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You’re Nothing like Your Mother except You Are

justouttheasylum's picture

                                                                           Asia Gobourne
                                                             Due: Friday, December 4, 2009
                    GNST 290: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Gender & Sexuality (Web Paper 4)
                       Title: You’re Nothing like Your Mother except You Are (Final Project Proposal)



         While the role of women in society has transformed radically since the generation of our mothers, I believe every feminist will agree that gender inequality remains an issue today. In saying this, I do not wish to discredit the work done by our founding feminists. Without their perseverance, my right to vote would be nonexistent; my anticipated career options would be limited to that of homemaker and; my voice would be silenced. Acknowledging this, women still don’t make as much as men, we are still expected to be the prominent caretaker in the household and our bodies are continuously sexualized in the media. We often blame the patriarchal system for our less prominent roles in society and it does indeed play a large part. However, I had to ask, are men completely to blame for the reinforcement of traditional gender roles or do we women, in any way, also reify them? Continued thinking led me to question not only how women may reinforce traditional gender roles but also, how new wave feminist thinking degraded women who chose those conventional roles.
         It was this inquiry that shaped my final project idea. It occurred to me that women do reinforce their own gender inequalities and that some feminist thinking prefers the independent, career-oriented woman to the caretaker. As much as we like to think we’re different, that we are independent women, that men are the source of our problem, I can’t travel very far in that thought bubble. While I agree that women’s role in society shouldn’t be limited to caretaker, I do believe that women should have the right to choose how to live their life. Thus, for my final project, I plan to create a pamphlet (title subject to change) that satirically illustrates some of the discrimination imposed by women on women as well as the idea that we haven’t changed as much from our mothers as we like to believe.
         I will begin by looking at historical texts to draw as accurate a picture as possible of the 1950s housewife. It will include some of the daily activities and expected roles of, for many of us, our mothers. I will then juxtapose this with the image of today’s independent woman.  Magazine articles from the 1950s will be read in conjunction with present magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Glamour. My efforts will show a surprising recurrence of traditional roles of women being reinforced by women. In addition, I will explore popular media to uncover moments where women are their own worst enemy. By creating a pamphlet filled with a variety of short articles centered around my idea, I hope to demonstrate that in order for women to improve their role in society, we must first improve how we see and treat each other.
Sample Articles
A. Michelle Obama in Cosmo Magazine – The First Lady of the United States was in Cosmopolitan magazine, not for her career highlights or her intellect, as the independent woman would have preferred, but instead for her workout routine. Apparently, Michelle Obama’s toned arms are of more importance than her political role in society. Women in the 1950s were also expected to have a certain appearance.  Thus, even someone as intelligent and independent as Michelle Obama will still be reduced to her desirable body parts. Just like her mother.
B. Relationship Advice in Cosmo Magazine – One of the dating tips offered by Cosmopolitan magazine was:  “placing your hand casually on his arm while you’re sitting together or leaning in when he drops you off will encourage him to go for it” (Azodi 144). The modern woman likes to think of herself as in control. Her mother was subservient and passive; she isn’t. However, the modern woman also wrote an article in which to get the man she wants, she must encourage him but wait for him to make the ultimate move. That would in fact make her submissive. Guess she’s just like mom after all.
C. Women’s Views on Female Sexuality – In the 1950s, women were expected to be chaste. Clearly, not much has changed since we still hear the words, from women, “slut”, “whore” and “ho”. While we may think that we’re more evolved than our mothers generation, we degraded other women by their sexual choices all the while reinforcing that women should be chaste. I suppose we should start playing bridge now.

Annotated Bibliography

  • Azodi, Mina. “How to Get Michelle Obama’s Arms.” Cosmopolitan Jun. 2009: 144.

Cosmopolitan is a magazine that caters to the female audience. Each issue discusses fashion, beauty, health, work and relationships. While the articles cater to today’s independent woman, many of the articles express a 1950s patriarchal thinking. In the article chosen, the author instructs the reader of at home exercises that can be done to achieve the arm definition of First lady Michelle Obama. This serves as an excellent example of how independent women are still like the women of generations passed in its upholding of female beauty.

  • Matthews, Glenna. Just a Housewife: The Rise and Fall of Domesticity in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

This text will provide insight into the specific roles of the housewife in both the home and American society. This will be used to provide a historical context of the 1950s housewife. With this background, I hope to juxtapose it against the modern woman and show that our actions, thoughts and ideas haven’t evolved as much as we had hoped.

  • Walker, Nancy, A. Women’s magazines, 1940-1960: gender roles and the popular press . Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1998.

This work contains articles from women’s magazines in the 40s, 50s and 60s. This work will serve to further create an image of the 1950s housewife. More so, these articles can be read in conjunction with the magazines of our era to elucidate just how much women’s role in society has changed.



holsn39's picture


This is a great idea, I think it's really important for every individual to look at how they contribute to their own oppression. Be careful when you talk about "patriarchal society" because I think you're maybe giving the term some inplications that don't need to be there. You said "We often blame the patriarchal system for our less prominent roles in society and it does indeed play a large part. However, I had to ask, are men completely to blame for the reinforcement of traditional gender roles or do we women, in any way, also reify them?" and this makes us assume that blaming the patriarchal society = blaming men which I don't believe is true. I think the society itself and all people involved including women reinforce the partiarchy and represent it. So you're argument here maybe should say lets look at 'who's a part of the patricarchy' instead of 'it's not just men that bring us down'.  The reason I think it could be important to reword this is because I think its important to look at patriarchy that oppresses women as not just men's fault, and if you set it aside and say we're going to look at something other than our patriarchal society than people wont able to take that fight (down with the patriarchy!) and redifine their approach to include changing EVERYONE's contribution to it's existence.

Other than that, great idea!!!

justouttheasylum's picture

That was excellent feedback.

That was excellent feedback. I suppose I should clarify. What I really wanted to address with my final project was the growing number of women who don't realize the effect their own thoughts and actions have on our lessened position in society. Of course, I believe everyone has a role in the second-rate citizenship of women but this was supposed to have an activism element. A meeting with Anne made me uncover a few of the reasons why people change. For me, my top two reasons for changing is when I either see what I am doing is not working anymore (waiting until the last minute to do work) or some unknown truth is revealed to me (people who sleep 4-8 hours live longer). So I wanted to make a pamphlet that almost ridiculed the behavior of some women such that it made the reader want to change. I wanted to start with women because freedom doesn't come from external liberation, it arises from self-liberation.

Now I'm sounding like Mandela. Anyway, I understand your point. I shall make an effort to addess both our goals. :-D