Women: Are they returning to the home front?
By: J. Marlando
In our lives today we have watched the divorce numbers climb, the number of single moms increase and, in a great count of relationships, home life has become barren of the values that “home sweet home” once had. It is my desire to show how this all came about and then make projections of positive changes that I believe are occurring in our times. I hope the interesting reader will explore the past with me in order to better understand the present and will explore the present with me with an open mind…and heart.
A Brief Overview of the 1950s
In the U.S. the 1950s are traditionally called “The Golden Years” and while they were for especially the middle-class they weren’t for everyone since stark poverty and hard times persisted for a lot of people during the decade. Still, things were much simpler than they are today. For one example, unskilled labor could still make an ample living and for another the medical profession was, by and large, still billing people based on what they could afford as opposed to the gouging systems of today by the pharmaceutical and insurance companies. It was not until 1947-49 that doctors stopped making house calls so there was still that human connection between doctor and patient that, in so many instances, is missing today. When I was a boy back in the1940s and got sick, the doctor drove to the house and charged five dollars for the visit. Well, as Bob Dylan would say, times, they are a changin’.
In any case, the point here is that the 1950s was, as we will see, of Home, Mom and Apple Pie; the last decade of national innocents.
The 1950s saw the first McDonald arches
By 1953, however, Americans in general were feeling good about themselves and their world. Post World War II left men, women and children feeling victorious and undefeatable; the Korean War didn’t go that well but this didn’t diminish the pride and glory that the majority of the population shared. It was also in 1953 that Playboy Magazine was launched with Marilyn Monroe
By 1955 Elvis
As for dating, with few exceptions, young people never dreamed of “going all the way.” Sure some did but I am generalizing here: Deep kissing and petting was what steamed up the windows at drive-in movies but youthful passion stopped there. In fact, in the back of the minds of most teenagers was getting married and having families of their own. Part of the American Dream was that marriage was expected to be forever with male and female roles well defined. Dad would work and Mom would tend to the home fires and to the babies.
Then the 1960s arrived with a leap into an unexpected modernism that was destined to change the culture itself. Norman Rockwellian-ism was, in a term, suddenly dead.
A Brief Overview of the 1960s
I have often said that it was not the booze or the gangsters that put the roar in the roaring twenties, it was the women. I’ll explain this a little later.
The 1960s started out feeling like an extension of the 50s but that was soon to change. Jack Kennedy was elected president—a president who quickly captivated the youth and was admired by a majority of other ordinary citizens. A major reason for the president’s popularity was that he began the Peace Corps. Ironically, at the same time, he was sending additional Green Beret troops to Vietnam. And, there was another kind of “war” going on nationally—the call for equal rights for America’s black population was in full gear. Prejudice against black people had always been widespread but it was dangerously so in the South. Then came the shocking news, America’s beloved sex-symbol, Marilyn Monroe
This tragic story, however, was soon enough lost in the whirlwind of news about what was being called the Cuban Missile Crisis. The two superpowers—America and the Soviets—came within virtual seconds of creating a nuclear holocaust; in the turning of a couple of keys the world that people knew would be changed forever. How close did we actually come to showering each other with nukes? Historian Paul Johnson tells us that: “On October 22 all American missile crews were placed on ‘maximum alert’. Some 800 B47s, 550 B 52s, and seventy B58s were prepared with bomb-bays closed for immediate take off from their dispersal positions. Over the Atlantic were ninety B52s carrying m7ulti-magaton bombs. Nuclear war-heads were activated on 100 atlas, 50 Titans and 12 Minuteman missiles, and on American carriers, submarines and overseas bases. All commands were in a state of Defcon-2 2, the highest state of readiness next to war itself. If that war had occurred it is estimated that 500 million human beings would have been lost with the first missile launchings.
What does all this have to do with the subjects of this article? The Cuban Crisis, the coming that close to world destruction had changed reality. During the 1950s people lived in a world in which they trusted and planned for both the foreseeable and unforeseeable future. After the Cuban Crisis
The old social standards, the moralities were suddenly left by the wayside by most virtually countless youth clad in gypsy looking clothing or sometimes nothing at all but body paint and a few flowers in their hair.
All conventionalism was challenged by this gigantic group of youth and not all the participants were kids. But it wasn’t only the nuclear war threat that had impacted the early 1960s. It was also the death of then beloved president. Jack Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963.
One of the major responses to all the tragic times was the desire to simply have fun and make world peace the objective. A call from the youth of the 1960s was to stop having gender roles; that females could be ever as aggressive as males and males could be ever as passive as females; we were all the same after all and our differences are only apparent.
Then on a totally different level the call for gender equality came from a whole new and unexpected voice: the voice of Betty Friedan
Most basically Friedan’s book told women that they were “unfulfilled” by the duties of being housewives and lacked real “identities” of their own. She failed to mention such fulfilling qualities as nurturing, loving and caregiving, Nevertheless, the book created a widespread response from both wives and single women who supported the idea that “housework” was indeed unrewarding and boring. This was to seed both the Sexual Revolution and the Feminists movements. In fact, by the end of the 1960s living together and one-night-stands were at a high; the old Victorian morality was gone, never to return!
This was not all a result of Friedan’s theories but rather more of a result from Helen Gurley Brown’s book, “Sex and the Single Girl.” The book was extremely forward and sexually shocking for the times selling 2 million copies worldwide in the first three weeks after it was released. And, the timing was just right: If you recall, I said that it was the women of the 1920s who put the roar in those times. Hem lines went up and a new morality weaved through the nation. What permitted this sudden surge of feminine sexually was nothing born out of simple social rebellion, it was that for the first time in history women were free to decide when and if they became pregnant. This occurred in 1921 or 1922 because the French diaphragm was imported and gained immediate popularity. In 1960, the birth control pill was approved for the market, now women were as free as men had always been to enjoy their sexuality without fear of unwanted pregnancy; they could now, by choice, be ever as frivolous and “fun” loving as guys and so as dresses rose to the knee in the ‘20s, the ‘60s would produce the mini-skirt. A new morality had naturally unfolded during these times.
A Brief Overview of the 1970s, through 1990s
The 1960s had proven to be the most enraged and outrageous in U.S. history. The race riots and winning of equal rights by blacks had been a long and often bloody struggle; the beloved leader of the freedom movement, Martin Luther King had been assassinated, as President Kennedy had been assassinated and presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated; Portions of entire cities had been burned down by protestors and the country’s most unpopular war had kept escalating. Also the 1960s had given root to the Sexual Revolution and the Women’s Liberation movements. Actually it was not only the “free love” attitude of the 1960s hippies that laid the foundation for the sexual revolution, it was a book published in 1966 written by Masters and Johnson: Human Sexual Response. It was the study of the physiology and anatomy of human sexual activities under scientific conditions. However, one of the major messages that the study projected was that “enjoying one’s sexuality” was a normal function of our humanness; that as long as sex wasn’t coercive, if it felt good do it. And quite suddenly all the old social mores most virtually went by the wayside.
During the 1970s women became ever as sexually aggressive as males had always been, it was pretty common for a guy to be approached in say a night club by a woman suggesting they go to her place and have a “one-nighter.” Yes, as said, this was not uncommon especially during the Disco era of the early ‘70s.
While the moon landing
Then in 1973 the Vietnam War was ended and the two year American evacuation began—this had been a ten year old hot war that we failed at winning just as the French had before us. The American people on all sides of the political barbwire were stunned—Since W.W.II, most Americans had felt invulnerable to defeat, after all God was on our side…wasn’t he? During those 1970s religious zealots rose up warning the people that the U.S. had turned into a Sodom and Gomorrah while selling their notions of sin and salvation. On the other side of the temples and churches was a changed and changing nation, however; a less “uptight” and judgmental nation at least for multi-millions. Then when the war was at last over, the hippies simply disappeared; most had retreated back into the woodwork of conventionalism while life on the home front started its trek back to normalization.
The 1980s was a time when religion and politics began meshing…openly! The fanatic Reverend Jerry Falwell
There was something else that signaled a more conservative change. However, the Movie Urban Cowboy
The fashion movement didn’t take long to be forsaken and to return to the reality of the present; a time when rapid changes were occurring daily—the home computer by then had changed the way people lived; the U.S. budget was suddenly in jeopardy, yet Americans were spending, in a term, “like crazy.” Marriage was popularized; the American Dream seemed intact.
Then in 1993 Bill Clinton was elected president; in some ways life across the nation was feeling at least a touch of the financial security of the 1950s. One change that had taken place was that by then Mom was working away from the home just like Dad was. Home life, for the many, was something that happened on weekends…sometimes!
Clinton was a personification of modern morality—while he was truly an impressive president, at least in many ways, he kept us laughing with his sexual White House exposures. He became known for wetting his cigars in his lover’s vagina, something a man would have been flogged and put in stocks for in earlier times, much less a president of the good, old U.S.A. But these were the 1990s; most people were living in a reality where the only thing they expected was the unexpected. By and large, the general opinion was, what anyone did was their own business as long as it didn’t hurt or coerce anyone else. This was actually the earliest view of our founding father until corrupted by unfolding politics of the times.
Then a sudden change: Geroge W. Bush became our national leader; the choice of the Righteous Right and, from my view, an obvious puppet of big business. During his first year, however, the terror of the twin towers occurred. Anyone reading this article knows the rest of the story leading from 911 into the present and so we have reached the juncture where we can now more directly approach our subject: Are women returning home?
Are Women Going Home?
I have taken this brief tour through recent history because I believe it is important to note how changing times and changing minds are interweaved: Even though a great many American women have always worked outside the home and yes, this includes wives and mothers of today's independent and self-reliant woman. Indeed, the personality of the modern gal was rooted during the 1940 war years but made possible only by the social changes that occurred in the 1960s. It certainly is no secret that females have been made subservient and degraded by male dominated societies for thousands of years. Thus, most certainly, so-called women’s liberation was historically necessary just as other forms of fighting-for-freedom has always been. This comment, however, is not to suggest that radical feminism is not as fanatical and as absurd as male chauvinism! It is to say, however, that women absolutely needed to break the chains of their past so that they might construct a brighter, happier and more confident future for themselves. Unfortunately in many parts of the world this hasn’t happen but as the reader should know I am not offering a worldwide view here and am dwelling exclusively on the United States where women did not even receive the right to vote until 1920.
In my own family our son-in-law is a househusband who tends to the four children while our daughter works and supports the family. She simply makes more money than her husband did when they married. Since they both agreed that at least one parent should be at home with the kids, this has worked out wonderfully. And, our son-in-law is truly a wonderful parent!
Certainly women have all the capabilities to be in the workforce as do men. They are not astute in politics and high-level executive jobs but, these days, at manual labor as well
Wives working outside the home have a few downsides too: Divorce rates have climbed; there is more marital infidelity than ever before but the real negative is that children are either farmed out to day care centers, handed over to relatives or tended by babysitters while Mom and Dad provide two-incomes to keep up their lifestyle.
I am the first to blame high-taxes, inflation and rising costs for so many people financially struggling these days but there is a far different reason for the financial strain for most folks today: They buy too much and so they spend too much and misuse the purchasing power of their credit cards. We live in a world where there is just too much stuff to have. Take the supermarket for example—once a person went to the grocery store to buy the essentials, sugar, flour, milk, butter, meat, fish, fruit and vegetables; a few canned goods. The store didn’t have too much more than this. Today, there are thousands upon thousands of products
While it is true that the middle-class is dwindling in the U.S., it is not a government conspiracy to deepen the gap between rich and poor…and it is deepening! It is that we’ve stopped being a culture of savers and frugal buyers and become credit hounds “having to have” a lot of stuff we want but don’t need. We are a culture that has simply forgotten how to “make do” something that was a pride for Americans until after the 1950s. After the 1950s we began getting more and more stuff on the shelves to buy.
So what we’re getting at for this article is that, by and large, the two-income family is NOT as necessary as we like to believe that it is. What is often to blame is the desire factor to have more income and thus more money to spend. We Americans, at all levels of income, have become leviathan consumers and the greatest cost of all this self-indulgent-buying is paid for by the children of these gluttonous, consumer parents.
Many well intended parents are recognizing all this and while the last statistic I read said that there were over 55 million women in civilian labor, it seems that number is rapidly dropping; too many women are discovering that their pay, the cost of commuting and the anxieties of working outside the home are not worth the hassle much less spending most of life away from their own children.
Indeed, today a great many women are choosing not to work outside the home and are returning to family life—not all, mind you, but, as said, a great many.
When Betty Friedan wrote the Feminine Mystique in 1963, she simply neglected those women who enjoy giving the home environment the mystique of love and security; who enjoy watching their kids grow up and being there to put on the bandaids and kiss the pain away; those women who turn a house into a home, a kitchen into a family gathering place for good meals and good conversation; who enjoys being the giver of encouragement and the teacher of self-reliance. The wife and mom who likes being the center of home life for her children and mate! These are just some of the things that Betty Friedan forgot in her thesis about “unfulfilled” housewives and just some of the things that countless husbands and wives are giving up in order to maintain their purchasing power and to grow their income. I am only speaking of course about those married couples who don’t really have to work just to maintain the basics.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with women who want careers and or jobs; women like our daughter who runs her business proficiently and profitably. Nevertheless, not only husbands and wives but also engaged couples need to be clear about their priorities if they plan on having children. Children NEED at least one loving parent at home. I am convinced of this and I am not alone in my opinion. It is no secret that kids raised with moms at home are better adjusted and healthier. And yes, I am well aware that these days there are wonderful daycare centers but you know, the nicest daycare center in the world will not take the place of Mommy’s hug or Mommy’s kiss or Mommy’s voice always there to say, I love you and you’re safe to her children.
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