Saturday, August 25, 2007

A whole different kind of Women's Studies

I support informed homemaking 100%.

With proper instruction, my muffins could be light and fluffy instead of little banana-bran bricks. A single quarter of middle-school Home Ec, combined with leaving my parent's house halfway through high school, failed to provide all the skills necessary to live efficiently -- with or without a husband and herd of children. I don't think I'm alone in fumbling through what were once standard women's skills, hemming pants, baking bread, remembering to dust. While I'm happy to live in luxury to the extent that I can pay someone else to do some of these things, I enjoy baking and ironing, et cetera. I think it's important to be self-sufficient, and I don't feel at all degrading baking a pie. There's no reason feminism and domestic chores can't co-exist peacefully. I thought it was settled for me.

Then I saw this headline and furiously switched headphones from iPod to CNN yesterday morning at the gym:

Southern Baptist Seminary to offer Academic Program in Homemaking

A fairly standard liberal arts education, with a more unusual track (23 hours) devoted to homemaking. Specifically, the making of a happy traditional christian home with subservient mom, babies, and bread-winning husband. My belief in a woman's right to choose extends to her occupation, so I was initially ambivalent.

If a nice woman find a nice man, and is inclined and financially able to spend her days at home, why shouldn't she be prepared?

Then I asked a question I often ask: What would Martha think?

Would Martha Stewart, my surrogate home ec tutor, support this? No. I think not. Martha may have built her empire on pie crust and pressed shirts, but it is the empire that makes her significant, not the pie. She is a business woman first, with a DIY bent. And while she comes off a bit conservative, she most definitely does not seem like a subservient homemaker. (She went to prison, for pete's sake!)

A little research later revealed details that turned me pretty firmly against Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's program.

1: The only woman instructor at the seminary is the president's wife, and the seminary does not seem to support women in the clergy.

2: The program is available strictly to women, in deference to traditional ("biblical") gender roles. While it may be vaguely biblical, I imagine most writers of that text intended women to learn these skills in the confines of her parent's house, not as part of a college degree. I also take issue with justifying anything as a biblical example, since the bible also recommends we stone women who are raped and drive them from the village.

3: Frankly, the curriculum seems insufficient. I couldn't clarify from the seminary's surprisingly beautiful web site (although I did notice the unusual Hispanic Studies program), but I'm guessing 23 hours equals 23 credits (meaning 34.5 quarter credits if they use semesters). Basically, the equivalent of a minor. Minors are pursued on the side of your real degree, generally for the sake of some personal interest. Minors add to your resume, help you start conservations -- they do not form the foundation for a successful life.

While sewing and budgeting classes are valuable, I can not believe that a scholastic track successfully replaces the years of instruction girls used to (and many still) receive from their female family members. I also do not believe this successfully replaces other degrees women could earn, in which they'd gain academic or professional knowledge to help them succeed in life -- beyond the home.

If the program claims to prepare women for motherhood, etc, it should provide more than 3 hours on "the value of the child." There's a lot more to know than can be taught in these classrooms. The purpose of this program is not to further women's education but to establish a women's place as in the home.

Do women have the right to choose homemaking over other opportunities? Certainly. But I would rather see women use the educational rights for which older generations fought to pursue something more lofty than cooking and cleaning tips that could be picked up via Tivo.

Martha airs at 10 am on KING 5.

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