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Emma on Pushy Parents, Domestic Chores, and the Fall of Capitalism

A timeless problem-solver if ever there was one, Emma Goldman dishes out life advice to 21st-century women. In her responses to letter writers, the legendary anarchist, freethinker, and feminist offers up pearls of wisdom and a no-holds-barred approach to life. Send your questions and quandaries to Emma!

Dear Emma,

First, thank you for your badass legacy of agitation and the struggle for justice! I was wondering how I can make my own activism stronger. I am a student on a college campus and I too fight for women’s issues (i.e., fighting how student debt impacts women more than men, sexual assault, and Title IX, and, most recently, getting our campus to supply Plan B to students in an on-campus market that is open 24/7). What advice do you have to make my work more effective?

Yours in Quandary,

Young Feminist

Dear Feminist,

You GO! If I were on your campus today, we’d be sisters working side by side on all of these issues. It sounds like you are working your tuchus off to ensure that women have access to ideas, education, birth control, freedom of expression, and all other manner of beautiful, radiant things. You’re continuing my legacy when you agitate for justice, so good on you!

As for making your work effective, here’s a handy checklist:

  • Get up on your soapbox every day, and be relentless until you wear them down (“them” being everyone from your campus administrators, on up to the fools in the government).
  • Free yourself from fear of public opinion.
  • Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, and outside the capitalist machine. (Can’t get your campus to supply Plan B at the market? Organize an underground network that ensures no person is without the emergency contraception they deserve!)
  • Make sure to rally as many comrades around your cause as you can, even the ones who may not be the first to come to mind when you think “social anarchist.” No matter how powerful she may be, one woman can’t and shouldn’t do it all on her own; change happens when the work is magnified by many.
  • Never leave home without a book. You’ll need something to read if you get arrested, or your sit-in lasts longer than planned.

Emma

Dear Emma,

My parents have been asking about grandkids, which is not at all one of my priorities right now. I have tried to make jokes and dodge the question, but it keeps coming up! I say “not right now” but the answer might actually be “never.” How can I help them see my perspective and/or let them down gently?

Yours in quandary,

Parental Pressure to Procreate

Dear Pressure,

Ah, yes, the pressure for grandkids … my parents put a lot of family demands on me (and didn’t even want me to get an education), so I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Parents of adult children perennially need to be reminded that the more pressure they exert, the more they’ll push you (and your potential babies) away. Plus, society’s focus on perpetuating the race degrades woman to a mere machine. Women have the absolute right to free motherhood––or to choose not to become mothers at all. Time to tell your parents It’s. Your. Life.

If they persist with the pressure? Get them a puppy. That should buy you a few years.

Emma

Dear Emma,

Will capitalism fall?

Yours in Quandry,

Wondering If I Should Diversify My Portfolio

Dear Wondering,

Oh, honey. Capitalism condemns millions of people to be human machines of flesh and blood, who pile up mountains of wealth for others and pay for it with a gray, dull and wretched existence for themselves. Don’t get me started on income inequality in this country, and the 99% of the populace that is enslaved by today’s marketplace. I believe capitalism should be replaced by a system based on voluntary co-operation of communities loosely federated together, eventually developing into a free communism.

So, yes, the fall of capitalism is long overdue. But heads up: I’ve been working on this for … well, it seems like a century … so it’s gonna take time. 

Emma

Dear Emma,

I know that there are more ways to measure my worth than how much money I make, but I find myself in a situation where my partner makes substantially more money than I do and subtly makes me feel like I don’t rank as high as a result. They seem to expect that I will compensate for my lesser income by doing all the work in our home: cooking, cleaning, yardwork, etc. I feel bad that I can’t contribute as much financially, but is my time really less valuable that my partner’s?

Yours in Quandary,

Ranked Second in a Two-Person Marriage

Dear Ranked,

It is unacceptable that the traditional division of labor still persists in the 21st century! Marriage and love are not synonymous; on the contrary, they are often antagonistic to each other. Marriage, or the training for it, largely prepares one person for the life of a parasite, a dependent, helpless servant, while it furnishes the other the right of a chattel mortgage over a human life.  

Your rank and worth is as high as you believe them to be—no one gets to define them for you. Tell your partner that you are not defined by your paycheck, your time is just as valuable as theirs, and if they don’t step up at home, then you’ll apply your valuable time to setting up house elsewhere.

Emma

Dear Emma,

I’m a Jewish woman who knows you as one of our most important foremothers and a Woman of Valor. I’m curious what you think Jewish women should be involved in today?

Yours in Quandary,

Brenda in Baltimore

Dear Brenda,

The question is, what should they not be involved in?

Emma

Want to learn more about the real Emma Goldman? Visit JWA’s Women of Valor Exhibit and our encyclopedia!

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How to cite this page

King, Emma G. "Emma on Pushy Parents, Domestic Chores, and the Fall of Capitalism." 19 April 2018. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on November 17, 2018) <https://jwa.org/blog/emma-on-pushy-parents-domestic-chores-and-fall-of-capitalism>.

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