Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Feminine Mystique

Industrial revolution. Industrial revolution and women. Women during industrial revolution. Working women during industrial revolution. Industrial revolution mad men. Mad men commentary industrial revolution. Iconic images of women during industrial revolution. Rosie the riveter mad men. Mad men feminist book. Feminist books. Feminist book industrial revolution mad men. And voila! I finally found the title of the book I was looking for - The Feminine Mystique. 
My second ever assignment during editorial training, on my third day at Digicaptions was on a commentary for a Mad Men episode. The writers/producers talked about the show and the industrial revolution and women venturing out of their households and men adjusting to the change and a mention of the book - The Feminine Mystique. I once spent hours at work trying to find out which show I had transcribed that spoke about the book. 
And today, here I was, desperately googling for it. Not that this post is about the book. The book is  just a thing that you remember which takes you back to that place, that image in your head, that moment and the thoughts you had then and the ones you consequently have over the years to come.

Not housewives, home-makers, we say. Labelling the non-working married women. I do not see much difference in the two, frankly. 
You see so many women holding high offices, you have your mothers and aunts at responsible positions of authority, you see your neighbour having her own organic garden while she raises 2 kids, you see your female friends venturing into starting something new themselves, you see a female rickshaw driver... And you see all these women and you feel proud. Women out there, fending and earning for themselves. Respect and awe comes naturally.

And then... You again see your moms and aunts in the house all day, cooking and tidying up after you and the rest of the inhabitants of the house, that distant aunt who juggles 2 whole sets of families all under one roof, your friend who got married the week after your last exam, your neighbour lady who is seen outside only to say bye to her husband and kids, and then to receive them again with a smile in the evening and you think, you think to yourself, why is that woman not doing something else with her life?

We tend to see non-working women a notch (or two) below the working ones. It is true. 

But there is a lovely movie out there that showcases both the sides. And here is one lovely scene with Julia Roberts, the art teacher trying to get her student, Julia Stiles, enrolled into a law school, in a bid to let her ‘pursue her dreams’, instead of being married away.

Watch the video and then read the transcript below.

Katherine Watson: There are seven law schools within 45 minutes of Philadelphia. You can study and get dinner on the table by 5:00.
Joan Brandwyn: It's too late.
Katherine Watson: No, some of them accept late admissions! Now, I was upset at first, I can tell you that. When Tommy came to me at the dance and told me he was accepted to Penn, I thought, 'Oh God, her fate is sealed! She's worked so hard, how can she throw it all away?' But then I realized you won't have to! You can bake your cake and eat it too! It's just wonderful!
Joan Brandwyn: We're married. We eloped over the weekend. Turned out he was petrified of a bit ceremony, so we did a sort of spur-of-the-moment thing. Very romantic.
[Katherine is stunned]
Joan Brandwyn: It was my choice, not to go. He would have supported it.
Katherine Watson: But you don't have to choose!
Joan Brandwyn: No, I have to. I want a home, I want a family! That's not something I'll sacrifice.
Katherine Watson: No one's asking you to sacrifice that, Joan. I just want you to understand that you can do both.
Joan Brandwyn: Do you think I'll wake up one morning and regret not being a lawyer?
Katherine Watson: Yes, I'm afraid that you will.
Joan Brandwyn: Not as much as I'd regret not having a family, not being there to raise them. I know exactly what I'm doing and it doesn't make me any less smart. This must seem terrible to you.
Katherine Watson: I didn't say that.
Joan Brandwyn: Sure you did. You always do. You stand in class and tell us to look beyond the image, but you don't. To you a housewife is someone who sold her soul for a center hall colonial. She has no depth, no intellect, no interests. You're the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want.


Joan's last lines sums it up.