Our society is very concerned with productivity and efficiency. As with most social phenomena, there are a variety of factors that contributed to this. One factor that I find fascinating, however, is the so-called “Protestant work ethic”.
I had never even heard of the Protestant work ethic – although it’s got a whole Wikipedia page unto itself – until senior year of college in my Intro to Sociology course (yes, it was a class of freshman + me). Sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920) wrote an entire book called The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, in which he claims that Protestant (especially Calvinist) theology, laid the foundation for capitalism. It’s a very fascinating argument, but I can’t do it justice here. The overall (oversimplified) argument is that, in some Protestant circles, there has historically been a significant emphasis placed on hard work and industry as a sign of one’s “election by God.”
Hence, the emergence of capitalism.
I suppose it’s no surprise, then, that American Christianity has elevated “industry” to a virtue. Think I’m exaggerating? I was shocked to discover recently that sloth (the deadly sin, not the animal) is NOT the same as laziness.
The other day, I started another rant while my husband listened. (It’s ok. He’s used it.) As with most of my rants, this one fell under the broad category of “why can’t everyone live their lives as I think they should.” And, as with most of my rants, he responded to this one with an amused smile.
This particular rant, however, took me in a direction I didn’t expect.
It started out as a complaint about the pressure that some Catholic women feel to conform to some sort of imagined “ideal” of domesticity.
Why do women feel that they must good homemakers to be good wives?
Why is all of the pressure on women to be the nurturers?
Doesn’t this ideal overlook the truth that not all women are good at cooking and cleaning? What about men? Shouldn’t they help out with the domestic duties?
On and on I went until I unveiled my secret weapon: Proverbs 31. (Let’s pause here and agree not to talk about the fact that I used the Bible as a weapon…)
“I get so frustrated by women who try to become ‘Proverbs 31’ women. I mean, is anyone really like that? This ideal is just setting women up to fail! And what women with jobs? Listen to this!”
“Oh, I’m going to be a stay-at-home mom,” she said, surrounded by the other women at brunch.
They nodded, giving their approval, and the affirmation so many Catholic women seek these days.
I get it.
We want to acknowledge the value in staying home, in foregoing apparent worldly success in order to give day in and day out to one’s family. Because for all the advancements feminism has brought women, greater recognition of caregiving and homemaking hasn’t been one of them.
Because for all the advancements feminism has brought women, greater recognition of caregiving and homemaking hasn’t been one of them.
But what if in proclaiming their desire to be SAHMs, women think they’ve rejected modern feminism, and they’ve actually given into it?
Let me explain.
When I first read the “anti-diversity” memo from a (now former) Google employee, I just tweeted a little and wanted to move on. However, as a female in a STEM field, I’ve been feeling pulled to talk about it.
I was actually ⅔ of the way done writing a defense of the memo (while acknowledging some of the flaws), but it just didn’t feel like the right direction. There are plenty of arguments on both sides – either claiming it is a hugely sexist piece, or people praising him as a martyr for conservative thought – neither of which is really an accurate analysis.
I don’t want to talk about the pros and cons of his memo in this post (although we can certainly discuss it if you’d like). Instead, I want to discuss an aspect of the memo that triggered a lot of outrage: the idea that men and women are different.
Are you bored of Catholic resources talking about the feminine genius
… but only in terms of women getting pregnant?
Are you frustrated with hearing people talk about chastity and NFP
…as if it’s blissful and full of frolicking fun?