How women have overcome and changed expectations surrounding motherhood and careers throughout history. How far have we really come from the 40s and what are the issues currently facing women?
In today’s world, women all over the world face countless expectancies that they feel the need to fulfil. Standards of women and gender stereotypes have been a constant source of struggle for many women as they try to keep up with the latest expectations from society. So were women always faced with standards as they are today? The answer is yes, but they were much different from today. A wife was expected to have children and please her husband. Many women in the 1950s felt pressured to conform to ideals to be the perfect mother and wife, pushed upon them by magazines and TV. A home economics book called “A Good Wife’s Guide’ released in 1950 has gone viral on social media recently, outlining the ‘expectations’ a woman in history must uphold to please her husband. The ludicrous book lists several steps of how a woman should prepare herself to satisfy her husband when he comes home from work. Now a day this book has become a source of mockery for many, but at the time this book was released, it captured a very real ideal of the role of a wife in those times. This article also raises the question if women have really come that far from the restricting ideals we faced in the 50s.
In the 1950s women were bombarded with advertisements in TV and magazines, defining the ‘role of a mother’. Pressure from society pushed many women into get married and have children early at the expense of their career. The article was released to make women feel obliged to conform to cultural ideals. It belittles both young women and mothers and makes them feel ashamed if they are somewhat ‘less’ than the standards set. The book was designed to prepare female high school students for marriage life. As a young woman reading this, they learnt that it was acceptable to demean women in history and make them feel pressured to conform to their husband and children’s needs over their own. The book makes a point for the readers to “Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.”
The second step in the almost preposterous book tells ladies to ‘prepare yourself’ for when their husband arrives home. In this step it tells women to ‘touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking’ as if they weren’t cooking, cleaning and looking after children all day. It then encourages them to be ‘a little more interesting’ to brighten up their husbands day.
Accompanied with bright happy photos of women smiling whilst performing their ‘duties’. The book depicted women to be delightfully happy as a housewife and caring for both their husband and children’s needs. The book almost commands the readers to follow each step by using language such as ‘must’, ‘never’ and ‘don’t ever’. Insinuating that if a wife were to not follow each rule exactly, they were no longer a ‘good wife’.
Each step demeans women as it often mentions to never displease your husband and that ‘a good wife always knows her place’.
A lot of women did not have jobs as they were expected to stay at home and look after the children, whilst the men worked jobs gaining the income. There was a cultural pressure from family and friends to fill your role as a mother. It was often frowned upon when mothers did not stay at home like a ‘good’ mother would. Not to say that there weren’t women in the work force. But jobs were generally secretary positions and did not pay well enough to support a family, earning a mere 59- 64 cents for every dollar a man made.
After the 50s and WW2 many women got jobs due to new economic pressure to help support their families.
Today’s expectations of a woman are much different to that of in the 40s and 50s.
Women all over the world are breaking stereotypes and going against the norm, but not all things have changed. Women generally now have jobs and help to support their family. But pressure is also placed upon mothers to be the main carer for their children whilst still maintaining a job. Juggling that balance between motherhood and a career is difficult for many. A recent survey conducted by Media Post, found that about 75% of women today feel both ‘expected and motivated to make sure the household runs smoothly’. Some women may not want to settle at all but still feel pressured to have children and get married the traditional way.
There are still implications of old times on women today, but the pressure from society has lifted significantly. Women are now breaking the glass ceiling created by dated misogynist views. The glass ceiling comes as a result of similar beliefs popular in the 50s, where women were pressured to not have a job.
Women smashing the glass ceiling today can be seen in the Hollywood movie called Erin Brockovich, based on a true story about a single struggling mother. Whilst struggling to find the balance between work and her children, she becomes enthused with a law case, leading the battle against pacific gas and electric. At the end of the film she helps with the case earning respect from lawyers that once looked down on her.
This true story is a direct parallel from the norms enforced in the 40s and 50s. Erin shows the courage and strive that today’s women hold all over the world. She wasn’t traditional as she was a mother and did not have a husband or a stable job.
Today we are still left with the effects of gender discrimination in many jobs as women find it difficult to climb rankings due to their gender.
We should applaud all women for their
But there is still a lot of work to do so women like Erin aren’t faced with…
To stop expecting women to live up to a perfect image
As women, we should strive to do as out conscious tells us, not as society governs.