I was flipping through channels last night when I stumbled upon TLC's new special, Wives With Beehives. The special, which originally aired Dec. 29, follows four women in Los Angeles as they embrace the 1950s lifestyle.
I was initially intrigued -- I too love 1950s style, and I have a closet full of vintage dresses to prove it -- but it soon became evident that the show was not just about embracing fashion; 1950s gender roles were embraced as well. As a feminist who has taken her fair share of women's history classes, it shocked me to hear each women declare that her profession was "being a good wife." And if I wasn't dismayed enough, Amber looked straight into the camera and said with a tone full of conviction, "A man should be a man and a woman should be a woman, and lately that's not happening."
I understand that there is a great nostalgia for the 1950s and its "simpler" times. In these fast-changing times, I can understand why some people would want to grip onto and romanticize an era that seemingly promoted complacency and normalcy, the Golden Age. And honestly, if a woman wants to grow up and become and full-time homemaker I can realize that while it's not my choice, it's not a bad choice. However, I was horrified to hear that these women's reasonings went beyond that of having a love for great clothes and a desire to be a homemaker. In one of the interviews, Shelby admitted that the 1950s lifestyle had saved her marriage because she wasn't out at the clubs to "whore around."
Do these women honestly believe that the priorities of the modern wife are so much different than those of the 1950s? Do they think that life for women was so much better in the 1950s so as to dismiss all the gains of the feminist movements of the last 200 years? Apparently so, or they completely misread the research from Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique.
It depresses me to think that people -- especially women -- in the 21st century believe that these out-of-date gender roles should be reintroduced as the norm. And It depresses me even further that TLC felt like this was an appropriate show to air considering the continued debate for women's rights and roles. My only hope is that this special was meant to spark a greater conversation and not actually promote a patriarchal system.
As the special ended, I sat there wishing that this TLC special was more Say Yes to the Vintage Dress and less Here Comes Some Vintage Ideals.