During the mid-nineteenth century, a new ideology regarding women came to be called “The Cult of True Womanhood.” This ideology stated that women had to be four things: pious, domestic, submissive, and pure. Implementing these traits, these women acted as the moral backbone for their husbands in the workforce and for their children living at home. Though this ideology could be seen and close minded, demeaning, and repressive for women, some women did find agency in the home, living by “Cult”standards. These women took pride in being the supporter and backbone of their husbands and children and were like skilled artists, with their homes being their medium. In a way, by being submissive, these women found freedom. Now in a time when women can more freely choose their careers and life paths, being domestic is looked down upon, because ideologies like the “Cult” and other oppressive figures once enforced the idea of domesticity on women. But, even as some women found agency being domestic when it was forced on them, women now can find agency in domesticity as their life path.
For a large period of my younger life, my mother chose to quit her job to become a full-time mother, taking care of my sister and me. When my mother was asked about her career, I remember her always quietly replying that she was a stay-at-home mother, almost as if she was embarrassed. My mother often felt like she had to justify why she took on a domestic-role because society suggests that if you are a woman not making money and in a home environment, you are not working hard and that your chosen life path is easy. Society looked down on my mother’s choice to take on a domestic role because they perceived it as anti-feminist and anti-progressive, but that was my mother’s personal career choice, which is progressive. Though in history women were often forced into domestic roles, now when women choose to take on domestic roles it is looked down upon. The condemnation of a choice to be a stay-at-home mother does not give these mothers the opportunity to express agency, but instead this condemnation is quite anti-progressive. Though people may think condemnation encourages feminism, one is criticizing the free choice of a woman when condemning a stay-at-home mother and this criticism is very anti-feminist.
When First Lady Michelle Obama decided to give up her career as a lawyer and writer to focus on taking care of her two daughters, many people were upset at her decision. Individuals believed that Michelle was wasting all of her hard work and schooling on focusing on the care of her children. But, the decision to take care of her two daughters was ultimately made by Michelle, and she sets a good example to fellow mothers to listen to yourself when deciding to become a stay-at-home mother or not. Though individuals could argue that Michelle sets a bad example because she encourages women to take on stereotypical domestic roles, she in fact is a great role model to show that it is okay to be domestic if it is your own personal choice and desire. At this point in her life, Michelle wishes to focus on taking care of her children and this may not be a permanent choice. Michelle may choose to go back to a career in law or writing in the future. The most important thing is Michelle is deciding her own life path and setting an example to other women that they should make their own decisions too. This ability to choose one’s own life path is progressive.
We live in a time where women are presented with more choices than ever before. Though the opportunity to participate in the work force is a progressive opportunity for women, it does not give individuals the right to criticize women who personally choose to be stay-at-home mothers. If these women desire to take on traditionally domestic roles, their personal decision to do so is quite liberal and feminist because these women are deciding their own futures. The still reigning issue regarding domesticity in society is the way society often portrays domesticity as being submissive to the patriarchal expectations of American society. Women should be able to take on a domestic role if they wish, a working role if they wish, or even both roles. The next task for progressive America is to make those decisions of equal value economically, socially, and personally.