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"Boys Build Houses. Girls Keep Houses. Boys Invent Things. Girls Use What they Invent. Boys Can Eat. Girls Can Cook."
April 11, 2009 9:11 PM   Subscribe

A snapshot from a sexist 1970's children's book for your perusal. Many have seen this and insisted it must be a hoax. But is it? Sociological Images says not so fast.
posted by crazyray (149 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Where is the sexist part?
posted by yoyo_nyc at 9:17 PM on April 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


and she better have dinner on the table!

right after I finish cooking it.
posted by Balisong at 9:17 PM on April 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Whether it was intended as satire or not is unimportant, the important thing is that it was not received as satire.
posted by idiopath at 9:18 PM on April 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I saw this when I was a little kid - most likely in elementary school.
posted by dilettante at 9:19 PM on April 11, 2009


But I want to be a stewardess.
posted by Avenger at 9:21 PM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Huh. If you read it as simple reportage rather than normative, it seems fairly factual up until the "fixes things/needs things fixed" part. (That's just dumb.) I mean, I'm sure there were female doctors and police officers in 1970, but it would have been much more unusual than now, when such a generalization would be ridiculous.

Published now, it would be outrageous. In 1970 though? Caveat: I was born in 1970, so I wasn't there firsthand.
posted by ctmf at 9:23 PM on April 11, 2009


We've come a long way, baby.
posted by orange swan at 9:23 PM on April 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Almost certainly satire. "Girls use what boys invent"? Come on.
posted by Garak at 9:24 PM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh god, the comments on that second link....
posted by dilettante at 9:24 PM on April 11, 2009


It isn't satire. Darrow was a satirist, but also an illustrator for other people's (non-satirical) books. He also wrote children's books, one of which contains this horrific thing.
posted by cerebus19 at 9:24 PM on April 11, 2009


So a book from "the 70s" was actually from the 1960s, according to that second link. Remember folks, that's 40 years ago now. Times when black people had to fight to be considered equal to whites (well, they still do today, but, you know...) and the same decade that Mad Men takes place in. Back when they full-on ignored half the population when drafting people into war.

I don't see at all why this should be particularly hard to believe.
posted by explosion at 9:24 PM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's wrong with being sexy?
posted by Drastic at 9:26 PM on April 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


What's the title of the book? It doesn't seem to be mentioned in either link.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:29 PM on April 11, 2009


[RANDOM SPECULATION WITHOUT CONTEXT]
posted by Artw at 9:30 PM on April 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


I also dimly remember something like this.

Maybe this is why I like to tease my feminist wife by saying wildly sexist things to her every once in a while. It's only funny because she is so obviously the matriarch of our family.

Before you flame me, please keep in mind that my joking with her is a long-running in-joke that is intended and received as a self-satire of my place in our relationship.
posted by double block and bleed at 9:31 PM on April 11, 2009


explosion- This isn't meant to be some kind of indictment on people from the 1970's (or for that matter, the 1960's). It is something that was interesting, in the same way our grandkids will probably think our metatalk meltdowns are interesting in the year 2047 (or, singularity + 3). I never claimed it was hard to believe, I just saw it and thought you might like to see it. Also, I was hoping that perhaps it would stimulate some interesting discussion about our attitudes towards gender roles.
posted by crazyray at 9:33 PM on April 11, 2009


Almost certainly satire. "Girls use what boys invent"? Come on.

Nope. I remember seeing this back in the day-- I was a teenager in the 1970s. It might give you an idea of just how different things were, how mocked and vilified "women's liberation" was, and how socially acceptable these roles were and how difficult it was to break free of them. I remember when employment ads were divided by Men and Women with different columns for each; when equal pay for women--for the same job!-- was something that had to be argued for (men needed to be paid more because they had families to support, right?); when it was widely held that women were incompetent drivers, too hormonal to ever be allowed into positions of power; and that it was a "normal" part of education or working life to be hit on or harassed or denied promotion if you were a woman; when it was legal to be fired for getting pregnant in some jobs; and when it was difficult to get contraception if you weren't married.

I remember that exact panel-- girls use what boys invent-- because it was held up as an example of sexist education by feminists in the early 70s. Sad to say, many people didn't think it was such a big deal.
posted by jokeefe at 9:35 PM on April 11, 2009 [47 favorites]


If you read it as simple reportage rather than normative

then I would somehow not be aware that it was from a children's book.
posted by regicide is good for you at 9:35 PM on April 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


This calls for The Man Song.
posted by The Deej at 9:36 PM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm not going to believe this was in a book until someone tells me the name of the purported book.

Also, the captions look weirdly pasted on.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:40 PM on April 11, 2009


My father, who was born in 1934, showed me a copy of one of his elementary school texts. They were printed by Mobil Oil, in paperback, and distributed to the kids in East Texas, as the schools didn't have money for books in those days. It was a Texas history book, and each page had a number of cartoon frames, 3 or 4 panels.

In one of the cartoons relating the story of the Alamo, a Texan soldier, out of ammunition, was shown whacking a Mexican soldier across the head with the butt of his rifle. In clear but small letters, the Texan was gleefully saying "Sweet Dreams, Greaser!"

My Dad thought it was uproariously funny, certainly because he understood how incredibly inappropriate it was.

So this stuff is pretty mild.
posted by Xoebe at 9:42 PM on April 11, 2009


For those who think this had to be satire --

Back in the early '70s, I had a job taking classified ads over the phone for a large metropolitan newspaper.

One of the major categories of ads, then as now, was "Help Wanted." However, in those days, instead of a single "Help Wanted" section, you had two sections: Help Wanted, Male, and Help Wanted, Female.

Which is to say, every job *had* to be categorized as either male or female. There was no such thing as simply a job, gender neutral.

I leave it as an exercise to the reader to decide, between pilot/stewardess, doctor/nurse, policeman/metermaid, which would be which.
posted by Kat Allison at 9:42 PM on April 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


You think that's bad?

I need to get hold of a scanner-I have a book (or rather my folks have a book) I had when I was little-it was one of those double books that you would read then flip over and read the other side-kinda two books in one. IIRC the titles were Just like Mommy/Just Like Daddy or something like it. Makes that page look positively modern.

That was really what the world was like back then, folks. When I was in first grade (back in 1965/1966) if you were a girl, you could aspire to be a teacher, or a nurse, or a secretary. That was about it. (Oh, or a stewardess. Assuming you had the figure and were good looking enough.) My mom was an anomaly in that she went back to work when I started school-most moms stayed at home, period.

The 70's were pretty turbulent-there was indeed a deep divide between "women's libbers" and "normative" women.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:42 PM on April 11, 2009


(And I too remember the Men's Jobs-Women's Jobs divide in the classifieds.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:43 PM on April 11, 2009


Yeah, I'm not going to believe this was in a book until someone tells me the name of the purported book.

Here's a link for you, Mr Roboto.
posted by crazyray at 9:44 PM on April 11, 2009


...how mocked and vilified "women's liberation" was...

Wait, "was"?
posted by giraffe at 9:45 PM on April 11, 2009 [12 favorites]


man made the cars to take us over the road
man made the trains to carry heavy loads
man made electric light to take us out of the dark
man made the boat for the water, like Noah made the ark

this is a maaaaaaaaan's world
but it wouldn't be nothing,
NOTHING!
without a woman or a girl
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:46 PM on April 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ah, here it is.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:46 PM on April 11, 2009


A relative of mine went to a state college in Connecticut in the mid-1960s. She remembers the winter that was exceptionally cold, and the president of the college gave the women students permission to wear pants instead of skirts and dresses.

This was also the era of single-sex dorms with dorm mothers, no overnight guests, and an 'open door, feet on the floor' rule when you had an opposite-sex visitor.
posted by zippy at 9:54 PM on April 11, 2009


Oh hey! A board game: "What shall I Be?"
posted by rtha at 9:58 PM on April 11, 2009


Yeah, this was ... normal for the time. Normative, perhaps, a better word.

Remember that Mary Tyler Moore, it was decided, could not be a divorcee, she could only be a woman who had recently broken an engagement. That there was an actual show Police Woman. That women had not yet been accepted as sports reporters and could not enter locker-rooms, or when they did, were subjected to sexual harassment. Indeed, that sexual harassment law barely existed. The only female senators, practically, were senators' widows. College for women was to find a husband, or a toy career until your husband became successful.

It's pretty sad looking back, but this book was probably progressive in that it was attempting to find the positive in the gender divide. It doesn't need to explain why, it just needs to remind you that the way it is can be fun and rewarding. The motivation was probably to discourage kids from attempting the ... impossible. Something like the argument against being gay that is based on how difficult it is to be gay in our society.
posted by dhartung at 10:02 PM on April 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


"No wonder Generation X is so fucked up."

Um,excuse me??? Generation X is the first Generation to *not be trapped by such gender roles [and mille basia mille to my foremothers who made it so. Ahistorical twit.
posted by njbradburn at 10:06 PM on April 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


But don't forget, kids, there were those trying hard to overturn these sorts of entrenched gender-roles in the 70s... There are a lot of things that mommies can do!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:08 PM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Generation X is the first Generation to *not be trapped by such gender roles

Oh, would that it were so.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:11 PM on April 11, 2009


In one of the cartoons relating the story of the Alamo, a Texan soldier, out of ammunition, was shown whacking a Mexican soldier across the head with the butt of his rifle. In clear but small letters, the Texan was gleefully saying "Sweet Dreams, Greaser!"

My Dad thought it was uproariously funny, certainly because he understood how incredibly inappropriate it was.


Surely that's also funny because of the end result of the Battle of the Alamo, no?
posted by cerebus19 at 10:12 PM on April 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Free to Be You and Me was an album released in 1972 of songs that were specifically written to challenge gender stereotypes.
The original idea to create the album came from Thomas; she wanted to teach her then-young niece Dionne about life, in particular that it was OK to go against the gender stereotypes that were blatantly evident in children's books of that time (e.g., Daddy's a construction worker or a doctor while Mommy is a teacher or a nurse — if Mommy even works at all; boys don't play with dolls or cry; girls can't be athletes or unmarried).
One of the songs, Parents are People, has the lyrics
Some mommies are ranchers, or poetry makers
Or doctors or teachers, or cleaners or bakers
Some mommies drive taxis, or sing on TV
Yeah, mommies can be almost anything they want to be

It wouldn't have been necessary to challenge the stereotypes if they didn't exist.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:12 PM on April 11, 2009


I don't know. If it were just the job descriptions, I'd believe it was supposed to be taken seriously. But "girls need things fixed"? That seems like it would be over-the-top in the 50's. I'm going to have to tentatively call this one satire. And what makes it good satire is that it starts off so believably (for that era).
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:21 PM on April 11, 2009


This was mild for the 1970's re: anti-feminist views.
posted by bardic at 10:29 PM on April 11, 2009


Oh, would that it were so.

*/sulks petulantly

Pope, are you suggesting that we thirtiesomethings are not enjoying a relative freedom from gender role proscription that even our parents were inflicted with?
posted by njbradburn at 10:29 PM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Surely that's also funny because of the end result of the Battle of the Alamo, no?

Depends on what you mean by end result -- the Mexicans won the Battle of the Alamo. It wasn't until the Battle of San Jacinto that the deaths of the Anglo Texans at the Alamo (and of Goliad, which must also be remembered) were avenged.

On topic, I refuse to believe that "girls need things fixed" wasn't satirical. My brain just won't allow it without exploding.
posted by katemonster at 10:34 PM on April 11, 2009


Another book from the 70s
posted by njbradburn at 10:45 PM on April 11, 2009


Page Of A Children`s Book From The 1970s [Pic]. No wonder Generation X is so messed up.

First of all, the book was published in 1969, and probably is better described as a cultural relic, because the 1970's was a time of progressive change in the North American school system. In the early part of the decade, the strap and corporal punishment were abolished. Compulsory kindergartens were established. Process-oriented learning became popular (eg, group work) rather than simple transmission of knowledge. There was a trend to abolish standardized final exams in later grades. Basically, the liberalism and progressive politics of the 1960's had filtered into the school system.

No wonder Generation X is so messed up.

I hadn't heard this one before - the Boomers (people a little younger than my parents) are the ones who are messed up with high divorce rates. The Gen Xers (generally speaking, people who are 35 to 45 today) I know are doing fine - married with a couple of kids and a dog, dual careers, sharing housework, joint management of finances and major decisions, a healthy attitude towards sex (thanks to the Internet).

Gen Xer's have also really deconstructed sexuality and gender relations, thanks to going to university (if you went, that is) during the third wave of feminism. "Every woman has the right to choose" is something that is seared in my brain, anyway.

The things that fucked up Gen Xers has nothing to do with predefined and rigid gender roles.

We were fucked up by the very real danger of global thermonuclear war. We were also fucked up by a prolonged recession in the early 90s. We were also fucked up by Alf, Three's Company and Manimal.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:48 PM on April 11, 2009 [34 favorites]


No no, it's "boys fix things, gays need things fixed."
posted by gorgor_balabala at 10:48 PM on April 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I refuse to believe that "girls need things fixed" wasn't satirical. My brain just won't allow it without exploding.

There was a widespread belief that women have no mechanical ability. As such, it would be unlikely that they would become auto mechanics, plumbers, TV repairmen or other occupations that involve "fixing things".
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:49 PM on April 11, 2009


mr_roboto: Yeah, I'm not going to believe this was in a book until someone tells me the name of the purported book.

It's right there in the second link: "I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl!" If you need independent corroboration here's a book from 1995 that talks about it at some length.
posted by Kattullus at 10:52 PM on April 11, 2009


Free to Be You and Me was an album released in 1972

Oh, man. I remember that album. Our 2nd grade class had to do some sort of 'get on stage and sing the songs from that album' thing for the parents night. I remember, even that young, (what, 6?) feeling really patronized and used by the whole thing. I played sick the night of the show.
/ot
posted by ctmf at 10:56 PM on April 11, 2009


I still remember most of the words from Free to Be... grew up reading Stories for Free Children published in Ms. magazine, too.

As for whether or not it was satire, from the second link:
I’m not sure it was satire — it doesn’t seem to have been pitched that way.

From School Libraries, published by the American Association of School Libraries, 1969: ”This warmly humorous book makes everybody glad they are what they are.”

From The Horn Book Magazine, 1970: ”He’s glad he’s a boy and she’s glad she’s a girl. In this warmly humorous book, they tell each other why and conclude that the best reason of all is — because they need each other!”

From the “Books for Children” section in Childhood Education, 1970: ”Simple drawings with line captions designed to help the young child discover his or her appropriate sex role.”
So, as iodiopath noted, if it was meant as satire, it was certainly mot received that way.
posted by rtha at 10:57 PM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


A-fuckin-men, KokuRyu! We got labeled "Slackers" just because the only frikkin' jobs *available when we graduated were at STBX or the Gap or ridiculous municipal agencies. I'm a women's college grad, and so probably have an inappropriately inferior interpretation of how sweet I have things compared to my ancestors.

But this little rant may be anxiety-driven--attending my [omg] 15-year college reunion in a month...
posted by njbradburn at 10:59 PM on April 11, 2009


Being trapped in a role (in America, at least) has much more to do with class than gender since the 80s anyway.
posted by njbradburn at 11:08 PM on April 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


He also wrote children's books, one of which contains this horrific thing.

But even some of the children's books he worked on were very, very tongue in cheek, like A Child's Guide to Freud which contains all sorts of gems about thinking Oedipal thoughts about your parents and the like.

As a kid, I loved Eloise Wilkin's We Help Mommy and We Help Daddy, which are about a male and a female child helping their parents with very gendered tasks. It's sort of interesting what Wilkens' does--even though the parents are modeling very traditional gender roles, but the little boy and the little girl lend a hand. I'm sure they would justifiably raise some ire now, but as a kid, all I cared about were the awesome illustrations--Eloise Wilkin rocked!--and didn't really notice that dad in the book does yard work, while mommy cleans and cooks inside.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:08 PM on April 11, 2009


Has everyone forgotten about the 60s? You know, protesting, hippies, bra burning? Feminism in its most radical form was at its peak. You young'ns are confusing the 60s with the 40s.

Definitely satire.
posted by eye of newt at 11:35 PM on April 11, 2009


Feminism in its most radical form was at its peak.

You haven't read much feminist writing from the 70's and 80's, have you?
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:05 AM on April 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


If this is real, then where is the rest of the book? Someone must still own a copy. Presumably they could scan more pages and settle this for once and for all.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:06 AM on April 12, 2009


I can't believe you people can't believe this could be real.

Has everyone forgotten about the 60s? You know, protesting, hippies, bra burning? Feminism in its most radical form was at its peak. You young'ns are confusing the 60s with the 40s.

Think about it for a second: If feminism and bra burning where at their peak, then obviously society was not very feminist overall. People were burning bras and whatnot because society was as it was portrayed in the book in a lot of people's minds.
posted by delmoi at 12:10 AM on April 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, the article says this was intended as humor, and it may well have been. But this was a time of such social change with regard to what men and women did in society that books very similar to this were actually in the hands of schoolchildren. Taken perfectly literally, this book would have left many people of the time serenely unbothered, while infuriating others.

I think the gender role question was more or less settled ("do whatever the hell you want if you're qualified"), but we're on the long downslope waiting for the good old boys to die out, so there are still reverberations of and repercussions from that argument even today. Probably will be for at least another fifty years, assuming society holds together.

This was an era when a secretary was 'your girl', and always female. You had stewardesses, not flight attendants, and the thought of a female executive would have made most businessmen (note the 'men') laugh.

Things have changed a LOT.
posted by Malor at 12:16 AM on April 12, 2009


Man, I bet if you showed a lot of Chidren's media made today to people in the 1960's they would think it was a parody about what might happen if the nacient civil rights movement actually took over the country. I mean imagine showing this book to some racist. Or a book like this to just about anyone.
posted by delmoi at 12:19 AM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Kind of unrelated, but I found the title of this book pretty funny.
posted by delmoi at 12:43 AM on April 12, 2009


It is true that Whitney Darrow Jr would have been in his late 50s around then and some of his much earlier New Yorker cartoons had the kind of learing sexism popular at the time, he also is listed in a 1976 chapter reference in Women's Equity Action League Records (an offshoot of NOW).
posted by eye of newt at 12:49 AM on April 12, 2009


I have no objection to girls being stewardesses, housekeepers, cooks or whatever, as long as they do it properly.
posted by mattoxic at 12:52 AM on April 12, 2009


You haven't read much feminist writing from the 70's and 80's, have you?

Then she says, "you don't read women authors, do you?"
Least that's what I think I hear her say,
"Well", I say, "how would you know and what would it matter anyway?"

"Well", she says, "you just don't seem like you do!"
I said, "you're way wrong."
She says, "which ones have you read then?" I say, "I read Erica Jong!"
She goes away for a minute and I slide up out of my chair
I step outside back to the busy street, but nobody's going anywhere...

-Bob Dylan
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:52 AM on April 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I am changing my opinion.
Here's a 1971 New York Magazine mention of the book (which would have been a year or two after it was first published).

Diagnosis: rampant sexism.
posted by eye of newt at 1:05 AM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, some things haven't changed at all-- check out the ad for 'Pretty Body' on the top left hand corner of page 118. 'Guys dig flabby girls--guys blindly in love!'.

So nostalgic to see the phrase 'Women's Lib' again. Thanks, eye of newt.
posted by jokeefe at 1:11 AM on April 12, 2009


Which is to say, every job *had* to be categorized as either male or female. There was no such thing as simply a job, gender neutral.

The clue is in the section header: Help Wanted. They were advertising as to what gender the employer wanted to fill the post -- at a time before it was illegal to specify that you wanted a hot young woman in a short skirt to file your papers. or a big hairy arsed builder to lay your patio. This may have reinforced attitudes about gender roles, but I'm not sure it makes the jobs gender specific per se. It just says people had fixed roles about that stuff then. They still do, to some extent.

To be honest, I'm with Artw here. There's not enough context to allow me to make a decision on whether its satire or not, but for those of you insisting that it isn't satire -- do you suppose if you read a book like this to a girl child today that they wouldn't be affronted by the unfairness in the list of stuff that they wouldn't be allowed to do? And if you do, then why do you suppose that girl children in the 70's wouldn't have reacted any differently?

and when it was difficult to get contraception if you weren't married.

And you think it was easier for men -- having to go to the barbers to get your haircut every time you fancied a fuck? No wonder everyone wore their hair so short. It was that or let the bastard loose with the open razor once a week!

Or you could buy in bulk from a place like this -- staffed, as you can see in the doorway there, by Willie Loman.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:45 AM on April 12, 2009


Ah, eye of newt nails it while I search for pictures of surgical rubber stores.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:47 AM on April 12, 2009


Is 'nails it' too gender laden? Should I have said: eye of newt gently sautes it, in a marinade of exceptional google-fu?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:54 AM on April 12, 2009


Can we settle all this through a first-ever Male Vs. Female Metafilter Invention Contest?
posted by mannequito at 3:01 AM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Two things: my mother was able to get a passport in '76 because my father died. Up to that point, she required her husband's permission. 1976 in Australia! I worked with a woman who was given permission to continue working after her marriage in the 70s, though most of her peers did not.

In the 80s, my oldest brother was shocked because I played chess and smoked dope. Wow, he said, that's incredible. Of course, he thought he was really liberal because he usually chose female doctors: they have to try harder to get to the same place, he said.

Last year, my daughter started a class discussion (year 11s) with the statement: Feminism - is it still relevant? The general class consensus wavered between "what the hell is it?" and "no way, women are taking jobs from men," but we live in a semi-rural area and the school isn't known for academic excellence.

About a month ago, I found a book on display in the local library which featured ideal sexual education for the Christian boy and girl of preschool age. It was published in the last ten years, and had similar job divisions (I shall endeavour to find it and post here).

Oh, and last week, I was told I had no sense of humour by a fellow student, when I asked him to stop saying that my skills in design and organisation were due to my gender, and that clearly being female meant that I couldn't be logical.
posted by b33j at 3:10 AM on April 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Okay, I can't count. More than two things.
posted by b33j at 3:10 AM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


And you think it was easier for men -- having to go to the barbers to get your haircut every time you fancied a fuck? No wonder everyone wore their hair so short. It was that or let the bastard loose with the open razor once a week!

Uh, whut? How does a barber relate to that? Was that where you got condoms or something? If so, I never knew that. Why wouldn't you just buy a hundred?
posted by ctmf at 3:11 AM on April 12, 2009


Finally found it.
posted by b33j at 3:20 AM on April 12, 2009


We used to have an old color copy of the 1937 classic Sing a Song of Safety. It included a bunch of safety related songs for kids... lessons like Always trust your friendly policeman, don't chase your ball into traffic, don't lean out of windows, don't skate on thin ice set to music — but to us kids, it was the gruesome*, often nightmarish color** illustrations that accompanied the songs that we found that certain kind of "I can't look away!" fascinating.

* seriously, look at that kids face as he's opened up his hand with a pocketknife, he doesn't look sad, more like Gollum what with "my precious..."
** the library copy I was able to track down to scan only had the illustrations in black and white
posted by blueberry at 3:23 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Boys go to the hardware store looking for nails of all different shapes and sizes to use.
Girls go to the salon looking for nails of all different shapes and sizes to talk about.

Meanwhile, if a boy breaks a nail, he has more nails, and at least something's getting done.

fwiw i did rtfa, and I'm just having some fun because i'm a flamebait chauvinist 70's boy.
*runs away*
posted by hypersloth at 3:28 AM on April 12, 2009


Men are from Mars,
Women from Venus.
Girls have vaginas.
Boys have a penis.

Beyond that, we should be able to do most of the same jobs. Except those explicitly requiring a vagina or a penis.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:17 AM on April 12, 2009


I agree with delmoi's comment, above. ~1969 I went to Sears, saw a pair of shoes I liked, and asked to try them on; the saleslady told me I couldn't, because they were ladies' shoes. I said "So what?" and she said, "BECAUSE THEY'RE LADIES' SHOES!"
posted by Restless Day at 5:02 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Er, this delmoi comment: People were burning bras and whatnot because society was as it was portrayed in the book in a lot of people's minds.

posted by Restless Day at 5:05 AM on April 12, 2009


I was in elementary school in the early seventies and I can say that we never saw a book like this and if I had I would have recognized it as being really sexist. I remember that all of our text books had been re-written to be much more multi-cultural and non-sexist than the ones that my much older sisters had read in the sixties.
posted by octothorpe at 5:19 AM on April 12, 2009


Hell, there are people where I live who would probably find this "funny because it's true!" today. One of our daughter's day-care teachers has made it plain to my wife that caring for children in day care is one of the few jobs her husband thinks appropriate for her to be doing.

Here's a little story that happened in the last few years here in Meadville, PA: One on my wife's (college) students was waiting in line at a chinese buffet with her boyfriend and kidding him about something, just joking around. The guy in line behind them eventually had enough, apparently, and told her boyfriend that he needed to do a better job "controlling your woman." This was not ironic or a joke or anything but deadly serious. And we're talking 2004 or something, so seeing this from the late 60s is a hundred percent believable to me.
posted by dellsolace at 5:41 AM on April 12, 2009


Real: was there, experienced that. I should have been an engineer by inclination, but family and society discouraged that venue. I ended up in biological sciences, an acceptable alternative to the firmly held belief that girls were not good at math, and surviving the sexism was no picnic even in that field.
My daughters have it easier, but there is still a way to go before equality is reached.
posted by francesca too at 6:10 AM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Free to Be You and Me was an album released in 1972

Oh, does that ever bring back memories. My progressive parents and relatives loaded me up with all those books and records back then -- Free to Be You and Me was one, and I remember a very earnest and very thick (but not at all very fun) book about how to play cooperative and non-competitive games. It was all very well-intentioned, but sometimes very hard for a small child to reconcile with the more traditional messages in school and on TV.

Has everyone forgotten about the 60s? You know, protesting, hippies, bra burning? Feminism in its most radical form was at its peak. You young'ns are confusing the 60s with the 40s.

No, you are confusing the (few, often isolated, and frequently caricatured) radicals with the overall society. Yes, there were some hippies and feminists in the 1960s. The experience of actually living in the 1960s (unless you were off on a hippy commune, or in one of a small number of youth-dominated neighborhoods in cities like Berkeley, New York, Madison, and so on) was very different. You know -- dress codes at schools (even colleges) requiring skirts for women. As mentioned above, job advertisements specifying gender. Going to the sock hop, or screaming at the (still clean-cut) Beatles. Limited access to sexual health information other than "cross your legs."

A lot of what gets called "the '60s" -- meaning student radicals, gay activism, feminism, hippies, and so on -- comes out of just a few locations and is from maybe 1967 onwards. The rest of the country was a lot more receptive to "Okie from Muskogee" when it came out in 69, and voted for Nixon (twice!) in large majorities.
posted by Forktine at 6:11 AM on April 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


Generation X is the first Generation to *not be trapped by such gender roles

Please tell that to all the suburban housewives whose kids I teach (these would be the ones whose law degrees and MBAs are just another fancy accessory, like their Prada purse and monster SUV). It breaks the heart of this old feminist. (I believe that book was satire, btw, but I distinctly remember, as jokeefe says, specific indoctrination in what was and was not an acceptable life path for women when I was a child in the 60s).
posted by nax at 6:20 AM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


This reminds me of the abject horror I felt when I was made aware of the fact that the wondrous Richard Scarry books I'd cherished as a kid were packed with as many rigid gender stereotypes as they were with wit and imaginative scenes. I'd spent whole days in my youth tucked under the overhang of the seventies-futuristic bunk bed my father built for me, poring over the oversized splendor of Cars and Trucks and Things That Go because that's what you did with those books—losing yourself in immense, detailed illustrations that made you think there's a whole amazing world out there, full of humor and possibility and things to be curious about.

When my nieces came along, I looked forward to sharing that experience, but I'd grown up, been out in the real world, and suddenly, I felt a little ashamed to trumpet the virtues of something that had boy bears piloting planes and driving giant trucks filled with tomatoes while girl bears were washerwomen and housebears and crossing guards. I sought out the current versions of the books, but they'd been updated in other ways that lost some of what made them so spectacular, so I just handed the old ones over with a pained and consistent explanation of "these girls and boys have jobs and roles that work for both boys or girls" that my nieces mostly shrugged off because they're smart and sophisticated and have a remarkable grasp of how nostalgic things can often be complicated.

We know, Uncle Joe. Girls can drive giant trucks filled with tomatoes.

It's a good object lesson, I think, in the way that nostalgia makes us forget what was wrong back then when what was wrong was isolated from us. The fifties become this whirlwind of pizzicato strings, tailfins, and sparkly turquoise countertops in streamlined diners, the sixties go all tie-dye and free love, the seventies are funk without the broke-down Bronx, and these days will be remembered without the gay-baiting, knee-jerk security panics, and Jonas Brothers, and it becomes far too easy to just forget instead of taking it all in stride and explaining why people thought some of the things they thought. For me, it's opened the occasional dialogue with my nieces to fill them in on the problems of my childhood era even as they seem to get it all instinctively and shrug off the absurdities, and I think that's probably a better thing than to just censor out the complicated past in exchange for more lifeless pablum.

I'd much rather have the opportunity to talk to my nieces about these things than to just skip over them, and let the past become this fantasy of the present, even when it's not easy to make sense of some pretty senseless ways of seeing the world.

Of course, my repeated claim that I'm disinheriting my younger niece unless she stops subscribing to Teen Vogue gets a wry and informed sardonic response because my family have all taken the time to foster this kind of in-depth philosophical engagement.

But Uncle Joe, you work in a museum. It's not like there's going to be all that much for us to inherit anyway.

Yow.

Still, there's something that comes from all that, from having to talk about concepts like bias and satire and roles that don't make sense, and there so much to be gained from not looking away. For me, it's just an apt reminder—stay engaged, stay aware, expand your understanding beyond your nostalgia, and inform kids instead of "protecting" them from a world that could nourish them. The world, when seen without filters, is pretty unfair, cruel, and ugly, but there's more, too, and that's a very, very good thing.
posted by sonascope at 6:25 AM on April 12, 2009 [13 favorites]


Has everyone forgotten about the 60s? You know, protesting, hippies, bra burning? Feminism in its most radical form was at its peak. You young'ns are confusing the 60s with the 40s.

I'm sorry, I was so young and naive, not realizing that sexism disappeared in 1960.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:45 AM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


a healthy attitude towards sex (thanks to the Internet).

*spit take*
posted by fleetmouse at 6:52 AM on April 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Do you want more shocking items from that period in my area?

At the country club, women could only play golf on Tuesdays.

At the YMCA, women could only use the pool on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The other days were men only. Boys swam naked.

It was very rare when someone's mother had a job.

Things were different then, move on.
posted by digsrus at 7:01 AM on April 12, 2009


Metafilter: Sweet Dreams, Greaser!

(Man, I NEVER get tired of that tired meme.)
posted by John of Michigan at 7:12 AM on April 12, 2009


I had Free to Be You And Me as a kid (got it from my aunt). I'm pleased to report that in my grade school, throughout the 70's, whenever one of our teachers needed a table or a bunch of chairs moved or something, she would ask if "some of the boys" could help her "move these heavy things" -- and invariably, all of us girls would indignantly speak up and say, "hey, girls can help with that too!"

So at least by the time I was in 3rd grade, we kids weren't buying this line of crap. At least where I was from.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:13 AM on April 12, 2009


I've seen this book too (I distinctly remember the first lady picture) as well as much worse over the years in libraries. One elementary school I worked at had a book from the sixties or seventies in the career section all about how to be a cheerleader - as a job. I look at the books my children get from their teachers and send a note to the teachers pointing out that the books are showing only men working and women staying home (and of course everyone is white). Crap like this drives me nuts. The Berenstain Bears book Mama Gets a Job drives me crazy - how dare Mama work outside the home (quilting, really progressive). I have tonnes of seventies books and magazines here at home and the casual sexism in almost all of it flashes me back to my childhood where of course girls could only be teachers and nurses. I don't see how anyone could think this book was satire, it was(is) the sad reality for a lot children that those were the only roles allowed them.
posted by saucysault at 7:22 AM on April 12, 2009


It amazes me how people can get so outraged at examples of decades-old social values that don't conform to current values. If you're really looking to get outraged, read some turn-of-the-20th-century fiction.
posted by RichardS at 7:27 AM on April 12, 2009


do you suppose if you read a book like this to a girl child today that they wouldn't be affronted by the unfairness in the list of stuff that they wouldn't be allowed to do? And if you do, then why do you suppose that girl children in the 70's wouldn't have reacted any differently?

Wow. You really don't understand indoctrination, do you. I guess you just cannot understand the mind set unless you actually lived through it-- as you can tell from this discussion. Those of us who were there and experienced life first hand in the 60's can remember well the the thousand pricks and stings of enforced stereotypes. Playing on the monkeybars in a dress. Being told by the physics teacher to "Put your hands down, girls, you don't know the answer to the question." Being warned about the dangers of being too physically active-- it would lead to overly large thighs. Struggling into girdles and stockings on the hottest day of the year. (I remember reading in Cosmo that no one-- not even the thinnest model looked "right" unless she was wearing a girdle.) Being told to hop up from the table after meals -- even when I was a guest at relatives homes-- in order to help clean up. There was a constant drip, drip, drip of reminders that I was a) valued for my attractiveness, b) weaker than boys in nearly every way, c) should not get too invested in a career because it would end with marriage.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:35 AM on April 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


"My mom was an anomaly in that she went back to work when I started school-most moms stayed at home, period."

Maybe most middle/upper class Moms. There were plenty of poor moms working.

"Please tell that to all the suburban housewives whose kids I teach (these would be the ones whose law degrees and MBAs are just another fancy accessory, like their Prada purse and monster SUV). It breaks the heart of this old feminist."

I don't see what's wrong with this per se. If someone intelligent and ambitious enough to get a MBA or a law degree decides to be a stay at home parent we should respect their decision. Obviously they could be working if they wanted (within the limits of the current economic environment).
posted by Mitheral at 7:52 AM on April 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Bwahahaha! I showed this to my 14yo daughter. Her head exploded, poor thing. We had a good laugh.
posted by Michael Roberts at 8:13 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Please tell that to all the suburban housewives whose kids I teach (these would be the ones whose law degrees and MBAs are just another fancy accessory, like their Prada purse and monster SUV). It breaks the heart of this old feminist. (I believe that book was satire, btw, but I distinctly remember, as jokeefe says, specific indoctrination in what was and was not an acceptable life path for women when I was a child in the 60s).

Better their lives should be dictated by your vision of appropriate gender representation in elite professions than by their own choices.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 8:21 AM on April 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


A relative of mine went to a state college in Connecticut in the mid-1960s. She remembers the winter that was exceptionally cold, and the president of the college gave the women students permission to wear pants instead of skirts and dresses.
I went to school in the 1960s, graduating in 1970 and grew up on the snowy, cold shores of Lake Erie. We were never allowed to wear pants in school--we could wear them on the coldest, worst days under our dresses but would have to remove them before sitting at our desks.
posted by etaoin at 8:52 AM on April 12, 2009


As delmoi said up above, I can't understand the shock and disbelief that something like this would have appeared in 1969 (or whenever it was that it was actually published, assuming that it was published). Look at almost any sitcom from that period (pre-"All in the Family") that you care to look at -- "Beverly Hillbillies," "That Girl," "Bewitched," "I Dream of Jeannie" -- and it's stereotype city. Same for magazine and TV ads and a very good percentage of the popular music and movies out at the time. Of course these cultural artifacts aren't reflective of "real life" any more than "Two and a Half Men" or "How I Met Your Mother" or "The New Adventures of Old Christine" are reflective of "real life" in 2009, but that they even got eyeballs -- particularly 40 years ago, when mass culture was less fragmented by technology -- says something about what we thought of ourselves and how we saw ourselves.

Just for kicks, at random, I pulled up a style section article from the April 12, 1969 issue of the New York Times. It was a profile of the cabaret singer Hildegarde. The article began, and I'm quoting verbatim: "When some women get depressed, they take tranquilizers or go to a psychiatrist. Hildegarde has her own Rx. She runs out and buys some new clothes. 'There's no better way to get rid of the cloudy days in your life,' the 63-year-old chanteuse said the other day in her antiques-filled apartment on the East Side. 'Besides, I want to live up to my image as a best-dressed woman.'"
posted by blucevalo at 8:53 AM on April 12, 2009


Wow. You really don't understand indoctrination, do you. I guess you just cannot understand the mind set unless you actually lived through it-- as you can tell from this discussion. Those of us who were there and experienced life first hand in the 60's can remember well the the thousand pricks and stings of enforced stereotypes.
Yep. the clincher for me was being told that girls should hide their intelligence--boys wouldn't want to marry girls smarter than they were. This was standard fare, particularly memorable for some reason from some middle-school teachers. Or, as we called it, junior high.
posted by etaoin at 8:54 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Almost certainly satire. "Girls use what boys invent"? Come on.

I looked up Whitney Darrow on Google Books, and the author has illustrated several books from 1970 to 1981 in the category of Juvenile Nonfiction. I'm Glad I'm A Boy, I'm Glad I'm A Girl is listed from 1970. If "I'm Glad I'm A Boy, I'm Glad I'm A Girl" was intended as a gag gift for adults, it doesn't explain why Whitney Darrow got all those gigs illustrating children's books for the next ten years.
posted by jonp72 at 8:55 AM on April 12, 2009


All I know is, because of Free to Be You And Me, I went and got myself a doll at the age of 4 and kept it with me until the age of 8, when I had enough of both boys and girls beating the shit out of me.

Also, maybe it's okay for Rosey Grier to cry. After all, he was with Bobby Kennedy when he got shot. But crying because a classmate's younger sister kicked you in the shin for having a doll is unseemly.

Thanks, Marlo Thomas.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:30 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you're really looking to get outraged, read some turn-of-the-20th-century fiction.

I grew up on children's fiction written c1850-1950, and while it was at times very gender defined, how sexist it was depended on the author. A lot of literature by women, for example, like Louisa Alcott or L.M. Montgomery, recognised the limitations for women in their society (in the possible professions, for example) but did not protray women in a sexist way - women were intelligent, imaginative and equal partners to their male friends or husbands.

I'm also thinking through what I remember of C.S. Lewis, and I think his protrayel of girls was similar - Lucy and Susan didn't get swords, but Susan did get a bow and arrows. There probably were places where girls were depicted (in a stereotyped manner) to be more sensitive, but never was it suggested that they were less intelligent or capable. Though maybe C.S. Lewis was a bit anti-feminine in that Susan, who was always a bit of a drip, did stop believing in Narnia after she discovered lipstick.

I'm sure there are much more sexist books from the same period - as a stroppy girl I probably wouldn't have bothered with them. But I'm also just saying that parents shouldn't worry about letting their children read older fiction. When I did encounter sexism or limitations for women in older books, I just assumed that this was a reflection of the time period. It also gave me a good historical perspective on how far society has come in the last century.

Also, that gender relations in older literature can be complex - and even a teaching moment for you and your children.
posted by jb at 9:50 AM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Has everyone forgotten about the 60s? You know, protesting, hippies, bra burning? Feminism in its most radical form was at its peak.

Except for how bra burning is a myth (there was a September 1968 protest where bras, playboys, etc. were put in a trash can, and fire was discussed but politely discarded because they couldn't get a permit.)

And radical feminism was much bigger in the 1970s, with lesbian separatist communes, etc. It was a commonly noted irony in the 1960s that radicals activists like the SDS still expected their girlfriends to do the dishes & clean while the boys led protests.
posted by msalt at 10:17 AM on April 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


The book was published in 1969. The Voting Rights Act was put through in 1965. This is the Act that enforced the right for blacks to vote. The Civil Rights Act was put through in 1964. This is the Act that outlawed segregation and created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Our culture became significantly more civilized less than fifty years ago.

It should hardly be surprising that there were retrograde books being published a mere four years after the first really big steps toward true equality.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:40 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Women - Know your limits!
posted by maxwelton at 10:48 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Things have come along way since 1972. Not perfect, but better.

And it seems this influence is slowly spreading.
posted by w.fugawe at 11:27 AM on April 12, 2009


a healthy attitude towards sex (thanks to the Internet).

Wow, this is simultaneously really true and really not true.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:29 AM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I really hated that album as a kid. My parents never understood why.
posted by Foosnark at 11:31 AM on April 12, 2009


Generation X is the first Generation to *not be trapped by such gender roles

Please tell that to all the suburban housewives whose kids I teach (these would be the ones whose law degrees and MBAs are just another fancy accessory...


I've been to law school and worked in law offices. Your depiction of women's attitudes toward J.D. degrees is not borne out by my experiences. For the most part, women who go to law school seem just as serious about it as men.

But now, maybe there is some truth to what you're saying -- I'm still young, so maybe my perception is skewed. Still, would the phenomenon you're talking about be a bad thing? I'm much more concerned about the friends of mine who make a lot more money than I do, who are working insane hours that don't justify their top-one-percent incomes, than I am about women who don't think making the most of your education is the most important thing in life. If women put a lower priority on money-making and career advancement than men, maybe the women have actually struck a better balance. We too often assume that women should conform their ambitions to male standards; we need to question that assumption more.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:39 AM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I never saw this particular book, but there were plenty of sources broadcasting the same (non-satiric) message when I was a little girl in the 1960s. Those of us lucky enough to have the right combination of progressive parents, liberal community, and an inherent streak of perverse stubbornness were grimly determined to beat this crap back into the Stone Age whence it came. (Lord knows my parents drive me nuts, but I give them full marks for never laying the "but you're only a girl" garbage on me.)

Even in my early days, things were better for us girls than my for Mom's generation - it was only slightly weird when I wore pants to elementary school (no more than the usual daily teasing that every nerd comes to expect) and in junior high school we got a few weeks of Metal Shop in our Home Economics curriculum (we made jewelry, natch...). But there was still the incessant message that pretty girls were more desirable than smart girls, and our role models tended to be teachers and nurses. Who are important, of course, but it's not much of a menu to choose from. Amelia Earhart had vanished 30 years before and no brave adventurous women took her place in the public eye.

Interestingly, we never heard about real women who did important stuff - Jackie Cochran was still alive but I never heard of her until much later, the amazing Maria Sybilla Merian was a complete unknown, Rosalind Franklin was brushed off dismissively if she was mentioned at all - but we got a steady stream of happy housewives and dumb-bunny cheerleaders.

So when my cohort of determined little girls made our way through the system and went into "masculine" fields like science and engineering, we felt we were fighting the good fight on behalf of girls to come. Who would invent stuff and fix stuff for themselves, thank you, without catching any flak for it. Now I'm a bit dismayed at how little the gender stereotypes seem to have budged. Although pop culture has given us strong, cool women like Starbuck and Captain Janeway (and thank goodness for that!), the little girls I see around here are more likely to be carrying dolls than toy spaceships. Or books even, ferchrissakes.

Maybe, as Malor said upthread, we're just on the long downslope of old attitudes dying off. My generation - parents or grandparents of these little girls - grew up on "Leave It To Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" reruns along with "Star Trek" and hippies and women's lib. We absorbed a lot of the paternalistic crap along with the more progressive stuff. Maybe today's kids, who will grow up on "Battlestar Galactica"* reruns, will absorb the message that women can be intelligent, competent, strong, independent, resourceful, and adventurous, and that their value doesn't depend on their looks or flirting with the alpha males.

*I hope there are other examples out there, but I'm woefully out of touch with movies and TV shows. Please tell me there are good female role models for today's little girls!
posted by Quietgal at 11:42 AM on April 12, 2009


One of the classrooms I taught in last year was a graveyard for old adult basic ed reading material, so I decided to weed through the bookshelves and get rid of stuff. It was like a fascinating archaological dig--the amount of gender stereotyping in the stuff from the 1970s was incredible! This book would not have looked out of place--or have been recognizable as satire, if that's what it is--among those books.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:07 PM on April 12, 2009


I find it interesting that there's so much righteous indignation about this when I've fixed way more things (i.e. computers, furniture) for girls than for other guys. I have concluded that girls would never admit they want me to fix things for them, but they really do!
posted by lou at 1:10 PM on April 12, 2009


(Found rummaging through the New Yorker back-issue link: Rating the Candidates: Feminists Vote the Rascals In or Out. For the 1972 US Presidential Election, and they seem not to like Nixon too much...)
posted by Sova at 1:53 PM on April 12, 2009


Whitney Darrow has an established portfolio of sexist cartoons. This was most definitely not satire, even if Darrow was a "humorist." His 1951 book "Office Party" set the standard for what eye of newt called the "learning sexism popular at the time." While he did illustrate children's books, he was more known for his juvenile books for adults, such as illustrating Johnny Carson's "Happiness is a Dry Martini," which was "humor" in much the same vein as Office Party.

Darrow's often blended children and sex for "humor" while illustrating books like "Sex and the Single Child" ("Humor and cartoons about children and sex" - Simon and Schuster, 1969) and "A Child's Guide to Freud." In this way he was not unlike Shel Silverstein who alternated between drawing for children's books and Playboy. Darrow's books of collected cartoons "Stop, Miss!", "Hold It, Florence" and "Please Pass the Hostess" centered around depictions of nude, busty women with high similarity to the drawings of Playboy cartoonists like Jack Cole and Eldon Dedini.

For most cartoonists of this ilk, The New Yorker was simply the more lucrative first stop before passing an idea along to Playboy, anyway.
posted by 3.2.3 at 1:53 PM on April 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


You know, I honestly am torn about the responses in this thread. On one hand, there's the "Look, guys, I was there. It was exactly like this." On the other, my former 12 year old self, who had just read The Female Eunuch (a problematic book in many respects from my perspective now, but never mind), and who was making some noise about asking why it was compulsory in my high school for all the girls to take Home Ec and the boys to take Shop, is thrilled. I used to dream about the day when nobody would believe that this shit actually existed.

More data points: a friend of my mother's married around 1970. She was in her late thirties, had a flourishing musical career, teaching and playing in the symphony. She'd managed her own finances for years; but once she was married, she had to get her husband's written permission to make financial decisions that involved her own accounts.

After raising said shit about the compulsory Home Ec for girls and Shop for boys, a couple of years later girls were finally allowed to take the "boy's" subjects. I signed up for Electronics-- first and only girl in the school to do so. The first day the instructor walked in, did a double take, and said "What the hell are you doing here?" The social fallout was pretty interesting too, but I was already pegged as a weirdo so I didn't much care.

At any rate. All I can say, for those of you who believe that this is satire, is that it was most assuredly not, and that the exact same messages were repeated every day in newspapers, television, and day to day life. Just without the charming little pictures. It really has not been a very long time since women in the Sciences-- hell, female professors in the Arts-- were isolated and discriminated against. Maternity leave? Take your radical and insane ideas out of here! You know? Society was like this. Middle class women didn't work outside the home, because only working class women did that, out of necessity. The character of the lawyer in Hill Street Blues in 1983 was controversial because she was a woman. A woman lawyer! Yeah, things have changed.
posted by jokeefe at 2:20 PM on April 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


It was a commonly noted irony in the 1960s that radicals activists like the SDS still expected their girlfriends to do the dishes & clean while the boys led protests.

Yep. Anybody remember that quote from Abbie Hoffman (I think) that "the only place for women in the movement is prone"? That's where the feminist radicals of the 70s came from.
posted by jokeefe at 2:22 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've fixed way more things (i.e. computers, furniture) for girls than for other guys.

Satire?

I know one person of each gender that are fix-it extremists. I am pretty sure it is not related to chromosomes.

It is interesting to see this discussion, if I were a sociologist or anthropologist I would probably have something very intelligent or insightful to add. Sadly, that is not the case.

[NOT SOCIAL SCIENCE-IST]

Quietgal - their value doesn't depend on their looks

Not a view a person would get from watching mainstream media, is it? We have not come that far, nor will we I am sad to say. Good looks = good person is a genetic predisposition AFAIK.
posted by asok at 2:24 PM on April 12, 2009


Please tell me there are good female role models for today's little girls!

Of course there's Dora, which is why her recent revamping into what somebody called 'another big eyed, long haired Disney princess' is controversial. There's tons of that Princess crap, which teaches girls that the most important thing about them is being 'special', where special=pretty and popular and sparkly and don't even get me started on Disney film characters. The whips of body image and being hot and beautiful are even more agressive than they were when I was a child.
posted by jokeefe at 2:33 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


"When some women get depressed, they take tranquilizers or go to a psychiatrist. Hildegarde has her own Rx. She runs out and buys some new clothes. 'There's no better way to get rid of the cloudy days in your life,' the 63-year-old chanteuse said the other day in her antiques-filled apartment on the East Side. 'Besides, I want to live up to my image as a best-dressed woman.'"

That sounds like it could straight from Sex and the City....
posted by jokeefe at 2:47 PM on April 12, 2009


Also, I'd just like to say that I'm chuffed to find so many women of my age (50) or thereabouts on Mefi. Group hug, sisters!
posted by jokeefe at 2:48 PM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


In my secondary school, in the late eighties/early nineties, wearing pants if you were female had only just been allowed (we had uniforms with kilts to our knees) and my friend Anna was the FIRST female ever to take shop - and no other female took shop the other four years I went to that school. The high school I worked at five years ago also still had no girls in shop but a few guys in home ec. God, that is so sad, isn't it?
posted by saucysault at 3:24 PM on April 12, 2009


... you just cannot understand the mind set unless you actually lived through it-- as you can tell from this discussion. Those of us who were there and experienced life first hand in the 60's can remember well the the thousand pricks and stings of enforced stereotypes.

The older members of my family are still like this, constantly. If my grandmother insists that my husband eat a sandwich and he agrees, all the sandwich makings get passed around to me, to make it for him. When my cousin got married a couple of years ago, some older cousins mentioned how much that they had missed us at the rehearsal dinner . I explained that I just started a new job and couldn't take the time off work, so then they 1. asked my husband some admiring questions about his job and 2. gushed about how pretty I looked.
posted by zinfandel at 4:33 PM on April 12, 2009


jokeefe: " It was a commonly noted irony in the 1960s that radicals activists like the SDS still expected their girlfriends to do the dishes & clean while the boys led protests.

Yep. Anybody remember that quote from Abbie Hoffman (I think) that "the only place for women in the movement is prone"? That's where the feminist radicals of the 70s came from.
"

"The only position for women in SNCC is prone." -Stokeley Carmichael
posted by mindless progress at 5:00 PM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


While sexism is hardly gone, it seems like a good sign that so many of us looked at this and didn't think "how horrible things were back then" but rather "that has to be satire!". Expressing this worldview openly is ridiculously foreign to me, and I was born in 77 (especially things like "girls use things boys invent").
posted by wildcrdj at 5:19 PM on April 12, 2009


Whether it was intended as satire or not is unimportant, the important thing is that it was not received as satire.

This is about the most provocative comment on the thread. Not sure I agree with or approve of it. (Not sure I don't, either, for that matter. It has facets to it....)
posted by IndigoJones at 5:51 PM on April 12, 2009



I find it interesting that there's so much righteous indignation about this when I've fixed way more things (i.e. computers, furniture) for girls than for other guys. I have concluded that girls would never admit they want me to fix things for them, but they really do


There definitely are some weird hangovers from the Bad Old Days that persist.

For instance, my husby's profoundly feminist, as am I. However, in day-to-day life, he's the one who does the household IT and I'm the one who does the majority of the housework. (He cleans the bathroom. Bless him.)

Practically speaking, the IT falls to him because he's a professional software architect, and our network, music server, and back-up system are set up in a way that he finds convenient and pleasing. Our hardware rig-out is quirky (I gather) and it's Linux-based on the server side, so, while though I can take care of certain minor problems on my own (I can recycle the router, and I can google an error message) it's a generally a whole lot more efficient for me to save my error messages and have my husband do the IT heavy lifting later on.

The bulk of the housekeeping and laundry fall to me for similar reasons. When I was growing up, my mother (who is, btw, a lawyer and a feminist) taught me a lot of housekeeping tips and tricks. My mother is one of the least domestic women I know, but she treasured this store of knowledge, in part because it often could save her time and money, and in part because it came from her mother (a nurse-anesthesiologist and a brilliant housekeeper). I'm especially good at laundry, because I was a clumsy goth girl (read, an adolescent who spilled everything from ink to blood to pork fat on expensive and/or delicate clothes that my folks wouldn't have been too keen on replacing.) Though my mother-in-law did make sure that my husband knew how to wash a dish and how to clean a lint trap, she didn't really teach him anything beyond that. I'm the one who can get blood out of corduroy, ink out of cotton, and grease out of khakis. I'm the one who knows how to care for a cast-iron skillet.

For the sake of avoiding the appearance of gender inequity, I suppose we could make a point of teaching each other the fine arts of fabric care and small-scale system administration, but we don't. We've got comics to write, neuroimmunology to learn, friends to goof around with, and a blind herding dog to keep entertained. Our household specializations are decently efficient, and they work for us. We are definitely aware that our division of labor is, to some extent, a sort of performative monument to oppressive times past, but screw it. You've got to pick your battles in this life, and at the moment, we haven't got time for this one. If we had kids, it might be different-- but we don't, and won't, so meh.

I would guess that to some extent, any current gender inequality in the populations of fixers vs. persons-whose-stuff-needs-fixing is kind of in the same vein. More fixing-stuff knowledge was (likely) handed down to young men in the past, therefore more mature men know (without having to resort to references) how to fix stuff now. That doesn't mean women are inherently unable to fix things. And going forward, as gen X's children come of age, any lingering unevenness is probably going to fade.

And come to think of it, some of the inequity probably comes from the way we interpret the verb "to fix." When I resolve a tricky formatting problem with a Word document, sew on a new button, or replace a lost draw string on a hoodie, I am, arguably, "fixing things." But because these kinds of repairs don't involve a tool kit, and because they've got a certain pink-collar quality, I'm fairly certain that not everyone would view them as "fixing things"-- at least, not in the same way that changing out a faucet or securing a loose table leg is "fixing things."
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 5:54 PM on April 12, 2009


IndigoJones:

Whether the author meant the book as satire tells us something about the author, a person who I would have no interest in right now if it were not for the book in question. Whether it was received as satire tells us something about the society in which he lived, which is something with a larger scope of interest.
posted by idiopath at 6:11 PM on April 12, 2009


Y'know, looking at the cartoon 3.2.3 linked to, in which Darrow depicts a well-dressed man telling an attentive buxom beauty "You're stupid. I like that in a woman", I kind of wonder if Darrow was sort of a court jester, mocking the powers-that-be/status quo at the same time he accepted his paycheck from them, and occasionally placating them by spouting the party line. In the cartoon, both people seem ridiculous - the man, for offering such an insulting "compliment", and the woman, for appearing to find it flattering - and I have to believe readers in the 1950s could see the barb cut both ways. A lot of his other cartoons in Office Party seem to have the same ambiguity - you can see them as laughing with the good old boys, or laughing at them. (Court jesters have to maintain plausible deniability.)

Asok, I agree that our lizard brains seem wired to value good looks, perhaps as an indication of good health and reproductive fitness. That's not likely to go away, but I'd really like to see us value other attributes as well, and teach our little girls (and boys) that being smart and kind and brave and honorable are just as good as being pretty or handsome. Visual media like TV and movies will always focus on appearance, but shows where all the characters are unrealistically good-looking are problematic, in my opinion. Although I can't claim much media savvy I think the BBC does a good job casting actors who look like real people, and that's one of the things I like about "Battlestar Galactica" - the characters are nice-looking but within the normal range of people you might see in everyday life (except the Cylon Caprica 6, but she's supposed to be fake.) I'm only partway through Season 1 on Netflix - no spoilers, please!

Lou, I think a fair amount of "helpless female-ism" persists because we humans are basically lazy, and as long as it's socially acceptable for girls to ask guys to fix stuff for them, we will. Just like guys will ask girls to cook for them, or do laundry, etc. (*shrug*) Add to that the flirting opportunities of playing a damsel in distress to the alpha male hero, and you've got a mental movie script in which every girl can be a princess. (*barf*, then *shrug*)

Jokeefe, I'm hoping there's something in between Dora the Explorer and Starbuck the Occasional Asshole. I've never seen Dora in any form but I'm dubious about her new princess avatar, and anyway she's aimed at toddlers (originally) or young tweens (as a princess). Where are the female role models for teenage girls, who probably need them the most? As a teenager, I would not have been able to identify with Starbuck, who is far too tough and self-confident (even as a grownup, she's out of my league!) Are there any young female characters who have moments of self-doubt, depression, and all the other stuff we see on the Green, but grow into strong, honorable women whom others look up to? I sure hope so, because there didn't seem to be any when I needed 'em.
posted by Quietgal at 6:56 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


This kind of thing blows my mind. There must have been some seriously conflicting messages out there, because something like this was made in 1951, and while it is not exactly a showcase of feminism, (the whole segment on going to college to get an MRS and learning home-making skills,) they also show women working in mechanical and technical areas, and while a big deal is made of a character's engagement, the other women in the film are not in relationships, and the ending seems more focused on their careers then marriage. I wonder, was the kind of humor evidenced in 3.2.3's links a kind of reaction too/reflection of the post-war sexual revolution/old left mentality, evident in things like, say Little Annie Fannie where sexual openness was lauded, but youth culture and the new left (who, as mentioned, weren't often all that anti-sexist themselves,) were not particularly popular.
posted by Snyder at 7:00 PM on April 12, 2009


"The only position for women in SNCC is prone." -Stokeley Carmichael

In fairness to Carmichael, many (though far from all) writers say that his famous comment was a joke, quoted out of context, and that his personal record on women in the Movement was pretty good. I'm not a historian of this, but here are a few relevant snippets I found fast via Google:

Even the prickly Stokely Carmichael benefits from Olsen's evenhanded examination of the ribald statement attributed to him, that the only position for women in the movement was prone (i.e., laying horizontally to sexually service the men of the movement). Not only was this remark misquoted, it has been taken completely out of context. Carmichael, a renowned cut-up, was doing a stand up comedy routine for the amusement of a group of his fellow black, white, male and female SNCC workers. *

Casey Hayden was a White field secretary on the SNCC staff, working out of the Atlanta office. Her efficiency and toughness were legendary--as was her warmth. She and Mary King anonymously authored an early feminist paper on the treatment of women in The Movement. At a break in one of SNCC's marathon, multi-day, staff meetings, "Our paper on the position of women came up, and Stokely in his hipster rap comedic way joked that 'the proper position of women in SNCC is prone'. I laughed, he laughed, we all laughed. Stokley was a friend of mine. We crossed paths in many settings, as he was close to the Young People's Socialist League, and through them, to SDS...and I knew he was on my side about women's issues, because we'd talked about them. After we finished cracking up, we sang some more. This was my final experience after a SNCC meeting of Black and White joining together to laugh, to touch, to bond, and to comfort each other." *

Second, she makes a point of redeeming Stokely Carmichael, whose frequently quoted jibe that "the proper position of women in the movement is prone" has branded him in many minds as a horrible sexist. He was "quite the opposite," she assures (p. 365-66). Theresa Del Pozzo seconds: "That is a funny line today, and it was then, and no one took it any other way. Especially not Stokely, Casey, or me, several of the alleged antagonists in this debate." Far from being antagonists, Del Pozzo suggests, she, Hayden, and Carmichael were still part of a beloved community, "a group of black and white, northern and southern men and women partying together on the Waveland Pier" *

The phenomenon that the third snippet alludes to -- the selective and often dishonest use of internal critiques by outside critics to tar and feather the Movement generally -- caused a lot problems, and to this day makes it really hard to fully parse out quotes like Carmichael's. Women activists within Black- and Brown-Power movements were, especially in the early years of the movements, very reluctant to make public any criticisms of sexism within the movements, knowing that those criticisms would be taken and used in hostile ways to attack the largely male leadership of the movements. It was, and in some ways still is, a no-win position for those activists -- keep silent and allow sexism within the movement to continue, or speak out and risk harming the overall movement.
posted by Forktine at 7:23 PM on April 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Snyder, there was a big post-war push to get women out of the jobs they'd assumed (and proved competent at) and make way for returning veterans. The 50s showed a retrenchment in gender roles, as the parents of the baby-boomers started families.

And our lizard brains may well be 'wired' for good looks, but so what? We have a society, and sentience, and intelligence, and, ideally, looks should be far from the first thing we judge people on.

Quietgal, I'm half way through Season 2 right now and you are in for some amazing story-telling. I'm kind of racing to watch the whole show before I inadvertently read what happened in the final episode.
posted by jokeefe at 7:27 PM on April 12, 2009


The character of the lawyer in Hill Street Blues in 1983 was controversial because she was a woman. A woman lawyer!

My mom was a lawyer and a judge starting in the 1950s. She was on the national TV show "What's My Line?" for that (where Kitty Carlisle et. al. tried to guess your job), because it was so strange. When my brother and I were toddlers, there was an article in the second section of the Oregonian (then called "Women's Day", now "Living") with a headline to the effect that "She's a Lawyer, AND a Mom!" You see, in those days, even if you were a pioneering working woman, it was assumed you couldn't also raise a family.
posted by msalt at 8:18 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Of course these cultural artifacts aren't reflective of "real life" any more than "Two and a Half Men"...[is] reflective of "real life" in 2009...but that they even got eyeballs...says something about what we thought of ourselves and how we saw ourselves. Just for kicks, at random, I pulled up a style section article from the April 12, 1969 issue of the New York Times. It was a profile of the cabaret singer Hildegarde. The article began, and I'm quoting verbatim: "When some women get depressed, they take tranquilizers or go to a psychiatrist. Hildegarde has her own Rx. She runs out and buys some new clothes..."

Ironically, that newspaper profile is itself a perfect example of how media representations of gender norms were often out of step with many women's actual lives. Because, you see, that 1969 newspaper article about the lovely and well-dressed and femmey Hildegarde also very probably failed to mention that she was a lesbian, whose biggest hit song "Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup" was written for her by her partner.

(See also: Rock Hudson and Doris Day's films as an example of 1950's gender roles. Media portrayals of gender and sexuality were often nothing like real life and should not be confused for the same.)
posted by Asparagirl at 12:21 AM on April 13, 2009


Regarding suburban housewives and advanced degrees:

People's objections to my characterization are noted; but I think I need to defend my position. Without actually encountering these women, you cannot know how utterly they have absorbed a stereotypical 50s suburban lifestyle, despite the fact that there is no earthly reason to do so. These are women who did in fact have the intelligence, drive, and feminist outlook to get into B-school and law school, or undergrad at Brown, Yale, Stanford, etc. and yet now live these unbelievably retrogressive lives. Completely wrapped up in their children, their country club memberships, and their keeping-up-with-the-Joneses fashion. They are shallow to a fault, and do in fact use their fancy degrees as accessories. The most they do with them is sit on committees of the Junior League, a very worthy thing to do, but part and parcel with the stereotype. My point is "plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose." Among this subset of women with a choice, these women have chosen a narrow and subservient role.

It just makes me kind of sad that these women with all their advantages choose to live this way. It's like we worked really hard so that our daughters could choose to let some man hold their financial well-being in thrall, all over again. Calling me out for my insensitivity misses the point entirely.

To their credit, I am sure that they are teaching their daughters that their choices are limitless, and being upper middle class American girls, that is as true as it gets. But the example they are setting is exactly the example of the 50s. They are selling Hillary Clinton, but they are living Bess Truman.
posted by nax at 4:34 AM on April 13, 2009


WRONG! As my young nephew once insisted upon explaining to me, boys have pee pees, and girls have chinas.

His slightly older sister then agreed, so I'm pretty sure they're probably on to the actual distinction here.
posted by Flunkie at 6:14 AM on April 13, 2009


Among this subset of women with a choice, these women have chosen a narrow and subservient role. It just makes me kind of sad that these women with all their advantages choose to live this way. It's like we worked really hard so that our daughters could choose to let some man hold their financial well-being in thrall, all over again. Calling me out for my insensitivity misses the point entirely.

....I'm not so sure it does.

To my mind, the whole idea behind the feminist movement was that it should be about individual choice when you decided how to spend your days on earth, rather than any kind of preconceived gender roles. At least, that's what FREE TO BE YOU AND ME kept telling me when I was seven, that I could decide for my own self what I wanted to do, rather than feel forced into one role or another.

Well, it sounds like these women chose a stay-at-home life. Since they decided that for themselves, isn't it possible that they just see something in that kind of life that appeals to them, even if it doesn't appeal to you? Isn't trying to shame them for being a mother when they could have been a laywer "because bright women can -- and should -- be lawyers these days" just trading one set of pressure in for another?

Moreover, it's also an argument I've heard that belittling the more "traditionally female" roles as somehow lesser-than is also doing women a disservice. The business of managing a home is a lot of work, even if it's not as directly apparent to the rest of us.

I've heard of a lot of women who were soured on feminism because they complained that they felt pressured into getting a degree and trying to pursue a career when all they really wanted to do was be a stay at home mom. And I honestly think that kind of pressure is just as unfair as pressuring a woman to be a stay at home mom when she really wants to be a physicist.

I think everyone has some type of talent in something that they can do really well, but it's not what they want to do. And I don't believe that exploiting that talent for the sake of that person's individual happiness is a fair trade.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:17 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


"There probably were places where [the girls from the Narnia books] were depicted (in a stereotyped manner) to be more sensitive, but never was it suggested that they were less intelligent or capable."

I don't have my copy of the books with me, but I think there is a quote in LWW when Father Christmas gives Lucy the dagger which suggests exactly that.


For my money, the classic children's stories most compatible with feminism, (particularly Choice Feminism) are Swallows and Amazons. They're written circa WWI, but look at the message they send little girls...

Hey kids, you can be Nancy Blackett! She's awesome! She's fearless! She's a born leader! She's fast and strong with awesome technical and navigational skills. She's canonically better than John at all sorts of "boy stuff" and it's never treated like that's anything remarkable! She's like George from The Famous Five but without all the self-loathing!

Hey kids, you could also be Susan Walker! She's awesome! She's level headed! She's nurturing! She cooks! She cleans! She's practical in a household-y way! She's canonically better than John at all sorts of "girl stuff" and that role isn't undervalued. It's explicitly stated in the text that John looks up to her, that Susan's skills are integral to the group and that without her, none of the adventures could have happened.

Hey kids, you could be Titty Walker! Yes, she has an embarrassing name, but she's still awesome! She's nurturing and she's fearless. She's happy to be a leader or a follower depending on the situation. She's cheerful and well-read and far too imaginative to stay in any role for long, much less a rigidly defined gender role! Wouldn't you like to be her?

But hey kids, maybe you feel more like Peggy Blackett? Maybe you're not quite as sensible as Susan, not quite a born leader like Nancy? Maybe you try to walk a middle ground, but can't find a balance like Titty? Maybe you feel like you're never going to be quite good enough no matter what role you choose? Those feelings are normal, but don't worry because a day will come when Nancy has mumps and John and the others will look at you all "Now what do we do, Peggy?" at which point your inner-awesome will suddenly explode like a frickin' volcano and leave bits of Peggy-Blackett-Is-Amazing all over the carpet.
posted by the latin mouse at 8:07 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whether the author meant the book as satire tells us something about the author, a person who I would have no interest in right now if it were not for the book in question. Whether it was received as satire tells us something about the society in which he lived, which is something with a larger scope of interest.

But it also raises questions about satire itself. What is the point of the genre? To comfort those who already agree with you? To challenge those who do not and to change minds? Mocking GWBush probably never cost him a true believer. Would the outrage this thing evinces have been greater or lesser had it said carried a warning label ("Warning! Satire Ahead!")? Does intent matter (except that it puts the author on the hook)? Is satire qualitatively better or worse if it is so subtle that people cannot agree on the author's intent (i.e., if some people do not get the joke)?

Facets, as I say.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:19 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Without actually encountering these women, you cannot know how utterly they have absorbed a stereotypical 50s suburban lifestyle, despite the fact that there is no earthly reason to do so.

Oddly, the ones I have encountered (the one-degree-or-more-from-fancy-school-but-stays-home-with-the-kid(s)) are nothing like your sample.

Perhaps different people are different? Perhaps your sample is narrow? I dunno, but I don't know any women like you describe.

Also, what the Empress said: feminism is about giving women choices. Have there been arguments about whether staying home with the kids is really a feminist act? Of course. Does it mean that it's not? Or that doing so is somehow a waste of an education? No.

I had a colleague last year who went out on maternity leave; when it was up (she took about three months, I think), she was back at work like a shot. She didn't want to stay home with the baby all the time, and she missed interacting with adults and doing work stuff. She was also afraid of being judged if she expressed how happy she was to be back at work.

We're damned if we do, and damned if we don't. Awesome.
posted by rtha at 8:42 AM on April 13, 2009


When my grandmother took my mom to visit Cornell in the 70s, she asked the kid giving the dorm tour (with absolute sincerity): "And do the girls dress for dinner?" My grandmother is still alive and well, and lamenting the fact that ladies no longer wear hats and gloves.
posted by greekphilosophy at 12:37 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


People's objections to my characterization are noted; but I think I need to defend my position. Without actually encountering these women, you cannot know how utterly they have absorbed a stereotypical 50s suburban lifestyle, despite the fact that there is no earthly reason to do so. These are women who did in fact have the intelligence, drive, and feminist outlook to get into B-school and law school, or undergrad at Brown, Yale, Stanford, etc. and yet now live these unbelievably retrogressive lives.

Why are you so interested in what these women are doing? Why are you so quick to criticize and form opinions about what you perceive to be their lifestyle? Shouldn't you worry more about yourself and your own life? Even if what you are saying is true (and I doubt it is), why do you care? How does it affect your life?
posted by KokuRyu at 3:36 PM on April 13, 2009


Are we going back in time 40 years to be outraged now?
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:46 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


People's objections to my characterization are noted; but I think I need to defend my position. Without actually encountering these women, you cannot know how utterly they have absorbed a stereotypical 50s suburban lifestyle, despite the fact that there is no earthly reason to do so. These are women who did in fact have the intelligence, drive, and feminist outlook to get into B-school and law school, or undergrad at Brown, Yale, Stanford, etc. and yet now live these unbelievably retrogressive lives.

I'm probably inviting a world of hate onto myself, but I'd say that the stereotypical upper-class Gen X'er, given the choice of "working hard" or "kicking back and having your bills paid by hubby" would choose the latter, with the hard work of raising children and keeping house being taken care of by paid help. (See Bravo's "Housewives" series.) Becoming a stay at home mom for them is a selfish, rather than selfless choice. Not that the upper crust has ever been known for being particularly progressive, but their educated wives' degrees are just keeping up with social norms, in the way that finishing school once did-- an accessory to be worn like a handbag. And simultaneously insulting higher education and women.

Even if what you are saying is true (and I doubt it is), why do you care? How does it affect your life?

Say there was a man who was a high achieving student, went on to be brilliant doctor, researched cures for diseases, and one day gave it all up. He becomes a waiter*. He freely chose it, but wouldn't you feel a little bit like society was being hurt by his choice?

Sure the above example might be a bit of hyperbole, and more than a little bit socialist/utilitarian, but consider that it's not an isolated case, and it's a choice chosen by hundreds of thousands of educated women. If the Dr.'s gender was female, and her next job "mother", no one would bat an eye at it.

Yes, raising the next generation is a valuable contribution, but why is this duty not more equally shared by male parents? It's fine for a woman to more or less toss aside education for family, but for a man, it's almost unheard of. I'm not saying we should force mothers (or fathers) to stay in their full time jobs, but for those with the luxury of financial stability, as I'm inferring to be the case by the luxury SUVs mentioned earlier, shouldn't there be a more gender equal work/life balance-- both parents having part time jobs, part time child rearing responsibilities?



*no offense intended to waiters
posted by fontophilic at 5:47 PM on April 13, 2009


Say there was a man who was a high achieving student, went on to be brilliant doctor, researched cures for diseases, and one day gave it all up. He becomes a waiter*. He freely chose it, but wouldn't you feel a little bit like society was being hurt by his choice?

In a word: No.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:04 PM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


You do realize that men comprise about 40% of the caregiver workforce, and that is close to a quarter of all child-rearing families, the man is the primary caregiver, right?

In light of this knowledge, do you care to revise your claims?
posted by five fresh fish at 6:11 PM on April 13, 2009


Say there was a man who was a high achieving student, went on to be brilliant doctor, researched cures for diseases, and one day gave it all up. He becomes a waiter. He freely chose it, but wouldn't you feel a little bit like society was being hurt by his choice?

...Honestly? No.

Because, we'd still have the research he conducted before he made his choice, right? So we still have the work he did already.

And if someone tried to talk him out of it and he stuck with being a doctor even though he really didn't want to do it after that, if his heart wasn't in it, then how good would his resarch REALLY be after that? I can live without half=assed research for the sake of letting some poor schmoe go be happy, and giving someone who reallly wanted to be a doctor a chance to build on the research he did already.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:33 PM on April 13, 2009


That's pretty specific and nit-picky to the doctor example, when I was intending it to be a broader generalization. This is a theme I've anecdotally seen again and again. Graduate degrees being forgotten by women to be queens in suburban mansions with kids.

and that is close to a quarter of all child-rearing families, the man is the primary caregiver

So 25% of children are primarily raised by men. Aside from orphans and octomoms, 100% of children have fathers.

Yeah, I'd say there's a bit of a gap.

I'm not going to broadly paint all men with the same brush, but to deny that child rearing still primarily falls to mothers isn't an argument worth fighting. In some utopian world 100% of children would be primarily cared for by both parents, and they make money from selling rainbows and candy. In our world, it's probably not too much to ask for both parents to enter into child rearing as an equal partnership with equal sacrifice.
posted by fontophilic at 10:43 PM on April 13, 2009


That's pretty specific and nit-picky to the doctor example, when I was intending it to be a broader generalization.

Yeah, but I think both your specific example and your broader generalisation are borked here. Since both the doctor and the trophy-degree-woman are adults in their right minds, the idea of a free society denying them the agency to choose their own life-path is pretty abhorrent to me.

I mean you can continue to imply that these women's life choices are harming society and that since they lack the intelligence and/or moral fibre to make the right choices about their own lives somebody else should be doing it for their own good, but frankly the women-belong-in-the-kitchen brigade have been using those arguments for longer and they've had more practice.
posted by the latin mouse at 11:57 PM on April 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


I mean you can continue to imply that these women's life choices are harming society and that since they lack the intelligence and/or moral fibre to make the right choices about their own lives somebody else should be doing it for their own good, but frankly the women-belong-in-the-kitchen brigade have been using those arguments for longer and they've had more practice.

This.

Seriously, fontphilic, it sounds like your argument boils down to "these women should sacrifice what they want to do for the good of society." And that is precisely why so many people were trying to argue that women shouldn't go to school in the first place. Or have a career. Or vote. The only difference between your argument and the anti-suffrage argument is the nature of what women should be expected to sacrifice for.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:23 AM on April 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


You want satire? Here's satire.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:35 PM on April 14, 2009


"these women should sacrifice what they want to do for the good of society." And that is precisely why so many people were trying to argue that women shouldn't go to school in the first place. Or have a career. Or vote. The only difference between your argument and the anti-suffrage argument is the nature of what women should be expected to sacrifice for.

Wow. Ok if you're going to call out my argument for being ridiculous, which I agree could make for terrible policy and a society I wouldn't want to live in, please call it something like utilitarian fascism not warmed over sexism. A person with means and access to education, forfeiting a life of service for a life of luxury is a net loss for society, in the form suburban housewife, or loafing playboy heir.

I mean you can continue to imply that these women's life choices are harming society and that since they lack the intelligence and/or moral fibre to make the right choices about their own lives somebody else should be doing it for their own good, but frankly the women-belong-in-the-kitchen brigade have been using those arguments for longer and they've had more practice.

Lacking moral fiber perhaps, but free to make their choices. I've not once implied any sort of policy to come this, (mandatory 4th sector work camps perhaps?) other than perhaps a greater balance of parenting responsibilities across the sexes, elevating both partners to an equal state and ability to contribute outside and inside the home.
posted by fontophilic at 6:27 PM on April 14, 2009


A person with means and access to education, forfeiting a life of service for a life of luxury is a net loss for society, in the form suburban housewife, or loafing playboy heir.

But what you are not getting is that by calling the choice to stay at home "a life of luxury", you are belittling not only their choice, but the very task of parenting. You are saying that parenting and the inside-the-home tasks as something of lesser importance, and calling their choice a cop-out.

I never implied that you were calling for fascism; but I am implying that there are many women -- and men -- who justifiably would consider the opinion that the in-the-home work is of lesser importance to be very demeaning.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:46 PM on April 14, 2009


At the risk of appearing to join fontophilic's lost cause here, I think it's important to pierce some of the sanctimony about stay-at-home parenting. I've been a full time stay-at-home parent (of both my kids when they were infants). It's a tough gig and wears you out, for sure (depending on how much support you get from the other parent).

But once your kids are in school, and speaking only for <3 able-bodied kids, there's really no reason to stay at home, other than you can afford to and you don't want to work. Your day is free and your kids take care of themselves more each year. As important as it is to honor everyone's choices, it's a cake gig, and most energetic people who do it take on one or more energy-absorbing projects (lots of volunteering, obsessive house maintenance/improvement, political activism, working out constantly, etc.)
posted by msalt at 10:18 AM on April 15, 2009


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