Opting Out

by A. Kate Grinstead

Disclaimer: This is my opinion. It is not intended to offend anybody – it is simply intended to make people think about how female roles are constructed in our society and to open further dialog. Sometimes, we have to go to the other extreme to be able to understand one another.

I consider myself to be an educated individual.

Granted, I am a woman, but where my education is supposed to allow me more choices in life, apparently one option is strictly forbidden.

Society will not let me become a stay-at-home mother.

But when I, as an educated woman, decide that I want to take my college degree, work a few years and then focus solely upon my children, isn’t that choice mine to make?

Some women don’t think so.

In a study conducted last year by the New York Times, researchers found that young women at elite universities like Harvard, Yale and Princeton wanted to get their undergraduate and even post-graduate degrees and then be stay-at-home mothers by the time they turned 30.

And the study pointed out that the trend is increasing.

The article that appeared in September generated a lot of buzz, leading to angry opinion pieces by self-labeled “Third Wave” feminists and new fodder for the Women’s Studies capstone here at Colorado State University.

Let me tell you, it makes me want to tell everyone I meet that I want to be a stay-at-home mom.

I began looking into this topic for a story I was writing for one of my journalism classes, knowing that there had to be more family-minded women than just me.

But there’s so much more to it than that – it’s an issue of who screams the loudest.

In today’s media, those that make noise make the news.

You don’t hear about the cat that played well in its house all day or the kids who made it across the street without being hit by a car or the woman who loves caring for her family and did so voluntarily and gratefully all day long.

You hear about the cat that gets stuck in the tree, the kids who get hit by a car and the woman who went to work and was arrested because she demanded a raise.

But there exist millions of women who just want to stay home, who want to devote their lives to cooking and cleaning and taking care of their husband and children, who don’t have a voice in the mainstream and who feel attacked when another woman says she is wasting her education by resorting to traditional gender roles.

What is honestly so wrong with traditional gender roles?

Women supposedly want equality when they physically differ from men, but why don’t they just embrace the fact that they are different and celebrate their female-ness instead of seeking to be “more like the men”?

Women supposedly want more challenging jobs, but why is it that one of the most challenging jobs involves 24-hour days of sacrificing for those you love and doesn’t pay a cent? Do they want freedom from the family or freedom from the work involved?

Are women really after equality when they attempt to remove their femininity from the radar – one of the few things that truly distinguish them from men? And are they really after more challenging jobs or are they simply after monetary reimbursement?

The Feminist Movement championed the woman’s ability to be educated enough to decide for herself which course to take and, yet, when the educated women decide that they would rather take the options the women of the movement ran from, they are viewed as having turned their backs against women seeking empowerment.

But again, what truly is this empowerment that we seek? Is it better pay or the ability to sleep around without consequences?

Is it the freedom be lazy?

In “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture,” Ariel Levy suggests that what we see as empowerment today are the very thing that the Feminist Movement sought to free this generation of women from.

Our empowerment has come through sexual means, she says.

But it’s in the form of objectifying the female body through the ready acceptability of pornography and previously taboo things such as strippers and pole dancing.

So, is that really empowerment?

If we take our educations and objectify ourselves further, what have we gained as women – heck, what have we gained as a society?

Women who educate themselves should be free to make their own choices, without receiving flak if those choices are traditional.

One of the women I interviewed for my story wants to be a stay-at-home mom. She put it like this:

“If you have a dream, you do it. This is mine.”

Well, this is my dream, too. Shocking, huh?

I am a well-educated, intelligent young woman who could easily see and find herself climbing the career ladder to success and power and everything my daddy ever promised me I could have if I worked for it.

And I want to opt out.

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