50, 60 years ago, society had a pretty firm definition for a woman’s role in society. Women’s job was to be pretty and helpful. Sure, they might go to school, they might even work. But these jobs weren’t about their personal success- No! They were means to an end- to finding a husband, to helping the family. Selflessness was a highly prized virtue for women, as was caring. Women were to care for the children, care for the house. They were to be “good wives.” Don’t believe me? There were “How-To” guides for being the ideal that included “Be happy to see him” and “A good wife knows her place.”
Let’s not kid ourselves- this life of selflessness and caring by no means assured happiness for the woman of the 50′s and 60′s, nor did it keep said husband happy or from cheating with his secretary, (Donald Draper, anyone?) But in those days the message was clear: sit down and shut up- this is where you women belong.
In todays’ world women have options.Women have more capabilities, more choices available available to them than they did 60 years ago. Yet it seems to me that women have not yet accepted, not yet embraced that power. Instead there seems to be a clear longing for yester-year, a prevalent cultural message (perpetuated by the choices we women make) that “Happiness is marriage and a family and the caring of both.”
The need for marriage begins for women before they even walk down the aisle. They collect bridal magazines, watch shows on the perfect day and dream of an eventbthat cant possibly live up to their expectations. For girls longing to walk down the aisle, popular wedding forum Brides.com, provides an entire support group for those ywomen who’s men have not yet popped the question. Over 7,000 messages on 642 threads bemoan the frustration women find as they wait for the man to ask them to get married. Women talk about 8 year relationships with out a proposal, counting down, setting deadlines. They ask other unengaged, unhappy women, why on earth the man of their dreams hasn’t proposed. They talk plans of the perfect dress and the perfect ring, when they obviously haven’t found the perfect relationship.
I see the same type pattern in the world of Mommy Bloggers/Fashion Blogger. Women post endlessly on what they wore today, or what their favorite new recipes is and how they made their house feel like a “home” with a craft project. One article sites as many as 42 million female internet users with as much as 43% seeking advice and community in bloggers.
Even more stunning is that industries have taken notice of this phenomenon. PR professionals, (myself included) pitch to them, wanting both their endorsement and the attention of the audience at their disposal. They are featured on TJ Maxx Commercials, invited to insider fashion week events and given products to review and discuss. The business industry is paying attention to the buying power and trends of these women who are taking pride, and finding success, in their decidedly female roles.
While the “Why-Won’t-He-Propose” bitch fest, signifies, to me, a total relinquishing of power, the female blogger phenomenon is a little trickier. On one hand, the power of women, to brand, to market themselves, to find a sense of community where we can learn from each other, says a lot about our awareness and abilities. On the other hand, why is it that where we are seeing a boom in women’s voices, is in the same cliched areas that we are quick to mock in the “How-To” guide. Are women sharing recipes and talking shopping for themselves? Or are they coming up with meals so as to “have dinner ready on time for his return” and to “look fresh on his arrival”?
I can’t help but question how we, as women, are using our voice. If we have the skills, the numbers, and the time (look at the number of Mommy Bloggers alone) why aren’t we using that voice and that audience for more important things than how to turn our old bra into an evening bag? (Could I make this up? No.) Love fashion, love your kids, share tips and trends. But don’t forget, that as easily as we can talk about those roles, we can also be talking about our role in society.
In 1950, women weren’t supposed to have a voice. It’s 2011 and we are fully aware that woman can do more. Knowledge, influence, is power we don’t seem to be sure what to do with it.