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(46) There are many aspects of the practice and ideology of patriarchy in the domestic sphere that do not directly pertain to sexism, the topic previously considered. We consider four of them -- the socialization of children and teenagers into traditional gendered ways of acting; the patriarchal division of labour and sex/gender in the traditional householdhouse; the practice of the family wage in which men control the sources of household income on which women and children are totally dependent; and, the reverse practice of misogyny in which the union portrayed women as attacking and abusing men in the household.


(47) During the 1950s and early 1960s, the RWDSU published a large quantity of cartoons depicting the socialization of boys into traditional male roles and girls into traditional female roles. Young girls were pictured baking cookies, dressing in their mothers' clothes, or taking care of their younger brothers and sisters, while young boys were portrayed as learning how to fight or how to demolish houses, like their fathers in their house-wrecking businesses. FN_60 In 1954, the RWDSU gave a prize to a male union member for his snapshot of a little girl washing her doll, with the caption "Women's Work Is Never Done." FN_ 61 Even the material published on adolescents reflected this gendered socialization. Male adolescents were dating young women on the basis of their ability to bake potato salads; teenage boys were pictured as owning and driving cars, with teenage girls the passengers; young men were going off to college to become doctors while their girlfriends promised to wait for them rather than going to college themselves. FN_62 From 1962 onward, the RWDSU stopped publishing much of this material, but did not replace it with alternatives emphasizing the socialization of boys into traditional women's domestic chores, or the socialization of girls and young women into non-traditional and highly-skilled male occupations. However, it did start publishing material emphasizing non-traditional roles for adult women.


Household Menu Graphic

(48) Between the 1950s and mid-1970s, the RWDSU published an immense quantity of material in the form of cartoons and feature articles that lent positive support to the traditional patriarchal family and household. Eleven themes recurred in this material.

i) Gendered Division of Labour

(49) The union presented its readers with a very traditional and rigid gendered division of household labour. Women were always depicted as cooking, cleaning, shopping, and taking care of children; to the extent that they did 'any' household work, men were portrayed as fixing things and doing outside work around the house. Women were also seen as incompetent doing 'male' tasks, such as repairing broken household equipment. FN_63

ii) Men's Refusal To Do 'Women's Work'

(50) Men were pictured as incompetent or unwilling to take on traditional women's tasks, such as cooking or childcare. In a Tillers' cartoon: Maw was sick in bed one day, but felt that "I should cook dinner for the hired men...". Paw offered to do the housework, and told his fieldhands that he could not work in the field that day because he had to cook. But he later confessed to Maw that the fieldhands ate dinner in town. FN_64 It is unclear from the cartoon whether the fieldhands refused to eat Paw's cooking because they thought he was a bad cook, or whether Paw told them that they should eat in town because he could not cook. In a 1967 cartoon: a husband is resentful because he has to get up with his infant child during the night while his wife sleeps in bed; he complains to her: "Yeah, but you only carried him for nine months." FN_65

iii) `Nagging' Wife

(51) Wives had to 'nag' their husbands to perform minimal household chores, which were often in traditional male areas such as repairing leaking faucets. In the Tillers' cartoons, Maw is frequently depicted as 'nagging' Paw to do household chores which he does not want to do. In one cartoon, Maw entices Paw into the house with a blueberry pie, but refuses to give him a piece until he repairs a table. Paw complains: "Before marriage they bake pies to get you to propose, and afterward to get you to do chores!" After he finishes his repair job, he sits down at the kitchen table and laments: "Now that I'm in the trap, may I eat the bait." FN_66

iv) Union Lessons for Housewives

(52) The union published a considerable amount of material designed to provide helpful hints to union wives to become better and more efficient homemakers. In one major article, entitled "Lo, the Poor Housewife", Jane Goodsell counselled housewives that they need not be perfectionists but could still do a 'decent job'. It was perfectly understandable for housewives, given the impossibility of doing all the required tasks repeatedly (because of the frequent messes created by various household members), not to completely live up to the golden ideal of the perfectly neat and clean household. Goodsell almost seemed to be forstalling a more complete revolt by union women doing any housework at all. Many other articles published from the 1950s to the 1970s gave advice to women in how they could become more effective and efficient homemakers in such areas as cooking, shopping, home repairs, gardening, washing clothes, and ironing. FN_67

v) Food and Feminine Beauty

(53) Women's egos were based on compliments received from men about the quality of their meals, their physical beauty, and their appearance. Men often used compliments about their wives' physical beauty to extract high-quality meals from them. In a Tillers' cartoon: Paw compliments Maw -- "You're prettier than the day we got married! Each passing year makes you more glamorous!" But guessing what he wants, she replies: "That pie you smell baking is for the Ladies' Aid social tonight." FN_68 Women became frustrated with men's greater interest in their cooking than their physical looks, as illustrated in another Tillers' cartoon: Hunk tells Lorna that she is "just like a breath of spring...", but then asks, "Could I have a piece of the apple pie I smelled baking?" Lorna runs sobbing to her room: "Ten dollars an once and all he smelled was apple pie!" FN_69

vi) Gender of Cars

(54) Men were the experts at driving cars; women were incompetent -- they were always crashing into hydro poles, or were never able to park properly. In an item titled "Journey's End", two women, who were manoevering their car into a tight parking space, gave up after a valiant struggle when the driver shut off the motor and said to her companion, 'This is close enough. We can walk to the curb from here.' FN_70 In a 1967 cartoon, a man becomes angry with his wife and daughter for always hitting the door and side of a two-car garage, especially since there was never a second car to get in the way. FN_71

vii) Women's Dependence on Men

(55) Women were not able to live alone without men; when husbands were away, women pined for the day of their return. In 1960 Jane Goodsell titled one of her columns, "Hurry Home". A woman, whose husband is away, misses him and wants him back to start her car on cold mornings, check for burglars at night, have someone to cook for, and to figure out the mistakes in her bank book. She concludes that "...any household is better with a man in it. And I can hardly wait for mine to get home." Accompanying the article were two sketches: one showing the woman kissing her husband's car, and the other one showing herself with an open arm, greeting her returning husband. FN_72

viii) Women As Breeding Machines

(56) Women's purpose in life was to bear children. As one male rank and file RWDSU member wrote: "What a wonderful tribute to women! We sometimes forget the sublime, ethereal quality of women. We sometimes forget the grandeur of giving birth. The awe and magnificent aspects of the delivery of children. Is there anything as inspiring as a woman breeding another being...women's most important role in life." FN_73

ix) Women Working Outside the Home

(57) Women could work outside the home only if it did not interfere with their domestic duties. If domestic tasks did not get done, women were obliged to quit their jobs. The 'RWDSU RECORD' reprinted an interview with the anthropologist Margaret Mead who reflected prevailing societal views of the early 1960s. She argued that women could work outside the home only if their children were properly cared for at home. In the absence of day care, this meant female relatives. Mead suggested that it was more appropriate for women to work outside the home in times of affluence than scarcity since they would not take jobs away from men. When children are small, Mead seemed to think that women should not work outside. Where women did work outside the home, they should not be in 'dangerous' jobs that might "mutilate" them and interfere with their child-bearing functions. She saw the double day of labour as a potential threat to marriages; where women suffered under this double labour, the solution was to quit their jobs outside the home. The only exception to this were cases where women had special talents needed in the labour force. Mead thought that men should be expected to 'help out' at home only if women's domestic load was onerous or children were small. Otherwise, she said "I think we're asking too many men today to do too much housework in homes where wives aren't working." FN_74

x) Threat to the Traditional Family

(58) In the 1950s and early 1960s, there was a sense that the traditional family might be under some kind of threat which the RWDSU seemed anxious to fend off. In 1957, it published an article entitled, "Father is Now the Weaker Sex", by Jane Goodsell. She lamented the passing of the traditional gendered division of labour in the home, and recalled the "good ole days" when everyone knew their place: "Men were men...they divided their time between home, work and some purely male hangout, such as the club, the corner poolroom or the tavern. When they arrived home from work, they expected to (and did) find dinner ready on the dot, and the household quiet and peaceful. The younger children were fed, bathed and ready to receive a goodnight kiss." The man did not have to play on the floor with his children, nor did he have to cook. "He sat down at the head of the table, tucked in his napkin and served notice that he was ready for his dinner. ... He was a man, a father and head of his household." On the other hand, women, calling themselves 'ladies', also knew their place: "They spend most of their time in the home, with brief excursions outside to shop or visit other ladies. ...they didn't wear clothes that made them look like Spanish bullfighters or Chinese coolies or dirt farmers. They wore dresses. They took pride in keeping their silver polished and their stitches dainty, not in their tennis backhands or their knowledge of politics or ability to shingle a roof." FN_75 In 1961, the RWDSU printed an article calling for the stabilization of the family in view of its breakdown manifested in rising divorces, alcoholism, drug addiction, delinquency rates and admissions to mental hospitals. FN_76

xi) Alimony

(59) This was a source of contention. The union published material suggesting that men were being exploited by ex-wives asking for exorbitant amounts of alimony. In 1958, three cartoons, titled "Labour Oddities", were juxtaposed, hinting that capitalists and wives were in league exploiting men and husbands. One cartoon showed a wife demanding from her helpless husband an alimony pegged to the monthly rise in the cost of living; over them hung a chart showing the rise in the cost of living. Beside this cartoon was another one, showing a husband with empty pockets complaining that the Treasury Department cannot print money as fast as his ex-wife can spend it. Below both cartoons was a third one, showing a chart in the rise of profits with a corporate stockholder collecting his increased dividends. FN_77


(60) By the latter 1970s and during the 1980s, the RWDSU ceased publishing much of this kind of material endorsing patriarchal practices of sex/gender divisions in the home, but did not replace it with alternatives extolling households with non-traditional or equal gendered divisions of labour.


Family Wage Graphic

(61) From the 1950s to the 1970s, the family wage was deeply engrained in the ideological practices of the RWDSU. The family wage is defined as family income dependent solely on the wages of the husband and father; the wife does not work outside the home; she is completely dependent on her husband's wages for meeting the expenses of the entire household, such as food and clothing. Five interrelated themes recurred in the material published by the union:

i) Male Control

(62) Men as husbands and fathers, but never women as mothers or wives, controlled the family finances which were dependent solely on their wages. It was the responsibility of the wife to keep within the household budget as determined by the size of her husban d's wages. FN_78 This was not always easy for the woman caught between a limited income from her husband and rising costs of running the household, as suggested in this 1969 union cartoon.

ii) Female Irrationality

(63) Women could not be trusted with money; in contrast to rational and calm men, they were depicted as erratic and irrational spendthrifts who, if left to their own devices, would bankrupt the household. For example, in a 1956 union story of a husband on a shopping expedition with his wife looking for a blouse, "...thirty feet inside the store his wife glimpses a herd of women crowded around a counter. Her nostrils dilate and her eyes gleam. Whatever it is they are selling, it must be a bar gain to collect such a crowd, and she wants some. Her husband, looking as though he is trying not to scream, steers her toward the blouse department." FN_79 In another cartoon, a husband is physically carrying away his wife who is trying to offer money to a merchant peering out of his store window, trying to sell her a fur coat.

iii) Distribution

(64) The man of the household allots small and controlled amounts of money to his wife to spend either on the household or on herself. FN_80 In a 1967 cartoon, one woman actually boast, perhaps a bit sarcastically, to her friend that husbands can come in handy as sources of money for shopping purposes.

iv) Gifts

(65) Since the man controls family finances, he was always depicted as buying dresses, coats and "other gifts" for his wife; wives were hardly ever shown purchasing items for their husbands.

v) Allowance

(66) Daughters and sons were given a weekly allowance, not by the woman of the household, but by the man who theoretically kept a tight rein over its size and distribution. FN_82

Family Wage Conclusion

(67) Despite the historical evidence of union support for the 'family wage', by the 1970s women were more often depicted as controlling their own money, although the concept of the family wage in the union never died.


(68) In an apparent reversal of patriarchy, in its early history the RWDSU often viewed men as dominated and oppressed by women. It repeatedly portrayed women as physically beating and dominating their husbands -- not men beating and dominating their wives. In a 1957 "Daffynitions" cartoon, a physically large wife, posing in a domineering manner, strangled her small husband around the neck with one hand while her other hand rested on her hip. FN_83 In a 1961 cartoon, "Life With the Rimples", a wife gives her husband, who is looking in the refrigerator for food before dinner, a two-handed swing across his buttocks with the broom he just bought her; the force of the blow propels him into the refrigerator. FN_84

(69) Possibly as a response to misconceived physical assaults on men, there appeared an early distinct pattern of misogyny, or woman-hating. In a 1959 cartoon, a man named a junk boat used for hauling scrap after his wife, without her realizing that this was not out of love for her. FN_85 In a Tiller's cartoon of the same year, Maw complains at Paw across the breakfast table that her friend, Mrs. Frump, is lonely and mad because "she says she might as well not have a husband! He eats breakfast behind the morning paper and never talks to her!" Paw responds: "Women! Grumble-Mumble-Grumble!" FN_86

(70) The hostility toward women often took the form of negative attitudes toward mothers-in-law: in a 1961 Ticklers cartoon, a woman says to her mother on the phone: "George is right here, mother. He's patiently waiting to talk to you!" But George is standing by the phone, tense, with a grimace on his face. FN_87

(71) From 1962 onward, the RWDSU seems to have dropped the themes of husband assault and misogyny, but did not take up the theme of wife assault. If this can be characterized as 'emergent feminism', the emphasis was more on 'emergent' than 'feminism', or on an absence rather than a presence.

Domestic Menu Graphic | Domestic Time Graphic

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