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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Do Women Yearn to be Tamed?

Not too long ago I was discussing the women’s movement with my older daughter. From her point of view that movement has done more harm than good to the family structure of America, and she yearns for the day when women can stay home and be mothers and wives again. Part of me agrees with her. I’ve spent some time trying to imagine what it must be like for girls her age ... to never have known pointed and hurtful sexism on a very personal level. To be thought of as second class citizens. To never have a credit score of your own. To be so dependent on a man that basic things, like owning a home, are beyond your reach. She has grown up knowing she could be anything she wants to be and all is possible for a girl. I am glad she has that, though I do recognize that now most women have to work outside the home, married or not, and that does hurt the structure of a healthy home-life for kids. For those who wanted to keep the idea of traditional womanhood alive, we have, for the most part, failed them.

I grew up fighting for the right to work and did my share of tough assignments. I was ‘first’ woman on several jobs, standing my ground through pickets, insults, and flying objects. I never thought about the real long haul of it, only about the moments when I knew I could do a job better than the guy standing over there. And I did my best, always.

My job for a long time was commercial illustration and product development (1990s - mid 2000’s). In that position I had to think about who decided on what to spend disposable income. It was generally understood that women held the pocket-book keys ... or, at least she’s the one men would have to persuade should he want a specific toy or treat for himself. And, most significantly, she was the one the children would bug until she caved. On one hand, it felt like developers believed women had a lot of power in the home. On the other, I understood very well that women were being profiled as a group, and we were evil bitches who didn’t want to be persuaded and fawned over. I kid you not, product development meetings really were all about how to trick a woman into parting with some money all while we adhered to the new politically correct thought control standards. We analyzed colour trends, marketable subject matter, style ... all things that made up a package for toys or food or whatever.

The idea that I participated in those meetings is really rather bizarre, when I think about it now. I worked for top international companies and my images generated hundreds of millions of dollars each year. I was sought after and held marketing secrets close to chest. I wore a hat that said, “Respect my authority”.  I wore soccer shorts and a Xena tee-shirt that read, “Chicks Kick Ass”. I had product developing men hit on me, and lesbians, too. It was a brutal job, really, and one I was somewhat happy to leave behind. But, even though it’s not my duty anymore, I still think about trends and look for marketing angles all the time. How we sell things says everything about who we are as a society. And with that in mind, I’ve been searching for vintage ads with the intention of sharing with my girl how women were viewed before. Old ads will tell very well why many young girls joined the women’s movement during the late 1960s and 1970s.


For example, look what the 1970s did to Levi jeans. It’s bad enough they pin-striped them, showing two Woody Allen-looking dorks standing in near super hero poses – what is that woman doing there?... in a bikini, to boot, nestled right between the leader of the pack's legs? She’s small and subservient, barely dressed, and looking ever so lustfully bashful. No doubt, men were in control when this ad was made. They could tell a woman what looked good and they knew how to dress to catch us. They also knew what to drive:



What about that nearly naked lustfully bashful gal that sits nestled between a fella’s legs?  She’s a spirited woman who’s yearning to be tamed.  Just like a Subaru. A man would feel pretty good knowing he could drive either one of these things home. But, he’s got to catch that gal’s attention first, reel her into the Subaru so he could take her home, or to a motel ...


Yes. What woman doesn’t like second hand skinny cigar smoke blown in her face? I know I’m getting all tingly just thinking about it. A puff in her direction and she will follow a fella anywhere. The only thing finer than smoke blown in your face is kissing an ash try and, frankly, I think they dropped the ball on this ad. She’s leaning into him, yes, yet her eyes are not rolling back in shear delight and anticipation. Because, you know, once that gal follows the smoke to the fella and then slides in beside him in the Subaru, taming can commence, with or without the motel room ... and that man is prepared:


Wow. I don’t even know what to say about this one. Women are slutty, always have been? We pack the diseases? We can’t resist any man? I think this ad was made especially for very optimistic men. I know I’ve met a lot of those in my life and, honestly, they never needed what this ad promotes ... they pack those things in their wallets just so other guys believe they tame the wild girls. Trust me, all you men reading, they don’t.

Normal fellas? They didn’t bother with the rain coats. They instead put on their most powerful scent. [And, why does this ad say at the lower bottom, left corner “Found in Mom’s Basement”? Does the shape of this bottle and that little remark imply what I think it implies? We women are really, REALLY, wild and sexual animals – so tame us!!]


I nearly lost my train of thought with this one ... sorry, it’s hard to keep my composure through this ... to re-cap, Levi’s are pressed (mom did it, in the basement), irrasistible scent is on, the fella hops in his Subaru and, while puffing his skinny cigar, makes haste for the nearest library. You know, that place where really wild single women work. It’s one of the only job gals are allowed to do.


He rescues the long legged lady from that bore of a job and soon becomes the center of her world, because there is one thing he knows ... he’ll always be hungry without her.


That’s a good reason to own a wife, don’t you think? The fella did dream long and hard about an alternative and that made him happy, but he is a realist in the end. It’s illegal to have two of them, after all, but a fella can dream even after he’s married.


Oh, yeah ... those ad makers dreamed ...


... and dreamed ...


and made us feel completely inadequate, weak, and stupid.


And the best thing he could do to pick up our spirits is ...


give us and our newborn some beer.

In the end, men remembered one rule that changed their world forever ...


Go figure ...


It’s important for young women to realize that we gals who supported and pushed for women’s rights weren’t people who wanted special treatment. We didn’t want to become men, nor did we wish to give up femininity or the option to choose a family life. We simply wanted to be recognized as equal people who are capable of many more things than we were allowed to do. We expected to have to prove ourselves, just as men did. And we wanted paid the same for equal work. We wanted to buy a house, or a car, or hold a credit card with our name. We wanted our own name. I wanted to be Olivia Schemanski, not Mrs. Christopher Schemanski. And, it’s not because I was ashamed of the man I married, I actually adore him. I just wanted my identity, too. But I never dreamed we would lose so much by gaining what we thought were reasonable rights. I think the world functions like a pendulum. We keep swinging to the extremes and I don’t think that's a very healthy way to be. Why can't we calm that pendulum?

20 comments:

savagegoldie said...

good post mom. I can see where Mandy is coming from, I believe that it was the latter half of the movement that did the damage. The ones that decided female strength was cutting your hair boy short and wearing pants suits. To me that is just trying to be a man instead of equal to one. My theory, I can kick any guy's a- erm, butt and wear a skirt while doing so! You should see if Mandy still has that 1955 "guide to being a good wife". Like the ads you show it made me fume. I know I sure as he- erm, heck don't want or need to be "tamed" and if a guy blew smoke in my face I might smack him. Then again, I've always been the more aggressive daughter of yours, just ask the dojo Mandy and I went to for karate! heh heh I often think of what you earlier women achieved for us younger ones and how we have screwed up what you gave us. Just look at popular young women now and they are in those random tiny bekinis by choice! I think women now should make a point to uphold the dignity that you fought for us, it doesn't have to negate the family either, you and dad made a wonderful family life for Mandy and I and I never felt that you were somehow less then Dad, you cooked us dinner while still being his equal. :-)

Irelock said...

Awww ... thanks, Goldie. Just don't ever forget that your Dad cooked for you, while wearing pants, too! Not all men were like those profiled above, thank goodness, and a wonderful partnership can be built between a man and woman. That's the dream we really fought for back in the day ....

Rubber Duck Artworks said...

Burnt by Dad, King of the grill. See dad cook? Cook dad, Cook!

Anonymous said...

I find the womens movement thing crap. Yes, you women before me worked and pleaded and begged for your right to be heard as a person. And I'm for that, as a very wise elephant once said, "A person's a person, no matter how small." But seriously? Do you know what you're fighting for?

Let me explain my views, driving in my car I pass by many construction zones. There is a manly job, heavy equipment, long hours, hard manual labor. So sure, if you women want your equal place in a man's world, there it is. What better venue to prove your "equality" than there. So I ask myself driving by, where are the women in this picture? Holding the damn stop sign. Not a woman one is driving the machinery. If there is a woman out there who so desires to work that "manly" job, more power to her. But don't lie to me and say those women holding up a stop sign are equal. She stands out there holding a sign that a man would get paid twice as much to hold. And that construction company gets to boast about how they employ 4 women in their company. Oooo, that's so noble of you. Why not find a woman who love tractors and give her a go... oh right, I forgot, 'women are bad drivers..."

Women! Look around you, you are not men, you are not built the same, you do not see the world the same. Compassion, beauty, and kindness are yours, hold those traits up, own them. Fight for your proper place, and stop fighting to be a man, fight to be a woman!

We are created equal, but we are not the same.

Irelock said...

Hey, Mandy ... you know you enjoyed those grilled cheese sandwiches that were burned on one side, raw on the other! Honestly, I never met a fella who tried so hard in the kitchen and I know I appreciated all that soup when I didn't feel well. Go, Chris, Go!

Irelock said...

Anonymous - WOW. I'm glad you told us how you feel!! You know, one of those girl 'first' jobs I had was in road construction, and I drove heavy equipment (earth compactor and watering truck). I made more money than most men on the site and had absolutely no experience. I was segregated from the men at all times, even ate after them all by myself, which was good ... they wanted to pummel me. Their wives threw rocks and yelled the most obscene things. I learned the job well enough for them to ask me to stay. It's true, girls can run the equipment when trained and I agree that it's not right to stick a stop sign in their hand and call that equal. What a BORING job! Let's see if other people feel the same as you ... this subject is really something we should all think about in this day and age ...

courdeleon said...

Wow, this should stir discussions!!
As far as the comment about women in constuction work driving heavy equipment. That person hasn't looked very hard. There are women doing that and they get paid more than the sign holder (men are sign holders too). The thing is, some woman are actually stronger than some men. I was the second woman to be hired at our local zoo because before they thought woman couldn't do the work. That was 1970. Today there are more woman than men as keepers in zoo's. And the animals are being better cared for. Woman brought nurturing and compassion into the animals world.
I think we needed the movement to move women out of the dark ages. In the begining we needed baby makers to populate but now, we are doing pretty well in that area:) Some women now have more choices.
New systems always take time to develop and find how to best do it. At first women didn't have a clue how to be leaders etc. Their only role models were men so that is how the did it, like a man.
Now they are learning to use a more gentle approach and do things differently. I think the world will be a more compassionate place once we have a balance of the male and female personas. We just aren't there yet. Women have a choice of staying home with the kids or to work. That wasn't possible years ago. Even when women did work in "non-traditional" jobs, it was extremely hard (as you stated when you worked construction)
So I say the women's movement worked. Sometimes things have to be over the top in order to get noticed and for things to change.
Today there are even stay at home Dad's. We are all still trying to figure all of this out and I believe this struggle in the middle will all be worth it in the end.

Emi said...

I was raised being told I could do anything I wanted to do. My dad wanted me to go to college and encouraged me in my talents (writing) and to find a career suited to me. Dad suggested journalism, but I wasn't very interested as a teen.
My parents were super traditional (at least in family structure) and I grew up seeing that. It was hard for me to picture myself in a career outside of the home. I wanted very badly to be married and to have children. I figured career could be figured out later in life.
But, at nineteen, I got married and had my first son by the time I was twenty. I worked up until right before he was born. I fully expected to be able to go back to work shortly after he was born. Boy was I wrong! I found no help with childcare. My family didn't want to help me (it's ok I feel they had a right to that decision). I couldn't afford childcare on my own. I was legally married and my husband at the time worked more than 40 hours a week so I didn't qualify for any government assistance in childcare. That left me at home.
I looked for help everywhere anyone suggested. Nothing ever worked out. I couldn't just leave a newborn (or toddler or pre-schooler) at home by himself. So as much as I would have liked to have the best of both worlds (be a working woman and have a family) it just didn't work that way for me.
What I learned from this time in my life was that there was this expectation (mainly from my husband but I believe it extended out to other people I knew) that I should be working and raising my kids and being a good wife. I had no opposition to working. But I needed to take care of my son(s). That became my priority. Had I had childcare I would have returned to work right after my maternity leave. Instead, I was home with my son. When I would meet people, especially other women, and they would ask me what I did and I would say "I'm a stay at home mom." I'd get these looks like "Wow. That's lazy." or "If I can work and have kids then you should too." and it would make me feel bad and less than worthy.
I don't regret being at home with my kids. I love it actually and I feel lucky to be able spend so much time with them. I'm alight within myself and the decisions I've made and the way my life has gone. I still believe that there is a career out there in the future for me.
The only negative thing has been how other people's expectation of me has made me feel guilty about doing a job I feel is rewarding.
I'm thankful for all the women who have fought for woman's rights, but I find it unfortunate when a stay at home mom is looked down upon for making that decision.

Irelock said...

Wow! These are great comments, you guys. What I am enjoying most is the age differences here. Courdeleon and I were in the middle of this movement ... first girls taking those jobs normally reserved for men. The others are post-movement girls. I know we elders like to think we did amazing things and the world is a better place for it, and perhaps we are right. The youngers have their own issues to handle because of what we did. I am hoping, with this post, that the youngers can get a sense of why fought so hard for own identity and independence. And I think we have to learn not to hold our nose at the girls who would rather stay home with their kids. Not everyone needs a career ... and staying at home is actually a worthy profession in itself. I still feel we are not equal, though ... that we have to work twice as hard for half the reward. I'm getting old enough to feel very tired of this battle and I'd like to stay home now!

Emily, no matter what anyone ever tells you, or however they look down on you, remember you are doing the most important job in the world. You have the power to raise young men who will respect women and be good people for society. I tip my hat to you for being there for them ...

As we said back in the day, with our fist held high in the air ... girl power!

courdeleon said...

Maybe that is the biggest down side of women getting more independant...making stay at home Mom's feel inferior. NOT so! First I think raising kids is the number one hardest job in the world! What better nurturing can any child get than from a Mom who is there most of the time.
I feel so bad, Emily, that you had that experience of people looking down at you. You are really doing the most valuable job and be proud of that. After your kids are grown, you will have plenty of time to follow your other dreams:)

Irelock said...

Amen, Courdeleon! Never should the world forget the value of a mom!!

Irelock said...

And, Courdeleon, that is the downside that my daughter laments. Emily feels it, too. Independence is an immeasurable thing, really. What it means to me is different than what it means to you, my daughter, or Emily. We need to remember not to hold others to our level of desire. If they want to stay home, they need to be able to do that. Our materialistic culture is making that very, very hard ... but I get their point. I wish we had found a way to leave that part of woman-hood for them. It's easy to say they still can do it ... but reality? Not many can afford to stay home. Day care alone will kill their pay-check.

Anonymous said...

hum.... a lot of you said "wow".

Irelock said...

I think the 'wow' happens because people are shocked by this stuff. It's hard to imagine that sexism was so normal and accepted ... but it was. It still is, in some ways ....

hanasazi said...

Tragic. I had a nice comment going which I hoped would be a welcome contribution to the other wonderful comments your followers have posted, but Google had other thoughts on the matter, as when I clicked "Post Comment" it dissolved irretrieveably into cyberspace, so I'll just say "You ROCK" Olivia. Keep up the great work.

I'll go tend my heart now, what you had inspired, Google just hurt pretty bad.

Irelock said...

Oh .. I am very sad about that! I love to hear comments about the subjects I'm pulling up and if I could give google a spanking, I would. A new post will be up soon and perhaps I can stir your heart into some deep thoughts that you will share with us all. The only way to get over a hurt is to get back up on that keyboard and try again. I'll be looking for you .....

Scott Kodysz, The Graphics Specialist said...

It's unfortunate that basic human rights "need" to be labeled by society as "movements" and such. Having always been a person that accepts people on a one-to-one basis, it's still surprises me in a sad sort of way when others don't act that same way. I also have experienced gender prejudice being a man. Much of my adult life as a self-employed artist I have worked at home, and being at home have filled the role as househusband, doing most of the cooking and cleaning. Society wants to put this role down, as well, that somehow it's not being a "real man", etc. To me being a real man means that I will do anything for my family, including preparing and serving a meal, throwing a load of laundy in, mopping the floor, and, if need be knock someone upside the head if they threaten or intimidate my family. The human experience is such that we all have a "yearning to be tamed", to leave our cave-person ways behind, and learn, build, and love. That's what the state called society is about at it's core.

Irelock said...

That is well said, Scott. See, I know you are from Alaska, as am I, and most up there never lived any other way than what you describe. I grew up knowing I could be what ever I wanted to be, and so did my daughters. My husband will cook meals and do laundry, or anything else, as do you. None the less, the ads in this post are real and, to a different degree, they continue to this day. Now, women aren't the targets so much. But there are targets. I'm always disappointed when I see them. They continue to be, because they work.

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful discussion, with a lot of great thought, and experiences shared. It might be time that some of us who went through the earlier days of this movement really share with out daughters what life was like before, otherwise how will they ever understand. Before I had children I worked up to a position of Supervisor of a financial control department at a well know high-end department store. When I was put in that position, it was the exact same position that was formerly headed by a man with the title if Manager. For me, it was titled "supervisor", with the lower pay that the title implies. One day on my way to work, in my business attire, I had a man on the street spit in my face as I was about to enter my place of work. I can only assume that he was out of a job, and resented my having presence in the man's world of work.

It's a different world now. If there are still struggles out there, and there certainly are, there are also more opportunities. Heck, we could have had a woman president if things had gone differently. That possibility, in my lifetime, was something I never would have believed growing up.

Let's keep the progress going, and let our daughters know where we're coming from, and where the opportunities they now have came from.

Oh, btw, this is Sheila anonymous ;)

Irelock said...

Thanks anonymous Sheila! That is the point of this post, and something that I'm trying to help my daughters understand. We came such a very long way and have given them a world where they belong better than we ever dreamed possible in our own lifetimes. At the same time, I also understand my older girl's sense of loss. She wants to be a traditional house wife and that's a lot tougher than it used to be. We do need to relate to the younger generation better, I think. Too many have no idea what we went through, on the grunt level of the women's movement. You had spit in your face, I had bricks and rocks thrown at me and nasty people picketing me at job sites. That's not happening any more and many times it seems it's all but forgotten.

Thanks for posting Sheila, I loved hearing about your step into the Supervisor roll.