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Personally, I hope that people have moved past this view that women should not have their own lives. Women should have lives as fulfilling as possible. However, it is true that women can’t have it all. Neither can men. It’s a fiction, according to a column in Atlantic Magazine by Anne-Marie Slaughter.
I still strongly believe that women can “have it all” (and that men can too). I believe that we can “have it all at the same time.” But not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured. (see second link)
Slaughter suggests that women can have fulfilling work and home lives, but we need to radically adjust how our economy is structured first.
I am not very likely to agree with this one. I am a man who quit his full-time job to work part-time and take care of his kids when the first child was born. I have 2 kids now and have been the stay at home (working a bit on a part-time basis) for the last 10 years. My wife and I chose this because A) I already did the cooking, B) she makes more than I did, C) I could make a bit of money working part-time, and D) I would be more likely to be able to get a job in the area when I return to full-time work.
In short, we made our decision without any regard to stereotypical ideas about what role men and women should play. I do not believe that there is anything about women that makes them more suited to being "in the home" than men are.
I agree, we are past that now, way past it, as a matter of fact. I would recommend the Slaughter article, which is pretty thought-provoking and controversial in some quarters. But certainly, there is no biological, psychological, or other basis for asserting that a woman's place is in the home, and this old "separate spheres" argument has been worn out.
Well, this is one of my favorite topics! And a very interesting one it is, too. I imagine many of our historians might find fault with what I'm about to say, especially since I can only say I remember my source as being A History of Western Society by John P. McKay, Bennett D. Hill, John Buckler, but perhaps they won't all jump down my throat at once ... or at all.... The one Western Society History textbook I have read (one text does not an expert make, I know) indicated some very interesting conclusions on this topic drawn from the then most recent archaeological finding and research (c. 1995).
The authors asserted that one result of the Black Plague (1347-1450) was that hardly a man was left who had not lost a mother, sister or wife to the Plague. As a result, according to the authors, marriage contracts came to have clauses in them in which the prospective groom promised the father that the bride would be kept at home in safety away from the plague. Though the authors do not state this, the conclusion may be draw that this was the beginning of the wife-at-home ideology.
During the plague years, there was only vague understanding about the connection between location, social contact and plague infection. For example, there was recognition that fleas were associated with infection, so cats and dogs were slaughtered. It was recognized that wandering religious penitents spread infection, so their wanderings were outlawed. It was recognized that being in the cities and in crowds spread infection, so those who could fled the cities in the summer to the countryside.
The new clauses in marriage contracts reflected these understandings of the cause of infection. Thus the promise to keep the bride safely at home reflected the desire to keep her sheltered, protected and alive by keeping her free from contact with citiy animals, travelers, polluted cities, and crowds at markets and bizarres.
Just as the mass exodus of the wealthy from the cities to the country persisted--sans original cause or even memory of original cause--well into the 20th century, so too has the "keep her home safe and sound" idealism persisted--sans original cause or memory of original cause--well through the 20th century and up until today. This idealism, needing to have a justifying cause, has taken on various shades of justification, none as logical or comprehensible as the original.
I think it can be said without fear of significant contradiction that by now we women may safely shop, socialize and associate within the goings on of the city, thus may safely be let to go freely at will outside the confines of home. We promise to avoid Black Rats. It seems time to reestablish an earlier model of womanhood prevalent in ancient times (see Pagans and Christians, Robin Lane Fox) exemplified in Proverbs 31 of the Hebrew Wisdom texts and the Christian Old Testament. In this model, an individual woman runs a household of staff and domestic servants (who would not appreciate having someone do the laundry?!), engages in trade, real estate speculation, agriculture, industry and manufacturing. In this model, women are represented as top entrepreneurs. In this model, women are the glue of cities' economies while their husbands sit at the "gates" settling law suits and awarding deeds of purchase and probating wills.
So since we're safe from the plague, I think it is time for all to agree that women may return to the older and more successful and far more sensible model recorded for us in Proverbs 31:15-26 (and PS: there is not a word in there about woman being "sexy" or "hot," though richly and elegantly garbed).
A woman's place is wherever she chooses it to be. Of course, this statement needs to be qualified. If the woman is a normal person with average intelligence, she will go where her responsibilities take her. If she has chosen to be a homemaker, then obviously that is where she will spend her time. Carpe Diem…seize the opportunity to choose whatever she wants to do. No outsider should make a woman feel bad for the decision to choose family over career or vice versa.
Providing a home for a husband and children is a full time job. From washing, cleaning, cooking, helping with homework, and satisfying the husband—this is a complete work day. Of course, not all of the tasks are required every day, but diligence prevents the work from getting too far ahead. This kind of life also enables the woman if she chooses to commit to clubs or volunteering outside the home. This is not a life of leisure, but it does open a different set of opportunities to be more involved in her children's or husband's lives.
There are studies that show that if the mother stays home and obligates her time to her children then the lives of the children may be more productive and less strained. One woman described her experiences as a homemaker:
Stay-at-home moms are busy, and they work 24/7. There are no business trips, no financial rewards or incentives to do better. There is no bonus at the end of the year, and almost no one ever takes you to lunch, pats you on the back, and says thank you -- although I cannot tell you the number of times teachers have pulled me aside and told me not to go back to work if I can help it because my kids were great and well-adjusted, and the teachers couldn't say the same for my kids' classmates.
On the other hand, I personally tried to do be a "superwoman" and wear several hats. My husband was a teacher and did not make enough money for us to survive without my paycheck. I struggled to teach and then come home and be a mother and a wife.
I was a good teacher, a good mother, but a poor wife. Since I taught English, I spent almost every night grading. In addition, I was one of the teachers who prepared for the next day’s class each night and was on stage the entire day.
Many of our meals were fast foods. Many nights were spent helping the daughter, grading my papers, and going to bed too tired to have any kind of life with my husband. Consequently, after twenty-five years, he found someone who was devoted totally to him. Not all of it was entirely my fault, but I certainly would not qualify for wife of any year.
My point is that whatever choice that the woman makes there will be sacrifices.
Of course, those women who have decided to be a career person and forego the children or even the husband, I say: “Good for them.” In my day, that really was not even a consideration. A young woman married, and most of them did not work. I was too immature to see that I was approaching my life with the wrong priorities. What is the old cliché “Hindsight is 20-20”? Seeing what a person is doing wrong is perfectly easy to see once the situation has passed...
Back, to the topic, in today’s world, the woman should choose wisely what she wants to do in her life. There are so many opportunities. It is her responsibility to look at all of the possibilities and make a wise decision that will not adversely impact anyone else.
- Homemaker-devoted to her husband and children
- Career/homemaker-attempting to be superwoman with work, home, husband, and children
- Career person-Pledging her life to the work life that she loves
The woman’s place is wherever she chooses.
Karen, I did not know that history! Very interesting!
As to the topic, I think a woman's "place" is wherever she feels that she is most comfortable, where she can do the most good, and where she can be most productive in the ways that she, herself, chooses. Women are not posessions, no matter how many savage religions claim they are; woman are human beings of equal intellectual and societal worth to men -- if not more so! A woman's "place" is simply this: personal, individual choice. It is not up to the collective to rule where women should be "placed." We are no longer living in a time when undereducation and social norms can keep an entire gender under thumb. It is not my place, or anyone else's, to dictate to any woman where her place may be. It is her place and her place alone to use individual liberties, to which all humans are entitled, to find her personal place in life.
Having said that, if a woman chooses to remain "in the home," that is as valid a choice as any other, and should be supported, not decried.
I have to disagree with this as well. As a female and a mother, I believe that my "place" is where I can do what is needed to take care of my children. As a single mother, I do not have the ability to stay home with my children. On top of that, I have a great desire to educate others. My place, as a woman, is any place I deem it necessary to be.
While the sentiment in the question reflects our long history of male chauvinism and gender bias, it does not reflect the democratic ideals we have pursued in the modern era. First, let's challenge the idea that either gender, or someone's race or religion, has a set "place" in society at all. The idea of "place" alone carried with it connotations of bias and discrimination.
Rather, our ideal at the moment is that everyone is able to choose their own role, their own niche, in our society without being dictated to by outdated traditions and beliefs.
What great points have been made in this old question about women. I agree that women should be where they choose to be. I have chosen to be in the jail when called to calm down distraught inmates. I know that sounds strange, but I am the only woman who does this in this jail, the work is necessary, it is definitely my niche, and it serves an under served population as well as helping law enforcement. I agree that we can remove "place" as the idea seems outdated when women's roles are scrutinized. Having just completed the annual renewal required to volunteer at the jail, most were men and the women were working with their husbands to serve a different need in the jail. I see it as each of us choosing where we want to be and not having that "place" chosen for us.
Certainly not! I agree with @brettd, the idea of forcing people into their 'place' is distasteful. I think that societal attitudes towards gender have to change but in my opinion attitudes are heading in the wrong direction and we are becoming increasingly gender specific. It is now normal for young and teenage girls to be sexualised through their behaviour and what they wear and I find this extremely disturbing. But equally disturbing is that grown women make themselves look like children. Gender stereotypes may have changed but they still pervade society. In article 41 of the Irish constitution (which was written in 1937) it says:
In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.
The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.
The fact that this has not been removed from the constitution shows that there is still a long way to go in terms of attitudes towards gender.
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