I'm not sure that it is in fact harder for Stay at Home Dads to rejoin the work force than it is for their female counterparts.

A professor I worked with once summed up her perspective on the situation regarding parents in academia by pointing out that a woman who shows dedication to her family proves that her priorities are elsewhere (because family is supposed to be a woman's first concern, so any signals that she is taking family seriously will be taken to indicate that it actually is); a man who shows dedication to his family demonstrates that he is a nice guy who will do things he doesn't have to do (since family isn't supposed to be his first concern, obviously he's going over and above the call of duty).


I don't think Hirshman's denigration of SAHMs is tangential. It's crucial to her thesis. Staying home to care for the family full-time is not a choice that Hirshman believes women should be able to make. ("Like the right to work and the right to vote, the right to have a flourishing life that includes but is not limited to family cannot be addressed by the language of choice.") If homemaking IS worthy of respect, she couldn't criticize the people who want to do it full-time. So in Linda's world, homemaking and parenting HAS to be portrayed as a second-class pursuit.

"...I said that the tasks of housekeeping and child rearing were not worthy of the full time and talents of intelligent and educated human beings. They do not require a great intellect, they are not honored and they do not involve risks and the rewards that risk brings."

"Okay, I'm judgmental. That's what CBS's Lesley Stahl called me on '60 Minutes.' But I'm a philosopher, and it's a philosopher's job to tell people how they should lead their lives."

Helma Bim

The people really denigrating caregiving are the antifeminists. The antifeminist manner of portraying caregiving as something heroic (because it requires self-sacrifice for the greater glorification of femininity) is really what denigrates it. Hirshman isn't saying anything about schoolteachers or nurses--the people who are paid to do caregiving and have specific skills and training for it. (She doesn't consider them high-achievers, of course, and she is trying to address only high-achievers. This is problematic and classist of course, but many other bloggers and posters have dealt with this already so I'll skip it.) She is specifically addressing women who decide that their career is caring for their own children for no salary. (She does make a crack at volunteer work. I don't agree with her, but it's a separate issue.) The biggest insult to all the professional caregivers in the world is that their work should done routinely for free.

The point that men will not do housework unless women are clever and act like it's fun is stupid and manipulative. Men are not idiots, they know perfectly well that scrubbing a toilet isn't thrilling, and thinking that women should trick men into doing it is demeaning to both men and women. The premise it that a woman must trick a man into doing what she wants because he is too stupid and too mean otherwise is degrading. I believe that the men in my life are too smart to be treated like animals.


Helma Bim: I think there's a big difference between "fun" and "not shameful." I agree that for most people, most housework is not fun. But that doesn't mean that it should also be *shameful* -- that is, that people should be criticized for doing it and feel like they're lesser people for it. Shame is entirely a social construct, so removing the shame from an activity isn't "tricking" anyone into thinking more positively of it.

Happy Feminist: I hadn't heard of Proverbs 31 as a justification for women being housewives, so I went and looked it up -- and ended up bemused. By my reading, the wife being praised there sounds like a successful businesswoman, not a June Cleaver.


I find this argument very puzzling. We know for a fact that our society does not value child care and homemaking. I don't see why pointing that out is an attack.
We know for a fact that depending on someone else to take care of you is usually a mistake. I cannot see how pointing this out is an attack.
In an ideal world the care and teaching of children would be as important as providing food and shelter. We don't live there.

The Happy Feminist

Erin, I agree that Hirshman is trashing full-time homemaking, but the core of her argument (as follows) has nothing to do with that: (1) It is unfair that wives rather than husbands are automatically to sacrifice other ambitions for home and family. (3) Right now it is difficult if not impossible for women to avoid being the primary caretaker of home and family because of the overwhelming expectation that women take on this role. Women often fail to take their own careers seriously because they know they will inevitably wind up as the primary caretakers of young children. (4) As things stand right now therefore, there is no true freedom of choice for women. (5) Nothing is going to change unless women insist on change. (6) There are some concrete steps women can take in order to take charge of their own destinies.

We needn’t to pretend that scrubbing toilets is fun because that would indeed be stupid. But we shouldn't act like it’s a mark of being completely dominated if you happen to be the one scrubbing the toilet. Scrubbing the toilet is just something that needs to get done so there is no shame in it -- UNLESS you're doing all the housework because of your sex and your career is getting ruined as a result. I would like to see more stay-at-home dads and that is never going to happen if we don't recognize the value that stay-at-home-parenting has (value which is greater than just toilet scrubbing).


We are never going to recognize the value of stay-at-home parenting, and housework, as long as those things are seen as "women's work". The anti-feminists talk all day long about how wonderful it is to take care of children--but of course, that's a task beneath the dignity of men.

Mandolin, you're confusing the praise men get for lowering themselves to 'help out' at home with the scorn heaped on men who do what women are supposed to do. A guy who takes a day off to be at his kids' piano recital may be a wonderful daddy, but the guy who stays home while his wife works is pussywhipped, "Mister Mom", and clearly isn't a team player.


In my experience, the person who ends up doing the housework is the one who has the lowest tolerance for messes. Could it be that women end up cleaning more often because they sense that the mess is a problem before their husband does?

True, the woman is probably more likely to be critisized for keeping a messy house than her husband is, which is where the sexism comes in. This likely contributes to her desire to keep a clean house as well.

In my case, I don't end up cleaning very often because my bf gets tired of the mess first and cleans it before I even notice that it's there. It seems what many women REALLY want is for their husbands to have the same cleanliness threshold they have.

Do many husbands come home and complain to their wives that they didn't vacuum the floor? Perhaps husbands, by in large, care less about a vacuumed floor than their wives do, which is why the wives end up doing the vacuuming?

The Happy Feminist

I don't buy into the notion that whoever has the lower cleanliness standards wins.

Amanda had a good post on this issue here:


I also liked what Bitch Ph.D had to say here:

The Happy Feminist

Or maybe they do win, but just saying, "I don't care if there are empty pizza boxes everywhere and dirty clothes on the floor," doesn't cut it.

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