No, this entry has nothing to do with those housewives of network television notoriety who on a weekly basis strut about from one melodrama to the next, requiring a costume change whenever they make a house call or pick up the telephone. However, let it be known that Nicollette Sheridan has the most frightening cleavage on TV. I wish wardrobe would stop putting her in anything low-cut. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place. I continue...
No, this is not a diatribe against housewives. I'm not taking any position in regards to the "rightful place" of a mother. Let the mother decide what is best for her family and herself. On a personal note, I treasure the environment created by my stay-at-home mom - "stay-at-home" being a ridiculous misnomer; with four kids under her charge, she rarely managed to stay at home and never seemed to pull off anything resembling downtime. She was a constant for us, in a different way than my father. She was the center around which we whirled. We never needed to fear because she could always be reached - coming to our rescue, whether it be the minute disaster or the vaguely epic ("I forgot today was picture day! Mom! You don't understand! I can't wear my glasses in the yearbook photo! I need my contacts! Ohhh, this is worst thing that has ever happened under the watchful eye of God!). Additionally, I don't consider either option - housewife or working mom - to be emblematic of modern-day feminism. Both can be empowering or subservient roles, and I do think that it is possible that either position can be the wrong decision for the given situation and that ultimately the decision can be made for the wrong reasons. I continue...
This little post is about the wrangling over the term itself, about whom can be knighted "housewife" and who's been vested with the authority to bring the ceremonial sword tap-tapping down. And if it is the aim of some women to relinquish the title, is it acceptable for other groups to claim it?
Singer/songwriter/professional quirky girl Nellie McKay has a number on her debut album, Get Away From Me, entitled "I Wanna Get Married." In a clever, tuneful manner McKay rejects the once seemingly mandatory role of housewife relegated to women. Her position on the issue isn't cutting edge and probably wouldn't even make waves in Oklahoma. Women have been abandoning the housewife role for decades, ever since they began burning their bras and realized they'd need to get jobs in order to replace those crispy, smoke-infested, absolutely unwearable brassieres. However, the song is a charming journey into the tabula rasa life of a woman who wants no identity apart from husband and children. Life outside the framework of her picket fence is inconceivable. For women like McKay rebellion is found in the shedding of such a deadweight, ridiculous moniker as "housewife" and all the Brady-goodness it represents.
But now the twist: What happens when others wish to occupy the housewife role? when these applicants aren't quite so traditional?
A month or five ago I was at a club listening to singer/actor/annoyingly apologetic YouTube poster Jay Brannan who is part of the ensemble of John Cameron Mitchell's endearing new film Shortbus - if your lexicon is comfortable allowing "endearing" to include that which is sexually explicit. One of the songs in his set very well could have been titled "I Wanna Get Married" or "Please, Please, Let Me Be A Housewife." A few years back, when he was in a relationship in California (which resembles NYC in its percentage of obvious sinners, remember?), he wrote about his desire to be nothing more than a housewife for a husband to return home to. In a clear, easy voice he sang about wishing he could fix his man drinks and cook meals and various shit. For Brannan, as a gay male, rebellion is found in assuming the mantle of housewife for himself, the very one being cast off by a segment of its original wearer, the heterosexual female. Controversy results from a simple act of conformity, of emulation.
What a stir we have here! But in reality nothing new is understood about the larger cultural context from which the housewife predicament has been pulled. Under this ambitious social umbrella one can encounter fun, dinner conversation ready topics like gender, sexuality, structure of the family, gay marriage and gay adoption rights, and why Star Jones Reynolds is America’s favorite drag queen.
So often that which seems to offend our sense of what is decent may only be an affront to the current, culturally ingrained norm. In recent years I have been trying to pull together a comprehension of "natural" and the significance of its definition, considering both denotation and connotation. What does it mean when someone says, "That's just not natural"? Are we referring to the nature of the wild? the nature of the test tube? the nature of reason? of the airplane which gives man its unnatural wings? of the life-extending medical devices and modern-day magic potions? of life-extinguishing solutions? the nature of the biological family? of the extended family? the nature of tradition? of religion?
In light of what is "natural," are women the only ones who have the right to be so desperate in the abode? And does our familiarity with the comforting picture of a woman in an apron preclude us from allowing others to engage in families and in the home in meaningful, beneficial ways?