Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In A "Best of" compilation of articles from Ms magazine, I came across one about housewives in the 1970s. It is called "Click: The Housewife's Moment of Truth." Here are some gems from it, outdated, yes, but still bizarrely on target:

On women being asked to place phone calls, get food for someone, make sure shirts are washed, in home and work environments: "In the end, we are all housewives, the natural people to turn to when there is something unpleasant, inconvenient, or inconclusive to be done."

On driving kids everywhere and coddling them through every aspect of their life: "Seizing responsibility from children has been women's way to compensate for their own lack of responsibility for themselves and it has resulted in two generations of non-adults."

On the distribution of chores: "Men will always opt for things that get finished and stay that way -- putting up screens, but not planning menus."

On getting stuck: "Empty one dishwasher and it leads to a lifetime of emptying dishwashers. Remember that nothing will ever get done by anyone else if you do it."

This article speaks from the assumption that most women are housewives,. even if, like the author, they also work -- as writers, sculptors, painters, and other "at home" jobs. It paints a picture of a much more divided world than ours, in which men do nothing, men are intransigent and threatened, and marriages are not partnerships. At the same time, much of what she describes is still kind of true, more true than I think she imagined when she imagined liberation. What she calls for is for women to become more independent, have an identity outside the home. But, she notes, and our lives confirm, that having a job is not a cure-all. Citing Russia where, she claims, 70% of the doctors are women, "women still do all the housework. Some revolution."

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