The 1950s were a golden age in America economically - a huge chunk of the middle class had a car and a house and a good life with only one parent working; a pipe dream in today's economy, but income taxes were only on the rich and government was not promising to do everything and taxing people to do it.
But the 1950s were also a paradox; racism was still acceptable to many and so were other forms of discrimination, like against working women.
We all know that, but The New York Times, as usual, cannot see what it does not want to see about a time when America was good, and perhaps better overall than today, and solicits writers who agree. No one agrees that the 1950s were awful more than history professor and author Stephanie Coontz, who continues to revise the 1950s and now contends that stay-at-home mothers made entire generations of men neurotic, even citing passages from other works claiming the American soldiers of World War II were basically unfit to defeat the Nazis, even though they did.
Gosh, it was such an awful time. What could ever rescue it? Feminism, of course - but she only credits the parts of the assault on motherhood that suit her political-cultural agenda. Despite faithfully reciting all the other slams on 1950s mothers as facts, the notion that overprotective mothers created homosexuals, also popular 60 years ago, is "repellent and now-discredited" and being a stay-at-home mom led to "widespread feelings of inadequacy and depression" but stay-at-home mothers have less depression today. What gets the credit for that? Feminism, of course. And if men are better parents today, you can thank feminism. Less domestic abuse? Feminism.
Feminism, in her capable hands, is positively Smurf-like in its ability to transform into anything that will look like a cultural positive, yet cannot be blamed for anything negative. I wouldn't ordinarily object, it is The New York Times after all, so a story like "World destroyed - women, minorities impacted most" wouldn't surprise anyone, but people actually still read the thing. Worse, it seems some men believe this stuff; a respected academic and surgeon had to leave his post over a study outlining how women might react to men. And the objection from his fellow female surgeons was citing a study about men and women reminded them they may have felt discriminated against when doing their residency a decade ago.
Feminism, like debates over gun control and unions, had its day. It was once obviously necessary, but tearing down stay-at-home moms and the generation of the 1950s in order to continue to try and make feminism continually relevant now isn't productive. The fact is, individual idiots aside, there is equality so no -ism is necessary and plenty of women are biased against men, as any social science program in universities can attest. Women get more than 50% of the Ph.D.s and have no problem competing for tenure track jobs with men. Statistics about less money for the same work are clearly flawed now whereas once it was really the norm. Continuing to insist that without 1960s warmed-over feminism we are all doomed isn't cultural accuracy, it is historical revisionism, something I hope a history professor like Coontz will avoid in the future.
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