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April 14, 2012

Housewifery as a Luxury Good

Texan99 riffs on the President's dubious assertion that he and Michelle couldn't afford for her to stay home with the kids:

A definition of luxury becomes even more fraught with unconscious moral assumptions when the term is applied to activities that at one time were considered duties. You hear people talk, for instance, as though the prohibition against theft were a luxury that only the rich can afford, because they are not truly hungry. A more thoughtful way to apprpoach that issue would be to say that a rich man's honesty has not been tested by hunger, with a cautionary note that a rich man should be slow to assume that he would do a better job than his neighbor of avoiding theft if he ever were equally hungry. By defining a virtue as a luxury, however, someone who wants to remove the stigma from violation of a duty can score an indirect moral point in his own favor, or at least disarm his critics in advance -- as if everyone in less desperate straits than oneself were at least unpleasantly complacent, if not outright greedy.

I am referring, obviously, to the President's recent statement that he and his wife did not have the "luxury" of letting her stay home with the kids. This statement is remarkably full of loaded assumptions. To begin with, it's hard not to laugh at the idea that a family with hundreds of thousands of dollars of income "can't afford" to forgo a second paycheck. But even if you buy that notion, calling a stay-at-home mom a "luxury" is essentially to make a judgment that the big house and the cable TV are basic necessities, while personally raising their children constitutes the frill.

The President presumably considers himself something of a feminist, without ever thinking about it very hard. Being a man of his culture, however, he naturally assumes that the man works and then, if there's still not enough money, the woman works too, which just shows you that he's not nutty enough to expect even a very liberal electorate to swallow too many transformative social experiments all at once. But a real feminist wouldn't justify her decision to earn a living by saying her husband couldn't afford to support her. She might suggest that, if it were clear that at least one parent ought to stay home with young children, then some careful thought should be given to which parent it should be. She might also take the position that it's no one's business but hers and her husband's how they arrange to share the adult duties in their household.

I've read her post three times now, and like a fine wine it just keeps getting better.

Posted by Cassandra at April 14, 2012 02:36 PM

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Various assumptions from Our President and his various followers indicate that critical thinking has arrived at one 'right answer' to this dilema. Or it is just the usual campaign caterwauling. Whatever.

Ann Romney has not liberated herself from the Patriarchy by finding her own identity in work, and truly becoming self sufficient as a sovereign human being. Or she does not kowtow to the feminist approach of viewing her children as commodities - and did you know she had FIVE sons? Egads.

By not emerging as her own person, she remains unliberated from the bonds of the failed institution of marriage and marching with her sisters into the brighter utopia of the liberated future. What?

She has, in short, committed several of the most venal sins possible in this Brave New World into which we have been deposited.
She dared to fulfill the time-tested occupation of raising her own children. Of course, Head Start wasn't around then, so she can be forgiven just a mite.

She was the primary teacher, nurterer and values-imparter to her five (5!) sons, and not the minions of our State. Another transgression.

And lastly, she has not properly admitted her sins, and has stayed married to Willard 'Mitt' Romney for lo all these many years.

Popular culture has taught the rising generation many things, and Ann Romney has become an anachronism in comparison to those newer views. In the days and weeks to come, we will be told this many times in different ways.

It is imperative the Mr. Obama be re-elected so that the March to the Future will not be interrupted with the reactionary symbols of the past which are portrayed by Mr. and Mrs. Romney.

Or to paraphrase our Glorious Leader, if you like your country, you can keep your country.

So it goes.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at April 14, 2012 03:30 PM

Perhaps with his occupation of "community organizer" they really did need Mrs Obama to work.

Posted by: Pogue at April 14, 2012 09:09 PM

It is hard to get along if at least one spouse isn't working.

Posted by: Grim at April 14, 2012 10:06 PM

"Trouble is, he has a decidedly thin resume, and one of the biggest bullet points on it reads Miserable Failure."
Time passes, and as all who will see now know, both the resume and the one bullet point mentioned have been enhanced, considerably. Much to the detriment of the Republic and her citizens.

Posted by: bthun at April 14, 2012 11:28 PM

One of my technicians, a male applied for pregnancy leave. Off the record, as no such question could ever be asked legally, he explained that his wife was a petroleum engineer with a major oil company with a six digit salary and a company car - no further comment was necessary.

Posted by: Grumpy Curmudgeon at April 15, 2012 01:37 AM

As I think I've often mentioned, I had three colleagues whose husbands stayed home with the kids, for that same reason. It's not always obvious which income is the disposable one. There are also guys who work from home and home-school their kids.

The Bookworm Room's recent post is getting a lot of attention, an argument that homes (and home-schooling or at least stay-at-home moms -- or, as I would say, parents) are a bastion against a state that tends to grow too intrusive. It's one reason the freedom from unreasonable search and seizure is so important: not just to give criminals a better chance to hide evidence, but to make state officials think twice and jump through extra hoops before they can invade the home.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 15, 2012 08:52 AM

Homeschooling is also double-plus ungood for the Bright New World being ushered in by our Glorious Leader and his Team of Rivals (tm).

Why just the other day I read something on Slate/Pravda that criticized homeschooling as being anti-social. So that's been denounced also.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at April 15, 2012 11:14 AM

When we moved to California, the public school system was extremely hostile to my kids because they were coming from a homeschooled curriculum.

Nevermind that they both tested in the 98th percentile or above in every single subject.

Apparently, that was irrelevant. I had to fight to get them in honors courses even though they had far more intensive and advance courses on their transcripts than the kids already in the honors track.

Posted by: Cass at April 15, 2012 02:05 PM

I'm old enough to remember a time when California was considered to be one of, if not the top state when it came to turning out academically well-rounded, capable, and educated students from their public system.

Slip slidin' away...

Posted by: bthun at April 15, 2012 02:22 PM

Err... that was "advanced"...

Posted by: Cass at April 15, 2012 02:29 PM

But Cass, you couldn't have expected the schools to repose any confidence in standardized tests. And besides, everyone knows home-schooled kids are weird. What if they had indoctrinated the other kids with unapproved modes of thinking? Who knows what kind of mental cooties they were carrying?

Posted by: Texan99 at April 15, 2012 03:26 PM

Heh. I just had a Thought Occur to Me. He, Obama, can't afford the luxury of M'chelle complaining about her life and how unfulfilled she isn't with her job at the horsespittle...

Posted by: Carolyn at April 15, 2012 09:17 PM

Mental cooties?

Are those intellectually-transmitted diseases?

Posted by: Carolyn at April 15, 2012 09:25 PM

The sad thing is that a lot of home schooled children are actually very well adjusted emotionally because they have a very healthy relationship with the adult(s) instructing them, instead of the usual adversarial relationship between teacher and students, and all the negative aspects of the social world of public schools.

"Critical studies" is all about Marxist deconstructionism, and is all the rage in the teaching pedagogy. A nice lady I used to work with (a retired high school Spanish language teacher) told me all sorts of tales of her experiences working towards a PhD in education. Something that she quit on after a while. Her son is an extremely bright guy that works for the John Locke Foundation in North Carolina.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at April 15, 2012 10:05 PM

Don, what the schools considered to be properly adjusted would curl your hair. Namely, to be stuck in a classroom of your same age peers, and able to handle the pecking order in the room. The bullies or the peer pressure. My sister absolutely insisted I put my youngest in day care because (draws deep breath) he would have 'positive peer pressure in toilet training.'
Gah. I really think she lies awake at night worrying about her standing in the DNP....

Posted by: Carolyn at April 16, 2012 09:20 AM

Great post and comments.

A fine point: After 5 days without food, I was no longer hungry. But I was capable of fearing starvation. These two are very different in real life.

Posted by: tomg51 at April 16, 2012 09:30 AM

Carolyn, do you mean to say you will allow your youngest to persist in unsocialized, eccentric toilet-training? It's never too early to begin forging those peer diaper bonds that will get him into the best schools and clubs later in life.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 16, 2012 10:32 AM

I have two sons in high school. I know what is supposed to pass for "normal".

Eeeesh! Still, the times, they are a-changin'.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at April 16, 2012 12:54 PM

"I have two sons in high school. I know what is supposed to pass for "normal"."

Heh. It wasn't so many years ago that my young'uns passed through high school.

At some point during that running skirmish, maybe after hearing "<insert rand(num-to-name) parent's name here> lets <insert rand(num-to-name) here> do it*" for the gazillionth time, a realization hit me. That being gangs of... ah, todays kids are little different from the herd in which I ran lo these many decades prior.

We all sought to assert ourselves and raze any boundaries. The difference between then and now, at least as it seems to me [generalization alert based on observation], is how much more the parents, the schools, and society at large indulge, nah, make that enable the latter day rebels without a clue.

Then there are the free-range gaggles of middle-aged to geriatrics sparing no effort or expense in order to look and act like they are fifteen. It makes those of us in our sixth and seventh decades feel like awkwardly responsible tweens... =;^}

Interesting Times© observations from the hovel, only 2¢... A bargain at half the price.

* Unacceptably inappropriate function du jour.

Posted by: bthun at April 16, 2012 01:33 PM

It's never too early to begin forging those peer diaper bonds....

But, but, how ever will they learn to write their names in the snow? Or the beach sand?

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at April 16, 2012 02:38 PM

They teach that at school now?

Posted by: Texan99 at April 16, 2012 03:28 PM

Well, they taught writing. We practiced and embellished at recess. Although in upstate Illinois, we only had the snow part.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at April 16, 2012 03:30 PM

Quite honestly, it doesn't show up near as well in the sand as it does in the snow.


Posted by: DL Sly at April 16, 2012 09:42 PM