Feminism 2.0

There are many reasons why it's a good thing to have babysitter. The most obvious reason is that it's good to get away from your kids for a while. The other reason is that it's good to talk to young women to see what they're thinking. I get much more dirt from my babysitters than I do from students in class.

I see myself as both a feminist and a critic of feminism. The movement has brought about great things, but I also have some issues with the movement. A little dissent is a good thing. The movement's mistakes have made it so unpopular that most young women do not self-identify as feminists. And they have forgotten some of the basic messages. I find myself giving my babysitters little lectures from time to time. Of course, some lectures are held back, because I don't want to be too pushy.

So, here's my unrestrained advice to all future babysitters.

Never be dependent on a man. Learn how to manage your own finances. Spend more time reading books than blow drying your hair. If you dress dumb, people will treat you dumb. Even if you plan on being a full-time mom (which is a great thing), you still need to have a career to fall back upon. It should be a career that can support you and two kids. Travel. Don't take home economics classes in high school. Take the SAT prep class. Don't put pictures of your boobs on the Internet. Take a bus into New York City by yourself. Take your dates to a museum and rate them on their maturity level. Live in a dorm. Complain about things. Don't always listen to your parents.

UPDATE: Tim Burke gives us his list of life skills that all students should master.


25 thoughts on “Feminism 2.0

  1. Actually, they’ll get much more out of home ec than a typical SAT prep class, which is usually a waste of time and money. If you can work as a short order cook (ie: in a diner, not McDs.), you will never be out of work. I also had to typing typing to graduate. I’m still annoyed that I only took the cooking part of home ec and skipped sewing. I can’t sew a button or hem my clothes. Cooking, sewing, and typing are still important life skills that all, men and women, should have.

  2. Yeah, I like home ec class, too. But, that’s ’cause I think SAT prep can be done outside of class, while sewing is something better learned in class (as is cooking).
    Doesn’t everyone know how to type these days? I also think typing is a necessary skill, but don’t see it as something we teach secretaries anymore, but something anyone using a computer needs to know how to do.

  3. Learn how to fix your own stuff — your car, your ripped blankets, your messed-up HTML tables, your damaged drywall.

  4. I agree with jen. That kind of stuff is important and impressive. My gf put in our garbage disposal and a sink. Her dad wanted her to be self-sufficient.

  5. I’m with everybody on the home ec. Think how often we have the discussion on the internet that goes–why do we Americans eat so much garbage? Better domestic skills training is part of the solution. I have adequate cooking skills from a combination of mom, home experimentation, and 6th grade 4-H, but I frequently wish my sewing skills went beyond button-sewing and rudimentary mending. Even those minimal skills have had a big pay-off. For 5 minutes of work, I can salvage a garment. Over the course of a year, this amounts to hundreds of dollars in savings. Good laundry skills are also a big clothes and money saver. On college campuses across the country, laundry services charge as much as $400 per term to do laundry that would probably cost $4 a week plus detergent (so let’s say at most $100 for the term) if using dormitory washers and dryers.
    I think shop is also very important. My husband took a junior high shop class where they used the lathe and jig saw and later on a high school electronics class. He now fearlessly solders and tinkers.

  6. OK, AMy P does occasionally surprise me, usually on purpose. But, Amy, are you seriously saying that there are students who use laundry services? Please say you made that up.

  7. I’m with the other commenters– after teaching myself how to cook, wishing I knew how to sew, and teaching myself to do minor home repairs, I really think we should pay *more* attention, not less, to “practical” classes.
    SAT prep classes are rip-offs, and I can say that having taught them for years. Want to get a better verbal score? Read a lot more books. Want to get a better math score? Brush up on geometry and algebra and ignore anything else.
    I agree on the importance of travel and independence too– living abroad and driving cross-country gave me such enormous feelings of accomplishment.

  8. “Learn how to manage your own finances.”
    This is actually pretty good advice for both sexes. I’d amplify it to: when you get married, make sure that both you and your spouse manage your finances. If only one of you is in charge of everything, there is eventually going to be a mess. Oh, and while we’re at it: mortgage brokers, real estate agents, insurance salesmen, car salesmen, etc. are not your friends and do not necessarily have your best interests at heart.

  9. “OK, AMy P does occasionally surprise me, usually on purpose. But, Amy, are you seriously saying that there are students who use laundry services? Please say you made that up.”
    When we lived in residence a couple of years ago, the service used to flyer the residence halls aggressively. I was looking up the rates just now at one such service, and the prices run from $345 to $495 per term, depending on how many pounds of laundry you need to have washed.

  10. I wonder if we’re all focusing on the practical stuff because our white-collar upbringings neglected them? (Sorry if I’m making too many assumptions about the 11d crowd.) With my parents at least there was tremendous premium put on going to college, and anything that led to that was prized. This included what I now perceive as stupid stuff, like piano lessons. It most definitely did not include fixing my bike. I learned the fix-it skills more as a by-product of Bonding With Dad. The skills themselves were not considered very worthwhile.
    I did end up going to college and got myself set up as a result. I take those white collar skills so for granted it doesn’t even strike me to talk about them. And so, while I think the practical stuff is great, in a pinch I think you can live without it. It won’t be pleasant, but you’ll live.
    I guess this shows that when we all envision the babysitter we’d be giving advice to, this person is usually middle-class.

  11. Yes, you’re all right that students should learn to cook and clean for themselves. 100% agreement from me on that one. I just worry about the home ec classes in high school, because I think that they are places where the kids (mostly girls) avoid academic subjects. One of my babysitters was telling me that she only took two academic subjects in her senior year and the rest of the time she filled up with classes on gourmet cooking and other stuff. She said that she didn’t learn about cooking and I have had to teach how to make a box of couscous. The class was mostly about socializing.
    She also managed to get through college without ever writing a paper that was more than five pages. A sociology major.

  12. “I wonder if we’re all focusing on the practical stuff because our white-collar upbringings neglected them?”
    I think deskilling in practical arts has been happening in all classes of society, just as I think all classes have been picking up some measure of “white collar skills.” A 1st grade teacher told my sister that she had her class bake cookies after reading a book on baking cookies because many of the kids had never encountered flour or other basic baking ingredients. In my sister’s phrasing, the only time these kids encountered fresh baked goods was the brownie in their TV dinners.

  13. So here’s my question: if kids are not learning practical skills, and they’re not necessarily learning academic-y/white collar skills, what are they learning? Laura, what skills does your I-can’t-do-couscous sitter bring to the table?
    (Pardon me while I get snarky, but she sounds like she’s preparing for a career in HR.)

  14. Getting out of your workplace’s HR office as quickly as possible is also a life skill. Though I shouldn’t be too hard on them. At a previous employer, I was prestered to buy saving bonds by payroll deduction so often that I gave in. These bonds have had the highest rate of return over any investment I’ve made since then.

  15. I’m a big fan of practical skill-building — it not only gives you skills to get by later on in life, it helps to build your confidence.
    My dad had me help while he did all sorts of odd jobs around the house. I can drywall and do some simple electrical/motor fixes. In middle school I learned to cook and sew and do a bit in shop. In high school, I took a minor in office practice (typing, advanced typing and book-keeping). I always intended to go to university and pursue a profession and I did. But in the meantime, I was able to take a whole bunch of part-time jobs that kept food on the table and used a lot of these other skills.
    Teaching our daughters (and sons!) to be brave and to try new things is, of course, balanced against teaching them not to make fools of themselves, publicly. That’s the tricky part!

  16. I agree with Amyp and others about white collar de-skilling. I am someone who jumped classes from v. v. blue collar to white collar. I remember my dad sewing up tears in high traffic areas in the wall-to-wall carpet because you didn’t ever replace it. And I can darn and sew and cook with the best of them.
    Now that I live in white collar land, my partner (also a blue collar transplant) and I realised that we are becoming almost “Jabba the Hut” in that we have outsourced a lot of services. Soon our arms will shrivel to nothing. One of the outsourced services, gardening/snow shovelling, was just because we inherited it from our home’s previous owners.
    We just fired them as I want to get back to shovelling and gardening and mowing. And most importantly, I want my three year old daughter to understand what goes into running a home.

  17. I’m surprised, in this day and age, that your first principle isn’t “Never be dependent on a man or woman”, or maybe just “never be dependent”.
    And your last principle is just plain wrong. Assuming they are good parents, there is no one who cares about you and will give give you inselfish advice like your parents. You aren’t required to FOLLOW that advice, of course, but you should always listen.

  18. MH,
    Amen. The no-iron shirt is one of the greatest blessings of our contemporary civilization, right up there with wireless internet and epidurals.

  19. Here’s another addition to the list: don’t sign anything you don’t understand and haven’t read through at leisure.

  20. I would change the boobs rule to: Don’t put pictures of yourself on the Internet that you would not want your grandparents to see. (Remember that NOTHING on the internet is really private.)
    I also add: Avoid debt, drugs, smoking, alcohol in excess and unwise sex, 5 things that can really change your life for the worse, and are hard to get out of once you get in.

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