I wrote this for my english 101 class….
Finding a Balance between Radical Feminism and the Traditional Family Structure.
Since the beginning of the feminist revolution, the discussion of Traditional Family structure has been a topic of strong debate and discussion on a relatively constant basis. Due to this revolution one thing can be plainly seen, “the traditional single-role family, where the wife stayed at home and the husband went to work is disappearing” (Rowbotham 401). It is important that an agreeable meeting ground to the controversy of the traditional family structure is found, rather than having such extreme sides constantly warring with each other.
In the 1960’s, a number of sexual revolutionaries condemned the traditional family structure as the source of all oppression for women. Oftentimes they would illustrate the home as the most dangerous place in the world for women, oftentimes describing violent and abusive husbands who sit at home waiting for their wives to come home from the store so that they may beat them for dinner being late – or for even no reason at all (O’Beirne 20).
As time continued to progress, the arguments between supporters of the traditional family and those who opposed them continued to divide society. “Women were presented with two clear-cut images in the 1980’s. One was the model of competitive success – the business suit made a surprise comeback; the other was a pastiche of a 1950’s apple-pie mom in a crisp white apron” (Rowbotham 524).
Many feminists believe that the traditional family structure (where the mother stays home and the father works to support the family financially) is oppressing to women. In Feminism Supports the Family, Phyllis Chesler -author of Letters to a Young Feminist – states that the traditional family structure is “male dominated, father absent, and mother blaming” (100).
Another common belief is that women should have careers equal with men instead of staying at home with the kids. Professor Gretchen Ritter – associate professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin – says “women at home with children are shirking their responsibility to contribute as professionals and community activists, which is an important part of citizenship … something we should expect of everyone” (O’Beirne 32). The rights hard-earned by feminists in the past must be preserved and built upon rather than regress back to what they once were before the feminist revolution.
Children are also believed to benefit from their mothers working outside the home as it enables them to spend more time building upon their socialization skills to the world outside the home and under the supervision of professionals at day care. Barbara Ehrenreich – a noted author and activist – believes that “the family might not be the perfect arrangement after all – that it can be a nest of pathologies and a cradle of gruesome violence” (O’Beirne 4). It is because of this that many people believe that a healthy daycare environment is essential for children.
In contrast to the feminist argument against traditional family structures, many supporters of traditional family structures believe that they are not oppressive to women, but rather, they are a privilege for many women. In her article Mothers Should Stay Home, Suzanne Venker – a former middle-school English teacher, writer, and full-time mother – states:
“The traditional family structure simply keeps women from having to worry about providing an income while they work the most important job of their lives” (222).
For many women, staying at home is an important career choice. When feminists are consumed by the opportunities and rights of a woman, they miss appreciating the positive side of staying home – such as significant expression of self – that many women bring to the table when caring for their children (O’Beirne 42). Many supporters of the traditional family structure also believe that there is no acceptable alternative for the care that a mother gives to her child. In fact, it is also the healthiest place for them to be given that children in day care are eighteen times more likely to get sick than other children [who stay home] … At any one time, 16 percent of children attending day care facilities are likely to be sick. They are [also] three to four and a half times more likely to requite hospital treatment than children raised at home (O’Beirne 37).
It is important to find an agreeable meeting ground for these two groups’ arguments. Lynn Marcotte, and English professor at Gordon College, believes “that unless both camps realize they agree on some basic things and can acknowledge that certain values are crucial to all concerned, neither will be as successful as they would like in changing our culture” (203).
Whether or not a woman chooses to live in a traditional family is a valid choice whichever way the woman should decide to go. “It is good for women to be recognized for their many capabilities outside of motherhood; but the fact remains that most women do not find happiness by pursuing careers at the expense of motherhood” (Venker 220). Rather than over concerning herself with the politics behind the choice of having a career or family, each woman should make her own decision based on her specific beliefs and needs. She should not have to worry about the political ramifications of her decision of what she believes is best for the welfare, education, and socialization of her children.
In the end it must also be recognized that it is the parent’s responsibility to determine what is best for their children and not the opinions of those around them. Rather than spend all its energies fighting and arguing, society must find an agreeable meeting ground in the controversy of the traditional family structure; if not for anything, but for the sake of the welfare for women and children everywhere.
Chesler, Phyllis. “Feminism Supports the Family.” Feminism: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. Jennifer A. Hurley. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2001. 99-104.
Marcotte, Lynn. “Feminists Can Be Pro-Family.” Feminism: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. Christina Fisanick. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2008. 197-206.
O’Beirne, Kate. Women Who Make the World Worse. New York: Sentinel, 2006.
Rowbotham, Sheila. A Century of Women: The History of Women in Britain and the United States. New York: Viking, 1997.
Venker, Suzanne. “Mothers Should Stay at Home.” Feminism: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. Christina Fisanick. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2008. 217-226.