Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Donna Reed- Feminist?

by Isabel Stark


The Donna Reed Show
(source: classictvhistory.com)

The Donna Reed show was a popular show on American TV in the late 1950s and the 1960s, in which each of the Stone family members fulfil the stereotypical roles assigned to their age and gender by the society and era in which they live. Donna Stone optimises this. She is a domestic goddess in the form of a loving, beautiful and perfect mother. She effortlessly cooks and cleans whilst managing to participate with equal grace, poise and dexterity in activities new to her (such acting and boxing coaching) whilst always able to place a meal on the table when her husband is finished at work. So far, many feminist would be outraged to hear of such a woman being hailed on TV, but there is much more to her than just the “perfect woman”.

Beneath the pearls and starched dresses and neat updos and that white, comforting, sweet smile there is substance; her life does not just revolve around pleasing and conforming to her husband.  She has many accomplishments that her husband (in the middle class, good profession as a paediatrician) does not posses, without which her family could not function. She can bake and ice a chocolate cake in a starched white dress and apron, clean the house with perfectly neat hair, heels and pearls. Before the time of gender equality women were rated on their accomplishment, as Caroline Bingley states (in Joe Wright’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice - before the disastrous Anna Karenina episode): “She must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing and the modern languages, to deserve the word. And something in her air and manner of walking”.
 
Perhaps accomplishments can be seen as a rating system imposed on women by men, something women wanted to get away from; however, the modern woman and feminist aims to be strong, independent, intelligent, artistic and attractive- ironically its a small kind of accomplishment, I suppose. Donna always believed that women should never appear vapid sculptures for a man’s admiring (looking beautiful is just a by-product of self-belief), and most of all she must have purpose. For me, Ms Reed balanced strong beliefs with dignity and subtly and did not take it to the extremities like many would.

The modern feminist has become too extreme; the need to prove yourself equal to man is unnecessary, the need to do something drastic in order to gain the title ‘feminist’ is ridiculous. Being a supporter for women’s rights I feel it has been taken to far; and  Donna Reed has shown me that even if you are a housewife who strives to rear a happy family you can still be an independent, strong female, you can still carry out stereotypical roles and look beautiful whilst having feminist beliefs. I can now look forward to settling down; the prospect of staying at home and raising my children is a happy one.

4 comments:

  1. Dear Isabel,

    I was deeply saddened to read your views on feminism - as a young woman you should be embracing the opportunities that so many women have fought for and look forward to further improving your rights in the future, instead of idealising the past. I recently read a novel by Kate Chopin entitled 'The Awakening', which told the deeply moving story of one housewife's struggle, and inevitable failure, to become emancipated at the end of the 19th century; I think you would find it very interesting and would love to know what you think.

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  2. "She is a domestic goddess in the form of a loving, beautiful and perfect mother. She effortlessly cooks and cleans whilst managing to participate with equal grace, poise and dexterity in activities new to her (such acting and boxing coaching) whilst always able to place a meal on the table when her husband is finished at work."

    Would you expect a man to do all of that?

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    1. I don't think there is anything wrong with women conforming to the gender stereotypical roles, I don't think its right that those women should be pariahs in this modern day. Anything I do would expect my husband to match, so yes I would expect a man to be able 'to do all of that'.

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  3. I am on Isabels side here men and woman are equel Isabel can only express how she feels .

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