Is the choice to remain a housewife reactionary?

Recently the social networks put forward the concept of «Tradwives» traditional women in French, an expression also appearing in Anglo-Saxon press. It designates women who choose, despite their diploma (s), to give up their job and stay at home.

By reifying these behaviors and assimilating them to an anti-modernist ideology (back to tradition) and anti-feminist (against the liberation of women), too hasty an analysis risks considering these behaviors as so many strange and irrational acts dictated by an automatic submission to men. However, can some of them not be motivated by completely rational choices and motivated by another feminist conception of life?

A veil of suspicion

The press which deals with these new ways of life has so far adopted a critical perspective, aiming to reveal the motives – a priori irrational – of these women, their sufferings, and the retrograde significance of their behavior. The phenomenon is presented as an anti-feminist movement, even far right, valuing the return home of fashionistas devoted to laundry, dusting and cooking for the sole purpose of pleasing their husbands.

Social networks promote the visibility of this attitude by offering a space of testimony for tradwives bloggers gathered under the banner of hashtag.

However anachronistic they may seem, are these behaviors all part of a single trend aimed at unraveling the achievements of a modern society that is finally liberated? Doesn’t critical media discourse forget to understand certain reasons that may govern heterogeneous behavior?

A generational reaction

Today’s women are the heirs of a real movement for sexual and professional liberation which took place between the 1970s and 1990s. Since then, they have enjoyed better access to jobs previously reserved for men: lawyers, doctors, journalists, etc. architects, engineers, politicians, university professors, electricians, farmers, etc.

The women of the 1970s and 1990s experienced the growth and mutation of family models. Several studies taking women as an example italian and Swedish have thus shown how some prefer their careers to motherhood, by desire or necessity.

And if these two post-baby-boomer generations constitute a model for women today, we observe that some of them now give the priority to their family life. Do they thereby oppose the previous generations who have freed their access to work?

Today, marital and couple configurations have evolved, with a number of blended couples and single-parent families. But contrary to what one might think, these changes in family models and freed up access to the world of work have not diminished the primary importance that women (and men) give to the family in their life priorities. , as shown by european studies.

Moreover, we can assume that the choice to stay at home – made by women but also by men – is negotiated within the couple, where the domination of the «breadwinner» is no longer systematic, as has been more the case in the past (the man who supported the family in economic terms).

Careers lived differently

The periods of professional engagement are also shorter: we no longer speak of a continuous and linear career and employment contracts are more and more flexible, even precarious.

These periods between two employment contracts or during a professional reconversion can also be periods at home that some women (and men) can experience in different ways; as a period of identity reconstruction or a «turning point» (a decisive moment in the life of switching to something else) for both professional and personal life.

In addition, women may have a scarce and rare privilege over their male counterparts: their parental leave is not under pressure from male stereotypes that continue to persist. Taking parental or paternity leave is still taboo in a voracious world of work.

Refusal to participate in voracious organizations

Today, students are the majority on the benches of European universities. But once in employment, we observe the permanence a glass ceiling and a “sticky floor“. This means that many women fail to climb the hierarchical ladder and remain stuck in precarious status and in low-valued jobs.

They can therefore access highly qualified jobs, but are often penalized in terms of promotion, status and responsibility. Many of them face various obstacles in terms of integration into their work units and a increased work overload.

Despite the progress forged by previous generations, the world of work is still strongly marked by a male logic. And many men also suffer from this overload of work at a time when technology and teleworking blur the line between private life and life. professional.

Many women fail to climb the ladder and remain stuck in precarious status.

Workers are now required to be reachable anytime and anywhere, reply in real time to accelerations projects and on the orders of clients and shareholders. The mobility has also become a demanding standard.

The work experience can then come into tension with various family and personal experiences (rest, young children, elderly parents, suffering relatives, free time, etc.) and lead to suffering such as burnout or brown out (when work loses its meaning). All the more so when capitalist norms of productivity and omnipresence reign supreme.

A way of saying no to dominant socio-economic norms

If more and more women are returning – temporarily at least – to the home, cannot this be seen as a sign of dissatisfaction and defection in the face of prevailing socio-economic norms, where privacy should only be an adjustment variable?

For example, some women who have left academia report choosing to flee voracious institutions which require an exclusive commitment to work, encroaching on the life of couple and family, leisure time and quality.

Where part-time jobs (real and not fictitious) are accessible to women of the middle and upper classes, a satisfactory conciliation seems possible.

This invites us to consider the return home as a privilege reserved for those who can afford it … We should also note that certain men make similar choices, but without exposing them on the web.

“Exit” and “care”: two critical attitudes?

That some women – and some men – give priority to their family life and care Does it systematically constitute a brake on their personal development and their purchasing power? Can some of these choices not be understood as a critique of advanced modernity?

We assume that there are a variety of experiences that do not fit well with stereotypes and reifying hashtags of tradwives. To avoid falling into the trap of victimizing these women, why not postulate that their choices are most often collective and proposed by intelligent and strategic individuals?

Some women make this choice for a variety of reasons. Some to go out (exit) of a busy working world that would force them to sacrifice their private and parenting life. Others to promote a professional or individual reorientation, also allowing to spend more time at home.

There is a diversity of experiences that do not fit well with the stereotypes and reifying hashtags of “tradwives”.

But these political choices remain associated with both a privilege probably reserved for the middle or upper class, by requiring alternative income (part-time work, telecommuting, savings, or income shared as a couple), and to a world of work unsuited to family and personal needs. Scientific studies that would combine these dimensions to explore the question of this choice of returning home are necessary.

Caution invites us not to generalize fears relating to these life choices, while trying to grasp the critical dimension of the choices studied. In addition, looking only at women leaving professional life constitutes a gendered problematization, which goes against a feminist and critical perspective.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read thearticle original.

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