Thought-provoking question for women: “But do you have to work?”

I found this Vida article, “Report from the Field: But Do You Have to Work?” by Tess Taylor, very thought-provoking, particularly since I am currently relying on my spouse’s income while I change career direction with freelance and creative work, and since I have relied on his health insurance for years, when adjunct and nonprofit work provided no such employment benefits.

A selection from the article:

Indeed, I’ve been asked “Do you have to work” about five or six times in the last few years. I’ll note I am asked this question exclusively by male colleagues or superiors, usually those who are either in competition with me for jobs or who might be in the position to hire me.

Indeed, I have begun to feel that this question about work acts as a bizarre micro-aggression, one that holds at its root some fantasy by the speaker that I might not be a real colleague or competitor or equal, but instead a dilettante—one of those women who you know you don’t have to take seriously because they are rich, and might otherwise be playing tennis or doing macramé.

I’ve never been asked this question, but I nonetheless sometimes feel defensive about my current position. I acknowledge that I am in a position of extreme privilege to be able to take the time that I am taking. I am also very aware that my position is tenuous. If something were to happen to my spouse or his job, where would that leave us? Where would that leave me? How much am I harming my career prospects by opting out of the formal working world right now?

There are always tradeoffs, and these tradeoffs are fraught with social complications.

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