ONE of the most enduring myths about feminism is that 50 years ago women who stayed home full time with their children enjoyed higher social status and more satisfying lives than they do today. All this changed, the story goes, when Betty Friedan published her 1963 best seller, “The Feminine Mystique,” which denigrated stay-at-home mothers. Ever since, their standing in society has steadily diminished.
That myth — repeated in Suzanne Venker and Phyllis Schlafly’s new book, “The Flipside of Feminism” — reflects a misreading of American history. There was indeed a time when full-time mothers were held in great esteem. But it was not the 1950s or early 1960s. It was 150 years ago. In the 19th century, women had even fewer rights than in the 1950s, but society at least put them on a pedestal, and popular culture was filled with paeans to their self-sacrifice and virtue.
When you compare the diaries and letters of 19th-century women with those of women in the 1950s and early 1960s, you can see the greater confidence of the earlier mothers about their value to society. Many felt they occupied a “nobler sphere” than men’s “bank-note” world.
The wife of the novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, Sophia, told her mother that she did not share her concerns about improving the rights of women, because wives already exerted “a power which no king or conqueror can cope with.” Americans of the era believed in “the empire of the mother,” and grown sons were not embarrassed about rhapsodizing over their “darling mama,” carrying her picture with them to work or war.
Well…women have always had a certain power over their man. They have the one commodity that men want and could withhold it to get their way.
In the early 20th century, under the influence of Freudianism, Americans began to view public avowals of “Mother Love” as unmanly and redefine what used to be called “uplifting encouragement” as nagging. By the 1940s, educators, psychiatrists and popular opinion-makers were assailing the idealization of mothers; in their view, women should stop seeing themselves as guardians of societal and familial morality and content themselves with being, in the self-deprecating words of so many 1960s homemakers, “just a housewife.”
Just as I’ve always suspected, we can blame it on Freud and other psychologists of the era. Hasn’t that always been the case? Everything’s going along swimmingly until some “smart” guy decides that the status quo isn’t good enough and has to promote some B.S. theory about how the female is somehow underrated and needs some societal uplifting.
Stay-at-home mothers were often portrayed as an even bigger menace to society than career women. In 1942, in his best-selling “Generation of Vipers,” Philip Wylie coined the term “momism” to describe what he claimed was an epidemic of mothers who kept their sons tied to their apron strings, boasted incessantly of their worth and demanded that politicians heed their moralizing.
“Momism”?…WTF is that. Moms all through history have always boasted about their sons and daughters. And who better to demand moral turpitude from politicians than Mothers?
Momism became seen as a threat to the moral fiber of America on a par with communism. In 1945, the psychiatrist Edward Strecher argued that the 2.5 million men rejected or discharged from the Army as unfit during World War II were the product of overly protective mothers.
Nope, the men that were deemed unfit for military service were physically unable to discharge the tasks expected of them by the military so in essence, the military probably saved countless lives by rejecting them from the service.
In the same year, an information education officer in the Army Air Forces conjectured that the insidious dependency of the American man on “ ‘Mom’ and her pies” had “killed as many men as a thousand German machine guns.” According to the 1947 best seller “Modern Woman: The Lost Sex,” two-thirds of Americans were neurotic, most of them made so by their mothers.
If Americans became neurotic, it was because of the psycho-babble promoted by modern psychologists and the B.S. taught by Progressive teachers who were indoctrinated by Socialist Teacher’s colleges in the early part of the twentieth century.
Typical of the invective against homemakers in the 1950s and 1960s was a 1957 best seller, “The Crack in the Picture Window,” which described suburban America as a “matriarchal society,” with the average husband “a woman-bossed, inadequate, money-terrified neuter” and the average wife a “nagging slob.” Anti-mom rhetoric was so pervasive that even Friedan recycled some of this ideology in “The Feminine Mystique” — including the repellent and now-discredited notion that overly devoted mothers turned their sons into homosexuals.
They were really reaching here. Most men have this little mechanism in their heads that tune out nagging…kind of goes in one ear and out the other. It’s a survival trait we men have. I’m using it right now as I write this article.
Update; From The Other McCain, a fitting end to National Offend a Feminist Week. Evidently Feminists brook no dissent much like other Progressive Leftist groups. Stacy has much more with video to prove it;
“Stop the violence, stop the hate,” hundreds of ugly women chanted as they paraded down the streets holding up signs with stupid slogans:
You’ll excuse my factual description of the event, but I haven’t seen so many dogs in one place since the AKC grand championship show.
Update II; Little Miss Attila misses the utopia of domesticity.
Update III; A Very Important Blogger has some thoughts on National Offend A Feminist Week. She wonders what all the fuss is about when a woman loves her man and shows it.
I’m at a loss. The pre-feminist world is alien to me. Any readers old enough, do tell what it was like. I mean what it was really like, not what feminists tell us about the horrible old patriarchal order. During my lifetime, our culture entirely absorbed the tenets of feminism. Even conservative women usually have feminist beliefs of varying degrees.
Okay, I’ve used this word “feminist” several times, and I know that people disagree about even its most basic definition. I don’t want to get into that. I just want to get straight to the offending. So here it goes.
There is nothing wrong with this image of a woman being a man’s servant.
There, I’ve said it. Servant. Servile. Serve. We think it’s great when applied to military service, religious pursuits, or feeding the poor. Why does it make us wince when it’s applied to a woman’s relationship with a man?
Perhaps the implication of force (he is showing her her place) makes us uncomfortable. Perhaps the discomfort is increased with her place being so obviously beneath him.
But what if this image does not involve any force?
Ah, how can that be? No woman with half a brain would choose to serve a man in this servile manner! Would she? And anyways, if she chooses to do so, then why does he have to show her anything?
Well, why would any woman with half a brain choose to serve an unmanly, unworthy guy? It’s actually kind of quaint, this ad. The idea appears to be that you’ll impress your wife by sporting these ties in bed.
Is it possible that our equality-obsessed culture could rob us of a great joy?
Here’s what I’ve noticed. We are all serving something or someone. All the time, every second of every day. By blogging right now I am currently serving myself. When I’m not serving myself, I’m serving the kids, or the hubs, or a friend by babysitting or hanging out.
When you work, you are serving a variety of things and people: yourself, your boss, wealth, customers, clients, the public, the government. Of course, there’s also the whole “serve God in all things” thing that the Bible throws in the mix.
The world I live in tries to tell me that serving my husband is demeaning. It is not. Of all the myriad people and things that I have served over the years, nothing has been more gratifying.
Update IV; For a much better take on this B.S. artocle by Stephanie Coontz, visit The Other McCain. Here’s a snippet;
When Ann Althouse linked to Coontz’s column, her summary was, “Blaming Freud, not feminism, for the denigration of motherhood.” In this, she describes how Coontz overthrows one of liberalism’s former idols in order to defend its more modern Moloch. This part of Coontz’s argument deserves more critical scrutiny than it is likely to get:
In the early 20th century, under the influence of Freudianism, Americans began to view public avowals of “Mother Love” as unmanly and redefine what used to be called “uplifting encouragement” as nagging. By the 1940s, educators, psychiatrists and popular opinion-makers were assailing the idealization of mothers; in their view, women should stop seeing themselves as guardians of societal and familial morality and content themselves with being, in the self-deprecating words of so many 1960s homemakers, “just a housewife.” . . .
Let us be clear, however, that in the mid-2oth-century Freudianism was the faith of an intellectual elite. However prevalent Freudianism was among “educators, psychiatrists and public opinion-makers,” the ordinary American always viewed skeptically the psychoanalytic dogmas of Dr. Freud. This common-sense hostility toward the fanciful theorizing of “shrinks” was, at one time, widely cited as evidence of the “anti-intellectualism” of narrow-minded Americans — then as now disdained as a bunch of backward yahoos by the sophisticated elites.
Fast-forward a few decades, of course, and Dr. Freud’s theories have been so completely demolished by scientific advances — particularly in the area of neurochemistry — that intellectuals are hard-put to explain how their predecessors ever could have believed in such Freudian nonsense as the “Oedipus complex” and “penis envy.”
Yet in the mid-20th-century, faith in Freudian theory pervaded America’s intelligentia, and was suffused through the culture by those “public opinion-makers” whom now Coontz wishes to make the scapegoats for undermining the status of mothers. One suspects Coontz of cherry-picking the evidence to support her case, but the burden of her argument is not so much to implicate Freudianism as it is to exculpate feminism. The liberals’ new unquestionable dogma is apparently so valuable to their cause that they are willing to throw poor Sigmund under the bus to save it.
Conservatives ought always to question most rigorously the dogmas that liberals defend most vehemently.