Hearth Matters
Hearth Matters Podcast
E12 | Householder Fems Riff on International Women’s Day

E12 | Householder Fems Riff on International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day to those of us who work in the public sphere–looking at you, #girlboss! If you’re a full time householder, mother or #tradwife, you’ll apparently have to wait your turn until May when Mother’s Day rolls around.  

Join Kathryn and Erin for a provocative riff on this year’s theme, “inclusion,” and why they think some feminists have taken this idea too far.


Episode Transcript:

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer

I think they've bought fully into the market economy and they have little to no respect for the domestic sphere or the women who nurture future generations because they tend to see the entire family enterprise as oppressive, because it's not waged.

They're using market economy metrics to value everything.

SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma

Happy Belated Birthday, Kathryn, and Happy International Women's Day.

Your birthday falls on the first day of Women's History Month, which I think is pretty cool.

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer

Yeah, it is.

And thank you, Erin.

And same to you.

So tell us what you know about International Women's Day.

I must admit, I knew very little.

SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma

Yeah, I mean, I have to admit the same, but I did a little research into it.

And International Women's Day, it actually predates Women's History Month by about 70 years.

It was originally introduced by a German socialist and first celebrated in Austria and Germany and Switzerland in

And what I found most interesting is that it's actually a product of the labor and suffrage movements that began in the late 19th and the early 20th century, which we know both of these movements to be a response to the industrial era when work for the first time moves out of the home and into the factories.

And specifically in the U.S., the Socialist Party designated International Women's Day to honor the garment worker strike in New York, where primarily Jewish women were protesting these terrible working conditions.

And we're talking

75-Hour Work Weeks, No Breaks, Fines for Being Late, and often even a requirement to supply their own materials.

So a real shift from what we had been accustomed to prior to the industrial era.

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer

We can thank these early rebels for our 40-Hour Work Week.

Yes, definitely.

Well, I've been thinking about how very lucky we are here in the West.

So many women around the world still work relentlessly around the clock, but still experience heartbreaking levels of poverty.

And they have little if any access to opportunities that would make their lives better.


According to the World Health Organization, the maternal mortality rate in low-income countries is one in 49 compared to one in 5,300 in high-income countries.

In developing countries, the average infant mortality rate is 61 deaths per 1,000 live births compared to eight deaths per 1,000 births in developed countries.

I mean, the list goes on and on.

Access to fresh water, family planning, education.

By contrast, women have a lot to celebrate in the developed West.

We've achieved so much in the last 150 years.

SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma

Yeah, you're right.

As of 2021, more American women over 25 years old have college degrees than our male counterparts.

So the real shift from just the 1970s.

And within the next five years, women will outnumber men on college campuses two to one.


And then I want to raise the gender wage gap here as well and point to the positive side.

So you look at all ages, all types of jobs, women are earning about 84 cents to every dollar that a man earns.

But when you drill down a little bit, women who don't have children, they're between ages 25 and 34.

They're making about 97% as much as men, which is pretty remarkable when you consider that women tend toward lower paying jobs like teachers, which there's much to be said about what we should be paying teachers.

But I think that these are incredible achievements and we have a lot to celebrate for that reason.

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer


Yes, indeed.

You know, it seems to me, Erin, that young women in the States and perhaps Europe don't recognize how truly blessed they are.

So many young people have distorted perceptions of the world and their circumstances.

You know, I've said this before.

Imagine our grandmothers or our great grandmothers.

Despite how crazy the world was, they still managed to have a few kids and elevate the standard of living for those children well beyond their own.

And these women endured a plague, for instance, in 1918 and 1919 that wiped out young adults, not the elderly and infirm like COVID did, young working adults, working age adults, like one fifth of the world's population by some estimates.

They lived through two world wars and a depression, you know?



Well, and they had no choice.

SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma

Birth control wasn't a thing yet either.


SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer

That's right.


I mean, I wonder how many of us would not be here if they had had access to birth control.

I'll never know.

And, you know, I'm a fan of birth control and benefited greatly from its existence.

So I would never suggest we go back to the way it was.

But I do wish young women could recognize how the attention economy warps their perception and how much it hurts them.

SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma

Yeah, you're right.

I mean, we see it in depression rates for women and young girls that are at an all-time high.

This attention economy, it's got them focused on their appearance or on consumer products or even on things like how the world isn't safe enough to bring children in.

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer

Yeah, yeah.

And a host of fairly unhealthy narratives.

And it's really a shame because we have so much to celebrate, you know.

I've also been thinking about the feminization of our culture that Corey Clark, the behavioral scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, talks about.

SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma

Me Too.

She was recently on an episode of Maiden Mother Matriarch with Louise Perry.


And one of the things that she talks about is that we see feminization in our educational institutions that really sort of trickles out everywhere.

And as a woman, one would think that this is a really positive development, but it's

There does seem to be an imbalance between the masculine and the feminine, and we're seeing a lot of dysfunction as a result.

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer

Right, right.

You know, my reaction to her work really surprised me.

I mean, at first I was resistant, like, what are you talking about?

But I kept an open mind and I discovered that she really makes some interesting and valid points.

I mean, the idea that men are warriors and women are worriers really struck a chord.

Of course, there are plenty of exceptions, but I had several aha moments while listening to her on this podcast.

Starting With Why Women Have a Tendency to Be Very Inclusive.

SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma

Yeah, actually, that is the theme of Women's History Month, which is something else that I found out through my research is that Women's History Month gets a different theme each year.

And this this year happens to be equity and inclusion.

Right, right.

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer

So, for instance, because some women want this very small percentage of men who identify as women to feel included.

They have asked all women, more than 50% of the population, to change their language in order to accommodate this group.


SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma


I've definitely started to notice this through my pregnancy.

Mothers are birthing people.

Breastfeeding is now breastfeeding or chest feeding.

I've seen content about menstruators and bleeders and really reducing us down to some of these biological functions, which I find to be fairly off-putting as a woman and mother-to-be.

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer

Yeah, and because women tend to be more comfortable in smaller groups with high levels of trust, and we know a lot about this with studies of little girls on playgrounds and in our own personal experiences as girls, this tends to mean that anyone whose narrative runs counter to our small groups, you know, meaning-making system, it's not allowed in.

They're not, you know, they're not allowed to speak, say, at a university.

And it starts to look an awful lot like authoritarianism when things are out of balance.

SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma

Yeah, right.

The mindset being that anyone who disagrees with these small groups who have stolen our ancient terms like mothers and are replacing them with the more inclusive versions, they're getting canceled.

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer

Yeah, yeah.

And men, on the other hand, are apparently motivated to be open to different opinions because they need numbers on their side to win wars from an evolutionary standpoint.

Not today as much, but it's carried over.

And they have a very structured way of dealing with differing perspectives.

For instance...

And what comes to mind is the peer review process that's been around since the 17th century.

So when you finish an academic paper, you send it out for peer review and you ask for criticism in order to make your paper stronger.

In fact, part of creating a very good hypothesis is including a pathway to falsify your assertions.

So I'm going to go out on a limb here

And even say that some of these more radical groups of women who are so focused on inclusiveness to the exclusion of other opinions are really patriarchal feminists.


Say more.


I think of these women and I think it's actually a relatively small group of women, but they have a big voice right now in our culture.

I think they've bought fully into the market economy and they have little to no respect for the domestic sphere or the women who nurture future generations because they tend to see the entire family enterprise as oppressive because it's not waged.

They're using market economy metrics to value everything.

And these groups seem willing to degrade women and women's spaces in order to make space for small minorities of people.

And it's not to say that we you and I wouldn't make space for a trans man who's transitioned to being a woman.

I would make space for him and in my social circle and any number of things.

But I'm not going to like pretend like he can like he has ovaries.

I'm not going to pretend like he can have babies or bleed or breastfeed.

And whatever they're doing to get these men to breastfeed is, you know, if they're giving the stuff that they're running through their chests to babies, I mean, that's child abuse.

This is not real breast milk.

They don't come with the equipment to create breast milk.

It starts to go way too far.

But you and I both are very open to any number of people's need to express themselves, but don't come into our spaces.

And in some ways, these really sort of hardcore feminists don't realize that they're in some ways agents of the darkest aspects of patriarchy.

SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma




I mean, and I think to expand a little bit more on what I think you mean by that is that these groups view empowerment strictly in terms of how well women perform in a workforce that was built by and for men.

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer


SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma

In a way, we gained this parity with men in the workforce and in leadership positions in all aspects of society.

But we sort of left it there.

that women haven't really shifted how we work to support our unique needs in a meaningful way.

And those needs are so different from men in terms of when and how we are most productive.

When you think about our cycles, about being pregnant for nine months with each kid, 10 months really.

or even things like going through menopause.

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer

Right, right.

And, you know, in the 90s, job sharing was a thing, for instance, but you don't see this anymore in the workforce.

I don't know why.

Just as one way that we could accommodate women better in the workforce was

I just hope that we can find some sort of balance between the masculine and the feminine in the public sphere.

I mean, we're asking men to change their workspace to accommodate our needs.

Perhaps we need to learn from their approach to upgrading their thinking by being open to a variety of perspectives.

SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma

Like we said earlier, I think there's a lot of work to do in terms of finding the balance between masculine and feminine in the public sphere.

But that's not a conversation that some of these more radical feminist groups are willing to have, right?

They're pursuing progress through the lens of we need equal pay.

And that's where the conversation tends to stop.

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer

Yeah, I mean, equal pay is important, right?

I mean, I really agree with their assertions there.

It's just when they go too far and exclude men or people who have different opinions from conversations.

And as you rightly pointed out, I think this morning, that a lot of female-run and women-centric businesses were celebrating Black History Month

The First Week of February.

But here it is, the first week of Women's History Month.

And they're all pretty quiet about women.

They're not even celebrating women's achievements in the public sphere.

It's really an interesting time.

And the thing is, I don't think most women really agree with a lot of this stuff.

I think that

Majority of Women.

We're just working hard.

We're navigating both the public sphere and the domestic sphere.

And we just keep mum because we don't want to get canceled by these powerful groups of women who seem to have the public microphone at the moment, you know?

Yeah, yeah, definitely.

And what we originally wanted to talk about and what I want to get into now is something I discovered when I was researching stuff for Hearth Matters a couple of years ago.

And I think it's really fun and interesting.

And in a way, it speaks to how there maybe is an opportunity to rethink how the spheres are balanced, the masculine and the feminine, the public and the domestic.

And so I want to talk about this really interesting thing that I discovered that you know what I'm about to say.

And it's something that happens on March 1st, which, as you know, is my birthday, as we already talked about.

It's a really important hearth related day.

SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma

Hearth Related Day.

Yes, that is Vesta Day.

And Vesta is the Roman hearth goddess.

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer

Right, right.

So she was modeled on the Greek goddess Hestia, and their temples were essentially public hearths.

And on March 1st, for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years, the flame that had burned all year long was extinguished and then relit, which signified renewal.

All cultures share some sort of renewal ritual.

SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma

Do they still perform the ceremony?

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer

You know, really, apparently a small group of women still gather at the ruins in Rome every year on March 1st, but the official flame was extinguished in 394 by Theodosius, a Roman emperor.

Okay, but here, now the story gets even better.

March 1st is also the Matronelia feast day, which celebrates Juno Lucina, the goddess of childbirth.

Now, Lucina is actually an epitaph or a by name like, you know, Alexander or Catherine the Great.

Lucina was a term of reverence used for only two goddesses, Juno and Diana.

So in Roman and Hellenistic religion, Diana is the goddess of the hunt and wildlife and the moon, protector of childbirth and the protector of

Women's Labor.

Do you know what my middle name is?

It's Diane.

SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma

It's Diane.

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer

I mean, isn't that crazy?


Now, I know there's a one in 365 chance that I'd be born on March 1st.

So this isn't that big of a coincidence, but it's fun.

And one more important thing that brings this story together is that in early Roman era, March 1st was the beginning of the calendar year and celebrated much like we celebrate New Year.

So it's interesting that the Roman mother, Matronelia,

And the Vesta Temples were at the center of these celebrations.

And I want to read something I found on a nonprofit website called Vindolanda, which is a Roman excavation site.

So they say the Matronalia Festival signaled a period of renewal when laurel garlands decorating the houses of priests and practitioners of the sacred rites were replaced.

At the Temple of Vesta, the Vestal Virgins, which is a whole nother story, also extinguished the sacred fire on the hearth and relit it.

The festival was often regarded as the female counterpart of Saturnalia, which is a festival that celebrates agriculture, in its own importance and focused on interactions between mistresses and their slaves, part of the deal back then.

Relations Between Spouses and the Production of the Roman Empire's Only Guarantee of Survival, Children.

Now, I don't want to over-glorify the status that women experienced in Greece and Rome because they were subordinated to men and very much second-class citizens in public life, but they ruled the domestic sphere.

For most of human history, the hearth and the women who kept its flame lit

Who Bore and Nourished the Next Generation.

They were exalted and celebrated and enjoyed a type of status that householders and mothers simply don't today.

SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma

It's such an interesting contrast.

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer


SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma

Because here we are in 2024 and one of the lowest status positions in our culture is a mother and a full-time householder.

Most of our celebrations when we think about women's achievements are focused on the public sphere and of course as we've said there is a lot to celebrate about that you and I wouldn't be having this conversation if it were not for those achievements that precede us but I find it interesting and now as a mother I

It's quite disappointing how little we recognize the domestic sphere.

I would have never gone out and done this exploration had I not been pregnant.

So it's it's almost as if we just don't we don't see it.

You don't see it.

You don't say it.

I was asking myself, why not?

Why are we not celebrating women as mothers and the work that they do in the domestic sphere?

So if you think about it, all Heritage Month celebrations are products of the market economy, right?


Events, Social Media, Campaigns.

They're corporate branding opportunities.

They're things that are designed to capture our attention and our dollars.

And they're to speak to people who care about these ideas.

I mean, one example is Pride Month.

We're Going to Celebrate Your Right to Express Your Identity.

And in exchange, we want you to give us $100 for this cool rainbow hoodie.

It's a really, really commercialized public sphere product that's being bought and sold.

And so it's no wonder that mothers and the women who work in the domestic sphere aren't being factored into that

Profit Model, frankly.

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer

Yeah, that's an interesting way to think about it.

I mean, a lot of these parades and a lot of the events around this stuff, I think, have been celebrated for a long time.

And a matter of fact, I think rituals, we have very few rituals left.

And so in a way, the market economy fills those rituals up with consumer goods.

You're totally right.

And because industrialization separated the spheres and prioritized the public sphere over the domestic in terms of status, and because the domestic sphere was a place of subordination for way too long, and many, not all women still think the embodied activities of hearth and home are low status, and even though there are plenty of monotonous tasks in our public sphere jobs, because we get cash for them, we don't complain too much.

But boy, the monotonous jobs at home are unpaid and feel like we're underappreciated and it's unrecognized labor.

So we begrudgingly do it or we hire it out.

SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma



I mean, and to that point, as we said earlier, Women's History Month campaigns, they tend to focus on closing that gender pay gap, which is more and more, I think, rightly so being framed as a motherhood penalty.

because when you really start to see a wage gap between men and women from ages 35 on it's because that's when women are most likely to be taking time off or holding less lucrative jobs that afford them more flexibility so that they can care for their babies we know that 20% of all mothers will leave the workforce altogether at some point and

For those who do work full time, household labor is seen as the second shift.

So instead of taking care of themselves after an exhausting day at the office, the care that they're providing to their families feels like much more of a monotonous burden, understandably so.

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer



And the reality is all women work in both spheres.

Well, a large percentage of women work in the public sphere.

All women work in the domestic sphere.

So many of us straddle both spheres.

And it's interesting when we say, oh, yeah, 20 percent of mothers will leave the workforce.

It's like, yeah, but they're not going home to have somebody feed them grapes while they lay around on the couch.

They're working their butts off.




But again, because it's not waged, it has less status.

And there are a lot of important considerations.

I understand this, right?

There's economic vulnerability for women who are at home with babies or with their children.

They're relying on the, as Mary Harrington says, on the goodwill.

and the good character of their partner, whether it's another woman or a man.

And so it's a vulnerable space.

And how do we think about protecting that as a culture is something we really need to think about going forward.

And a lot of it starts with diet agreements and things like that.


Boy, wouldn't it be wonderful if we really could start to think a lot differently about the domestic sphere?

Because let's face it, we needed to escape the domestic sphere for a few years because our voices needed to be included in the public sphere.

And I really celebrate our achievements there, but that's not to say that we should leave the domestic sphere unattended.

Right, right.

SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma

You pointed out earlier that...

May is when we celebrate Mother's Day, but we don't necessarily celebrate mothers for the work that they do.

And so wouldn't it be great for March to sort of infuse that level of celebration or take a lens on the women who are doing work within their families, within their communities, women who volunteer and get involved with school boards and all those important things.

That Make Society Flourish.

And we can recognize that, that we don't just have to use market metrics to value and celebrate women.

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer

Right, right.

There have been so many unintended consequences of leaving the domestic sphere unattended, and we've talked a lot about that.

And now I think is the time as we look at the industrial era

In the Rearview Mirror.

And we enter the digital age and we recognize all of our accomplishments in the public sphere.

Now is the time to rethink how we think about the domestic sphere.

And I think we have to begin by recognizing the importance, as you point out, of this space physically and metaphorically.

And I think that

One of the ways we can do that is by reuniting home and work.

The separation of home and work has really been at the core of a lot of the issues that we're talking about.

You know, feminism is a way that women have tried to make sense of a separation of these spheres.

And it's a really it's interesting to think about it like that.

There wasn't really much in the way of feminism before the industrial era.

And When Work and Home Were United.

Women have always worked.

We've just worked at our homes.

When work and home are reunited, as I think can be in the digital age, there's so much opportunity to bring back the respect of this sphere for men and for women, right?

Men also need someplace they can really be comfortable.

Not Just a Super Feminine Frilly Place Where They Have to, You Know, Behave a Certain Way, right?

Erica Bachiochi talks about that, right?

Like, how do we create home in a way that really is a nourishing space for the entire family?

SPEAKER 1: Erin Szuma


Yeah, you recently wrote me saying that all you wanted for your birthday is a shiny new narrative, which I love the way that that's framed, but a shiny new narrative that acknowledges and respects the important work that women undertake in both spheres.

Many women excel in both spheres, but are rarely recognized for their outstanding service to the preservation of humanity.

And I just adored the way that you phrased that.


Cheers to that.

Let's keep working hard to make your wish for your birthday and for your work at Hearth Matters come true.

SPEAKER 2: Kathryn Lukas-Damer

Yeah, well, great.


Thank you so much, Erin.

I hope we can make this wish come true together.

And to all of the women listening, happy

International Women's Day.

Happy Women's History Month.

And we do truly have so much to celebrate.

So I hope you can take a moment today to reflect on how far we've come and how far we have yet to go, but how we really can do this together.

If we put our hearts and our minds together, we can make things much better for women and for children as we move through the digital age.

Thank you, Erin.

Bye, everyone.

Hearth Matters
Hearth Matters Podcast
Join us in thought-provoking discussion about the connection between home life and human flourishing in the 21st century.
Hearth Matters nonprofit co-founders and householders Kathryn Lukas-Damer and Erin Szuma interview experts and ordinary women who are rethinking, revaluing and reinventing home & hearth. Kathryn, in the matriarchal phase of her life, embodies the wisdom and practical knowledge of a lifelong entrepreneur, local food system expert and mother of a grown son, while Erin, a Millennial with her first baby on the way, shares her journey as a new mother navigating career and family life.
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