“Consumer's Republic” and “Guys and Dolls”
In this essay I want to address readings from both Consumer's Republic and Guys and Dolls. In addressing these two days I wish to compare and examine how the post World War II era sees women and how the roles have again changed. Not changed in the sense that women and men have swapped gender roles but more so how women's' roles are viewed. In pre World War II women had similarly the same rights, roles, and expectations as they had since the turn of the century. These roles were simple and common place to people of the time, such as keeping the household clean and tidy, cooking for the husband and children, raising the children at home. It was not common for married women of this time to work as the home and the responsibilities that came with it were seen as their job. This began to change during World War II as the need for able bodies began to grow and the lack of able bodied men in the United States began to dwindle the women, wives, and girls began taking jobs that were previously seen as inappropriate for women. Once the war was in full swing the landscape of roles had never looked different.
However, when World War II came to a close the shift from war time day to day life to back-to-the-way-things-used-to-be day to day life was harder than expected. The women of the time had become comfortable working in their jobs and making their own independent income, as well as for many having a purpose bigger and seemingly more important than just rearing children and cleaning house. This was hard for some of the older generation to handle as seen in the Guys and Dolls video “The Trouble with Women” as the supervisor for a department is having words with his superintendent that he is tired of being sent women to do a man's job. Then again in the article “Women are not men and good wives” Agnes Myers says “…Today, however, the duties of the homemaker have become so depreciated that many
women feel impelled to work outside the home – even when it is not economically necessary – in order to retain the respect of the community…
…Modern woman has to recapture the wisdom that just being a woman is her central task her greatest honor.” (Agnes Myers, 1) and in this statement its being said that the women even with all the responsibilities of motherhood and being a wife feel as if they are undervalued and want to be respected as an equal. The women of this post World War II era are becoming more and more aware that they are unhappy in the way things are. From a young age women are taught how to be attractive to men and how to keep a man happy, but at the same time they are told that they should be happy with what is given them as they are not deserving of much else. There was also so much teaching of how to repress the abilities and skills of women to make them more attractive to the males of the time. In the “Friedan Happy Housewife Heroine” there is a short story of how a young nineteen year old girl is taught how to properly lose at tennis because if she does not lose gracefully to her husband she will never have a husband and be a forever burden on her parents. All this points to one simple thing that women have one job in life, one ultimate goal if you will, and that is motherhood.
However, in the years following World War II there became more and more that women were more connected to other women through the fact that there were these massive suburbs that popped up seemingly overnight. These huge communities and suburbs were the epitome of life for young families after the war, and in the Consumer's Republic readings it shows how the young families were targeted. Most notably in the ad for Redbook magazine there is a clear target on the young family and an emphasis put on the women of the time. As the ad goes on there are countless subtle messages of how they should move to a suburb and how houses should be run because they would be happier if they did so. This leads the young families to want this happier life in the suburbs and thus the mass produced, over night, seemingly identical suburbs came to be. Also in the Redbook ad there were suggestions that the days of being confined to the immediate family unit were gone, and that thanks to convenient location there were places young adults could go to reignite that joy and fun they once had. There were a ton of ads for things that were directed at women because they were the ones in charge of the house, so if the house was more exciting and there was more fulfilment in the home for the wife there would be less need for outside stimuli. This all worked very well for years until, still unsatisfied, women began created groups with other wives to have companions in similar situations.
These groups usually made the issue worse because the women would not speak of the dissatisfaction with their lives because they would see the fake happiness of half hearted laughter of their peers and feel as if it was only themselves that were unhappy. Even here there was a another tie back to the Consumer's republic in the Chapter titled Mass Culture, Consumer markets, and the identity in the 1950's, where through the article on the effects of TV on mass culture. In the article is tells of how at the time the shows allowed to air created this idea that a woman's place was in the home, and that the home is where she would be happiest creating this again delusion that it was the individual woman that felt unhappy and that it was her own fault. It took a very long time for women to realize that they were not alone and they were indeed not the only ones unhappy with the current situation. This realization that they, the women, craved more out of life brought about the resurgence of women into the workforce. Even against the push of society to stay in their current roles because there was no need for them to work and it upset the way things had been. The surge of women into the workforce post World War II brought about an increase in the need for child care and home automation. This resulted in the shift of marketing from trying to satisfy the woman at home to making it easier and quicker for things to get done in the home so both husband and wife could work. The satisfaction that the women of post World War II felt by finding a purpose for themselves larger than just being a mother was not easily gained nor was the respect they sought as an equal. Which was the main topic of conversation later in the second wave feminism movement and even today there is still not total equality, but there is a much greater balance.
In conclusion, the roles of women in the post World War II era have changed dramatically. They were at the end of the war simply wife, mother, housekeeper but there was little satisfaction in these roles for women in a world that was becoming more fast paced and advanced. The change occurs slowly as the women are shown that they are supposed to be happiest in the home, and even marketing on the consumers republic tells them that all they need is the new gizmo or gadget and they will be happy. This is not the case, because as time goes by the women that are now so closely connected through their extreme proximity in the suburbs begin sharing their feels with close friends. These conversations then spread like wildfire to begin the need for further satisfaction, which they find in the form of jobs, careers, and what seems at the time like equality. This forces the public and marketing departments to change the way they attempt to sell their products as well as change their products entirely.
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