; this week especially I am thankful for every housewife who made a home she was proud of and for every woman who ran for political office (and for every woman who did both). For every mother who decided to stay at home after her baby was born and for every mother who decided she wanted to go back to work. For every woman who reported the boss who grabbed her rear end and for every girl who proved throwing like a girl was something to be proud of. For every woman who got married and had kids and for every woman who decided not to.
I thank all the women who came before me, including my mother and grandmothers, including Martha and Nancy, who made it all right to be a woman who feels she could – and should – belong everywhere. Who gave me the freedom to make the choices that were right for me.
Who made me understand a woman’s place is in any house she damn well chooses.
And now I’m off to remind Kevin it’s his turn to do the dishes.