Tele pining for the 1950s

Bold headline in the Daily Telegraph:

Women were much better off in the 1950s

WOMEN with working husbands are tied to the sink by a welfare system hampering job hunting.

Since when does “women with working husbands” equal “women” in general?

Anyway, I’m not convinced that the two arguments the Tele offers in support of that assertion – even as it applies to the smaller group in question – are sufficient to justify it:

  • women “have less help from the Federal Government’s job-seeking services now than in the 1950s”; and
  • “even when they find a job, they then have difficulties taking it because of inadequate before and after school childcare, non-existent holiday minding services and inflexible working hours” and they are therefore “also more likely to refuse job promotions”.

Oh, I see – the “women” of the headline is actually “women with working husbands AND children”.

Even so, whilst it is indeed true that women in general are disadvantaged in today’s workforce compared with their male counterparts, it is clearly ridiculous to argue that they were “better off in the 1950s” when the barriers were even greater.

Okay, so yes, job-seeking services are targeted at those without a working partner – ie, the poorest among us – but what is the Tele suggesting we should do instead? I doubt it’s advocating greater public spending on jobseeking services – isn’t it the “we need tax cuts” media organisation? For the same reason, I’m somewhat dubious of its complaints about the privatisation of government employment assistance – doesn’t it usually cheerlead for privatisation?

As for the disadvantages women face in the workforce – those are real problems that we should be tackling. But they were worse in the 1950s – a time when women’s participation in the professional workforce was overtly frowned-upon.

The piece seems to be trying to blame what came after the 1950s – a more active post-suffrage feminist movement – for the difficulties women face now, rather than, for example, the lack of adequate government funding for childcare, or employers’ unhelpful approach to issues like working hours. Blaming feminists for the problems that they’ve been fighting hard against for more than fifty years, and giving the entities with the power to actually enact change a free pass. I’m sure that plays very well to a certain audience, but it’s both absurd and offensive.

Still, as a piece of provocative link-bait – mission accomplished.

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49 responses to “Tele pining for the 1950s

  1. Since when does “women with working husbands” equal “women” in general?

    In the 1950 “women with working husbands” did equal “women” in general?

  2. Well, quite, but it’s obviously contrasting today’s women with those from the 50s, and the reduction doesn’t hold true. And is somewhat offensive to the many women it doesn’t describe, actually.

  3. The CES was torn apart by the Howard government and replaced by the inferior private operators that it mentions in the article … er, I SHOULD say that the article actually doesn’t mention it was the Howard government that did it. Funny that.

    I worked at the CES in the 90s and anyone, working or unemployed, could use its services. I remember plenty of working people who were able to get a better job, thanks to it.

  4. Pity that the much more accurate version, replacing “in the 1950s” with “before the Howard Government” – Women were much better off before the Howard Government – would make a Tele reader’s head explode.

  5. You know what would help? Stop making comparisons altogether and smash the crap out of the glass ceiling. Because it’s still there. Women are still – particularly in management – viewed as a liability if they are of child-bearing age, taking maternity leave can still kill any chance of promotion, women are still – unfathomably – largely responsible for before and after school care, are expected to take days off when the kids are sick, or solely responsible for the childrens care before school age, leaving them out of the workforce for crucial years when they could be getting ahead.

    Until we stop expecting women to be the sole care-givers of our children past the age of breastfeeding, and start removing the barriers to more equitable distribution of work – inside and outside of the home – I have no interest in making comparisons between then and now. We should be focusing on what needs to be done, not what was in the bad old days.

  6. “would make a Tele reader’s head explode.”

    I wouldn’t see that as a pity at all.

  7. In the 50’s women working in the Commonwealth public service had to quit their job if they married. Better off?

  8. Just glancing at that article would suggest that, in general, women had better lives overall in the 50s.

  9. Well, it depends on how you define ‘life’…..

  10. Yeah, I spose it does.

    Really what I meant tho was … you know the propaganda power of headlines? Especially if you don’t actually read the article.

    Just glancing at it, seeing the headline & the photo and its caption there is nothing to suggest the article is referring to accessing work related services or anything else.

    That article could be about how good the 6 o’clock swill and epidemic levels of domestic violence is for all you can tell by glancing at it.

  11. Cynicism about the 50sis just another example of tendency to mock other cultures. A smug smirk is easier than empathy and understanding. It is the typical reaction of elites everywhere. It protects them from having to question the certainties they cling to. To do otherwise, to open their minds and hearts, might discomfort their righteous egos with the complexity and doubt of the real world.

  12. Do you enjoy stereotyping and generalisation that much, SB?

    What if the cynicism is not just about the 50s, but about any era – including the current one? What if someone’s mocking their own culture at the same time – and they’re left wing? Does that still make them a part of the smug elite?

  13. I’m not sure, and will bow to the assemblaed wisdom on this, but my experience is that the majority of women who have children still at school (or at least still at primary school), still don’t work full time. Most of the women in our circles (children still in primary school) either work part time or not at all. Most of their husbands/partners (all men) do work full time.
    As such, due to their being at home more often, most of the housework is still done by women.
    I don’t think its because they are oppressed by their partners or because their partners have less regard for them that they should, it is simply a fact of life.
    Most families have a working dad and a working mother, but in most of those families it is the mother that is home the most.
    When I was at home and my wife was working I did most of the housework because I could.
    I never felt degraded by the work and I never felt offended by the term house husband. In fact I was proud of the contribution I was making to the family.

  14. Chade, I didn’t mention leftists. My statement was in relation to the elites of any time or place. In order to get the big picture some generalisation is necessary.

    Generally elites have a world view or religion (they are functionally the same for these purposes) and because it justifies their status, they cling to it. They have no motivation to change other than to expand their position of power in society.

    This results in them being more critical of other cultures and of alternative realities which do not enhance their power and status.

  15. The Tele’s a populist rag and I reckon they’ll run any story that gets a bit of attention and keeps people buying the paper. They’re not really advocating low taxes.

    In fact that article blames the privatisation of welfare services, and appears to take as an authority a women’s rep who had been involved in Whitlam Government organisations, so they’re hardly pushing a right-wing argument here.

  16. Except for the right-wing (as opposed to libertarian) social position of “women were better in the 1950s”.

  17. “Cynicism about the 50sis just another example of tendency to mock other cultures.”

    Yeah right.

    For a start its not cynicism, its realism …

    I bet if you are a women with breast cancer things are better now, no matter how bad your situation. Education opportunities for women are better now, basically because we don’t think its appropriate to restrict access to a whole lot of stuff the way we used to.

    Thats not to say things were perfect, but domestic violence was condoned in Australia in the 50s, and I have a friend who alive at the times and remembers ads that suggest women who weren’t measuring up in the housewife department needed a good flogging.

    So if he’s to be believed it was more than condoned, it was encouraged.

    Don’t mistake a cynical attitude to newspapers and their methods of attracting attention, for a cynical attitude to the subject matter.

    Then again I guess that garbage about “elites mocking the 50s” is pretty weak and needs all the help it can get.

  18. Should be “things are perfect (now)”

  19. SB, you’re not generalising to create a bigger picture, you’re generalising to create a face of a group you want to dislike.

  20. Its not a particular ‘face’ so much as a sociological norm exhibited by elites everywhere.

  21. Contrary to the dumb lefty cliche of 1996-2007 re: the Howard Government, ‘taking us back to the 1950s’ was never a right-wing policy. You’re grasping at straws.

  22. Yeah, opposition to feminism or gender equality never comes from conservatives.

  23. The only ‘lefty’ I’ve heard yearning for the good ol days is Phillip Adams, but not for the same reasons righties do! LOL.

  24. Skepticus Autartikus

    Keri

    You don’t sound as though you have a lot of time for the role of motherhood, or mothers in general. I think that is deeply sad. Some ideologues have done you a great disservice somewhere along the line.

  25. Skepticus Autartikus

    The CES was snapped up by Mrs. Kevin Rudd for a song. And yet look at how many people are still sucked in by his anti “neoliberalism” shtick, when it was precisely neoliberalism that made the Rudds one of the richest families in Australia. 😉

  26. “You don’t sound as though you have a lot of time for the role of motherhood, or mothers in general. I think that is deeply sad. Some ideologues have done you a great disservice somewhere along the line.”

    What a repulsively dishonest misrepresentation of what Keri said.

  27. Skepticus Autartikus

    I simply do not understand how and why any Australian woman ever does any housework. Are they not aware of the armies of Asian cleaning ninjas out there. In and out of your house in an hour, and for a song.

  28. What the hell are you talking about? Any self-respecting Australian person cleans up after themselves, and any functioning couple divides the household chores fairly between them.

  29. Skepticus Autartikus

    WTF? I don’t know anybody who doesn’t have a cleaner! I’ve had one since I was about 20!

  30. “You don’t sound as though you have a lot of time for the role of motherhood, or mothers in general. I think that is deeply sad. Some ideologues have done you a great disservice somewhere along the line.”

    I have a great deal of time for the role of parents, not just of mothers. I reject the idea that a mother is more responsible for the care of a child than the father, or that for some reason the school pick-up, the doctors appointment, the sick child, the lunch-packing, the clothe sorting, the morning and evening kid-wrangling by-and-large get done by the mother more than the father even if both parents work full-time. The “invisible” work still gets done by the mother. Why? Because it’s what’s “expected”. It’s her “role”

    Well, colour me bad-mother, but that isn’t going to be the way I roll.

    The bond between a mother and child is special. The bond between a father and child in my eyes, and in my experience with my own father is just as important, and just as unique. I see the same thing with my brother and his child. I see absolutely no reason why BOTH parents can’t work part-time during a childs formative years and be better off for a diversity of parenting – not to mention the mother having the support of a co-parent instead of an After-Work Hours parent. Can you imagine how much better a mother could parent a child if she isn’t frazzled from being the sole-care giver all day? If she isn’t the one who gets ignored as soon as Dad gets home and he gets the fun bits? If she feels overwhelmed, she knows she can turn to her partner for assistance, and not feel like a failure.

    We expect far too much of women as mothers. We expect nowhere near as much from fathers. I see that as an insult to BOTH sexes. Fathers are just as capable of raising a child as a mother after the breastfeeding age. Saying otherwise is just insulting to fathers.

  31. Sounds like someone’s on notice.

  32. I work in a big organisation. We sell things to other businesses. We don’t cure cancer, rescue people or create anything of real value. 53% of our staff nationally are women, it’s 63% in Melbourne where we have just over 400 people employed.

    As a result I know many mothers who return from maternity leave after a year. Dad also works so they dump the baby in care and go on doing a pointless job instead of actually raising the child. They offer up all sorts of reasons why they come back to work instead of doing the right thing and being full time parents.

    These mothers disgust me.

  33. Sounds like you’re being a creepy git.

  34. “WTF? I don’t know anybody who doesn’t have a cleaner! I’ve had one since I was about 20!”

    I thought you were joking at first. Most people in the real world don’t have a cleaner. I can hardly think of anyone I know who has one.

  35. “These mothers disgust me.”

    Do the fathers disgust you too, Dubby?

  36. Aussie Unionist you know nothing of me at all except for one the opinion I have expressed.

    And as such I disgust you.

    Why?

    Because I believe raising children is more important than working?

  37. “WTF? I don’t know anybody who doesn’t have a cleaner! I’ve had one since I was about 20!”

    So it was straight from having your mum clean your room and do your laundry for you, to having a cleaning lady, eh Skepticus?

    “They offer up all sorts of reasons why they come back to work instead of doing the right thing and being full time parents.”

    Do you support the idea of 12+ months of paid maternity leave Dubby, like they have in Sweden and many other European countries?

    Such scheme’s allow mothers to “do the right thing” and stay home and raise their children, without you having to feel “disgust” at families who need more than one income.

  38. Families do not need more than one full time income.

    With some simple ammendments to your lifestyle, you can easily support your family on one income.

    You would rather have your children in care for 10 hours a day then give up breakfast on High Street on a Sunday.

  39. You know what I’d rather?

    BOTH parents get a chance to be hands-on parents, and BOTH parents get a chance at having a career? Bet every single one of you saying there should be one parent at home assumes without thought that it should be the mother, right?

    There’s no reason past breast-feeding age that it HAS to be the mother.

  40. Bet every single one of you saying there should be one parent at home assumes without thought that it should be the mother, right?

    I hope you didn’t bet a lot of money.

    And what’s this nonsense about fathers only being able to offer full time care when the baby is of ‘breast-feeding age’.

    Children do not have to be breastfed.

  41. I made a mistake above in my comment.

    I was trying to say that kids can go on the bottle straight away and a mother’s breasts aren’t actually necessary.

  42. Fair enough, BBg. I stand corrected.

    As for breastfeeding, it certainly isn’t recommended to go straight to bottle feeding.

  43. Yeah a lot of things aren’t recommended.

    Entrusting your childrens supervision, learning, care and bonding to lowly paid teenagers and early 20 somthings for nearly half the day at a child care centre while the parent goes onto further their ‘career’,I think isnt also recommended.

  44. “Aussie Unionist you know nothing of me at all except for one the opinion I have expressed.

    And as such I disgust you.

    Why?

    Because I believe raising children is more important than working?”

    Because you declare that mothers about whom you know nothing except that they have to work “disgust” you, would be my guess.

  45. “…that mothers about whom you know nothing except that they have to work “disgust” you…”

    this is despite me clearly saying in my post…
    They offer up all sorts of reasons why they come back to work

    I refute that I know nothing of them. Further I refute that they ‘have to work’.

  46. I doubt very much they share significant details about their personal lives with you before you decide they “disgust” you.

  47. Skepticus Autartikus

    I reject the idea that a mother is more responsible for the care of a child than the father

    This isn’t actually an idea, it is an assertion requiring empirical validation at the level of individual families. Also, what constitutes ‘care’ is very ambiguous here. So, as I said you are showing contempt for mothers who according to your definition are ‘more responsible for the care of a child than a father’. You see, that particular family’s arrangement is not open to you to “reject”. Your presumption that it does you arguments no favours.

    The “invisible” work still gets done by the mother. Why? Because it’s what’s “expected”. It’s her “role”

    I;m not sure what you mean by “invisible” and thus “visible” work, but I presume you mean housework. In my house that work most certainly is invisible because it is done by a team of Asian cleaning ninjas, while we at brunch, or the beach, or work.

    I imagine in your own cleaner-free house, housework is done in full view of all, so far from invisible. In the case of mothers, and women generally, one of the reasons women might do more than their male partners is that women work far fewer hours outside the home. Your claims to seeking equal time by both is surely disingenuous as you completely silence the male still toiling away at work after the woman has finished. And even then, the extra money the male earns is split with his partner. So it is pretty clear, that it is women who get the better deal on this point.

    The bond between a mother and child is special.

    Well who would have thought after carrying a baby from egg to human for 9 months, a mother would feel a peculiar attachment and bond with her baby!? Your choice not to expand on what it is that makes the mother-child bond so special is unfortunate, once again suggesting you don’t really care that much about mothering, nor appreciate just what it is that is so special about motherhood.

    The bond between a father and child in my eyes, and in my experience with my own father is just as important, and just as unique.

    Here you switch from special to unique, which makes your point hard to grasp. One thing it does suggest is that you consider a child’s relationship with her mother to be a qualitatively different one than with her father. It would be interested to hear what you think those qualitative differences are, and how they reconcile with you views on ‘care’.

    I see absolutely no reason why BOTH parents can’t work part-time during a childs formative years

    Reason has less to do with it than <i?preference, once more revealing your privileging of your mere “ideas” over the decisions and preferences of actual parents. One interesting implication of your view is that left-wing people are typically highly critical of the increase in part-time employment. Yet here you advocate there should be more.

    and be better off for a diversity of parenting

    What do you mean by this? Different parenting styles, or that a child has two parents? Well, unless the child is part of a single-parent family, with the other parent dead, lacking visitation rights, or vanished, then all kids have your “diversity of parenting”.

    We expect far too much of women as mothers.

    This is yet another very revealing insight into your whole attitude. First of all, it is not “women” we [allegedly] “expect too much of” but of mothers. After all, not all women are mothers.

    So what you are really saying is

    we expect too much of mothers as mothers

    How would you like to see our expectations of motherhood downgraded? Given we already have a situation where mothers often bolt back to the office as soon as the baby is weaned, and then chucked to some unrelated child-minding centre for the next 15 years, I’d be interested to know how you think this is too much of a burden for the mother.

    And then we have those women who choose to have children without involving the father. And then of course, the teenage welfare-ambitious mothers. Are we expecting too much of them too.

    We expect nowhere near as much from fathers.

    Again, you are privileging your demands. And I must say this shows a remarkable insensitivity and ignorance about what children actually do expect from fathers, with numero uno of course to provide the cash necessary for the family to have a nice home to live in, and enough surplus cash to be distributed to each family member to keep them in the style they aspire to become accustomed

    Fathers are just as capable of raising a child as a mother after the breastfeeding age. Saying otherwise is just insulting to fathers.

    Actually saying that father’s do not already raise their children after breastfeeding is what is really “insulting to fathers” here.

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