I would give woman, not more rights, but more privileges. Instead of sending her to seek such freedom as notoriously prevails in banks and factories, I would design specially a house in which she can be free.G.K. Chesterton, A Modern Slave, What’s Wrong with the World
Chesterton saw the home as the place in which men and women had the most freedom. We must ask ourselves, today, what does that freedom look like – and how can we maximize it. Chesterton’s world was far from ideal and, anyway – it is gone. We cannot recreate our romanticized version of the past, and must deal with the world as we find it now as we seek to “design specially a house in which she can be free.”
I believe Chesterton would recognize that this house would necessarily be individualized. That each woman would have her own interests and talents and would focus, within her own home, on those things which caused her the most joy and provided best for those individuals within the home.
Chesterton argues against the heresy of the Precedent. He describes it this way: “It is the view that because we have got into a mess we must grow messier to suit it; that because we have taken a wrong turn some time ago we must go forward and not backwards; that because we have lost our way we must lose our map also; and because we have missed our ideal, we must forget it.”
Women today are, by and large, out of the home. But we should not give up on the primacy of the domestic sphere because it is now precedent to leave it largely abandoned. We must find new ways to design our home (and I am not talking about interior design) in order that the enormous talents of woman might be used in the most important place. This redesign will necessarily give women more privileges, not necessarily more rights. By organizing the home to fit the talents and interests of the woman who runs it – she has the most free space in which to promote the well being of both herself and the humans entrusted to her care.
The privilege to be free, to be the mistress of ones own time and ones own domain, the honor of being everything to ones own children : these ought to be recognized as the most important values in our culture. Women must refuse to settle for equality with man. As Chesterton puts it: “Nothing can ever overcome that one enormous sex superiority, that even the male child is born closer to his mother than to his father. No one, staring at that frightful female privilege, can quite believe in the equality of the sexes. ”
The modern attack on motherhood is ultimately an attack on both women and children. We fight this attack by recognizing and celebrating that which is distinctively feminine. We further celebrate this by recognizing that women are all unique – they are broad and they are varied. They are wild and untamable, and they are critical to human flourishing and should be protected and honored. They should, in short, be free.