Breaking Out of the Constraints of the Housewife

Breaking Out of the Constraints of the Housewife

Ever heard of the feminine mystique? It was a book written by Betty Friedan, about the idea of the “happy housewife.” She talks about the importance of women in the domestic sphere and how they should be allowed to break out of this traditional role of housewife and mother, and be able to really enjoy their lives and be able to be sexual and happy and not confined to the domestic sphere. She took a survey of women and the results were that many of them were unhappy with their lives as housewives. She wanted to write an article about it, but no magazine would publish something so controversial. She did not let that stop her though. She wrote an entire book and made sure it was published, so that way people would begin to notice the atrocities in our societal norms.



One of the Coolest Women in History

One of the Coolest Women in History

This is Marie Curie, for those unaware she is one of the coolest women in history. She is known for her work on radioactivity. She was also the first woman in history to win the Nobel Prize, the only woman in history to win in two fields, and the only person in history to win in multiple sciences. That’s pretty incredible! And as if that’s not cool enough she also was the first female professor at the University of Paris. So she’s all around pretty amazing, and believe it or not she was also friends with the Einstein’s and went on vacation with them. She was definitely one inspiring woman, not only for women during that era, but even women today.


Where do Men Fit In to This?

I’m not gonna lie to you – When I was put into a group with three girls who had chosen feminism as our blog’s overall topic, I wasn’t particularly excited. I felt so far removed from any feminist experience that I didn’t quite feel as though I had enough to draw from to contribute in any significant manner. I felt like I had nothing to do with feminism – that was a women’s issue, and a women’s progression. How many of you feel the same way I felt?


Now take a look at the above video – in it, Betty Freidan makes the claim that the gender revolution that took place (or, was taking place during the time of that interview) was inherently dual-sexed. Both men and women shed off old, traditional ways of acting (men started growing longer hair, throwing off the traditional norm of the ‘tight-lipped, crew-cut man’), replacing them with characteristics that were traditionally associated with the opposite sex. Men became softer, and women became more assertive.

The way that we act in modern society, then, is generally much softer and more sensitive than even Friedan’s time. The day of the “bulging-muscled, bear-killing man”, Friedan states, is a thing of that past – it’s no longer necessary. Now, men tend to be much softer compared to their predecessors. Why? A product of the gender revolution!

Interview with Professor Eileen Pollack

Interview with Eileen Pollack on Gender Discrimination in Academia and the Workplace

I had the privilege of interviewing Eileen Pollack, who is currently a Creative Writing Professor at the University of Michigan. She has very interesting experiences that pertain to women in education, particularly in the sciences (biology, chemistry, physics), and she was able to share some of her experiences in this interview. The interview is tailored around six questions that I felt were necessary to fully capture Professor Pollack’s experiences. It was difficult for me to come up with these questions because there was so much more I wanted to ask, but I think limiting it to these 6 questions (which are shown below) worked very well for the purposes of this blog. As I mentioned earlier in my blog, Professor Pollack currently wrote an article called “Why Are There So Few Women in the Sciences,” so this interview talks about her article as well as her experiences at Yale, while at the same time describing the gender discrimination that still exists in the 21st century for women in the sciences.

I hope you enjoy this interview, I know I did!

Questions for Eileen Pollack:

1. For people that have not yet read your article, can you talk a little bit about your experiences at Yale, while earning a bachelor of science in physics?

2. In the article, you say that many men you wanted to date were put off by your physics degree, would you say this type of bias still exists today?

3. “Perceptions of discrimination are evidence of nothing but subjective feelings.” This is what Judith Kleinfeld said in your article, what is your reaction to this?

4. “The most powerful determinant of whether a woman goes in science might be whether anyone encourages her or not,” is what you emphasize in the article. If you could say a few words to women pursing a degree in the sciences (physics, chemistry or biology), what would you say to these women?

5. In the article, you talk about how you walked away from your dream and why so many other women still walk away from theirs. If you could go back and do it again, would you make the same decisions?

6. You are currently working on a book about women in the sciences. Would you say this is your way of encouraging women to pursue a career in the sciences or to warn them of the hardships?

I would like to thank my group member Gabrielle Valentic,  who was able to capture this interview for me. Also, if you would like to learn a little more about the difficulties women face in academia while at the same time trying to maintain their feminine qualities visit Belle’s Blog here.


Videographer/Editor: Gabrielle Valentic

[This is a private interview conducted with Professor Eileen Pollack at the University of Michigan for classroom use in English 340: The Historical Hinge. Usage for other purposes is strictly prohibited].

The Daily Show with John Stewart: Exclusive interview with Malala Yousafzai

“Education is very important. Education is a power for women and that is why the Taliban terrorists are afraid of education, because with education, women will become more powerful.” This statement is said by 16 year-old Malala Yousafzai, who is a strong activist for women’s education, and was shot by the Taliban because she became an instant threat to their regime. I am absolutely astonished by the bravery she has shown by speaking up for women’s rights in her country since she was 11 years old in her Pakistani hometown. She spoke to every media channel and newspaper that would listen to her, in order to inform others of the negative impact the Taliban have imposed for the women in her community. She describes the struggle of being confined to the four walls in her house and being forbidden to go to school and learn. Malala shows us how women in the Middle East in general are struggling to for their freedom to be educated and just how much these women want to learn and pursue higher education.

In the United States (US) we are so incredibly privileged because women are able to go to school and are told they can be anything they want to be. However, as Eileen Pollack’s article has shown us, there is still a bias that exists and it not just men that think such things, but also women themselves. There is this mindset that still thrives in our American society that men are more competent than women and at times this prevents these women from pursing their dreams, such as occurred to Pollack and many others in her field. I think that if Malala read Pollack’s article she would be appalled at how many women in the sciences do not follow their dreams because of the lack of encouragement, lack of self-esteem that comes from professors, their families, and others. From seeing this three-part interview, it is clear that if Malala were to speak to these women giving up their dreams, she would say “women are more powerful than men,” which she confirms in the Daily Show. She truly believes that women and men are equal in every aspect of life, and women in the US need to think this also, because anything can be achieved through hard work and perseverance.

“Over two-hundr…

“Over two-hundred and fifty colleges and universities are giving definite courses of instruction in household science.”
-Journal of National Education 1916 p.39

That’s right! Back in 1916 there was such a thing as “household science,” which basically meant that women would go to school to be better stay at home wives and mothers. It taught them the importance of how to be as efficient in the home as possible. During this period they were proud that women could pursue these degrees, not to say that we are not proud of all the stay at home moms out there. It was considered not feminine, and was almost unheard of to want to pursue a degree in math and science. A woman retaining her femininity was more important then receiving a higher education at this time, which seems pretty baffling in comparison to now.


Disney ‘Princess Filter’ On 10 Real Life Female Role Models

Screen shot 2013-11-18 at 9.55.06 AMThe following cartoons were taken from David Trumble’s collection of 10 real life female role models drawn through a “Disney Filter.” Using his artistry, Trumble was responding to the supposed conflict between the representation of heroines in Disney films and the reality of how heroines have actually looked historically. In Disney’s craft, the heroines are classically depicted as beautiful, modelesque young women, all with “the same sparkly fashion, the same tiny figures, and the same homogenized plastic smile.” Trumble believed this was a faux reality and wanted to create an ironic depiction of real-life role models with a Disney filter to emphasize the ‘ridiculousness’ of heroines both intelligent and ‘overly’ beautified. He took famous, highly intelligent women throughout history -including Malala Yousafzai, Susan B. Anthony, and Marie Curie- and took a “superficial brush” in painting them more attractive than they were in real life. There was a great amount of controversy in reaction to this creation, varying from jokes, to disagreement, to applause and desire for doll versions of his cartoons. One thing was for certain, a great amount of controversy surrounded the depiction of women as both scholastic and sexually attractive. Trumble’s response in Today [see here] can be likened to a verbal shrug:

“I feel like good satire shouldn’t be understood by everybody,” he said. “Some people [women] were angry at me because they thought I was reducing the women, which was obviously the point. But if it gets children interested in these real women and what they do, is it so bad?”

Screen shot 2013-11-18 at 9.57.33 AMScreen shot 2013-11-18 at 9.26.18 PMScreen shot 2013-11-18 at 9.56.55 AM

The answer is: yes, it is unfortunately bad. While his intention in getting children interested in real heroines was noble, the means with which he called attention to them speaks to the greater problem women face today: the dilemma that one cannot realistically be both beautiful and highly intelligent. The very word he used in describing the response to his work, “reducing,” highlights this unfortunate stigma that women themselves have had a heavy hand in creating.

Dina Goldstein, prominent Canadian visual artist, is a startling example of women’s role in contributing to the social conception of beautiful, smart, happy women as a “fairy tale.” In her collection, “Fallen Princesses,” Dina says that she began to imagine Disney’s perfect Princesses juxtaposed with real issues that were affecting women around me, such as illness, addiction and self-image issues” [see here]. She has created a series of photos in which disney princesses are shown through a ‘reality’ filter, resulting in imagery of Rapunzel ridden with cancer, Belle cut and injected with silicone, and Little Red Riding Hood morphed by obesity. (Click the images below for more).

Princess Rapunzel in 'reality' - Dina GoldsteinPrincess Belle in "reality" - Dina GoldsteinLittle Red Riding Hood in 'reality' - Dina Goldstein

While Goldstein’s claims that the pictures force viewers to contemplate “real life”: failed dreams, pollution and ocean degradation, war, obesity, the extinction of indigenous cultures, cancer and the fallacy of chasing eternal youth, [see here], they also make an unfortunate contribution to the idea that ‘real’ heroines cannot be beautiful, modelesque characters, and likewise, that highly intelligent women who care about these ‘real life’ issues cannot be either.

Dina Goldstein and David Trumble make a fair point that the consistent portrayal of heroines as thin, sparkling, attractive women by Walt Disney with no variation beyond race or ethnicity is, to a point, unrealistic. However, their means for discussing this largely overcompensates for the problem and corroborates the Catch 22 identity crisis for young girls that they must either choose to grow up as primarily scholastic, or primarily attractive.