A Response to, and Some Learnings from, My Piece ​"Feminism Has Enabled My Husband to Be Lazy and Selfish"

My article wasn't really about feminism.
Publish date:
August 29, 2016
feminism, family, marriage

Dear xoJane Commenters Who Responded to My Piece, and the Public at Large,

For starters, the title "Feminism Has Enabled my Husband to be Lazy and Selfish" was generated by the editorial staff, although you will argue that it may as well have been written by me. My originally submitted title was "Bitch-Slapped by Feminism." I had written the body of it factually, for readers to draw their own conclusions, using my personal experience as evidence of a larger problem. This piece was also simply my wondering whether women's progress has, in some way, influenced a negative, reactionary trend.

What I had hoped to do by sacrificing my personal story on the altar of public opinion was to shine a light on the bigger problem of my husband being one of many men that are behaving this way. There is, it seems to me, a wave of men and women with a similar attitude as my husband, as evidenced by the existence of "The Good Men Project" (being a good man is its own project!) and articles like "The End of Men" (kind of an oldie by now, but a goodie), "21 Things Modern Men Need to Stop Doing," and piles of anecdotal evidence from other women. All of these are saying the exact same things that I am.

But relatively new writers like me are often encouraged to make their points via first-person experiential stories. So I did, and I paired it with my inconclusive musing about what could have caused such a shift in the dynamic of households like mine. I had simply hoped to start a slightly more elevated conversation beyond "Your husband's an asshole" and "You don't know feminism."

Regardless of my intentions, there you were. If I was trying to shine a light on a bigger issue, you were the hundreds of little chipmunks that popped up with your little hand-held dental mirrors to reflect most of it back onto me. While my husband and I have seen a therapist, you were collectively better at highlighting my martyr tendencies (which my husband would say I have as well), revealing my "enabling" by trying to stay committed to this thing called "marriage" and feeding all of us too, telling me that I have buyer's remorse and that I wanted him to change (which I do, but different from "change," I expected him to rise to the occasion of our changing circumstances, and anyone would expect the same), and telling me that I should be talking about it with him (which I have). In fact, I would recommend publishing a controversial article to anyone who wants to work on their self-awareness.

So here we all are.

You were definitely the best mirror and the most valuable therapist I've ever had, and I thank you. I try to live my life in such a manner that I will always answer for my words and my actions, which is why I posted using my real name. Although I wish more people would use this as their own rule of thumb, I appreciate you for calling me to the task.

"Feminism" was a word that I knew people would be able to quickly wrap their heads around, and I probably should have wrapped mine around it a little more fully before using it as a narrative device. I knew it would "poke the bear" to some extent, but I was using it as an efficient way to frame my hypothesis that there is some kind of mechanism of society that seems to have brought about an enormous amount of lackadaisical men. Figuring that would be a little hard on the word count, "feminism" was the word I chose, albeit too flippantly.

One commenter suggested that I took such a big risk — publishing an incendiary article with my own name — because I want things to change so badly. Yes, I want things to change: for me, but also for the thousands of other women who feel like they've said all they can say to their partners, in every which way, at every time of day, but who also believe in "for richer and for poorer" and "for better or for worse." We are the poorer and worse, but we're not the worst. I wanted women who feel like they aren't justified in leaving because he doesn't abuse drugs or alcohol, hit them, or cheat on them to at least feel justified in not feeling like they are alone — and confident they can take a stand without necessarily serving him divorce papers. Because he will make you feel like you aren't justified in doing so because he's not categorically "bad," and money shouldn't matter in the realm of love...right?

My hope was that I'd help things change for more women and that the man-hating, man-project articles (including mine) would stop eventually, because there won't be anything to improve upon. The rapid-fire recommendations to divorce spouted wholly from the context of reading this article and from reading my ridiculously puny library of, like, six blog posts that were written over a span of two years, makes me think that maybe if we didn't jump to breaking apart our families so easily, that the caliber of people in general that we are churning out as products of our currently very broken families would rise.

Commenters also reflected upon my needing to get used to women working outside of the home because we "all do," these days. This is not true; I know many stay-at-home moms, and to tell ourselves otherwise is denial. It's also true that many mothers work outside of the home. Some want to, but some don't, and this piece was for them. To suggest that this piece was in support of patriarchal thinking is to further devalue the work that stay-at-home mothers do. The comments section revealed that there is still a large segment of the population who interpreted my wanting to stay at home as my being the selfish one and wanting to kick my feet up. Some men are skilled in homemaking, and they take a lot of interest and joy in it. Many do not. This piece was for them, too.

Who my little ditty wasn't for was people uninterested in thinking about how my piece might fit into the bigger picture and whose lives are perfectly figured out, which — very clearly — was most of you.