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Feminism has been alive and thriving for over 40 years, but is it giving us what we want?

Thriving it may be, but whether it's alive and well is another question altogether. Recently I read an article pointing to the fact that women are actually significantly less happy today than 30 years ago.  How can this be?  You would think that all the years of "progress" towards equalizing rights, shrinking the pay gap and the ever-growing number of women attaining advanced degrees would promote better feelings and happiness, yet the statistics indicate otherwise.

healthOne explanation is that women have, for many years, felt that they perform dual occupations: career woman and domestic attendant.  At the end of the workday, women would come home to wrangle all the household chores and still needed to be done.  However, experts disagree about the soundness of this hypothesis; some counter with statistical evidence showing that the workload (workday combined with other obligations) of both men and women has decreased since 1965.  Technology has advanced tremendously in the domestic field, with an ever-expanding array of helpful household cleaning appliances that take a chunk out of the workload. Remember Roomba?

But just because the workload has been diminished slightly doesn't mean women don't spend the same amount of time thinking about the chores left to be done.  The counter argument to the technology-based theory, is that women may have more help to accomplish their domestic tasks, but that these new devices can't take off the mental pressure women feel to "get it all done."

Perhaps the unhappiness is better linked to the fact that when women in the past several decades fought so fiercely to join the ranks of, and even replace men in the workplace, they really didn't know what they were getting into. Neil Lyndon, author of, No More Sex War, believes feminists never gave men enough credit for having it tough.  Spending hours away from the family is tough, gender-regardless, he argues. Having young children, a (demanding) job and additional mental preoccupations (aging parents, marriage concerns, ex-spousal concerns...) means decreased happiness.  

There are also non-work-related grievances that women are faced with more these days than thirty-years ago.  Divorce rates are sky-high, not to mention the pay gap has not been filled in completely.  Getting through the grind is getting more difficult, it seems.

Women are not coping well with their stresses and concerns, too. These days, women aren't eating their feelings, so much as spending them.  Having an independent source of income means having more money at one's disposal; in one online survey, reported that 79% of women take themselves on shopping sprees to calm their nerves.  While shopping, they experience a kind of buzz, a high that comes with buying something new and shiny, getting the shopping bag and experiencing feelings of temporary happiness.  The worst part of all is this feeling quickly fades, leaving them no happier than before the shopping trip.

So what can we do to combat our anxieties and worries?  The answer does not lie in your freezer, no, Ben and Jerry's won't fix this pickle.  What has been reported as a good longer-term solution, is reestablishing a system of support—creating a community to cheer you on.  Women often lose touch with extended family and old friends, and then neglect to rebuild close ties later on in life.  So here's the treatment: call your old friends, talk to an old lady, join a book club, or better yet, invite your friends to join Fabulously40.com.  

Do what it takes to find those feel-good feelings without swiping your credit card or digging into Haagen-Dazs.

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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Anne Lyken-Garner wrote Jun 25, 2009
    • I agree with you, Yana.  

      We take on so much that we fail to do anything well. The expectations are way above our abilities and we think we have to all become supermums.  

      Like you said, we have so much going on that we neglect old friends and extended family. I don’t think that this is an active choice. It’s just that we don’t have enough time.

      I think we should give ourselves a break. Wait for the brand new car and the fancy house. It doesn’t mean that we‘re failures because we stay at home for more than a year to watch the baby grow, and have to drive an old banger.  I know women who go back out to full-time work after 3 months of giving birth. Who does this benefit?

      Great post.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Amiable wrote Jun 25, 2009
    • Yana, can you tell us the name of the article you refer to at the top of the article, and where we can read it, too? (re. women being less happy than 30 years ago.)  Thanks!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Marya1961 wrote Jun 25, 2009
    • Excellent post, Yana..I completely agree and when I am having one of those days, it is a comfort to know all the wonderful Fab40 friends are here helping each other!estatic



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      UK Girl wrote Jun 25, 2009
    • Yana  

      Thanks for a great article. I think when we started work and had families we were told we could “have it all” as our lives had so many labour saving gadgets ...... but the reality is different if you worked full time while children were babies you felt guilty and if you stayed at home it was impossible to return to the fray of work after ...

      You feel like you have to run round spinning plates and you can’t stop in case one falls .... we just end up exhausted. I also wonder about our daughters what expectations have they - do they feel they have to fill our high heels ?



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    • +2 votes vote up vote up

      Nancy Frye-Swope wrote Jun 25, 2009
    • I've thought a bit about feminism and the term "housewife" since I recently retired from the corporate world to stay at home full-time.  I suppose the term is archaic, but then again, so am I.

      Although I do handle some free-lance work as a Virtual Assistant out of my home-based office, I'm still the primary manager of our household and so consider my new main occupation to be a housewife. Roseanne Barr called us, "Domestic Goddesses" and, while I think that term is pretty groovy, I'm not sure I'll be telling many people that I'm a Domestic Goddess when they ask me what I do for a living - although my daughter-in-law proudly lists that as her occupation on her Myspace page.

      In the old days (I was raised in the fifties and sixties) most of us still said, "housewife" and feminists such as Betty Friedan were only then just beginning to criticize us or even feel sorry for us as marginalized women.  I never felt marginalized in my life (unless it was when my dad told me I was too little and bitty to do something) nor did I feel like my opportunities were closed off to other options.  I chose the role early on and looked forward to raising and taking care of my family as a housewife.  My husband at that time was in the Air Force and we traveled so many places that it worked out well for all of us, including our three children.  Of course in those days a one-person salary took care of a family if they weren't all caught up in keeping up with the Jones's.

      A one-family income is mainly the exception in today's society of the trendy need to own 3,000 square foot houses, brand new automobiles (several in some families), big screen TV's, expensive boats, fancy travel trailers, quads for the kids, surround-sound systems; You name it, the list goes on and on while the credit cards get more and more maxed out.  Whatever happened to living frugally and why do some feel it is a measure of failure if one lives thriftily today?  My parents lived through the Great Depression and I learned a great deal about frugal living directly from them. I remember when Junior and Senior High School offered Home Economics as an elective and we learned budgeting as well as sewing and cooking. These lessons served me well when I re-entered college and still had my youngest kid at home in high school and lived on a small scholarship and part-time jobs. Now-a-days a budget is reserved for those times when there's an emergency in one's economic circumstances and even then many folks cannot balance one. How can we expect regular folks to be able to balance a budget when each and every level of our own government cannot do so?

      Feminists lament that the contribution to the economy of the USA by housewives’ work is ignored when calculating economic output figures and they are correct in that observation. Some argue that housewives’ work doesn't contribute to the general economy at all, a school of thought evidenced by the fact that there are no deductions available from the IRS for that role.  If nothing else, I say a housewife's work contributes to the savings to the state in childcare subsidies and costs.

      My husband and I are well beyond the age of worrying about childcare costs but what we personally save in groceries and fuel alone is staggering since I quit my full-time job.  Not to mention the house is cleaner, the laundry is done, the menus are planned for maximum savings, grocery shopping is done comparatively for greatest savings, mending is done rather than buying new and his lunches are made so he doesn't have to stop and buy some crap at the town convenience store. The money saved in planning home-cooked meals from scratch, growing tomatoes in the garden, having the time to preserve vegetables and fruits rather than buying tasteless crappy canned stuff and making homemade cookies rather than a hard old store bought cookie from the convenience store adds up.  We aren't noticing much of a downsizing in our life-style since I left the rat race to become a domestic goddess, but we are noticing a more satisfied, quality of life feeling due to the good riddance feeling of some pretty awful stuff we dumped.  

      Gone are the expensive groceries or cereal for dinner.  Gone are the days when the dust settled on the furniture and TV screen until everything was a hazy shade of gray and dog hair was piled up in the corners.  Gone are the days when we both came home from work worn out and had to pick out an unappealing but fast boxed or frozen bag dinner and ate in front of the TV like zombies.  Gone are the days of grocery shopping and doing laundry and other chores on the weekends when we'd rather be out riding the motorcycle, 4-wheeling, camping or just visiting.  

      Will I get tired of it?  I doubt it – especially after being an administrative assistant for 26 years. I am tickled to death with my re-entry into being a domestic goddess. I notice that I don't have as much energy at my age as I did when I ran around the house chasing after three little kids, but I still manage to do a damned good job. Does my husband resent the fact that I'm home?  Not hardly – He gets to come home to a good home cooked meal made from scratch, have all of the desserts he loves, have a fresh lunch made before he goes to work and sit down with me and have coffee before he takes off for the day knowing that I will manage to do all of the millions of things it takes to accomplish having a well cared for home.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Elaine11 wrote Jun 25, 2009
    • This is great advice.
      I worked full time for several years after getting married and having children. Although changing to part time was a huge adjustment for me I know that it sure helped my frame of mind. I think what helped me too was having a supporting husband that stood behind me and encouraged me in whatever decision I made. Support is a must be it family or friends.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Ezboomer wrote Jun 25, 2009
    • I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s but back then, I never gave a thought to being “less than” some man. My mom and dad had a farm and my mom worked right along side of my dad. She made our clothes, raised a garden and preserved the food, took care of the chickens and cows and sold eggs and milk. She was my example and she was equal to my dad in our household. My dad never told me that I couldnt’ do something just because I was “a girl.” In fact, he urged me to go into the military when I graduated high school, which I did.

      In the Navy, women were the minority but basically we were equal in pay and work, so maybe that’s why I never gave much thought to feminism as a cause I was interested in.  

      I think partly women may not be as happy now because prior to the 60’s, the roles of men and women were well defined and everybody knew what was expected of them. Men worked and provided for their families and women took care of the homefront. Now that women do it all, it seems like many men have abdicated their roles, or maybe they are just less sure of what their role is now.

      Partly too, I think, back then people didn’t have much in the way of expectations. Life was what it was. Nobody had credit so everybody lived within their means, whatever that was. When I grew up, all the kids wore homemade clothes and having a lot of “things” wasn’t really expected. I shared a bedroom with 2 sisters and we lived in a house that was about 1000 square feet but we never thought we lacked for anything.

      Life is just very different today but happiness then, as now, always has to come from the inside, no matter what your life circumstances.



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    • +3 votes vote up vote up

      Deprogrammed wrote Jun 25, 2009
    • Some of you are missing the point - why is it our job to do both, and why do we sell each other out if one of us does not want to be a mother?  Why do we call each other “lazy” if we don’t want to work outside the home?  Nevermind some man coming up with this wild notion that we had no idea how hard men have it - the hell they do!  

      The question will continue to pop up for as long as we don’t cut everyone some slack.  If the woman works and the man stays home, fine - it works for their family and they don’t need the negative labels that usually come with that.  A woman who stays home isn’t lazy, and a woman who works isn’t neglectful.

      Two incomes isn’t necessarily about a big house and two cars; these days, it’s about survival.  You need multiple income streams or you are flirting with disaster.  In California (where I live) the average home is over $250,000; how many single incomes can afford that?  And no, I’m not talking about a mansion.  In some cases, that’s a small condo.

      Feminism, in its simplest form, just provides choices instead of assigned positions based on accidents of gender.  Let people make the choices that work for their lives without condemning them or insisting they are all wrong and their kids will somehow grow up to be criminals.  Give a break and take one, too.



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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Yana Berlin wrote Jun 25, 2009
    • @Anne I went to work every time the next week. Three months of maternity leave was out of the question for me.

      @amiable    Here is link to the article from
      NY Times 

      @ UKGirl, we are much to blame for everything we take on, but women in general have a hard time saying “NO“.

      @deprogrammed  It’s is true that most of us need both incomes more than ever, it’s also true that those of us that are working outside of home will eagerly label someone “lazy” if they are at home moms. I think that is just “our way” to convince ourselves that “we” the ones that are trying to do it all are the ones that are doing it right.  

      It’s a hard world out there. I do believe that our own daughters will emulate us, I see that with my daughters, and I find it scary that they too are trying to do it all, what bothers me is that while I was just as driven and ambitious when I was their age, I wasn’t as stressed as they are. It worries me, because I see a trend. My mom got all kinds of aches and pains in her sixties, while my grandma didn't feel anything until she was in her late seventies. I have all of my mom's aches and pains in my forties. Stress is killing us.

      That's my story and I'm sticking to it. estatic



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Janey07 wrote Jun 25, 2009
    • I thnk the pressure on women on all accounts is higher than it ever was.  I also think women can be our own worst enemy.  For example, women who stay home critique women who work saying they are not being good mothers.  Women who work think women who stay home are unambitious and lazy.  Then we have the media.  If you are over 45 you are too old, if you aren’t exotic or girl next door looking you are not attractive enough, if you weight too much you are fat.  Now we have every other politician having an affair with someone which makes you wonder what men are really doing?  No wonder women are depressed.  

      I would love to really get a break from the media and from other women.  I’d love to see men change what they consider beautiful in women too but so much of what men think (and women too) is hard wired and has more to do with hormones and nature than nurture.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mz. Queen wrote Jun 25, 2009
    • Did feminism get us in trouble? Yes and no.  Some of us got just what we were asking for but it came with a price and the rest of us are still juggling, successfully. That’s what I believe.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Raiven wrote Jun 25, 2009
    • I can hardly wait to be in your shoes. I’m 48 and I’m tired. I don’t think this is what I bargained for.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Nancy Frye-Swope wrote Jun 25, 2009
    • Exactly - I so enjoyed this subject and hearing what others have to say.  No matter what role we choose, support is paramount to happiness in that chosen role.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Dr. Aleksandra Drecun wrote Jun 25, 2009
    • Feminism did not get us in trouble! Feminism is about equal rights and empowerment. I think women's rights have improved and yet they still do not equate equally to men's. Being able to exercise our rights, make decisions and consider our needs along with others is a positive step toward our freedom and respect!

      I think our sense of happiness is greatly influenced by societal pressures and demands. Sadly as a society we have become externally focused. Individuals no longer foster or nurture relationships with themselves. How many people can honestly answer the questions, "Do I love who I am? How happy am I with myself? When a deep sense of unhappiness is present through the forms of anxiety or depression, individuals attempt to alleviate these emotions with unhealthy means, such as shopping or comfort foods. Attaining happiness requires mindfulness, intention, practicing gratitude , staying optimistic and creating loving and supporting bonds with others. Humans are made to live in clans. Modern society has isolated us. How many of us know our neighbors?  

      Finding a sense of meaning and purpose is a new trend among humans. For thousands of years we have focused our attention on basic survival. With the advancement of modern society, we can pursue happiness and doing so requires intention. We do not worry about our safety or food supply as in the past. Finding happiness requires knowledge of the self and honoring the self by adhering to one’s core values.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Laurie Zieber wrote Jun 25, 2009
    • Yana-  

      I see a similar discussion happening all over the web, the radio, and over the back fence...

      Jon,Kate and the eight kids that are suffering from the meltdown in their home, the Governor from South Carolina, Mark Sanford, and the temporary loss of his good sense, my neighbor who strategically completed all of her plastic surgery, healed beautifully and then left her husband.  Even my own sister in law, self proclaimed domestic goddess and mother of the year, left her children one Saturday morning, under the guise of a run to Walmart.  She never returned home. Later, the evidence of a hot,internet affair, with a man on the other side of the country, helped her husband and children piece together the tragedy that befell their family.
      I am sure each of the people who are living these stories has some justification for their decisions but the question remains- Was this really the desire of your heart? I can't imagine it was... But!
      When I was a teen and would tell my Mom,
      "I didn't mean to...!" , she would say to me,
      "But, Laurie, you didn't mean NOT to..."

      Feminism in it’s truest sense is about the freedom to be the best version of me without discrimination for my gender.
      As a result of my gratitude for that freedom, I live with respect for the work that was done before me.
      I believe it is time to grow up and be intentional and accountable about what we want, and more importantly, how we get it.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Leonova wrote Jun 25, 2009
    • Great post. Thanks



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Bea Kunz wrote Jun 25, 2009
    • Super discussion, and one that we could no doubt talk about for weeks and not cover all the ground.

      Did feminism hurt or help women in general ?

      I’m a history buff and history shows us many sides to the lives of women besides the negative, before feminism took root..

      I tend to see feminism the same way I see organic....

      It was a wonderful method/plan that quickly became a label, and when that happens it becomes political or big business and the true meaning gets lost in the battle.

      Granted there was a time in past history when women were treated less than equal, and that had to change, and the change is still ongoing for many in many different ways.

      I think this is the point we often miss when great strides are accomplished...and that is to gain something we most always have to give up something.
      Life is, as 100 years ago, a process of give and take, trade-offs, and adjustments. As times change, so do our circumstances, our needs, our demands.

      I think the “movement” of feminism drove a wedge between the genders that didn’t need to happen.

      I don’t think we can fix a problem by using the same method that was used to make it.

      I’m all about the forward movement for women, but men have to be part of the movement or we are back to a very un-level playing field...that has never worked and never will.

      Bea Kunz

      [Link Removed]


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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Janey07 wrote Jun 26, 2009
    • I am so impressed with what many of the women are saying. I think given all the ‘stuff’ that has been happening these past few weeks, it all seems so appropriate.

      I wish I could comment on individual posts by sending a PM or an email...any suggestions on how to do this?



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Monkish wrote Jun 26, 2009
    • Feminism was good and bad for women, I believe mostly bad.  Now we celebrate the no fault divorce leaving many women with children and little support.  Men leave their wives for young women leaving older women living alone. Just look at Hollywood and the older women who are not married growing old alone.

       Many men have more than one wife, and children from different mothers causing harm to the children. Even adult children are affected by divorce.  Children are shuttled back and forth between parents and they are often stuck in the middle to cope with the stress of the situation.  I know one family that the children have had to change schools several times and they spend 50/50 time with the parents.  What kind of life is that.   My husband was a torn between two parents.  One would get mad if he visited the one but not the other.  He had to have two Christmas dinners and two Thanksgiving dinners to keep the peace.
      Also, now women get to work but many also do the lions share of the work around the home.  Yes, we've come a long way baby!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Nancy Frye-Swope wrote Jun 26, 2009
    • Laurie Zieber: I’m an old broad and have heard many definitions of feminism but I like yours, “Feminism in it's truest sense is about the freedom to be the best version of me without discrimination for my gender” the best.  I think I’ll print it and put it over my desk - thanks!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Vikki Hall wrote Jun 27, 2009
    • @yana Great Post!

      So many good thoughts posted by everyone else too.

      I’m with Laurie too on the definition of feminism:)



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Livingvictorious wrote Jun 27, 2009
    • Feminism definitely helped us out but it doesn’t matter how you cut the cake, women, I feel, probably will never make EQUAL pay because men will be men and do not care for a woman making more money than they do.
      Upon marriage, our agreement was mutual...after giving birth I would stay home and raise my family.
      The mental game of staying home was difficult because I ended up marrying a workaholic. I had access to the modern appliances, decent car, awesome neighbors and a network of stay-at-home mommies which btw, saved my life on a few occasions.
      My occupation (Pharmacist) paid more than my ex-spouse’s (firefighter) and we felt the crunch right away but we were determined to make things work on one income.
      I feel todays couples burden themselves too death by getting their children involved in theatre, church events for youth and every sport available under the sun. One child is enough but as the size of the family multiplies so does the number of stressors.
      When time rolled around for our babies to make sound decisions, we would ASK them if this was something they wanted to try out. We drove them around town to observe games of all types. This wasn’t 100% successful but in the process my babies learned how to make informed decisions. Cool.



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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Glogirl123 wrote Jun 29, 2009
    • I agree with all of you. I think the women’s lib movement in some ways was good but in other ways it seems like it took away some identity for the man to be a MAN! Alot of the men nowadays have been feminized with no male backbone, they are wishy washy and have no balls to stand up for what they believe in. Lots of them have been raised by single mothers with no male mentor to teach them how a man is supposed to be. I have worked full time raising all my 3 kids 2 are grown and 1 is still growing. I was raised in a household where my dad went to work and my mom stayed home and worked on a business that she owned. She was always there when I came home from school with a hug and kind words. Divorce was unheard of back then and if it happened, it wasn’t advertised. Just some thoughts.......



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      L J wrote Jul 1, 2009
    • yana, i agree that stress is killing us...
      no one can be happy if they are stressed out all the time and about everything! if you live hard you die young!
      LJ



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Tok08 wrote Jul 2, 2009
    • I got opportunities that women 30 years ago wouldn’t have got. I have been educated to the highest level, I have worked and succeeded to a very high level in business which I would never have been able to do 30 years ago. I am stimulated intellectually by the fact that I can work and although it is still difficult to be as successful as men (the old adage - you have to work twice as hard to be as successful as men - luckily this isn’t difficult!), it has generally been great.
      Would I prefer to be a wife and stay at home tending to my husband, because I had no other option? No way! If you choose to do that - that’s absolutely great and I’m not criticising it, it’s the right thing to do for some people for many reasons. However, it’s nice to have the choice.
      No-one’s saying it’s easy, but back then they also had their own challenges - boredom springs to mind as one, a life not lived to its full potential as another, the ability to have an equal conversation with a man, another. I could go on.
      I am divorced now and setting up my own business. The divorce is no longer a stigma, thank goodness and there’s no way I could be setting up my own business 30 years ago, not without huge barriers to surmount.
      Yes, life is without doubt difficult today, no more so than now in these terrible economic times. Would I have it any other way? Absolutely not! I celebrate that I can do what I want on my terms without having to turn to a man for validation. Women chained themselves to railings, starved themselves and got thrown into prison to get us some rights. I embrace that freedom they fought so hard to achieve for us.
      Viva feminism!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary McGuire wrote Aug 26, 2009
    • First off, feminism has been around longer than the last 40 years.  Read Gail Collins’ book, 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines“.  The 50’s image of the “little woman” was a aberation not the norm.  My 50’s mother was always a “homemaker” not a “housewife” who worked alongside my father, running his books and ordering the supplies for his business as well as my uncle’s business.  At the same time she was active as a volunteer in the community, setting up medical/educational services for the underprivilaged.  All during my childhood, she cared for her aging relatives and 3 children.  Again, my father worked alongside her.  In our house there was no division of labor along gender lines, your ability to do a chore was the factor.  It was a shock when I started dating to find my male contemporaries  expected me to do the housework, cook, care for children or (only the male who didn’t want children) and still work outside the home.  No wonder I never married.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Bea Kunz wrote Aug 27, 2009
    • Ditto, it’s always been around, just presented in different forms according to the times.

      Bea Kunz
      Sage Hill FarmsEatWell-BeWell
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