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What’s A “Stay-At-Home Girlfriend”?

Linkbait — (noun), an article written online for the sole purpose of trying to draw traffic.

You’ve heard of stay-at-home-moms — now it’s time to meet a “stay-at-home-girlfriend.” Writing on the Brooklyn-based blog Brokelyn, blogger Quiana Stokes described how she recently lost her job and is now a “stay-at-home-girlfriend” in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, playing house and having the roast ready for her boyfriend when he comes home. Feminist bloggers are abuzz with Quiana’s “stereotypically Stepfordish rules,” like picking up after her boyfriend when he gets dressed in the morning, cooking dinner every night, keeping up her hair and nails, and fixing his favorite cocktails when he comes home from a hard day’s work.

Now, I’m going to say something that might surprise you about this proto-Betty Draper: frankly, I don’t think the article is that offensive.First of all, I don’t think there’s any shame in being a “stay-at-home”-anything, so long as it works for both partners. A homemaker can still be a feminist. My mother stayed at home and raised five children; she quit her job when she married my widower father, adopted his three daughters from a previous marriage, and stayed at home to raise them so they no longer had to be taken care of by babysitters and relatives. Although Quiana Stokes does not mention any children in her piece, she does a lot of tasks during the day that my mom and other stay-at-home-moms I know (like my two older sisters) do: cooking, cleaning, and running errands. It’s important work. And yes, being a homemaker is work. While I can’t say I particularly respect Quiana Stokes’ midday drinking rituals, hey, I get bored at work and screw around on Bluefly.com (sorry, Amelia!), so who am I to judge how other people let off steam?

Second of all, even if we were to begrudge Quiana Stokes for being “unfeminist” (or lazy, or both) for staying at home, the woman had a “corporate job,” as she calls it, which she was laid off from. A quick Google search reveals a LinkedIn profile for someone named Quiana Stokes who attended Wesleyan University, graduated in 2006, and worked at JP Morgan. She is educated. She worked in the corporate world. She got laid off. She’s extremely fortunate that even though she and her boyfriend had to cut back on expenses — for example, she gets manicures from friends now, rather than a weekly professional appointment — but they’re apparently not so hard up that she has to take any part-time job that she can find just to make ends meet. For those who gripe about Stokes’ “stay-at-home-girlfriend” status, do I smell a little class resentment?

Third of all — and this is where the linkbaiting stuff comes in — it doesn’t sound like Quiana Stokes is doing anything she doesn’t actually want to do. Actually, it sounds like she is doing things she already did, only more so. She loves to cook and used to prepare dinner four nights a week; now she does it every night. She used to get her hair and nails done weekly; now she still does it, but on a budget. Presumably she did not start doing things to “keep him happy,” like fix him drinks, upon losing her job. Obviously this woman did certain things for herself and for her boyfriend and she is only devoting more time to them now that she’s got it. It’s not as if she’s doing these things as part of a transactional relationship with her boyfriend: he supports her, so she looks sexy, has a hot dinner ready when he gets home, and is always up for sex. I know that we do not know what Quiana Stokes’ boyfriend does for her and that’s what everyone wants to know. But that brings me to my next point …

Lastly, and most importantly, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business what individual couples do as long as it is safe, sane and consensual. So they have a more traditional relationship? So what? We don’t know what each partner really contributes to a relationship, ever. And it sounds like she is happy serving him in this way. Only the two of them know what he does, or doesn’t do, in return, but honestly I don’t really care if she says that she’s happy. I trust her. It’s just plain judgey-wudgey to bitch about this other woman’s relationship when we don’t know her, or him, or how they function together.

At the risk of being uber-defensive, I want to share a story: When I was in a relationship, I was pretty upfront about my financial situation with my then-boyfriend: I made more money than he did. Although I didn’t financially support him, I definitely paid for my share or slightly-more-than-my-share of home expenses. I’m a modern girl and I was fine with that. However, it wasn’t something I wanted for the future. It’s really important to me, if I can, to be a stay-at-home-mom someday when my kids are young. The ex-boyfriend had much more earning potential than I do and when we still thought we were going to do the marriage-and-making-babies thing, we agreed that I would stay home when the kiddies were young while he kept working. At least, that was the notion we had in our heads — obviously, we never got so far as to work out the specifics and who knows whether it would have actually shaken out that way. I may have gotten a swanky job editing a magazine or something and decided I wanted to work and we would have hired a nanny, or maybe he would have stayed at home, which he had mentioned being willing to do. I got torn a new a-hole for writing about this on The Frisky, not once but twice, yet at the end of the day, it’s still how I feel.

Could I live like Quiana Stokes? Probably not. I’d get bored. But is her post on Brokelyn offensive to me, or anti-feminist, even? Sorry, but not particularly.

[Brokelyn]
[The Hairpin]

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