feminism and the hearth

I used to hate cooking and everything else related to housework.  Growing up and realizing I needed to be at least satisfactory in home-making if I were to build a  successful home in the future made me nervous.  That I predictably sucked at it but my husband did not mind so much [I tried to impress him once with  adobong sitaw simmering in soy sauce and salt and tasting like the Pacific Ocean] made me feel even more of a failure.  But that was a decade ago and the sitaw incident has long been laid to rest in the kitchen cupboard [well, at least partially until he feels nostalgic].  I don’t know exactly how it happened [gradually, that much I can say] but I adapted to the job of homemaker like fish to water.

Several years years ago, I attended a training in gender awareness and sensitivity and it opened my eyes to a lot of things about gender inequality.  My exposure to a lot of women writers [Rosca, Chopin, Morrison, Walker, Woolf, to name a few] helped shape the way I think about womanhood and confronted me with various dilemma regarding women issues. Perhaps the most important thing I learned from the knowledge of how women have been marginalized  for centuries and the unbelievable difficulties feminists [both writers and activists] have gone through before their voices were finally heard and taken seriously, the painstaking labor to win a measure of respect, is the confidence to be who I am and who I want to be and appreciating the many rights and privileges I have now that they could only dream of then.

There is a small matter I’d like to hash out though.  Most feminist writers and philosophers seem to regard reducing women’s abilities to household chores and “housewifery” as extremely distasteful, demeaning and insulting to their intelligence.  And we are talking about strong, influential and powerful women here.  In another sphere of my experience, friends and wives I know [specially husbands] think it is very cool if a woman could– juggle a career or business, a husband, kids, social life and home-making. In fact, most men and women in our culture expect this of us.  Having a career woman for a mother, I expected this of myself likewise.  From a feminist standpoint however, the superwoman image is ridiculous.  I am not a feminist in the real sense of the word though.  I am won’t even venture to call myself that for fear of failing to live up to its implications.  For me, feminism is a way of life–something I could not stick to strictly even if I wanted to because I feel there is too much to lose and I do not think it is worth all the bother.  If things are narrowed down to whether one is a feminist or not, I wouldn’t have any base to stand on.  Thus, on the matter of the tyranny of housework, I have a dissenting opinion.  I find it mentally invigorating, physically enjoyable and psychologically rewarding. The best blog topic that ever crossed my mind came in the middle of washing dishes or scrubbing soiled undies. Organizing my day around the chores I have to finish allows me to think logically and orderly.  The praise I get for my simple cooking has leveled up my self-confidence, so much so that what used to be an intimidating idea of preparing Christmas and New Year dinners became  accomplishments equal to my scholastic awards.

I know I will always crave the challenge of my profession and sooner or later, the hearth will lose its magic and become routine.  But I regard it as a comfortable and natural part of womanhood [not the social construct feminists label it to be], not lessening my dignity at all but  disciplining my mind, heart and body.

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