Thursday, September 07, 2006

On being subservient

Funny how something casual can stop you cold. I was reading one of my favorite blogs and the writer casually referred to being a homemaker as being in a subservient role.


The American Heritage Dic defines subservient as:
  1. Subordinate in capacity or function.
  2. Obsequious; servile.
  3. Useful as a means or an instrument; serving to promote an end.
Of course, those meanings don't really encompass the negative associations we have with the word subservient, which to my mind at least, brings up a lot of bowing and scraping. Ahh, Princeton University's Word Net:

adj 1: compliant and obedient to authority; "editors and journalists who express opinions in print that are opposed to the interests of the rich are dismissed and replaced by subservient ones"-G. B. Shaw 2: abjectly submissive; characteristic of a slave or servant; "slavish devotion to her job ruled her life"; "a slavish yes-man to the party bosses"- S.H.Adams; "she has become submissive and subservient"

I do not bring money -- well, significant money, anyway -- into our family unit. That is true. However, I am the person who pays all the bills. The Husband has no idea where all the money goes; for all he knows, I'm stashing it away in a Swiss bank account. Except that our electricity stays on, and our house hasn't been repossessed, so he figures I'm taking care of it.

To be subordinate would, I assume, mean that someone tells me what to do. Well, The Husband does occasionally tell me that I need to take some time for myself, but other than that, he provides no direction. I sometimes wish he would, as it sounds kind of nice ... no prioritizing, just do as I'm told. Of course, the thought of me taking orders from a spouse is equally hilarious as the idea of him giving me orders.

Don't misunderstand. This isn't some sort of foaming-at-the-mouth, "I love my job as CEO of the home!" I think 90% of the "mommy wars" are boring, same-old, same-old of people trying to justify their lives by putting down others. I call working moms "working moms." I don't think it implies I don't work. I call myself and others of my ilk "full-time moms." It doesn't mean working moms aren't always mothers.

I was just genuinely caught short with the assumption that a homemaker is subservient. The fact that it is an assumption made me want to explore the idea.

Having given it an initial perusal, I can now discard the idea. I am an educated woman who made a choice to retire from the professional world to devote my energies (for this period of my life anyway) to my children, husband and home.

Back to that third meaning: "Useful as a means or an instrument; serving to promote an end."

Well, isn't that all of us?

1 comment:

Earthbound Spirit said...

I'm going to have to think about whether I agree that we're all "useful as a means ... serving to promote an end." Seems to me I learned in undergraduate philosophy that one of the foundations of ethics (per Kant) was that persons were not "means," but "ends" in and of themselves. I'm curious what end you were thinking we all promote?

Otherwise -- right on. Another blogger recently replied to one of my posts by saying she didn't want to be called "wife," but had no problem calling her spouse "husband," because "husband" doesn't have a negative connotation. Maybe it's that subordinate thing you refer to.

I currently refer to my job history this way: "I had a decade-long career in office administration; switched fields, and have had a happy, ongoing, career in child-rearing and home management; as the need for hands-on management there has been reduced, I'm now in seminary, preparing for a third career." It does sound a little better than "I stayed at home and raised my kids for 20 years..."