Questioning Economic Necessity

“It has been estimated that by 1960 a family wage was paid by 65 percent of all employers in the United States, and by over 80 percent of the major industrial companies. Although feminist historians today call the family-wage ideal a “myth” designed to keep married women oppressed, few myths have come closer to becoming a reality.”[1]

The feminist conviction is that the “good ole life” where married women did not work is a myth. In their view of history, married women staying home is somehow a new thing in human history that was invented in the 1950s. They also stress that it is the economy that flushed women out of the home and into the workforce during the revolution years.Today they say it is just too bad and even if married women wanted to go back home it is impossible because of the economy. Their views and assertions are, however, pretty far removed from reality. In fact, in the grand old 1950s there were even more married women in the workforce than in previous times in American history. All the way up until the year 1900, only 5.6% of married women were in the workforce. By the year 1910 that number had climbed to 10.7%. In the 1950s, 23% of married women were in the workforce. [2]

Feminists also like to chime in and tell us all about how it was only middle class white women that were able to fulfill the role of housewife. But unless 90% of married couples were middle class and white this remains to be seen. Generally, feminists like to plead economic necessity so as to ensure that married women with dependent children do not feel guilty about going off to work and leaving their children in the care of someone else. Mainstream feminists propaganda says that it “takes two incomes” just to make ends meet. Yet, in the vast majority of cases this is not, nor has it ever, been true.

“When the mother in a two-parent family chooses to work, economic necessity (as opposed to advantage) is more likely to be the rationalization than the explanation for her decision. Feminism’s effort to bring about the demise of the full-time housewife required diminishing the guilt felt by working mothers. Thus began the constant effort to depict a two-income family as economically necessary when in most instances one income would provide the basic necessities of life-food, housing, and clothing. That the best-educated and highest-paid women are the ones who return to work the soonest after birth of a child makes clear that something other than economic necessity has impelled women to abandon child care in favor of the workplace.” [3]

Moreover, it was not the economy at all that forced women out of the home. No, the influx of married women into the workforce was deliberate and the intended outcome of the women’s liberation movement. One really does not have to wonder what the word “liberation” in the phrase “women’s liberation” is referring to. It refers to nothing more than the “liberating” of women from sexual morality and the bonds of marriage and child-rearing. Women were not forced out of the home because the economy was going in the gutter. The feminist movement created the economy we have now. The influx of married women into the workforce lowered men’s wages and devalued the housewive’s role. It was the women with highly-educated husbands- the women who could least claim “economic necessity”- that left the home first. Poorer women were still in the home caring for their children.

“In 1962, only 37 percent of all wives worked for pay outside the home. The wives of high school- and college-educated men were hardly more likely to work for pay than the wives of men with only a grade school education. Between 1962 and 1978 the proportion of wives working for pay rose from 37 percent to 58 percent. This growth was concentrated among wives with highly educated husbands, for whom the economic pressures to work were lowest. Among women whose husbands had only a grade school education, 34 percent worked for pay both in 1962 and in 1978. Among women whose husbands attended college, 38 percent worked for pay in 1962, but this had grown to 65 percent by 1978…

In the 1950s, to preserve their own self-esteem, they extolled the virtues of work in the home. By 1980, they saw matters quite differently. A job once perceived as noble now seemed distinctly plebeian. Thus, homemakers suffered a tremendous loss in social prestige in two decades. Sociologists call this phenomenon “status degradation.” It happened to these homemakers through no fault of their own. As the paid labor force offered urban, educated women attractive options the more rural, less-educated women round the world judged the traditional job of homemaking less attractive. Middle-class women who chose to stay in the home began to feel déclassé. Women’s magazines began to print outraged letters from homemakers who now found that they had to describe themselves as ‘only’ a housewife, not only to men but to other women.”[4]

On top of the status degradation of the housewife’s role, feminists forced other pressures onto women to abandon homemaking. The housewife started to be seen as a “deadbeat.” Indeed, still today mothers who aren’t financially responsible for the family are seen as “deadbeats.” This is how feminists wanted women who were not in the workforce to be seen. From the traditional perspective, however, the only “deadbeat” wife or mother is the one who is not in the home caring for her young children. The only “deadbeat” mom, from the traditional point of view, is the one who IS in the workforce. But, of course, to feminists, the paycheck is all that matters. The very thrust of the woman’s movement was to flush women out of the home and into the workforce as full time homemaking was incompatible with the movement.

“…The very existence of full-time homemakers was incompatible with many goals of the women’s movement, like the equal sharing of political and economic power. Women can never hold half the economically and politically powerful positions in the country if a greater proportion of women than men withdraw from competition for those positions. More important, if even 10 percent of American women remain full-time homemakers, this will reinforce traditional views of what women ought to do and encourage other women to become full-time homemakers at least while their children are very young…Thus the more full-time homemakers there are, the harder it will be to break traditional expectations that homemaking ought to be a woman’s career. This means that no matter how any individual feminist might feel about child care and housework, the movement as a whole had reasons to discourage full-time homemaking.”[5]

The period after the 1970s marked the decline in men’s wages. This too was deliberate and the intended outcome. Most protective legislation for women did not discriminate against women. But in the area of pay discrimination against women was necessary to protect wives and mothers from the harsh necessity of wage work. Unequal pay for equal work was necessary. Many women who would be shocked to work for anything less than equal pay to a man simply do not realize that, even though women now make more to the dollar than their grandmothers did, they are not keeping any more of that paycheck. The few extra cents to a dollar that women are making as the result of the feminist movement are simply going to pay for women’s newfound financial obligations in the family and to supplement her husband’s diminished paycheck. There has been nothing tangible gained for women when everything is added up. Feminists campaigned against protective legislation for women. They saw it as “sexist” and campaigned that protective legislation was simply designed to keep women “oppressed.”

Moreover, “no-fault” divorce legislation ripped away the economic security that housewives once enjoyed- financial security in their marriages that made it safe for a woman to stay in the home with her children and now women are held women equally financially responsible at divorce. Being a homemaker is a risky endeavor for a woman, as the new divorce laws made very clear:

“The economic messages of the new law are clear: it no longer ‘pays’ to invest in the marital partnership- to be a faithful breadwinner or a devoted homemaker. Ones economic ‘take’ from the marriage will be the same no matter what one has done.” [6]

Of course, feminists like Weitzman believe women’s newfound economic predicaments as the result of the new divorce laws are simply because women have not reached “full equality” yet, or the courts are not treating women “equally” yet. But it is the very essence of gender equality in our law codes that is causing women hardships and scaring them and shaming them out of the housewife’s role. Moreover, the mass media creates the image that, in order to be successful, a woman must have a full-time career and a fancy college degree. Also, modern women are pressured and made to believe that if they do not use their college degree for something “worthwhile” (ie., a fancy career outside of the home) then they are wasting their knowledge away and being unproductive.

“The female role models held up for veneration and imitation by the popular media are almost exclusively highly educated, independent, career women. Bucking the trend to devote oneself exclusively to home and family today requires extraordinary self-confidence and fortitude on the part of young women who must be prepared to endure both the censure of their culture and the disapproval of their peers. It is no wonder that most college women pursue a course of study that will put them firmly on the full-time career path when they graduate; they are simply following their culture’s prescription for success and acceptability. And since no-fault divorce, by undermining all claims of a wife to her husband’s income, has eliminated the economic security that marriage provided for women in our society, it is hard to blame young women for hedging their bets by setting out on the career path sooner rather than later.”[7]

Thus, it is not the economy that has forced women into the workforce. It was a deliberate attempt by the leaders and those who funded the women’s liberation movement to get and keep women in the workforce. Traditional divorce law protected women by ensuring her support from her ex-husband (providing she was not at fault) until she at least married another man who would become responsible for her support and almost all states protected the family home so that the mother could live there to raise her children at least when they were young. But, to feminists, this was holding women back so protective legislation had to go.

“The protections the law once afforded to women who made economic sacrifices for their families no longer exist. They were abolished when we rewrote the divorce law in the name of equality. When a marriage breaks up, as two out of five marriages now do, a wife will seldom be entitled to alimony, no matter how much less she may earn than her ex-husband. In the 1970s, feminists campaigned against alimony on the explicit grounds that its elimination would flush women out of the home and into the workforce, where they belonged…A divorced couple usually sells its home and divides to proceeds, after which the woman survives on what she can earn- not much if she’s getting on in years and has been out of the workforce for any significant amount of time.” [8]

To drive home the main point, the economy did not flush women out of the home, but the feminist movement did. This was to ensure that women did not depend upon men but instead became self-sufficient. There is nothing that women have gained from the modern feminist movement (1960s- present). Women have been the losers. Women, by nature of our biology, are different from men. We have different needs and different vulnerabilities and burdens to bear than do men. Our laws used to understand this. But now feminists have forced women into the workforce and left women vulnerable by knocking down protective legislation for women. Women’s problem today is not that we are not treated as equal to men, but that we are.

“The political rights of citizens are not properly dependent upon sex, but social and domestic relations and industrial activities are… Women cannot be made men by act of the legislature or by amendment to the Federal Constitution. The inherent differences are permanent. Women will always need many laws different than those needed by men.” [9]

As a final point, many women have learned that a second income is not all it is cracked up to be. Oftentimes, the woman keeps very little of that second income when all expenses are added up. In one conversation I had with a woman she confessed that when her and her husband added it all up, she found she was literally working for about a dollar an hour. Moreover, a woman can save a lot of money by doing things more old-fashioned around the house. She would not have the time to do all of this if she were working full time. When there are young children involved, it does not pay for a woman to be in the workforce. But, rather, the economic advantage is greater if she is at home (unless she makes a six-figure salary, which most women do not).

“Most women make clear and purposeful choices — regarding sex, whom to marry (that’s a biggie), work, geography, etc. — that allow them to be the primary caregiver in their children’s lives. Others learn the hard way that it costs to have both parents work. The money from a second income — unless it’s a six-figure salary — is usually eaten up by commuting costs, child care, eating out, work attire, dry cleaning, convenience foods, and, of course, taxes. By the time you add it all up, there isn’t much left.”[10]

 

Notes:
[1] Roberton, B.C., “Forced Labor: What’s Wrong With Balancing Work and Family,” p. 63. Spence, 2003.
[2] http://www.freeby50.com/2010/10/historical-look-at-womens-participation.html
[3] Graglia, F.C., “Domestic Tranquility: A Brief Against Feminism,” p. 72. Spence, 1998.
[4] Mansbridge, J.J. “Why We Lost the ERA,” p. 105; 107-108. University of Chicago Press, 1986.
[5] ibid., p. 99-100
[6] Weitzman, L.J., “The Divorce Revolution: The Unexpected Social and Economic Consequences for Women and Children in America,” p. 30. The Free Press, 1987.
[7] “Forced Labor,” p. 38-39.
[8] Crittenden, D., “What Our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman,” p. 98-99. Touchstone, 1999.
[9] “Forced Labor,” p. 60.
[10] http://www.nationalreview.com/home-front/295943/feminist-war-women/suzanne-venker#

© 2013 What’s Wrong With Equal Rights. Reproduction in whole or in part is strictly prohibited.

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