Blog suggestion of the week- Rosie the Riveter; Were we better off in the home? Women went from cooking, cleaning, and having babies to working outside the home, cooking, cleaning and having babies. We’ve stepped up our game, but has this really led to equality? How has the role of men changed in response? Why do we still feel so torn so many years later?
This has been processing in my mind for a long time and once it was suggested I’ve been chewing on it for a few days. How to approach this? How to say what really needs to be said appropriately and honestly? No matter how it is approached someone will be offended. So get ready to push those feathers down and take it as it is- my opinion.
I can’t find it now, but there was a picture of a rally where a woman was chanting something. It was an old black and white photo and the text over her body said- “The feminist movement is over.” This was a few weeks ago – going around facebook- and I had some time to think about it and I’ve had time to form my response in my head. If you think the need for equality is over you’re wrong. I thought – would Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lecretia Mott- think we were done? Really, April…. who gives a crap they’ve been dead for over a hundred years. What do our mother’s think? Do they think we should stop- their opinion and ours are the ones that matter.
I hope this baby was crying for joy- I know that wasn’t the intent. Suffrage- is simply the right to vote. So this baby is crying because his mother was working for her right to vote. Yeah- Thanks mommy suffragists for getting us the right to vote since 1920. It hasn’t really been so many generations since women got this right… embrace it more.
My mother was a great role model when it came to raising us three girls when it came to being a strong independent woman. The church we were raised in made my mother feel as though women had no role outside of the children and home. The church taught no respectful position for a woman. My mother felt as though women were always projected as the subservient. My mother was in the first class at Liberty University although for financial reasons she was unable to finish. She traveled with Jerry Falwell and traveled the Holy Lands with him. She sang for the University- I grew up with my mom on the cover of albums- but she studied to be a secretary. See back then career choices were nurse, secretary or teacher as far as feminine career options. The first part of my childhood my mother was in the home and homeschooling us girls. As time passed, my mother started working outside of the home and I attended public school. I am very unique in that I was raised with two extremes- the life as a home-schooled kid and the life of a latchkey kid. I was one of the first women in my family to earn a college degree. Have we really come that far then? Could my daughter be the first to get a Masters or a PhD- or could I continue on to do so or my sisters as well? Only time will tell, but in my family line I am quite the accomplishment. To my family’s credit- they have an amazing work ethic- my grandfather still likes to work and feels bad when he’s not. My grandmother was still working until she had some heart trouble, but even after that continued to work. I was certain we’d have to take her away kicking and screaming.
My mother was born in 1954. I gather that an advertisement like this one was one she grew up looking at- while she balled it up and rubbed it together to use as toilet paper in the outhouse- the best use for advertisements such as these.
The disturbing thing is that as much as ads like this drive me crazy my husband has purchased me a dishwasher- steam cleaner- a fax/copier/printer combo and food processor for gifts in the last decade. I accepted them with joy and wasn’t insulted by those gifts at all. In fact, I greatly appreciated them. I didn’t find it offensive, but this ad.. this ad infuriates me- although a new Hoover would make me happy at Christmas…. ::sigh::
On the flip side- my husband does the lawn work. This is mostly due to the fact that I’m deathly allergic to bees and after seeing my mom mow the grass and hit a yellow jackets nest I have never been comfortable doing it since. It doesn’t mean I wont get out there and do other things though, but I am currently physically unable to help for long. So I should mention in all fairness I have purchased my husband in the last decade- dual shop-vacs, a cordless drill and I’m sure something else that is gender discriminatory in its use. Still I assure you I have used that shop-vac and cordless drill a million times over the times he has used the food processor and steam cleaner.
I hate to say this but this ad still depicts so much of our lives even today. Not necessarily in our home, but it is so much worse in other homes than in ours. The problem is that these women in all likelihood did not pull an eight hour day pick up the kids from after-school care, cook dinner -while helping with homework, cleaned up dinner and then bathed the children before bed. I might bring my husband a cup of coffee, but dear Lord he serves himself. These women that I have described are exhausted… burnt out… feel unappreciated… feel like their husbands are lazy and not contributing. I don’t know if they have expressed these feelings with their husbands or if their husbands are aware of this at all. My husband and I have difficulty talking about this. I think it’s because I am so opinionated about gender roles, but at the same time I get my feelings hurt if he says the kitchen isn’t clean enough. We both recognize it as a responsibility we share and yet I take it personally. I know that some of the mothers I’m referring to want to do it all- they would like to feel like they can do it all. Husbands have picked up in the last few generations- diaper changing, laundry washing, and so on…
Here is my personal hang up with this- We haven’t gone far enough and we’ve gone too far too fast. Now I know that makes no damn sense- here is the problem—- balance. Our families are out of balance, but women have a ways to go. Men want their wives to have jobs and make money to put them in a more comfortable position- after clothing- a second car- daycare expenses. Many of the women I know make just a little more than enough to maintain it all. They go to work because they simply would lose their minds at home and they worked hard for their degrees- to each their own. If you look up old ads you will find a lot for keeping women mentally balanced enough to do the housework so sad. Women want their men to work hard, but still spend time with their families and not lose time together. No one wants to clean the house, but to be perfectly honest most of the women I know do the majority of the house work, planning, shopping… and so on… For the sake of your families- our children- we’ve got to figure it out. We’ve moved away from latchkey kids to after-school care kids. Leaving your kids at home unattended carries a certain stigma these days. The time we likely get with our children is between the hours of 6 to 8 every night before bed- that is our quality time. Now I don’t care if it’s the woman or the man who stays home, but for the family it is the best though that someone is home. If you can afford an au pair awesome do it.
Again- I’m hoping this was another outhouse option for my mother. Really. We’ve come a long way- but honestly we’re still missing something. I think that is open honest less obtrusive conversations with our spouses regarding gender roles and working together so that women are not so exhausted. We’ve made it to work, but we need more balance in the home.
About a week ago John said, “I really want to take you out on a date. Just the two of us.” So we headed out for a lovely evening to a romantic restaurant followed by beers at another location. While we’re sitting at the bar he says to me, “What do you really want to do when you close the daycare? Is teaching what you really want to do?” I replied, “Honestly, if money were not an issue I would just stay at home.” He was floored. I mean the man I’ve been with for nearly twenty years in complete shock. He said, “I always thought you didn’t want to ‘just stay at home’. ” I chuckled, “I don’t just stay at home... so I don’t like it when people say that. I work hard and it’s insulting when someone says I don’t. If I could in a day pay the bills…do the laundry… Run to the grocery store…. Take a run on the greenway… then swing by the school and pick up the kids help them with their homework and make dinner- that’d be awesome. It would really change our evenings and our stress level together.” He said, “Oh I thought you were insulted, as a woman, by that statement. Isn’t that what women worked so hard to get away from?” Me- “Yes I guess so but honestly, I didn’t get away from it did I? I still do the majority of the house work and still work full time.” He responded, “Well then maybe we should figure that out. I would love to have less chaos in running around attempting to get things done. Lets look at what we could do financially to make this happen. Maybe not this year or the next three, but I want you ultimately to be happy and our family to be happy.”
This is an example of a healthy conversation. I’m just aware that some of the women around me are not having such healthy conversations. One such woman wanted to resign from her job and her husband said he wanted to pay off debt within a certain time and refused to “allow” her to resign- she didn’t resign… their debt is worse than before and yes the word allowed was used. Another said her husband refused to ever change a diaper since his father never had… he never did. Now I realize some of these things are cultural and religious based, but I think this is a conversation worth having premaritally and opinions may change over time, but it needs to be a healthy conversation. My mother taught me to not allow a man to treat me like the above photo and I married a man unwilling to treat me that way intentionally. I think being a parent puts these things into perspective even more so and it’s okay when you’re a working woman, but when you’re a working mother it’s a whole new ball game. When I was nursing our babies- I woke an hour early to pump. I lost my break during the work day to pump. I had to get both kids in the afternoons and then I would be up several times a night nursing babies. It was so exhausting… I wish I had just been home to make things run smoothly.
It is unfair to say that we were better off in the home, because it’s presumptuous in assuming permanent gender roles for all women. That’s where we were. I’m glad that women stepped out of the norm- if my daughter wants to dream to be an astronaut, a doctor, or a lawyer I will let her dream. I don’t have to say – oh sweetie that won’t happen, but you can be a secretary for any of those men. I do want for her at the same time if she marries and wants to stay home with her babies to have the respect from other mothers for doing so.
During WWI and WWII , there were lots and lots of posters like the one below- it’s properly termed Propaganda. It was used to encourage people from all walks of life to participate in the war effort… anything from gardening and canning to recycling your nylon pantyhose for parachutes.
As Americans, we’re in a constant rat race- the men and women having- jobs- daycare- home- and activities. I’m so frustrated with this society behaving this way- stop freaking racing and just live. It’s this one up mentality- so many people striving for more and not appreciating that they already have enough. If we can look back at how being latchkey kids for our generation of thirty somethings changed us – just imagine how our children are going to feel. Many of my friends are starting to figure this out, but mostly because of the economy it made people have to slow down because they couldn’t afford childcare or couldn’t find a job. If you both want to work fine- great but both of you need to take care of the home and the kids. If one of you wants to stay home- great make it work financially and make sure the house is ready for just family time when the spouse gets home. If you can homeschool- great do it. If you work inside the home- great take care of the home as best you can (dear Lord knows my situation is crazy and unique), but otherwise split it down the middle so you can both have fun when it is all said and done.
My favorite piece of propaganda from WWII- the infamous Rosie the Riveter. During the war, the majority of capable men were sent off to fight the war, but the machinery needed to defeat the Germans, Italians and Japanese took extreme effort. We were fighting in so many theaters during WWII- we fought in the Pacific, Africa and in Europe. We needed tanks, planes, ships, and sadly used two atomic bombs to end it and they needed to be built fast. Women were encouraged to roll up their sleeves and do their part in the war effort- they helped build and worked all kinds of machinery. Americans needed them to do it and in the end their efforts did not go unnoticed. Many of those jobs following the war went back to men and women were expected to roll down their sleeves, wipe off the grease and find a nice house dress. Then while popping out those baby booming kids- that ultimately caused a huge wave in the population growth. They were expected to continue carrying on like they didn’t know how to roll up their sleeves and work hard like a man.
Should we stop the women’s movement… no not at all. Not all women want to have babies or get married- and we have to pave the road for them to be successful too. What we do need though is balance in the homes we already have. No one should feel like they are doing it all. Balance makes for happy marriages and I do believe this has something to do with the divorce rate in the United States. How you were raised is irrelevant- the spouses need to find balance to find happiness for all. I don’t want this for my marriage and I count myself lucky that my husband and I are capable of communicating. It’s not easy for even us to have these conversations.. so I can only imagine that in other homes it’s even harder. There is no better time to talk then now instead of continuing to have overworked exhausted women and husbands that may not even be aware that they could help make it better. We marry for love and sometimes for convenience. I’d like to think that the exhausted women in my life could be heard not just by their friends, but their husbands love them enough to listen to what they need to find the right balance. We still feel torn because it is still not balanced and granted there are some things physically that I can’t do, but that doesn’t mean other women can’t do them- that’s again presumptuous. We’re still torn because we have unequal pay. We’re still torn because we are still unequal in political seats being filled by women. We are still torn because we are still tearing each other apart- as long as the woman is happy leave her alone in your judgements. If she’s happy plating her husbands food- leave her alone. If she’s happy staying at home- or working- leave her alone. If she’s happy doing all the house work- leave her alone. It’s the unhappy people I’m worried about.
I hope that I can capture the spirit of Rosie the Riveter in my life. I am strong and capable and I hope that my son sees me as strong and I hope he sees his sister as strong. I hope that both of my children learn to clean house and may they both learn to change the oil in a car.. may they both get their hands dirty and learn how to clean up a mess. May my daughter grow to see herself as capable, intelligent, and not finding herself having to be subservient to anyone based on societal expectations.