The study of gender equity has been a passion of mine for a long time. Ever since I was a young girl, I can remember questioning why my brother and I were treated differently. It all started after Thanksgiving dinner when I was about 9. The whole family had gathered at my grandmother’s house for the big family meal. After the meal, the men paraded into the living room to watch football while the women paraded into the kitchen to do the dishes. That was the year my mom said to me that I needed to go into the kitchen and help with the dishes. I looked at her and said, ” How come Bob (my brother) doesn’t have to?” She had no answer than to say that was just the way it had to be. And that was the beginning of it all for me.
For the past several years I have spoken across the country on the topic of Women and Leadership. My dear friend Kathy and I developed a training program on the subject about eight years ago after she decided to pursue women’s issues as the focus of her masters thesis. (Kathy is now a City Manager and has passed on the “spreading of the word” of Women and Leadership to me.) Since then, I have continued to be a student of the subject and am always amazed at what I unearth and how it informs my presentations.
There are real reasons, above and beyond perceptions regarding innate sexual characteristics, that women still face some inequities today. Don’t get me wrong, the strides for gender equity have been enormous, but it is important to look to the past to try to understand why some of the stereotypes still exist today. So, for your enjoyment, I am attaching to the blog the first page of an article I found printed in 1955 in Housekeeping Monthly magazine called “The Good Wife’s Guide”. If you want a copy of the full article, just leave a comment with your email address and I will pass it on.
Back in 1955 we were telling women to do things like: take the time to put make-up on and fix your hair before your husbands come home from work, have dinner on the table and ready and the kids taken care of and out of the way, listen to what he has to say because, after all, “what he has to say is more important”, not to get angry with him if he is late or stays out all night, and the best of all is the last line of the article, “After all, a good wife knows her place.” We were teaching women this in 1955 – not all that long ago.
I have shared this article with many women and men and I can tell you that almost always, the women either laugh or shudder and the men say, “Yeah, that’s the way it should be!” I shared it with a bunch of friends just recently and will tell you that the xerox machine has been on overdrive with them sending copies out to their friends and family. Its a fun read, but it was also what we were telling women regarding their roles in society.
Bottom line, there are real reasons for some lingering issues we face as women, and this article gives us a small glimpse into how, in the not so distant past, we defined the roles of men and women, but it also shows how far men and women have come in changing those stereotypes.