A Woman's Place
"A woman's place is in the home." This is a very old saying, and has today I think come to mean something very specific. When people use this expression today, it is usually in ridicule of someone else, and suggesting that they have very old-fashioned and reprehensible beliefs. The notion is that people who actually believe that the saying is true, believe that all women should be forced to stay in their homes, and not go out to work, or have careers, and that they should busy and content themselves with tidying up and decorating the home, to make it a pleasant place to be for their husbands who will appreciate this. On top of this, they must do the cooking and washing. If this is what the saying means, then I disagree with it.
The saying refers to a very large and complicated topic: that of people's roles in society, and if I were forced to state that I either agreed or disagreed with the statement, then whichever answer I gave would be a simplification so great that it would be untrue. However, I may surprise you by stating that I am more in agreement with the statement than against it.
The standard modern belief seems to be that the saying is wrong. Modern people also seem to believe that those who agree with the saying have old-fashioned views. Actually, I think that there is a confusion between modernity and older ways on this issue. The notion that a woman must stay at home and have no occupation, and instead make a nice nest is a modern one, not an old one.
Before the industrial revolution, and right back to the start of farming, the home was not as it is now. There were no factories. Clothing for everyone was made in homes. There were no machines for spinning yarn, no automatic looms, no huge workplaces employing hundreds of people dyeing and sewing cloth. Instead, there was what we now call "cottage industry". A region's cheeses were made in the homes of the locals. A woman who was good at making cheese or sewing could earn money this way, and she would work at home. There was no divide between the home and work. There were no office blocks, people did not commute, and no one was stopping women from working by confining them to their homes.
Similarly, the modern home, in which a couple might live, is a modern thing. Homes until very recently were places where many people lived. Rich people had servants, and poor people had extended families, lodgers, and took on the task of looking after each
others' children. Homes were not lonely prisons as they can be for the modern housewife. The idea that the home is a nice place to stay in and be proud of, and spend money on, is also quite modern, and of great convenience to the various DIY chains around today. Some great houses of the very wealthy were show-pieces, and used for entertaining, but for the common man, the house was a place where the roof kept his bed and belongings dry, and the floor was made of earth, and one room was a pig pen, and another was for weaving.
My feeling is that people should act in whatever way is most likely to make them happy. Coercion tends to prevent happiness, and freedom tends to promote it. I do not think that a woman's place should be forced on her, I think that women should be free. I also think that if they were truly free to pick the path that would for them lead to the greatest contentment, that many more of them would end up not going out to work. The housing situation in modern Britain strikes me as inconvenient for the fostering of happiness. Whereas once a man could with a simple job support himself and his wife and family in a home, today most couples find that both of them have to work full time to afford a decent house. How can this be a good thing? Do women go out to work at the check-out counter of a supermarket because they love it? No, I suggest that they do this because they think that they need the money. Would it not be better that they did not have to do this? If they were free,...
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