Donna: Mary, have you ever noticed that when you get on a serious subject with men, all they do is adopt a superior attitude? Mary: I know! You start a serious discussion with a boy and he acts as if you should be at home baking a cake. -The Donna Reed Show
A while back, I posted a video about Betty Friedan and said that the only thing wrong with it was that it used pieces of an episode The Donna Reed Show as an example of the oppression of woman in the 1950s. Now, never mind that Donna Reed was one of the first female executive producers in American television as well as a prolific anti-war and environmental activist, the particular episode that this person took clips from was called “Just A Housewife” and I believe it to be a very important part of pre-second-wave feminist popular culture.
In the episode Donna Stone (played by Donna Reed) encounters a radio show called “Housewives Corner” where women are interviewed as they are shopping at the supermarket. When the interviewer patronizingly asks the women what they do for a living they answer: “Oh, I’m just a housewife.” Well, Donna is livid. Just a housewife! A woman who stays at home to take care of her family is far more than just a housewife. Donna begins a small but powerful crusade to remove this word and establish that no woman is “just” anything.Of course the men are upset that the women of Hilldale (where the Stone family lives) are realizing their own power and some people just never seem to get what Donna is talking about (real world, much) – but many of these local 50’s housewives are inspired by Donna’s words and she does actually make a difference.
(Donna Reed is my Heroine.)
You can watch the episode here; I think it has a great message and is still relevant today. My mother was a stay-at-home-mom* (though now she has her own business, of which ridiculously proud.) for most of mine and my brother’s childhood. Whenever we had to fill out forms that listed our parents occupation we were always stuck as to what to put for my mom.
Housewife/Homemaker/Stay-at-Home-Mom. Nothing fit her. They sounded degrading to me. My mom was (is) so much more than that. This woman is so smart, and creative, and witty. I mean, my mom could be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company if she wanted to be, but she chose to do something else (something that many would say is equally as challenging -especially if you’ve met me and my brother) and I can do nothing, but respect that.
Some of you may think “well, it’s the 21st century, I can understand where a woman who doesn’t have a professional career might be judged, but that didn’t happen in the 1950s.” Oh really? Doesn’t Donna’s husband chastise some woman because she didn’t take her son to the doctors and all she does is sit around the house?
A person that works hard 24/7 to take care of something, build something up, keep something running, cares about something isn’t “just” anything – especially if they’re not getting paid.