I have tons to say on the sometimes uneasy relationship (real and imagined) between homemakers and feminists (and I don't mean to imply that these are mutually exclusive categories). But it's past midnight, and I am drunk on this whole blogging thing, so I am going to wait until I am a bit more coherent.
Just as a teaser though, I will comment on what I have perceived as a common portrayal of homemakers in the movies. The two movies of which I am thinking are pretty old -- "A Time to Kill" (1996) and "JFK" (1991). In "A Time to Kill," the lawyer played by Matthew McConaughey takes on the dangers of defending a black man charged with the murder of two Klan members who raped his daughter. The wife, played by Ashley Judd, spends the whole movie giving McConaughey a hard time because the case is disrupting their comfortable lifestyle. In "JFK," the wife (played by Sissy Spacek) causes prosecutor Jim Garrison (played by Kevin Costner) grief for all the time he spends investigating the possibility that there was a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy.
I remember being struck as I was watching both movies that these women were stock movie characters -- the pain-in-the-butt wife who is more concerned about safety and security and an easy life than she is about the great things her man is achieving, the boring homemaker who is incapable of thinking of any larger principles than the needs of her immediate family. I am sure if I sit down and think that I could come up with zillions of additional examples of such movie characters.
Why do these characters get under my skin so much? As my husband pointed out when we watched "A Time to Kill," there are doubtless many wives (and husbands) who have bemoaned their partners' far reaching endeavors. And the Ashley Judd character had a point, I suppose, especially after the Klan bombed her house.
I guess it bugs me because I grew up watching my homemaker mom stoically supporting my father throughout numerous dangerous endeavors. And it bugs me because these portrayals seem so repetitive and unnuanced. And worst of all, they seem to underscore a stereotype that women are uninterested in the larger issues or principles that can give life adventure and meaning beyond one's immediate family. They reduce women to boring, one-dimensional obstacles to the all the exciting and important things men want to accomplish.
I bring this up, in part, because I think a lot of the negative stereotypes of homemakers are not just anti-homemaker but generally anti-woman. Even though I am not a homemaker myself, I take some of these stereotypes somewhat personally. Anyone who may be reading out there in the blogosphere, can you think of any other examples? Or am I all wet? Have movies improved in this regard in recent years?