Monday, April 10, 2017

Cult of Domesticity

In this week's lecture, Ms. O'Connell talked about the expectations of women in the 19th and 20th centuries and about why some women in the 18 and 1900's did not support suffrage. One of the articles we read was written by Gloria Steinem and she explained the myths surrounding the sexes; the other was by Phyllis Shlafly, and she was arguing that women did not need to be equal to men because that would bring them down off their "pedestal" because women already have the status of special privilege. Hearing the reasons why women were against suffrage was interesting to me because I could never in a million years imagine women not wanting the right to vote. It was also interesting to compare the two different ideas presented in the articles because both brought up interesting points.

In Ms. O'Connell's presentation, she talked about Republican Motherhood, some of the key figures in the fight for suffrage, the Seneca Falls convention, the cult of domesticity, the National Association Opposed to Women's Suffrage, and Steinem vs Shlafly's ideas, which were also in the articles we had to read. Republican Motherhood is the set of ideas that say that women after the Revolution were tasked only with raising, good, responsible sons who would grow up and get a job or become a politician. Women were solely useful in the household and were raised up on a pedestal above the rest of the nation because they were responsible for raising the future American generations. Some of the key figures in the fight for suffrage were Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Alice Paul. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the woman who organized the Seneca Falls Convention. Lucretia Mott was an important person in the fight for suffrage and for abolition. Susan B Anthony was a quaker who was involved in the abolition and temperance, as well as the suffrage, movements; she was also arrested for voting. Alice Paul picketed the white house and congress and went on a hunger strike to protest against anti-suffragists. The Seneca Falls Convention was led by Lucretia Mott's husband and they came up with a set of declarations that mimicked the Declaration of Independence. The ironic thing, in my opinion, about the Seneca Falls Convention is that the only declaration that was not agreed upon unanimously was that women should get the right to vote. I thought it was ironic because that's the reason they organized the convention in the first place, but it's the only point they couldn't agree on. The cult of domesticity was a response to a rapidly industrializing society. It reinforced the idea that women should be pious, pure, and submissive and that their duties were solely in the home. The National Association Opposed to Women's Suffrage was an organization mostly run by women who did not want the right to vote. They argued that women were too busy at home taking care of their children to vote or get involved in politics. Another one of their "points" was that women did not have the mental capacity to understand politics and that women would just cast the same vote as their husbands anyways.

Both in the lecture and in the articles, the contrasting ideas that the women's movement and that the women's movement is unnecessary were discussed. In the articles, Gloria Steinem talked about sex-based myths that need to be debunked: women are biologically inferior to men, women are already treated equally in society, American women hold economic power, children must have full-time mothers, and the women's movement is not serious. Phyllis Schlafly argued against women's rights, saying that the claim that women are unfairly treated is the fraud of the century, women already have the status of special privilege, women will be subject to the military draft, women will loose child support and alimony, and women will lose workplace protections. Steinem used the example of children in different societies being cared for by other caretakers and family members and being just fine, and that women do not need to be full-time mothers in order for their children to turn out alright, but in America, women are expected to stay home with their children and not go back to work for a while after they give birth. She made the point that, since men are expected to work so much, rather than not spending enough time with their mothers, children are most likely spending too much time with their mothers and not enough time with their fathers. Steinem also says, " Women are not more moral than men. We are only uncorrupted by power. But we do not want to imitate men, to join this country as it is, and I think our very participation will change it. Perhaps women elected leaders – and there will be many of them– will not be so likely to dominate black people or yellow people or men; anybody who looks different from us. After all, we won't have our masculinity to prove." Phyllis Schlafly thinks that equality would be a downgrade for women, which is completely absurd to me. How can we be above men of we are paid less than them? Thought of as "biologically inferior" to men? Taught not to aspire to as significant achievements as men? Phyllis thinks we are more privileged because we do not have to do as difficult of work as men do, we just have to raise our children. Schalfly says, "The second reason why American women are a privileged group is that we are beneficiaries of a tradition od special respect for women which dates from the Christian Age of Chivalry." Clearly Phyllis has never been cat-called, otherwise she would know that not all men are respectful of women.

I personally agree with Gloria Steinem's point of view. I think that the women's movement is serious and that it is important. I don't think women are treated the same as men, but I think they should be. I thought it was interesting and important to learn about how some women were opposed to the women's right to vote and how that related to women voting for Donald Trump this past year. Overall, I thought that Ms. O'Connell's presentation was informative and interesting and I'm glad I had the opportunity to learn more about women's suffrage.

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