I know what I’m good at. I know what I want to do. And I know what I have zero interest in doing for myself: filing my own taxes, perfecting homemade hollandaise sauce, putting up my own preserves, or hanging cupboards. I don’t want to spend a second longer in a Home Depot than I absolutely have to.
I don’t need power tools to be a feminist.
I was joking with friends, half-joking, that what sucked about the fact that my relationship had ended (aside from the VERY obvious fact that it ended, and I was sad), was that, well, now I had to hire someone to hang these shelves I wanted. “Think Ken would do it for $50?”
My friend Kelly visibly bristled. I sensed her blood start its low, feminist boil. “You should buy your own tools! Learn to hang the shelves yourself!” And in that she echoed the feminist cry that we’ve all heard over and over again. I could tell she was frustrated, mad, perhaps even disappointed in me that I could even think that I would “need” a man for anything.
The Mark of a “True” Feminist
Aha. But that’s the problem. Because there’s this persistent idea that to be a “true” feminist, I shouldn’t need a man—at all. Period. I should buy my own tools and level and learn to do this myself. That would be a good show of independence. I could prove to the world that I don’t need a man (and post it on Facebook)!
I’m not trying to prove that. I don’t need to.
One of the great pleasures of being a modern, self-supporting woman is that I actually don’t need to buy or do anything to prove it. Any more than I need to learn the inner workings of an engine in a ’66 Oldsmobile (and yes I had to fucking look that up because I know zip about cars). I have the right to choose what I do, where I spend my time and attention.
If that isn’t power, what is?
And I choose not to hang my own cupboard. For one, because I don’t feel like it and have things I’d rather do. Doesn’t mean I don’t want them up, though. There’s a world of difference between “Help me, I’m lame and can’t take care of myself,” and “Hey, I’d love your help with this since you’re good at it.” That’s not anti-feminist. That’s called management–an area, by the way, that women have been fighting very hard to get to do at a higher level.
Is it any wonder that women are overwhelmed and underpaid? Not only can we not say no to stuff, but we can’t let go of the stuff we should, and are afraid to admit we could in fact, use some help.
Is Feminism Just Proving a Thing? Or Doing It?
But this isn’t just about household chores.
This is about redefining what it means to be a feminist. And if you still feel the pressure to “prove it”—to the world and yourself—you’re going to be too busy to do the things you actually want to do.
There’s plenty of things I’ve done for myself that I’m proud of: Earned two degrees, gone after jobs I wanted, got them, excelled, impressed the right people, formed strong and abiding professional and personal relationships that support me to this day. I’ve leveraged my skills and talents to support myself as a solopreneur in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
I couldn’t have done it all by myself, to be sure. I’ve always had help—help I’m grateful for.
But it’s taken me a little longer to open to the idea that it’s more than ok to want and need a man, just because you do. That this fact doesn’t “undo” all the hard work or the ambition or the independence.
I will also save you the trouble and tell you that proving you don’t need a man isn’t the best way to find one, or to love one. Trust me on this.
Yes, there’s a lot I miss about being in a relationship–and that’s why I’ll ultimately choose one again. And not just for some help around the house, but because I want those opportunities to show love where and when I can. Even small stuff, like when I’d make the coffee so it was hot and ready when my boyfriend woke up. Not because I was his housekeeper, or even his wife, and not because he needed me to do it, but because I loved him.
And if you take away a man’s willingness to do a thing for you, you are saying you don’t need or want to be loved. Period.
I was on my way out of town for the weekend a while back, and I casually let drop to my boyfriend at the time that I’d love it if he’d be willing to hang that pendant lamp for me. I didn’t order, demand, or nag. Just asked. And when I walked in Sunday night, alone, there it was, suspended, lit, transforming the room with its glow like a thoughtful word. That man loves me, I thought. And I was right.