Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Misconceptions of 1970s feminism

I wrote this in response to a discussion held on a blog entitled Dreams of an Everyday Housewife. The discussion, regarding the modern housewife was thought-provoking and forthright, and I encourage you to check it out.

We have the feminists of the 70s (and note, there have been other feminists in other time periods, even going back to the 1700s), to thank for really giving woman the power of career choice in their lives. However, what the 1970s feminist did that was utterly damaging is that they fiercely deprecated and devalued the woman's role in the home. It's as if they thought that biology and eons of evolution could be wiped away by simply donning a business suit.

The feminist movement made several core assumptions that were not universally true.
1. That all women at the time were 'trapped' in the traditional housewife role. The thing we need to realize is that many women went into this role joyfully. Remember, they were survivors of World War II. They had seen brothers, high school sweethearts and other loved ones killed in battle. Many thought that marriage and settling down might not even be a possibility. And after growing up in the "dirty 30s", a streamlined kitchen with a modern fridge and all the other conveniences would have, indeed, made a housewife's heart sing.

2. Following the traditional role keeps a woman from growing up and having a meaningful life. Many of these women were the backbone of their communities. They were powerhouses in charities, church functions, and politics. They were actually around to discipline their children, and kept a close watch on the other children in the neighborhood. My mother's talents were/are enormous. She sewed all of my clothes until I was in high school (including underwear), quilted, canned, gardened, baked from scratch, and actually knew all her neighbors, just to name a few.

3. A meaningful life can only be found outside the home. As a career woman most of my life, I can tell you that this isn't true. How many of us have office jobs that suck the life out of us? And what could be more meaningful than raising good, well-rounded human beings and building a solid home for them? I believe that sometimes feminists confuse meaning with difficulty. It is powerfully difficult to deal with kids day after day, to feed them, clothe them, listen to them, clean up after them. Those so-called menial tasks are hugely important...and yes, meaningful.

4. That the feminist movement knew best for the next generation of young women. In this belief, where they silenced the views of women who might want to be homemakers, feminists stiffled women as much as the repressive Freudians and other patriarchal institutions.

5. And lastly, that men hold women down. Personally, I have found that many housewives run the finances in the home. My husband gets an allowance, and he is truly happy with the he loathes paying bills. My father was the same way. Ironically enough, I think that my husband respects and honors me even more now that I am back home. It seems like we have more quality time together because we are not frantically, and wearily, cramming household tasks on top of our already exhausting work day. I think this notion of men suppressing women has much more to do with individuals, and should not be a wide-sweeping label for the genders.

Just some thoughts. I am certainly not telling anyone what they should do. However, as an artist, home business owner, and yes, proud housewife, I can tell you that I've never been happier.

Much of my art deals indirectly with this topic, from paintings of retro hats, to hard-edged views of the American Dream. It can be found at my website, Loud Colors online gallery.

A book that I am finding of some great interest is "Radical Homemakers" by Shannon Hayes, that examines the political, economic, and sociological aspects of working in the home.

* One more thing I wish I had added to this blog post. It is also important that the majority of the suffragettes of the 1900s were fighting for the vote, not for equality with men in the career sphere.

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