Anti-feminist women, I have to admit, fascinate me. There's something pathetic about being an anti-feminist woman, which seems to be mostly about sucking up in really transparent ways. It's cringe-worthy, and I wonder why anyone would sign up for that sort of humiliation, especially if they aren't suffering from dramatically low levels of self-esteem. But I saw this post at Feministing about the True Woman conference, and it was quite illuminating. How does the conservative movement recruit women? Well, you lie to them, of course.


This talk given by Mary Kassian is about convincing women that giving up equality will result in a fairyland of pure joy for them. She literally presents "Leave It To Beaver" as if it were proof that the 1950s were a joyous, uncomplicated era where no one had any problems. And then it's one whopping lie after another.

Once married, a woman could normally count on her husband to financially support her and the children.

That wasn't true then, and it's less true now, but it's not because of feminism so much as it's because of declining wages. But it's interesting that this is the first thing she puts out there. Quitting your job and staying home with the kids without having to worry about money is a fantasy shared by men and women who are bored by their jobs, most of whom don't stop to think about how staying home with kids is also a boring job. No wonder it's a lure used to get women to reject feminism. Interestingly, the lack of women in the workforce had a negative effect on family wealth even in the 50s, when 1 in 3 children lived in poverty.

The divorce rate was very low.

It's true that the divorce rate was low then compared to now. But the unhappiness in marriage rate was staggeringly high---2/3 of couples didn't consider their marriages happy. 61% of married couples now are happy with their marriage.

Chastity and virginity were virtues.

Sex outside of marriage was considered shameful.

I fail to see how virginity could be a virtue. Willpower is a virtue. Virginity is a state of being. But setting that aside, I have to point out that the cost of keeping sex shameful was that other, more important virtues had to be set aside, virtues like honesty or valuing human beings and their happiness. The 50s was the era of the shotgun wedding, and the problem with the Kinsey report wasn't, as conservatives like to imply, that Kinsey invented sex, it was that he talked about what people were already doing.

Scarcely anyone lived common-law because it carried the stigma of living in sin. So few couples lived common-law at that time that statistics for this phenomena wasn't even recorded. They didn't even keep statistics.

So how do you know it was uncommon? This is not an uncommon sleight of hand performed by social conservatives, implying that the lack of statistics on certain behaviors in the past meant that those behaviors didn't exist. They didn't keep track of abortion rates in the 50s, either, and it's because it's hard to measure a behavior that people won't admit to because it's illegal. Now, it's definitely fair to say that cohabitation has been on the rise since the 50s, and for a good reason---because people are choosing their own happiness, and taking their time with the very important decision of who to marry. I fail to see why it's dishonoring marriage to take the decision more seriously than people did in the past.

Having a child outside of wedlock was also considered shameful. Now, one American child is born outside of wedlock every 25 seconds, and tonight, more than 40 percent of children will go to sleep in homes in which their fathers do not live.

I'm just going to point out to wingnuts that if they're serious about pushing for a return to the horror that was the 50s era marriage, they might want to use a different word than "wedlock". If you openly admit that marriage is a prison, then people aren't going to be warm to your message.

Only 30 percent of women were employed outside the home in 1960. Very rarely was there a woman who had under school-age children who went out and worked outside of the home.

And once again, the result was that 33% of children lived in poverty. And that when those women did start getting divorced in the 60s, they were screwed because they didn't have many employment prospects.

There was no birth-control pill.

Abortion was illegal.

She doesn't even bother to try to make a case against contraception or abortion. She just assumes that both are self-evident evils. I wonder how many women at this conference use some form of contraception? Probably most, at various times in their lives at least. And the implication---that people didn't try to control their fertility in the 50s---is just silly. The diaphragm was the most popular form of contraception in the 50s. The only reason that the pill was a game changer was that it was more effective and even easier to use without male cooperation than the diaphragm, which requires you to take a break when you're fooling around to slip off to the bathroom and put it in. Which means that you'd occasionally be tempted (or sadly, forced in some cases) to go without some times. In fact, there's a whole plot line in the famous book "Rabbit, Run" about precisely this problem---Rabbit won't let his lover use her diaphragm, she gets pregnant, and she gets an abortion. Which of course, is yet another example of how it was well understood in the 50s that just because abortion was illegal didn't mean that women didn't use it all the time.

Pornography and rape and homosexuality, sexual perversion, sexual addiction, sexually transmitted diseases were uncommon and rarely encountered.

Dude, Hugh Hefner was a household name even in the 50s. How dumb do you have to be to believe this? There's actually no reason to think that rape was uncommon in the 50s---in fact, odds are that it was way more common than it is now, in a culture where men are raised being told that no means no. We know that the rape rate has declined 85% since 1979, so who knows how much higher it was in the 50s? From what I can gather, in the 50s, getting raped was something women just expected would happen to them at some point, and thus they didn't really report it or do much but just suffer through it. Certainly the jokes about the back seat struggles of the era aren't funny to us now. And the common nature of jokes about behavior we see as assault really does incline me to think rape was ridiculously common, and generally not considered a problem. If sexually transmitted diseases were so damn uncommon then, then I suppose the military put all that effort into warning soldiers about the dangers of VD for no reason. And if homosexuality was uncommon, then who the hell were the police rounding up and throwing in jail during the gay bar raids?

Men regarded it as their responsibility to protect and provide and care for their families.

And they don't now? There's always been a fraction of men who refuse to take responsibility for themselves or their families, but the difference is now that women are empowered to take care of their families, the impact of a man running out on you isn't as bad.

Really, the whole piece is some grade A wingnuttery. She even fusses over Simone de Beauvoir's nationality. That's right! Blame the French. And of course, women weren't unhappy until feminists told them they were, even though she admits that Betty Friedan did in fact get women to offer evidence that they were unhappy without her prompting them to say so. And you can blame the Chinses communists for consciousness-raising, because Mao told people to share their stories of oppression.

So the women were encouraged to speak bitterness and pain, and the initial reluctance gave way to collective anger as woman after woman told stories of being raped by landlords, being sold as concubines, or physical abuse. As women vented their bitterness, they experienced a newfound strength and resolve that empowered them to corporate action.

I wonder if this means that Chinese peasants would have been perfectly satisfied to be raped and sold if the damn commies hadn't put the idea into their heads that this was wrong.