Thursday, March 15, 2007

More on Manners and Women's Liberation

When I wrote the previous post my intent was to give a lighthearted account of my own obsolescence, which resulted mainly from the U.S. Deep South social milieu in which I was raised. Based, however, on some reactions I’ve received, I apparently came across to some readers as criticizing the women’s liberation movement.

It was myself that I was making fun of, and not women who were trying to improve their status in the culture. Pink Ginger’s comment gave me the key word for understanding the “women’s movement”: Independence. Women wanted a new level of independence, and so they went about achieving it in various ways. To me, there were important ways and unimportant ways, and the merely symbolic ways relating to male/female etiquette and manners seem to me relatively unimportant, even silly, and it was manners that I was smiling about.

I have no ambition to analyze the facets of the phenomenon here, and a woman could do a much better job than I could (and is invited to do so on my blog if she wishes), but the most important way to achieve independence, obviously, is to make your own money. Thus employment and entrepreneurship must have been the main goals of women’s liberation from the traditional need to turn to a male for money.

As I said, not entirely jokingly, many men would consider having a job to be more a form of bondage than of liberation, but women saw it from a different point of view, and apparently many of them felt that the work they did at home was more burdensome than the work that their husbands did at the office. I would not agree with that, based on watching my mother spend her days at home and with friends, compared with my spending often miserable or stressful or boring days in offices, but I’m not a woman. And when you add children to the mix, the traditional woman’s role of being at home raising offspring from infancy through the horrors of teenagery might indeed seem more akin to galley slavery than do the torments of the average office. And yet some women still say that they LIKE raising children.

Based on watching people I know, what I don’t see is that being a mother (especially a single mother) and raising children while earning an income at an office is any improvement, in terms of work pressure, over the mother’s role in the old-fashioned family, where she had to do the same work at home but didn't have to earn money outside the home.

Admittedly, if a woman doesn’t need a man to provide the money, there isn’t much else she needs a husband for! And if she doesn’t have children or a husband, she’s as free as any male ever was, and she has reached the Promised Land. No wonder society has changed fast.

As a result of something -- whether it's women's liberation or something else -- we see current statistics about families, and single parent homes, and marriage and divorce which would have seemed shocking, unimaginable, fifty years ago. Things have changed faster than I have, I must admit it, and not just in terms of manners. Emotionally, I am not happy with a number of things that have happened to society in that past half century.

I have always liked women better than men, and have enjoyed the company of women more than the company of men, and from the beginning I’ve wished women the best in their quest for improvement, in particular in their quest for equal employment opportunities. That doesn’t mean, however, that I feel that all the results of the quest for liberation have been desirable as far as effects on children, women, men, and society as a whole are concerned.

Yes, I’m getting older, but I don’t think it’s fair – and I never did – to say that older people always think things were better in the past, and so their evaluations of present vs. past can be ignored. Although the narcotic of nostalgia can indeed bathe the past in a pleasant glow, it is possible that sometimes the past actually WAS better than the present. One of the great fallacies of our time – fed by government and the popular media – is that our present day values and standards and politically correct beliefs are a great improvement over anything that has come before, and that most of the past belief-system and culture, even a generation ago, was comparatively benighted and shameful. Populations of nations tend to be taught that they are better off than any other people past or present, but that doesn't make it so.

I’m still wondering why, “Honey, I’m home!” is the subject of scornful jokes. Well, I can figure it out, but it still has a pleasant ring to me. Actually I don’t think it was ever said except on a TV show.


  1. Hi Fleming!

    If I could to share my thought about women’s independence. You’re right saying that they want to achieve it in various ways: important and unimportant ways.
    In my opinion women was discriminated by men. Women hard homework and upbringing kids was nothing for many men compare to men’s job. It was very sad, inequitable and made frustrations for women’s devotion for family.
    Of course some men treated women and women’s housework with respect in the past and now , but it was and is not often.

    Thank you for to bring up that important issue.
    Wishing you great, sunny day!

  2. Oh in this house we say honey I'm home a lot!

  3. Krystyna, I'm sorry to take so long to reply. I am grateful for your thoughts on women's independence.

    It's sad that you can observe that many men still don't treat women with respect. I think it is some men's insecurity about looking "male enough" which makes them try to impress their male associates by looking down on women or talking about them disrespectfully.

    I read a kind of joke where a man begs his wife to let him "go out with the boys" for a drink. "Please," the husband pleads, "I won't be home late. I won't ask again soon." When the wife agrees and the husband is at the bar, he puffs out his chest and boasts to his friends when they ask him how he got his wife's permission, "The bitch tried to stop me, but I told her to mind her own business and stay out of my way!"

    Sad but typical.

  4. Yves, I'm glad to know that in your home we'd hear "Honey, I'm home" a lot.