We squeal with delight when we watch old reruns of tv shows. That includes “Lil’ Hop” (Little House on the Prairie), Father Knows Best, Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It To Beaver. It’s a look back to gentler, simpler days when the man was the head of the household and us girls just stayed at home, set up house, and raise kids. We just watched a scene from Father Knows Best, where a protestant pastor played a central figure in providing a moral compass, imagine that! (Not the scene below, which has a misleading title, but take a look to get a feel for the show, if you have never seen it)
Stephanie Coontz first wrote a book called The Way We Really Are, then the following book The Way We Never Were, flip-flopping between the assertion that the 1950s conservative nuclear family was a reality and a later postmodern, revisionist reading of that arrangement as a manufactured existence. Whatever side you chose to be on, there existed an entire generation of women who were raised on 50’s sitcoms. We know elderly ladies who DO behave and talk like June Cleaver. They make sandwiches and glasses of milk for kids when they come through the door, affect a sunny disposition with clasped hands, and never seek to stomp other people out in a one-upMANship display of intellectual prowess during a dinner table discourse. They keep quiet, beam a radiant smile, and pass the butter.
Sadly, the overly feminist focus on the traditional family arrangement as an oppression of women a la Betty Friedan has removed the attention on the male figure. Yes, women were expected to attend to domestic duties and pleasing their husbands, but more importantly, men were expected to provide for the family, bring home the bacon, and rise to the responsibility of providing a compass to steer his family through tough times. If we wonder why father no longer knows best, and men today are take-no-charge, self-absorbed, metrosexual debutantes with cabinets full of hair products and well-maintained tattoos, it may have something to do with the “liberated” woman dropping the ball. We fought for many years to be able to bring home the bacon ourselves. And once men found they were dispensable and politically-corrected into obsolescence, they too, dropped the ball.
The dying tradition of the male head of the household and provided of the family is what we try to carry on at the Stepford Wives Organization. For new readers, the rest of our website is here StepfordWives.org and StepfordWife.com