Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Modern Past: Women's Role Today

The other day I was thinking about how the roles of women have changed over the decades and centuries. I am reading a book about 17th century women and how in an era when all they were suppose to do was breed and be a dutiful wife (if you were well off) or be a dutiful wife and live beyond 30 years old (if you were poor), there were some women who tried to buck the trend and do something other than being a constant bun making machine.

Women in the past have had the indignity of being seen but not heard. We were the little women, too delicate and too little brain power to do a man's work and a man's role. The various European thrones of old had king's obsessed with begetting a son in order to carry on the work and the good name of the house. A daughter born was a great disappointment, and her only destiny was to be married off to a good family of similar royal stock. Men thought a woman could not rule, they wouldn't have the stomach for it, they would be too emotional. The most famous king whose obsession to have a son saw him take six wives, was in the end succeeded by a little boy who died after 6 years on the throne. Then his eldest daughter tried to govern, but was ultimately a disaster, mostly because she was swayed and manipulated by the men around her. It was eventually this old King's youngest daughter that took control and being free of men and vowing to only be married to her country did she prevail and show that a woman could be great at doing a man's job.

We have got better at letting the roles become equal. The 20th century was the most radical for change in giving women the rights as equal citizens of the world. We got the right to vote, we took on dangerous industrial work and hard labour that men had done during the war, we became CEO's, Prime Ministers, Presidents and adventurers. The invention of the contraceptive pill gave us control over our own bodies and our own lives, we could decide when we had children. Education improved and we were shown we didn't just have to just get the basics in life to go to work for a while until we were married and then be taken care of by our husbands. We could go to universities no matter what background we came from and have a career!

We have come such a long way and we continue to push the boundaries, which is great. My generation and my group of peers have it ingrained in our psyche that we must have a career first, we will wait till we're older to have a family. Then we can go back to work after having our children. We can do it all, that's what society tells us.

But can we? Are we now going too far the other way? TV, magazines, lifestyle websites and the rich and famous bombard us which the images of the modern day woman. She has a career, she's a mother, lovely nice clothes, nice house, does the cleaning and cooking, looks all sexy for her husband/boyfriend/partner when they come home. But that's all false. I don't know any woman like that. Most women and mothers I know rush around like their arse is on fire. Take the child to school, go to work, pick up this, drop this off, pick the child up from school, do the vacuuming, make dinner, feed the dog/cat, do any household business, walk the dog, bath child, put child to bed, tidy up after child and husband/boyfriend/partner, sit down to see that nothing is on TV, maybe have a shower, to tired to read book/magazine, bed. Restart the next morning. Now I don't have children myself, all I have is a dog and a husband and that is work enough at the moment, so god knows what its like to put children into the mix. I have friends that are studying as well as doing all of this also. My question to them would be how?! By the way, the day I described above is my mother's normal work day.

I personally have never really been ambitious, I haven't seen myself as a high powered career woman. I just want a comfortable life. I would be happy doing a small part-time job, having a couple of kids and not working when they come along. Maybe go back once they're older and can look after themselves a bit. Just a simple life. But then when I think that, I feel I'm saying something really terrible, I feel guilty even, am I backstabbing all those years of pushing for equality?

I understand that most parents have to work today just to be able to afford a roof over their heads and food on the table. I just think that the idea of having it all (lifestyle, money, house, career and family) has made it now unbecoming to want a more traditional lifestyle. Surely the result of feminism was the freedom of choice and options. We can have a career, we can delay having children, we can marry or not marry, we can stay at home, we can go to space, we can sail the oceans, we stitch and sew or we can weld and hammer. Women use to be shunned or looked down upon in history if they broke the mould and worked or didn't marry, if they went travelling or got an education. Now the tables have turned the other way, I feel looked down upon if I say I'm a homemaker/housewife.

So where do we go from here? Who knows. The social landscape is forever changing and the roles we face in an ever complicated world evolve like us. All I can say is we should be thankful we were born now. We now live longer and healthier lives, where we can try every lifestyle at least once. We have choices and we can be whoever we want to be.

1 comment:

  1. I would have to agree that I think housewives and mothers are not given a good standing in society. I'm not sure why that is but if it weren't for all the mothers who stayed home , raised children and made a beautiful surrounding for them over all the years as they were growing up that life may not have been as wonderful for some people as it has been. Our presidents, queens, businessmen, firefighters, and so on may not have the patience, compassion and understanding that was probably instilled in them while their moms stayed home focusing on their growth and well being and helping form them into the men and women of tomorrow. Here's to MOTHERS and HOMEMAKERS the hardest job of all.