Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
2Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Coontz

Coontz

Ratings: (0)|Views: 83|Likes:
Published by Rose Sayre

More info:

Published by: Rose Sayre on Aug 01, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

12/20/2012

pdf

text

original

 
The
Way
WeNeverWere
•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
AmericanFamiliesandthe
NostalgiaTrap
.STEPHANIECOONTZ
B
OOKS
AMemberofthePerseusBooksGroup
 
3
••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
"MyMotherWasaSaint":
Individualism,GenderMyths,andtheProblemofLove
SURVEYING
theerosionof1950,
family
patternsatthe
begin-ningofthe1970s,economistGeorgeGilderwarnedthatthedeclineinmarriageratesthreatenedthestabilityofWesterncivilization:Thesingleman"isdisposedtocriminality,drugsandviolence.Heisirre-sponsibleabouthisdebts,alcoholic,accidentprone,andvenereallydiseased.Unlesshecanmarry,heisoftendestinedtoaHobbesianlife-solitary;poor,nasty,brutish,andshort."!Morerecentconservativewrtters=-andevenafewfeministones--areequallyadamantthatAmericanculturerequireswomentocoun-teractmaleindividualism.AllanCarlson,presidentoftheRockfordInstituteontheFamily,arguesthatforcapitalismtoavoidself-destruction,thefamilymustbewalledofffromcompetitivepres-sures,bygovernmentinterventionifnecessaryConservativelecturerConnieMarshnerwarnsthat"capitalismcannotstandbyitself."Theverysuccessofprivateenterpriseinproducingchoicethreatenscapi-talism'sexistence:"Havingfreedomofpreferencemeansthat
prefer-encejormaiumbecomesacrucialtaskojsociety";
onlyfamiliesbasedonmalebreadwinningandfemalechildrearingcanshapepreferenceformationinawaythatpreservesbotheconomicself-relianceandin-terpersonalobligation.~AllanBloom'sbestseller,
TheClosingojtheAmericanMind(1987),
linkedthedeclineoftraditionalWesternphilosophyandliberalthoughttotheerosionofthefamilyas"theintermediary...thatgavemenandwomenunqualifiedconcernforatleastsomeothers."The"ambitious,warlike,protective,possessivecharacter"ofmenisvital
"MYMOTHERWASASAINT"
43
totheWesterntradition,hemaintained,butitwasformerlyoffsetbywomen'scommitmenttonurturing,caregiving,andaltruism.Femi-nists,however,forciblyrearrangedthesereles,freeingwomenfromtheirdutytoprotectmenfromtheirownnatures.ForBloom,there-o~eningofthe(whitemale)AmericanmindcannotbeaccomplishedWIthoutthereenclosureofwomenintraditionalgenderroles.'Authorssuchasthosejustmentionedwanttoreturntoatradi-tionalfamilythatantedatesthe1950sfamilybymorethanonehun-dredyears,revivingtheVictoriannotionofseparatespheresformenandwomen.Inthenineteenth-centurymiddle-classfamily,amuch~orerigiddivisionoflaborbetweenmenandwomenprevailedthan
in
the1950s:Womenwerelegallyexcluded,forexample,fromthevote,fromprofessionaltraining,andfrommostcolleges.Intheab-senceofaconsumercultureandthemodernmassmedia,the.Victo-riandomesticfamilywasmuchmoreresistanttomaterialism,con-sumerism,andsexualeroticism.Therewasnodistinctyouthculture,andth~"pantyraids"thatconvulsedotherwiseapatheticcollegetownsmthe1950swouldhavebeeninconceivable.TheVictorian"cultofTrueWomanhood"didnotopenthedoortoself-gratificationbytoutingthefamilyasthesourceofpersonalhappiness;instead,itsternlyassociatedthefamilywiththedevelopmentofboth"individ-ualandcollectivecharacter.?"Withinthisfamily,womenandmenfacednocontradictorymes-sagesabouttheirroles.Motherswereconsideredthemoralguardiansofcivilizationitself.Menhadnodoubtthattheythemselveswereboththeprotectorsandtherepresentativesoftheirfamiliesinrela-tiontotheoutsideworldaswellastheultimatesourceofauthorityinthehousehold.Accordingtosomeauthors,this"natural"divisionofgenderroleswasthecornerstoneofthe
real
traditionalfamily.
It
producedasenti-mental,almostsacred,domesticspherewhoselong-termcommit-mentsandnurturingbalancedthepursuitofself-interestinthepublicarena.Recentsocialproblems,theyargue,stemfromaself-defeatingsuperegalitarianismthatdeniesmen'sandwomen'sdiffer-ingneedsandabilitiesanddesanctifiesfamilyrelations.Infact,however,suchgenderrolesandfamilyidealsarefarfromnaturalandhavenotalwaysexisted.
It
isworthnotingthattheword
Jamily
originallymeantabandofslaves.Evenafterthewordcametoapplytopeopleaffiliatedbybloodandmarriage,formanycenturiesthenotionoffamilyreferredtoauthorityrelationsratherthanloveones.Thesentimentalizationoffamilylifeandfemalenurturingwas
 
44
ritualsallowedlower-classwomentoexpressneedsintermsofchild-ishhelplessnessandupper-classwomentoexpresscaringintermsofmoralisticmothering.Formen,however,dependencybecameaneg-ative,disgracefulqualityinpublic;needinesscouldbeexpressedonlyinthebosomofthefamily"
THEWAYWENEVERWERE
'"MYMOTHER
WASASAINT"
historicallyandfunctionallylinkedtotheemergenceofcompetitiveindividualismandformalegalitarianismformen.Inchapter7.IwillexplorethereasonsthattheVictoriandivisionofgenderrolesbrokedowninthetwentiethcentury.Inthischapter,Iwilldemonstratethatfemaledomesticityandmaleindividualismdevelopedtogether,asanalternativetomorewidelydispersedsocialbonds,emotionalties,andmaterialinterdependencies.Consequently,attemptingtoreimposedomesticityonwomenwithoutrethinkingtheroleofindi-vidualisminoureconomyandpolitywouldonlyre-createthesametensionsthatunderminedtheVictorianfamilyinthefirstplace.
5
Toillustratetheintimate,ifofteninconsistent,relationbetweencompetitiveindividualismandfamilysentimentality,IwillbrieflysummarizetheevolutionofWesternliberalthoughtandmarketprinciplessincetheEnlightenment.Agrowingpreoccupationwithpersonalequality,individualself-reliance,andobjectivecontractualrightsmadeitveryhardfortheoriststoincorporatepositiven~tionsofinterdependenceorneedinessintotheiridealmodelsofsocioeco-nomicandpoliticalarrangements.Instead,liberaltheoryprojectedalldependenceontowomenandchildren,relocatinginterdepen-dencein"natural"genderandagerelations:men'sprotectionofwomenandchildrenandwomen'spersonalnurturingqualities.Politicalandeconomicrelationshipscametobeorganizedaroundthecontractualrightsofequal,independentindividuals;onlygenderandfamilyrelationshipsremainedorganizedaroundpersonalneeds,individualdifferences,anddependence.Thisledtoagrowingdiver-gencebetweenpolitics,law,andeconomics--thesiteofcompetitionandobjectivelaws,men'sarenas-andinterpersonalrelations-thesiteofaltruismandsubjectivity,women'sarenas.Italsocreatedapolarizationbetweenpublicrightsandprivateneedsthateventuallyhamperedpeople'sabilitytodeveloparesponsibleapproachtoeither.Originally,maleandfemaleprinciples,publicandprivaterela-tions,weresupposedtobalanceandcomplementeachother.Butasseveralphilosophershaverecentlypointedout,theWesterntraditiongraduallycametoviewindependenceandconcernforothersasmu-tuallyexclusivetraits.Caringforotherswasconfinedtowomen,andpersonalautonomywasdeniedthem;personalautonomywasre-servedformen,andcaringforotherswaseitherdeniedthemorpe-nalized.Withinthehome,womencaredforthepersonalneedsoftheirfamilies;outsidethehome,elaborateandconsciouslyfeminine
SocialDependenceandInterdependenceinOtherCultures
TheAnglo-Americannotionthatdependenceonothersisimmature,weak,shameful,oruniquelyfeminineisforeign'tomostcultures.IntheworldviewoftheseSOcieties,independenceisantisocial;ex-pressingone'sneediness,evencodifyingit,
is
theroutetosocialhar-monyandpersonalsatisfactionforbothmenandwomen.TheJapanese,forexample,haveanoun
amae,
whichmeansrelianceonthegoodwillorindulgenceofanother,andaverb
amaru,
whichmeansessentially
to
askforsuchindulgence.Althoughincreasinglythereisadisapprovingconnotationattachedtothesewords,
it
is
notculturallystigmatizedtoemphasizeone'sdependenceonothers.ModemAmericanparentsteachtheirchildrenthattheycanbeany-thingtheywanttobe;inancientGreece,suchoverweeningconfi-denceintheindividual'sabilitytoshapehisorherownfatewasthesinofhubris,anditbroughttheprotagonistsofmanyGreektragediestobitterends.Inmostprecapitalistsocieties,economic,social,andpoliticalin-teractionswerenotseparablefrompersonalrelations.Noindividualoperatedindependentlyofthekingrouporthelocalcommunity.Consequently,definitionsofselfwerealwayscontextual,becausetheselfdidnotpickandchooserelationswithothers;itemergedoutoftheserelationsandremaineddependentonthem.Independencewasfeared,notcherished.Apersonsentitlementsandobligations,simi-larly;werenotdeducedfromabstractprinciplesofequalrightsbutfromhighlyparticularisticpersonalrelationships.
(It
isstrikinghowmanyofthesedescriptionsstillapplytowomen.Somepsychologistsarguethatwomen'smoralstandardsdifferfrommen'sinpreciselythisregard,sincethosestandardsarederivedfrompersonalrelation-shipsandconcreteresponsibilitiesratherthanfromabstractrights.Thisprobablyhaslesstodowithintrinsicallyfemale"waysofknow-ing"thanwiththefactthatwomen'sliveshaveremainedfarmore
45

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
scribd
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->