There’s a story that’s been buzzing around the Internet and blogosphere (love that Spell-check accepts that as a real word) for a few weeks now. No, not the one about unrest in Syria or Ann Romney’s dressage horse not cutting it for the Olympic team. This story focuses on an article published on July 6th on the University of Georgia’s student news site, Red & Black, called “How to find the perfect husband in college.”
The article is a step by step checklist of what a young woman needs to do to snag her MRS degree before leaving campus. It features some quotable lines like “A Southern belle is nothing but a pretty face and pearls without a man to eat her cooking and appreciate her cleaning,” and “If you have flawlessly executed steps one through five, that Tiffany’s ring will undoubtedly be sitting pretty on your finger by the time graduation rolls around.”
I think these lines can only be read with a smirk and the occasional chuckle, but the feminist blogosphere was not amused. Instead of appreciating the satire and using the article as a jumping off point for a discussion of the roles of women in our 2012 society, they used it as proof that we haven’t advanced past 'The Help' and that this is evidence of what college girls, especially those in a sorority, want.
First off, I’m shocked that many people didn’t realize it was satire. I’m not sure if Yankees (disclaimer: I’m from Georgia and yes, we call Northerners “Yankees” sometimes) assumed it was reality because of preconceptions that may have about the South and Southern schools like University of Georgia, or people who don’t choose to participate in (or can’t participate in, if you go to Bowdoin) Greek life and only know the stereotypes, or maybe some people simply misunderstood the tone of the article.
Whatever the reason, commenters all over the Internet were convinced that these steps on securing the perfect
piggy bank husband were what the author truly believed.
Just in case people were still confused, on July 17th, she wrote a follow up, stating that of course the piece is satire and that she never thought people wouldn’t take it as such. She mentions that yes, there are some girls out there who do just want an MRS degree and she wrote the column trying to show how ridiculous this is and the danger girls with that mindset pose to the validity of women in academia. In sum, she stood up to the people who harassed and cyber-bullied her because of what they thought she believed and put to rest any lingering notions that all she’s after is a diamond solitaire.
Personally, I thought the article was funny and enlightening when viewed as a social commentary. Growing up in an equal-opportunities, ‘women, seize your future’ sort of environment, I knew I’d never go to college to secure a husband and bypass the whole ‘job’ thing. At the same time, though, I know plenty of grown women who don’t work outside of their homes.
In our generation, the idea of the homemaker is one fraught with controversy. Most of us have mothers who worked for all or most of our lives. The vast majority of women in the ‘real world’ have jobs and careers. In the current economic climate, there are not as many families that can afford to have just one salary-earner. The women who do choose to stay at home often are unfairly stereotyped as being less ambitious or having it much easier than women who work.
From the standpoint of old school feminists, these stay at home moms are setbacks to gender equality. The feminists of earlier generations worked their tails off to become accepted in the workplace, and are deeply disturbed by women in 2012 deciding not to continue carrying the torch. The message seems to be “We are women and because of what we did, we can have it all. Woe unto those who take themselves out of the rat race!”
While it’s true that modern young women have a lot to thank their forbearers for, I think the issue is more complicated than ‘all women must work’. There is no doubt that there are an enormous number of problems pertaining to gender equality that still need to be addressed and this article has nowhere near enough room to tackle them all. It’s a turbulent time for women in our country, what with Rush Limbaugh calling girls who take birth control sluts, college women dealing with the hook up culture, and the remaining pay gap between genders.
But are housewives the enemies of feminism?
Back to the article… The girls being mocked in it are those who aim no higher than being gleaming trophies on a shelf. In the eyes of traditional feminism, these women are the enemy, as much as men who throw around words like ‘sluts.’ While I certainly disagree with using college as a means to a wedding, I prefer to think of these girls seeking MRS degrees as ‘misguided’ rather than ‘evil.’ I also think that in terms of roles for women in our society, our generation has a lot to figure out. There are women who get hives thinking about being stay at home moms. On the flip side, there are women who would love to spend all their time at home taking care of their family.
I understand the point of the Second Wave feminists- how can we change the workplace if there aren’t women working?- but I think it’s problematic for the goals of feminism to see any other women as the enemy. The diverse nature of the American family is one of the great things about this country and there is value in having children raised with moms who work, moms who stay at home, or have two moms—as it may be. Because, in the end, the ultimate goal of gender equality is for each woman to have the opportunity to choose how she crafts her life.
Not all housewives are trophies.