A Personal Thought on Mayberry and Patriarchy

Mayberry. A nice little American town in the 1960s from the Andy Griffith Show. Little boys can play cowboys on the sidewalk in the middle of town with fake guns and pretend shoot each other and nobody even pays any mind. Prisoners just grab the keys and let themselves out when their 24-hour sentence is served. The sheriff and his deputy are so bored from the town not even having a single significant crime happen from day to day that the sheriff even jokes that maybe they should advertise and fake crimes have to be invented just for deputy Barney to feel important because he hasn’t had a single crime to solve since he was deputized. And, of course, there ain’t been no pickpockets around Mayberry for as long as anyone can remember (well, at least not since since old man Burnett put in that complaint against old lady Burnett).

Maybe the secret to the peace and stability of the community lies in an episode titled Ellie for Council where local woman Ellie (fresh out of college and working at the local pharmacy) is appalled that there is no women running for council and that there are no females in office or involved in the government in their town. She puts Andy down for his blatant sexism for telling her women should stay out of government affairs and calls him anti-woman and, just to prove herself and stand up for her sex, decides to run for office. The men, of course, try to prevent her from running and the women fire back at the men for their misogyny. It becomes men vs. women until at the end they can’t see any reason for her not to run other than that she’s a woman.

Maybe, however, it is the simple fact that the town is so highly patriarchal that explains the peace in the town. Maybe the reason she shouldn’t run isn’t just “because she’s a woman” but rather because women in politics and business will, ultimately, destruct the family and the civilization as a whole. Today women are breadwinners and politicians and “in charge” and it would cause an international crisis if a man told a woman she should just worry about women’s business. In our world today there is no area where men and women have not mixed their duties and roles. Also, small towns are not peaceful like Mayberry. Kids would be arrested as terrorists these days just by saying the word “gun” or having a toy gun and jails are overpopulated and overcrowded even in small towns. Intact families are rare. People don’t know their neighbors and don’t bring a bowl of soup over for the elderly woman who’s taken sick and you’d be a fool to let your kid out of your site for just one minute. But, trust me, no man will ever tell a woman to stay out of politics. The society would set out on a modern day witch-hunt if any man ever dared.

The other day I was watching a Little House on the Prairie episode titled Oleson vs Oleson. At the beginning of the episode Nels was attempting to discipline his and Harriet’s son. Harriet, however, thought he was being too harsh on the poor boy and intervened to give him back the things Nels took from him. The next day a feminist comes to town to tell everyone about the “horrid” laws governing the family which put the husband in charge over women, children, and property. She pleads with all the men to please sign her petition to get these awful laws changed. Of course, Nels hears this and proceeds to act like your stereotypical chauvinistic male whenever he comes home (you know, takes off his slippers and props his feet up and tells Harriet who’s boss). Harriet leaves him to go stay in the hotel and Caroline Ingalls is outraged. She tells Charles that they are supposed to be equal partners in the marriage and it isn’t right what Nels is doing. She then sets out to get all the women to leave their husbands until they agree to sign the feminist woman’s petition. She creates a huge wreck and practically turns the town upside down. Meanwhile, Charles and the other men are trying to care for the screaming kids at home and cook dinner, etc… The only voice of reason in the entire mess of an episode seems to be when Albert tells Charles that the men in the town won’t sign the petition because they believe women should be taken care of. In the end, however, all the men (including the preacher) end up signing the petition. At the end Laura Ingalls narrates that one day women will also have the right to vote as well!

Funny I don’t think there’s a single show even dating back to the 1950s that doesn’t have some kind of feminist agenda where the women rise up and the men give in in the end. The shows all portray happily-ever-afters where things just get better when society becomes more feminist. Of course, in the real world the reverse is true. Real-life towns undoubtedly had peace and prosperity like what is shown in Mayberry because the towns and families were so patriarchal that there were barriers to what men and women could do based upon their sex.

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