Friday, May 16, 2008

Overcoming Stereotypes

Our culture loves to caricature the traditional housewife.  Donning an apron and heels, we picture her spending her days doing household chores, raising children, and socializing with the neighborhood ladies.  

Today's stereotypes of the housewife are not much different.  And not especially flattering.  We'll tackle a few of them below:

Stereotype #1: housewives are meek and submissive.  After all, why else would they stay home?  It is common for our culture to assume that a housewife, obviously choosing the opposite role of a feminist, must therefore have an opposite personality.  The feminist is strong, assertive, ambitious, which must mean that the housewife is timid, weak and submissive.  This, of course, is a ridiculous assumption.  Women who choose to stay home have a variety of personalities.  

Stereotype #2: housewives couldn't cut it in the real world.  If they could, they would be out in it.  First of all, the stereotype assumes that the "real world" lies outside of the home and in the work world.  But women who choose to stay home feel that their "world" is just as real as the work world.  Furthermore, many successful women cutting it just fine in their careers have made the choice to exit for a period of time or indefinitely because they valued the lifestyle and role of being at home.
Stereotype #3: housewives are not earning money.  I think we might all be a little surprised to see how many women are operating profitable enterprises from their home.  Certainly a choice to stay home does not exclude the opportunity to make money.  In fact, it might open doors to do just that.  

Stereotype #4: housewives are consumed with their children.  Though raising children can be an all-consuming task, not every woman who is doing it chooses to define herself by it.  Women who stay at home and raise children often have hobbies and enterprise, or they organize social action.  These activities often open doors for stay-at-home moms once their children are in school, or provide creative outlets and community support anytime.  

Stereotype #5: housewives are religious conservatives.  I'm sure that many women who choose to stay home are religious conservatives, partly because the religious culture is more open to it than the culture at large.  However, many women who consider themselves liberal or non-religious are attracted to the simplicity and alternative lifestyle that being at home offers.  

In other words, don't assume that a woman choosing to stay home today carries the above traits.  And if you are staying at home, or considering it, be prepared to encounter these stereotypes, and to prove them wrong.  Modern housewives can be ambitious, assertive, entrepreneurial women who are initiating social change, running businesses, raising children, and having an all-around good time doing it.  

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