The Woman’s Place In the World
Where is my place? I grew up in the Midwest, so that very familiar phrase rushes back to me like a crashing wave – “the woman’s place is in the home.” It washes over me and leaves me feeling small and ashamed that I was born a female. I can still see the many faces I’ve heard say it, even my own family. I can also still feel the gut-wrenching anger that would well up in my stomach each time I heard this stifling phrase.
Even as a young girl I wondered why so little was expected from me in life while the future of all the little boys around me was looked upon with great expectation. It made me mad. I just couldn’t resign my life to such a mundane existence.
How many other little girls have heard this phrase and felt angst from its implication? How many have succumbed to the resignation I fought so hard to evade? The degradation of being slighted in life and the victimization that comes from stolen opportunity are the types of feelings I dealt with growing up in a fundamental evangelical church in the Midwest. It was a part of my everyday life. We were told this way of thinking was suppose to be normal, but it never felt normal to me. It always felt wrong.
I often think about the millions of other women who were slighted throughout history. Can you imagine how much more advanced the world would be today if women had always been given the same opportunities as men to advance the areas of medicine, philosophy, architecture and politics? After all, two heads are better than one. And two sexes are definitely better than one. How sad that one half of the world’s potential has been hidden away for most of recorded history.
Barefoot and Pregnant
The old adage mandating a good wife to be “barefoot and pregnant” is even more humiliating. It reduces women to nothing more than a tool used for producing a son to carry on the family name or for working in the field.
However, I can see why men felt so strongly about keeping their women restricted to the home. First, the man obviously wanted cheap labor, someone to clean the house, do the laundry, raise the kids (since he was never around to help), cook the meals, and a sundry of other household chores that would otherwise be his responsibility.
The only expectation placed on him was to put a roof over the woman’s head and food in her stomach and she would do the rest – even satisfy his sexual needs. He was not required to satisfy her though. Since she was his property, he could treat her anyway he wanted.
Can you imagine what the world would be like if women were as sexually satisfied as the men? Think about the clear-headed confidence that follows a man around all day after he has had sex. Oh, that there will one day be as many women walking around with that same clear-headed confidence that comes from sexual satisfaction!
Secondly, by keeping the little lady busy at home “barefoot and pregnant,” the natural result was her continued ignorance about the real world. This insured a timid approach to travel, education, politics and working outside the home. If the woman had shoes, that meant she had the first tool necessary for walking outside the doors of her home. If she got far enough without the aid of her husband, she might actually realize her potential and not want to stay at home everyday while he pursues his own endeavors. God forbid that he’d be expected to share the workload of the house.
Can you believe this type of thought is still practiced in some stricter religious circles? Even today in the 21st century! However, most of the insidious accusations of feminine inferiority have all but faded.
Real Change is Slow in Coming
It is now a generally accepted concept that a woman can hold her own ground in the big bad world. So much positive change has come about in a very short time. Most women are no longer afraid to leave their homes and even hold down jobs of their own. They are retail managers, grocery associates, restaurant workers, and waitresses. They are also lawyers, doctors, professors and business executives. In fact, many women work as many hours outside the home as their male counterparts.
Not all has changed though. Many women in the workplace still come home and do most, if not all, of the household chores. They are still the ones cooking the dinner, cleaning the kitchen, tending to the kids, washing the laundry, sweeping and mopping the floors, cleaning the bathrooms, etc. Regardless of the time she spent at work that day, be it four hours or ten hours, she still returns to the cheap labor expectations of the home.
The acceptance of true equality is slow in coming, even from the most enlightened of men – and women. When a man expects a woman to do all or even most of the housework, it is a result of a learned behavior that has not been adjusted to the new standards by which women are now measured. The fact that the woman allows this type of behavior to continue without expecting change shows a lack of enlightenment as well.
In the end, true equality will be recognized by the equal distribution of rights and freedoms, as well as roles and expectations. The assumption that women are equal simply because they can vote and work is based on the shallow idea that we should be happy since our situation is considerably better than it was a century ago. If “better” was the goal, then yes, we should be happy. However, equality was the goal and that goal remains the same today.