Are we less free than a 1950s housewife? A look at contraception [CNA]


#1

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/images/size340/housewife_cna_take_2.jpgRome, Italy, May 19, 2016 / 03:02 am (CNA).- What started as a means to liberate women seems to have taken an ironic twist.

The past century has witnessed the widespread normalization of artificial contraception, with its promise of empowering women and teenage girls to gain freedom over their bodies and fertility, along with a level of sexual liberation equal to that of men.

This freedom has emerged from what is seen as a longstanding culture of misogyny – exemplified by the so-called “1950s housewife” – where women were expected to marry young and dedicate their lives solely to homemaking, placing the comfort and desires of their husbands before their own interests.

Thanks to contraception, its proponents say, women no longer need to be controlled by a society ruled by the expectation to marry and have a family rather than have a career. In other words, with contraception, women can finally achieve their true potential and earn the respect they deserve.

Yet, little more a decade into the 21st century, the sexual exploitation of women and girls is at an all-time high, and the dream of woman’s liberation – as promised by contraception – seems to be falling far short of the reality.

Provocatively-clad women are regularly used in advertising campaigns to sell everything from car insurance to sandwiches. Studies reveal an alarming percentage of young teenage girls being forced or coerced into sexual activity with their boyfriends, with similar trends colloquially seen among adult women. Victims of “rape-culture” at universities are speaking out in increasing numbers about widespread sexual violations on their campuses.

Then there’s the pornography industry, which has so normalized depictions of degrading and aggressive sexual acts toward women that mainstream films and television shows are following suit for the sake of entertainment.

All of this begs the question: Did the 1950s housewife in fact have it better than women of the 21st century when it comes to sexual freedom and respect? And, could contraception be at least in part to blame for the current climate?

One expert who believes that contraception is actually damaging to woman’s freedom in society is Fiorella Nash, a Catholic novelist and researcher for the London-based pro-life group, Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC).

Instead of liberating women, a culture which readily encourages the use of contraception in fact “undermines female autonomy,” Nash told CNA in an interview last January in London.

“We’ve sort of created a situation where, in order for women to be equal to men, they have to make their bodies a little bit more like men.”

Ironically, this discrepancy between contraception’s promise of freedom and the tendency to make women more susceptible to coercion begins with their fertility. Nash cited the example of the “Pill” which is widely prescribed to treat a host of conditions, from painful periods to acne, while the core causes of these ailments are routinely neglected.

“It suggests that women can’t look after their own fertility,” Nash said. Consequently, many women are uneducated when it comes to their own bodies.

“Fertility is very essential to women’s lives, and it ought to be something that we work with, rather than (something we’re) constantly trying to manipulate,” she explained.

“There is something very patronizing to me about the fact that we circumvent knowledge by giving an artificial way out, almost as if women need a cure for being female.”

Contraception is often touted for its role in opening the doors to greater sexual freedom. However, rather than being a means of empowerment, Nash explains that contraception, in fact, makes women more vulnerable.

While it is not a new phenomena for men to be non-committal, or to abandon women they have gotten pregnant, Nash said, “the contraceptive culture has given men a license to do that.”

“Why should you stand by a woman if she gets pregnant? If she had only read the instructions on the package, she might not have gotten pregnant. And, there’s always abortion, so there’s a way out, isn’t there?”

“It’s almost allowed men to get out of their responsibilities, a lot more so than women,” she said.

Nash cited the reassurance men often give to their pregnant girlfriends – “I’ll support you whatever you decide” – which, she says, is simply the man passing on his responsibility.

“They’re really saying: ‘Actually, I can’t be bothered. I’m not going to make any kind of a comment here. I’m going to leave you to go through it. I’ll sort of make reassuring noises, before I disappear into the next adventure.’”

“The contraceptive culture has completely destroyed any respect for women,” which in turn has “left women a lot more vulnerable,” she said.

Going beyond relationships, the acceptance of contraception has wider implications in society as well, Nash suggests: for instance, its role in the breakdown of marriage, the increase of recreational sexual activity, the objectification of women – even violence.

“A book like 50 Shades of Grey would never have been produced in a culture that respects women,” she said. “The whole story behind it – if you can call it a story – is very reflective of a society that does glorify the abuse of women.”

This mentality translates into the so-called “rape-culture” at universities, Nash suggests. On the one hand, she did stress that it is important understand the context of the situation; for instance, taking into account the increased tendency to report assault cases, and a better overall understanding what constitutes a sexual offense, etc.

However: “If you create a culture where women are regarded as objects for sexual gratification, and where there’s always an assumption that that’s what girls want, the onus is always going to be on the women to explain that she’s not interested, rather than onus being on the man to ensure that the woman is consenting.”

Films, like the James Bond franchise, have contributed to the confusion with regard to boundaries and consent, Nash said: for instance, a scene which shows Bond walking into a woman’s shower and having sex with her, without her objecting.

This phenomena places “a huge burden on women,” she said, because it occurs within a culture where men “believe that they have a right to take what they want.”

“If we were really so emancipated, if women were so empowered, it really shouldn’t be happening as much.”

Along with cases of serious assault, women and girls, in turn, are often pressured into sex with their partners. Nash cited a recent study in the United States that revealed a high proportion of teenagers being forced or coerced into sex, often out of fear of losing their boyfriends, having to prove themselves, etc.

“It does raise the question about how much coercive sex, at least, is going on in society…because, they feel the need to keep hold of a boyfriend, because they feel the need to do the right thing by their husband, etc.”

In another example, Nash spoke of the UK TV personality Davina McCall, who reportedly said a wife must satisfy her husband in the bedroom “even if you’re absolutely exhausted.” If not, “he will go somewhere else.” Following the statement, many critics compared McCall to a “1950s housewife.”

“Actually,” Nash said, “that’s not a comment from the 1950s. That is the sexualized 21st century speaking.”

“There’s nothing that odd about her saying that within the context of a very sexualized society that says people have a right to sex, they have a right to sexual gratification, and therefore, frankly, women should just be expected to deliver it.”

“Is this really what emancipation was about? Is this really what the suffrage movement was fighting for a hundred years ago? How much progress have we really made?”

Although she acknowledges the extensive progress that has been made in the area of woman’s rights, Nash nonetheless holds that contraception and abortion have in many ways increased the challenges for women.

“Once you throw ‘choice’ – or, it’s really a false choice – contraception into the equation, then everything’s a woman’s fault.”

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Full article…


#2

Excellent article. Worth reading several times over. :thumbsup:


#3

This is a very good article that outlines some very clear truths about a culture that fosters both contraception and abortion as normal activities in our society. All that these methods do is turn women into the means to an end of sexual gratification. If men have no fear of impregnating the women they have sex why, then will “love them and leave them” so to speak without any fear of responsibility or repurchasing. As such, although women believe that they have gained “freedom” and “choice,” they have lost the honor, resent, and true love that is so due them.

May God bless you all! :slight_smile:


#4

Very true.

The “swinging singles” scene, “one night stands”, “pick-up artist” culture, “hook-up” bars - none of these would exist as they do today without the contraceptive culture.


#5

I couldn’t agree more and i see it just in my own peer group (late teens).

Im sure contraception isn’t the only factor to blame but it cannot be coincidental, considering that the abuse of women (and indeed from another perspective, men) is so thoroughly bound up in modern and ‘liberated’ ideas about sex.

I think this article should be compulsory reading.


#6

I agree. Women are taught to look at their bodies as their worst enemies and also the quintessential means to gratification and self esteem.

On a larger scale, this whole idea that women need to neutralize biology and climb the career ladder, compete with men, step on everything that opposes them in their path, to give them a meaningful life…doesn’t say a lot about how any of us defines a meaningful life.


#7

Respect has been lost. I was always taught to respect women. We can regain it, both for men and women. Our choice.

The media, aided by outright liars, is mostly to blame. Anarchy is the result. Again, we can stop that too.

Ed


#8

When human relationships are not based on mutual respect, earned trust and courtship, then it becomes all about who controls who. In the 1970s, radical feminists called us men - male chauvenist pigs. Turning women into female chauvenist pigs is not a good solution.

When women are brainwashed to believe all men are the enemy - that’s us guys - that only leads to a power struggle, not love. Real love. Making women think they could take advantage of guys by jumping into the sack with whoever has not helped - at all.

Ed


#9

I’m a man, so I probably shouldn’t comment. But there is a lot in what you said above.

Related to the topic, I think women were once freer, but in a different way, and less secure in some ways.

Back when men were the sole bread winners, women weren’t “free” exactly, but they were more free to be themselves, I think, at least in terms of self-direction throughout the day, greater freedom to be mothers, etc.

But the price of it was to be really dependent on men. Probably that’s one of the reasons divorce was so frowned on in times past. It really was hard on women, much more so than on men.

But divorce is still harder on women than it is on men, for a lot of reasons, and women are not self-directed throughout the day. They’re directed by an employer to do a particular thing and no other, and they’re held to account for any failure to do it as required.

Their womanhood is increasingly ignored, even suppressed, in a workaday world in which they are expected to perform exactly as men perform, and in exactly the same way.

I don’t know that I can say the trade-off was entirely bad. Women can (but usually don’t) have more discretion over more money than before. But they’re every bit as “dependent” on boss and government as they ever were on the husband that nowadays feels free to flee his family responsibilities if he wishes and leave her to face everything. So we have gone from the dreaded “patriarchy” to a “bossocracy” or “governmentocracy” that’s sometimes even more difficult to live with and certainly less empathetic than most husbands are.

But I’ll also say that I think women “back in the day” who were single and remained single, lived pretty well, for the most part. They had money and total direction of their own lives outside the work place. When I was a little kid, you could tell them just by seeing them because they were always more expensively dressed than “moms” were. Of course, my relatives who were single women were nearly all business women of one kind or another, and they had money and nobody to spend it on but themselves.

For single women, I don’t think the new “freedom” did a thing for them.


#10

Most of the moms for miles around were stay at home moms when I was growing up. They and their husbands, most of them, had one thing lacking today - they were content with what they had. We kids were taught to treat our toys well, because no replacements were coming if we didn’t. If we got two presents for Christmas, we were happy. Going to Church on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation were second nature. As a kid, I knew God well enough to know he loved me and my family. Neighbors, with the exception of a few bad apples, were more friendly. More willing to help or just be friends.

Fragment communities into thousands of “I’ll do what I want and no one can tell me different” people meant that I saw my community become more fragmented, more messed up. And the “Women’s Liberation Movement” of the 1970s? My mom asked me, "What do these women want? Abortion. Sex with whoever. Cohabitation with whoever. And when No-Fault Divorce appeared in the 1980s? I saw the following in the newspaper: “No kids? $75 and you’re out. Call 800-DIVORCE.” Kids were traumatized. But that didn’t stop radical feminists from promoting it. Kids? Why bother? Get a big money career. Men are playthings to be used and discarded or kept around till you decided they were annoying. Put the kids in daycare if you want them.

We can get back to right living.

Job-wise?

money.cnn.com/2013/01/31/news/economy/secretary-women-jobs/

Ed


#11

The FDA approved The Pill in 1960 but it was not widely available. It was not until 1967 that a “false freedom” began to be marketed. Freedom from what? That gift from God? That bundle of joy? Yes, babies. Fear babies.

content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,843551,00.html

Self control? What’s that?

Ed


#12

One wonders about a lot of things. I remember my Irish grandmother. Monday was the traditional “washday” back then. She would get up in the middle of the night to do the laundry in a wringer washer. She would hang it on the line in the blackness of early morning so it would already be on the line when the sun came up. You see, women back at the time felt it a point of pride to have their laundry on the line before other women in the neighborhood did. Once/month without fail, she would take down every curtain in the house (they were lace curtains…important to the Irish at the time, it appears) launder them, starch them, then stretch them on these big wooden frames to dry, then re-hang every single one of them. She made full meals at noon and for dinner every day. She wouldn’t use a mix for anything, insisting that only something made 'from scratch" was worthy of being eaten. On Tuesdays, she made bread, using her special “starter”. On Wednesday, she vacuumed every carpet in the house. She said the rosary every day at about 3:00 p.m., read a little from Thomas a Kempis, then talked for maybe 15 or 20 minutes on the phone with her friends. Then she finished dinner. Never, ever, was a dirty dish left 30 minutes after dinner ended. In the warm months, she tended the flowers in her yard as well.

Pretty physical. But she sure was healthy.

Today, a lot of women sit all day at electronic screens slowly developing varicose veins and emboli in their legs, or perhaps work at man killing work on assembly lines, getting carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger fingers, swan-neck deformities, cervical disc herniations, and all sorts of things. They’re not all doctors or college professors, and that’s for sure.

One is hard put to think which is better. But as between the two, I think my grandmother had a better situation than most women now.


#13

My mother is Polish. She used a washboard to clean clothes and hung them outside. She had a wringer washing machine but used it rarely. She called it a “mixer.” It only mixed the dirt around. Her and my dad would buy fresh meat and use a hand crank grinder. Later, she would get an electric grinder. No canned food at our house. With the exception of one oil. We got up, me and my dad, polished our shoes before going to Church and wore “our Sunday best.” Nothing fancy, but decent clothing worthy of entering the House of the Lord.

Mom would be pressing our shirts on an ironing board. Her iron was not fitted with anything. She would wet the fabric by getting a bit of water and sprinkling it on. She could do carpentry, mix cement, grow a garden and paint a house, and looked great in a dress. If we needed a few extra dollars, she did odd jobs for the neighbors. She could cut and lay a linoleum floor.

Food was made from scratch. We brought bread from local bakeries and some sandwich meat and sausage.

Our bodies are made to be used, not to just sit around. We did have a lot of fun during the Cold War. A lot of fun. I felt refreshed by the media. I had toys that had real play value. I read comic books that were worth reading.

The other moms would take turns each summer vacation to take us to the local play field. They watched us. Our neighbors looked out for us too. Then the radicals and the dope appeared, and the rampant “Don’t trust anyone over 30!” Focus on dope and your genitals. Drink booze.

The lines were being crossed. The pagans had entered the gates.

No, things were not perfect then but it was demonstrably better than it is today. We were sinners. Imperfect. But we applied ourselves to being better.

Ed


#14

Weren’t women back in the day essentially treated as minors, deemed as not having the mental capacity or judgement of an adult?

For instance, a woman cannot open her own bank account.


#15

Good for you.

Me on the other am glad that I was born later.

I don’t like to be forced into being a housewife which was pretty much the only option women had back in the day.

Plus, being not white, I probably would not be treated as fully human back in the day.


#16

It never seemed to me women were treated as minors. I had two maiden aunts who were self-made business women during the 1930s, 1949s and 1950s. One was a freight forwarder, and the other was an insurance agent who was also on the board of a local bank. They did pretty well. The first ordered trains all over the U.S. and arranged shipments of goods, when the trains would separate with so many cars going to Chicago, so many to Cleveland, so many to New York, and so on. And she was the boss of that part of the operation. If she told an engineer to unload cars No. x, y and z at St. Louis, and pick up cars on a siding in Illinois, he did it, exactly as she directed, or else. And she did it all by telephone and telegraph. In her office she had a big board showing the railroad lines all over the country and what train and cargo were where, and when they were to arrive, and so on.

The other had a very substantial clientele, both men and women. She sold household, commercial and life insurance.

Women most assuredly could open their own bank accounts, and did. They could do a lot more than that. One of my abovementioned aunts also ran the local draft board during WWII. She’s the one who registered men, picked out their numbers and notified them when and where to report for medical checkup and enlistment. She also handled deferments.

Now for the big one. In my state, there has been, for a hundred years and more, something called the “Married Womens’ Property Act”. By it, women could own property as if they were single even when they were married. A woman could buy and sell land in her own name and without her husband’s consent or even his knowledge. A man couldn’t do that. If he wanted to sell, his wife had to consent to it for it to be valid, even if it was in his name alone, and even if it was his inheritance.

Now, as a practical matter, most assets in a marriage were owned jointly. But it’s not because women were thought inferior. It was because of a thing called “tenancy by the entirety” which shielded joint assets from the creditors of either spouse separately. So naturally most people owned property and accounts that way to protect them. Still do.

We shouldn’t be misled by feminist political propaganda. They think women are fools. They promise some kind of vague benefits but deliver nothing.


#17

Women weren’t forced into being housewives. It was just that if they had children, they were usually free to stay home with them because their husbands could support the whole family, unlike today. But if they wanted to work outside the home, there was nothing stopping them from doing it, and some did.

Now, for nonwhite women, that wasn’t always so, because for a lot of nonwhite men they couldn’t get enough pay for their wives to be able to stay home. It’s still true.

The difference between then and now is that neither white nor nonwhite men make enough money to completely support their families for the most part, so the women have no choice but to work outside the home.

Maybe that’s justice, but frankly, I would like to see wages such that white or nonwhite women, either one, could afford to stay home to raise their children if they want to do it.


#18

Thank you for your response.

Growing up I was told that women were essentially thought of as dimwits in the bad old days. The religious folk were the biggest perpetrators of this oppression. My parents told me this. They were atheists though.


#19

That may have been the case in some places and communities, but it was far from universal; rather, it’s something of a “black legend” circulated by the more radical parts of the feminist camp. I remember reading a book about married women prior to the “Sexual Revolution” in England, and many of them sounded like they were far from oppressed or abused in those days. (Besides, if we look at the statistics on divorce, desertion, domestic violence, restraining orders and the like, things aren’t exactly hunky dory these days. :()


#20

I’m supportive of this article’s conclusions. And honestly, though I’m no longer considered “young,” I do know many young women who value the home in ways that second-wave feminists didn’t. But I’d strongly caution anyone from idealizing the lives of women – or men – in the past. Humans are culturally obsessed with romanticizing the good ol’ days. But it’s foolish to do so in many respects, particularly because in this instance, women often weren’t encouraged to publicize the loneliness, boredom, and frustrations that may have been experienced as a result of being tied to the home. Those in their families and circles may well have seen strong women who were successful at managing impressive faith and family lives. But that also may not be all there was to the story.


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