Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Cult of Domesticity

As Ms. O’Connell pointed out in her presentation, it is hard for many people to understand why some women are against equal rights for women. In present day, we can ask why 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump, and looking further back in history, we can ask why some women were opposed to suffrage or the Equal Rights Amendment. For example, Elizabeth Cady Stanton argued that if uneducated, drunken men can vote, why shouldn’t intelligent women be able to vote? In contrast, Catherine Beecher was anti-suffrage, and said that women had a “lofty and fortunate” position and that if they wanted to vote, all they had to do was ask. Beecher’s view on women’s privileged status connects to Phyllis Schlafly’s argument against the ERA, when she says “of all the classes of people who ever lived, the American woman is the most privileged. We have the most rights and rewards, and the fewest duties. Our unique status is the result of a fortunate combination of circumstances.” The reason she believes women are in a place of privilege is because of America’s value on family, acts of chivalry, and inventions that make the daily work of women much easier, such as laundry detergent and sewing machines. Schlafly states that women can become fulfilled at a young age by becoming a mother and wife, while it may take men years and years to find fulfilling work to provide for their families. One of the problems with Schlafly’s argument, however, is that becoming a mother is not fulfilling for all women. In Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, she says that while modern inventions may make the daily work of women easier, it also means that they are bored. Friedan argues that women can be good mothers while also working and having other things to do.

Schlafly is against “women’s lib” because “it is anti-family, anti-children, and pro-abortion. It is a series of sharp-tongued, high-pitched whining complaints by unmarried women.” She believes that the importance of family adds to the privilege of women, but as we learned from Ms. O’Connell’s presentation, often times this emphasis on the family takes priority over the mothers or wives themselves. For example, in Muller v Oregon, it was decided that women could work no more than 10 hours a day. While this may at first seem like a benefit for women, the true reasoning behind the law was so that women could be healthy and produce and raise children, specifically their sons, for the future of America. However, as Gloria Steinem pointed out in her argument, one of the sex-based myths is that women are biologically inferior to men, and that they are expected to “function biologically rather than learn.” She used the term “internalized aggression,” which means that women are treated as second-rate citizens and believe in their own inferiority in comparison to men.

On any issue with women’s rights, it is important to recognize there are two sides to everything, whether it be Stanton versus Beecher on suffrage or Schlafly versus Steinem on the ERA. I have heard many of my peers who are girls say that they never want to have kids, while my parents follow the more stereotypical gender roles where my mom stays home and my dad works. I think that either situation is fine, as long as that is what is most fulfilling and makes them the happiest in life. If a girl doesn’t want to have kids, that is totally fine, but it is also okay if someone wants to stay home to be a full-time mother. My mom is perfectly happy with her life and feels no desire to change anything. My cousin recently graduated from college and is now a physician’s assistant, but even more recently she was married and is now expecting her first child. She will be both a mother and a working woman, and will likely live a very happy life. Women can work, have kids, or do both, as long as they are able to live their lives the way they want to.

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