I work as a volunteer in the Movement for Violence Prevention (MVP) program at Tubman. The program covers a wide variety of topics, but one of them is gender equality. One of the activities we do is read an article from a 1950’s article is called "The Good Wife's Guide," and honestly, for modern readers it's hard to look at with a straight face. The article advises that women complete a list of impossible demands. They must have the house clean and tidy, have dinner on the table, and keep the children quiet and clean, while taking a few minutes to rest and freshen up of course. All of this must be done before their husband comes home. Not only that, the women in this article are advised to avoiding talking to their husbands about their problems, because according to the article, they're not nearly as important as the husband's. At first glance, the reason we use this article is MVP is obvious, to explore the unrealistic social expectations of women at that time, and show why it's important to improve them. But as I quickly learned the first time I went through the MVP program, there is another reason we look at "The Good Wife's Guide;" to show the harm these social expectations had on men.
At first glance, the scenario set up in the Good Wife's Guide seems ideal for men. After all, they come home every night from a long day of work to a comfortable chair, a hot meal, and a wife who will give them anything they want without a moment of hesitation. But they also come home to eerie quiet. Instead of being able to play with their children, they must observe them as creepy specters, silent and devoid of the normal cheerful chaos that comes with a happy and playful child. Not only that, they are expected to work and be away from their families. What if they can't get a job? What if they would rather stay home with their children? And all of this says nothing about the likely overwhelming amounts of simmering emotions, the wife must feel but can't share with her husband. Is she not allowed to share their children's exciting rights of passage? Is she not allowed to express the anger that she must feel when her husband can come home and relax, while she has to cook and clean and keep her children quiet and disciplined? In the world of "The Good Wife's Guide" the husband is not allowed to share in the parenting of his children, in the sorrows or the joys. On a more careful reading of this article, you begin to understand that the second-class status that women were placed in was not only unfair to the women, but horribly unfair for men as well.
If you're not a woman, events like International Women's Day may feel like they don't apply to you. After all, on first glance, they seem like they advocate for issues that concern only women. But examples like this article show that greater equality for women improves the lives of everyone, those who identify as women, and those who don't. Women's rights have come a long way since "The Good Wife's Guide," was published, but they still have a long way to go. So I hope that today, and every day after, you feel inspired to work to the rights and equality of women, whether you are a woman or not.