How the Emergence of Equal Job Opportunity for Women Is Causing the Disappearence of Housewifery
Both “American Marriage in Transition” by Andrew J. Cherlin and “The Satisfaction of Housewifery and Motherhood” by Terry Martin Hekker discuss the issue of society’s acceptance of changing relationship roles; while the authors may disagree on whether this change is positive, ultimately the ideas of independence and a changing division of labor are central to their articles. Cherlin gives a detailed analysis of the American marriage evolution, whereas Hekker narrates her own experiences of housewifery in an era celebrating the liberation of women pursuing careers. The changing of times leads not only to an effect on women in the workforce, but also portrays how housewives’ reputations are degraded in response to these working women.
Cherlin introduces “American Marriage in Transition” with his theory of two cultural trends that alter the marriage stereotype. The first is an elevation in love and romanticism that occurs at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The second contains a phrase coined as expressive individualism; it is the belief that “each person has a unique core of feeling and intuition that should unfold or be expressed if individuality is to be realized” (Cherlin 47). Key results of these trends include an increase in wage labor, rising standards of living, and married women entering the workforce (Cherlin 47). Cherlin states that this change in expression also causes spouses to draw gratification from playing their marriage roles correctly, a sort of satisfaction that occurs in many housewives. Hekker, in particular, shares these feelings with her audience in her own article.
As a full-time homemaker and mother, Hekker informs readers that due to the changes marriage underwent in her early life, the occupation that her grandmother, mother, and herself chose is under fire. Supposedly, as women are now striving for more respectable roles in society and in their marriages, they are leaving behind those who remain steadfast with tradition. She states that she once hoped to be vindicated by history, but has since abandoned hope of gaining any reverence from the general public (Hekker 37). With fewer than sixteen percent of American wives who choose not to pursue a job or career field, Hekker estimates that, with the current rate of decline, in less than eight years she will remain the last housewife in the country (Hekker 37). To express the disdain she feels with these statistics and negative attitudes aimed toward her, Hekker includes several sarcastic comments, giving comic relief to a serious matter. She argues that people may find her “so unique that I must be put behind sealed glass like the Book of Kells” (Hekker 37). Hekker has achieved her own sort of vindication at this point in her argument, showing critics that she is aware of them and not bothered by their judgments.
Further developing an argument, Hekker introduces readers to the long line of women whom have shared the same satisfaction as she, participating in the duties of housewifery. Hekker is unable to prove that these women were truly happy with their work but insists that if they were unfulfilled in their lifetimes, they were unaware (Hekker 37). She ponders over the fact that they may have been ignorant, because “no one had explained to them that the only work worth doing is that for which you get paid” (Hekker 37). While culture has evolved, she still appreciates her duties as a housewife and puts blame on the changing ideals of marriage and labor independence as to why she is being degraded. Here, Hekker’s personal perspective on the issue aids in proving Cherlin’s theories of change; if these changes had not occurred, she would not receive the negative attention today.
Returning to “American Marriage in Transition,” Cherlin states that before the major shift in American culture, marriage was considered the only way to receive a full family life (Cherlin 47). After the 1960s, the push to marry becomes less vital than in recent years. Women who see the fulfilling relationship titles held by their parents before the 1960 time period have the same expectations for their own marriages. Ultimately, this implies that less serious relationships do not have as much of an emphasis on the full family life ideology, but women growing up in the pre 1960 era tend to want to keep the same traditions held by their parents. This group of women is the same that Hekker falls into, keeping the emphasis of a full family life in a time that does not openly promote it.
Overall, the articles are successful in proving a central claim; the changing dynamic of women entering the workforce has left a permanent mark on American society’s view of marriage and housewifery. A sense of independence in female spouses has, in essence, transformed century long traditions and left those who believe in those traditions far behind. When the articles converge, Hekker brings to life the theories and assumptions held by Cherlin, therefore creating a lens for the reader to further comprehend the central claim. Ultimately, the combined articles imply a single statement; in a world of ever changing societal norms, housewifery is now a scarcity that has lost traction, with little hope of gaining it back.
Cherlin, Andrew J. “American Marriage in Transition.” Jessup, Christine R. Farris and
Deanna M. Writing and Reading for ACP Composition. 2nd ed., Pearson Learning Solutions, n.d. 46-50. Print.
Hekker, Terry Martin. “The Satisfactions of Housewifery and Motherhood.” Jessup,
Christine R. Farris and Deanna M. Writing and Reading for ACP Composition. 2nd ed., Pearson Learning Solutions, n.d. 36-38. Print.