The following two articles were lifted from the Stepford Wives Organization website. The first article was written by Carolyn Snowden of the Stepford Wives Organization. The counterpoint article was written by a professional career woman named Bidisha, a broadcaster and writer who specializes in arts, culture, and social affairs, including gender, sexuality, and race. Both articles were published back-to-back as part of a relationship debate in the November 2012 issue of the Emirate Women magazine.
Okay, so here is Carolyn's article
You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Unfortunately, the taste of cake – homemade cake – is quickly becoming a distant memory.
Though it is unfair to impose the evolution of a Western woman’s place in marriage, the present multicultural space that is the internet has set standards whereby countries pushing for developed façades find they have little choice but to adopt. If they refuse, they are labeled through ethnocentric eyes as backward and archaic.
The point of departure from the traditional Western housewife begins post-World War II, after women have returned -from the workforce where they filled vacancies traditionally held by then enlisted men– to what was once domestic satisfaction, now discontent. The push to be liberated from the home was credited to Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique
(1963), a book that documented the housewife’s dissatisfaction with her domestic sphere.
Helen B. Andelin supposedly penned Fascinating Womanhood
(1963) as a rebuttal to Freidan’s call to get out of the house. Andelin advised wives instead, to hone their feminine charms, pamper their husbands like kings, and stay happy as grateful homemakers.
Friedan’s marriage ended in divorce after 22 years.
Andelin’s spanned almost 60 years from her wedding day until her husband’s death.
It is important to note that the Women’s Liberation Movement, feminists and conscientious groups around the world continue to work for career choices to be available to women, but the distinction has to be made that being a wife is
a career choice. It’s a full time job. Women are finding out that holding two jobs – one in the workplace, one at home is a near impossible feat, resulting in stress, a newfound discontent, and often, divorce. Instead of doing one thing well, two things are dispatched with mediocrity. It’s a half-baked cake.
The modern working wife – not the modern working single woman- is a specter of only 50 some years, set against the traditional wife of thousands of years, beginning from primitive times in the cave through various periods leading up to today’s homemaker. Sure, Hellenistic women had unconventional freedom, but look what Grecian men came to be known for? In the old days, wives – not women – were considered chattel property; women were traditionally seen as inferior, untrustworthy decision makers, thanks in part to the reputation left by Eve. Throughout all this however, a remarkable agreement was borne out of this disparity.
The traditional wife works to create a haven of peace and tranquility to which her husband can retire after a day’s work. The traditional wife will listen attentively to her husband describe his workday, including how he had to listen attentively to his boss’s ideas for restructuring. The traditional wife takes instruction from her husband much as he takes instruction from his boss out in the workforce. The traditional wife holds her tongue when her thoughts contradict her husband’s, just as he holds his when his thoughts contradict his boss’s. The traditional wife works hard to please her husband and satisfy his wishes much as he works hard to please his boss and satisfy his wishes.
Modern women will demand: “why can’t my husband take the role of the traditional wife and listen to my problems when I come home from work?” Let’s be honest. No woman would respect a stay-at-home husband while she slots away to pay the bills. It’s the difference of the sexes from time immemorial. The asymmetry of gender roles is the mystery that makes sex steamy and being a man or a woman mysterious. That’s why men are expected by women to keep working and fulfilling their traditional roles as breadwinner while women demand liberation to chase their dreams.
The modern husband, on the other hand, has been dulled by the constant grind of politically correct cries to the extent that he is led to believe he can do without the traditional wife. He returns to an empty home, bears constant contention from an equal, who has been seduced away from the achievement of a union, to the achievement of the self. The problem is that once he realizes that he can get by with so little, he really stands nothing to gain from staying married. As a reformed bachelor, he can return to an empty home, meet no resistance to his wishes, live free of deprecating remarks. If he wants sex, he can opt for one night stands, or call a prostitute.
This, is the true realm of a man’s world. Where it is still socially stigmatizing for women to experience anonymous sex, it is the oldest profession in a male domain. That is why books like Marabel Morgan’s The Total Woman
(1973) to the recent Seks Islam Perangi Yahudi Untuk Kembalikan Seks Islam Kepada Dunia
(2011) by Hatijah Aam, urges women to acquire and excel in both homemaking and the lascivious skills of women for hire.
The modern marriage faces the ever-looming threat of internet porn. These days, men can actually stray without leaving the home. Studies have shown that men who watch pornography are more likely to have extramarital affairs. It is up to the attentive wife to reduce her chances of being cheated upon. She does this by giving in to her husband’s carnal desires. Even if she can’t stop his online participation, she can at least fulfill his fantasies and keep his imagination from wandering. The absentee wife by contrast, exhausted from a day’s work, or even still at work overtime, will have no such opportunity to keep her marriage from disintegrating.
Fundamental Muslims and Christians alike, anachronistic sects like the Amish and Fundamental Mormons, the newly formed Obedient Wives Club, and the Stepford Wives Organization have always supported the traditional wife, her submission to her husband’s wishes and her desire to please and gratify him. Contrary to popular modern opinion which champions the self, the partnership of one who works to provide for a home with another who works to furnish that home, is the most proactive approach to improving the chances of making a marriage last. Not only does she create an environment where a man feels comfortable, needed, appreciated, revered, and ultimately recharged to face another day of work among strangers, she also provides all the perks he would get if he were a single man on the prowl. In other words, she gives him no reason whatsoever to stray from the home. It’s a tall order to fill, a far cry from the scoffing frowns she is met with when she meekly announces she is just a housewife.
The truth is, there are no foolproof approach to keeping a marriage intact. One can follow all the rules, take all the necessary precautions, and still end up single again. Between the chaos of modern relationships and the increasingly trigger-happy tendency to divorce, a diligent woman in the profession of maintaining a happy, sound marriage will fortify her marriage by reducing interferences to her career goal.
And here is Bidisha's rebuttal
There is no person more boring, or bored, than a stay-at-home wife. I would recommend such a role only for women who have small brains, small hopes, small potential and small personalities. But I know no such women. What I do know is that 5,000 years of inequality, machismo, conditioning, intimidation and oppression have resulted in this strange, stunted creature – the surrendered wife – who finds some kind of sick nobility in grovelling to a man. The wretch believes that her highest virtue lies in giving the greatest attention to the smallest things: the dustpan, the oven, the crib, the sink – and the contents of her husband’s underpants.
The surrendered wife deserves our sympathy. Without realising it, she has been subjected to a deep cultural, social and political lobotomy, internalised the propaganda that says she is naturally destined for wife-work according to her innate capacities, and has emerged competent but wholly unrebellious. She is good at organising the home, judicious with her children’s upbringing, efficient about the family’s comings and goings, savagely chic when entertaining. But she is dependent for her survival – and that makes her submissive. If she doesn’t please her lord and master, she has nothing to fall back on. In order to survive, she must turn herself into a giver in the bedroom, a maid on the landing, a cook in the kitchen, a nanny in the nursery, a secretary at the desk, a housekeeper in the pantry and a hostess in the lounge. No matter what reflected status she may gain from her husband, at the core of it she herself is merely a geisha: there to serve. She exists to be exploited for her sexual, social and physical labour but, as a dependent subordinate with no power of her own, she can be bullied, hurt, disparaged or replaced whenever her owner chooses.
When a woman’s scope is reduced to the four walls of her home, her soul shrinks accordingly. Her frustration, boredom and bitterness are sublimated into obsession with petty surface details, extreme self-objectification, obsessive shopping and the bullying of staff. Because she is isolated, she doesn’t have the resources to fight the source of her oppression – that is, her husband and the entire macho ethos that keeps her in her place – and so she transfers her rage onto other women, satisfying her insecurity by making small-minded, insecure, sniping judgements. She begins to police other women’s behaviour, perhaps even her own daughters’ behaviour, punishing them if they do not conform. This is understandable and it’s what oppressed groups have always done. It is easier to lash out laterally than face the reality of oppression; easy to submit to misogynist ‘tradition’, hard to fight such entrenched views, especially when they are backed up by the threat of violence.
I believe women deserve much more than a life of service. That is not a life, it is merely an existence in which all of our resources are used up for others’ benefit. That said, the hardest and most profound free work we do – bringing up children, caring for elderly relatives, keeping communities together peacefully – should be acknowledged, honoured and credited instead of being assumed, expected, unpaid, undervalued and taken advantage of.
Instead of women judging each other, or themselves, they should judge men. We deserve to go into the world to fulfil our potential without being leered at, opposed, judged, sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, followed or abused. We deserve to be treated equally as minds and personalities, not as objects. A woman has a basic human right to be seen as a person in her own right, an individual, and not a man’s wife, someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, someone’s sister or someone’s neighbour, with all the labour and duties that entails. And when we come home unmolested from our studies, our work or visiting friends and family, we will do precisely half of the work required, and the man should do the other half. Since a man makes half a baby, he should do half the childcare. Since he makes half the dirt, he should do half the cleaning. And since he eats half the food, he should do half of all the kitchen work.
Men have killed each other in great wars, put other men on the moon, created vast architectural structures and tiny electronic circuits, and constructed complex governments in which men help other men achieve wealth, status and power. Women have done so too, of course, but their names are erased from history and their contribution ignored, belittled, downgraded or sidelined. Men have developed intricate religions, laws and courts in which, year after year, men who abuse women walk free using a variety of excuses. Are you telling me that Man, this great and complex creation, in all his genius and abusiveness and hypocrisy, is not capable of wiping a baby’s bottom?
Being a surrendered wife is dull, repetitive, unjust, unfulfilling and submissive. Obedient women don’t make history, they merely clean it and furnish it for men to inhabit, and are not credited afterwards. Never forget that surrender is the very last resort of heroes, warriors and adventurers. It is easy to be a slave because you know what your fate is: to be a slave forever. But that is no life. Women are too interesting to be hidden from the world, too intelligent to be barred from contributing in full, too witty to be silenced in public, too dynamic to be held back from the outside world and too strong to be denied.
So, who wins the debate?