For women, the family versus career question is a big one. As middle age approaches, panic starts to set in for those who have focused solely on careers or on raising a family. On one end of the spectrum, a housewife with children may regret the career opportunities not taken and may start to feel empty as her children grow older. On the other hand, the career woman starts to realize that her successes don’t care about her like a family would. The clock is ticking, and many women want it all: the loving family, successful career and the seemingly flawless life.
In ETC’s most recent production, Rapture, Blister, Burn, the two main characters find themselves knee-deep in regret over the life not lived. Both age forty-ish, Catherine and Gwen struggle with the career versus family question. In the play, the two discuss two controversial voices of the women’s movement who influenced the societal discussion on women’s roles: Betty Friedan and Phyllis Schlafly, who had very opposing views on the topic. Friedan suggested that women were able to choose their destiny, while Schlafly wanted to preserve the traditional roles of women in the household.
Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique
Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique in 1963, was a major influencer of second wave feminism. Friedan explores the growing expectation post WWII that women should enjoy home maintenance, pleasing their husbands and raising children. These duties were supposedly enough to keep women happy. However, Friedan exposed the feelings of depression, guilt and emptiness that many housewives were experiencing. Her book is credited as one of the major influences of second-wave feminism and brought forth the controversial idea that women don’t always fit a specific mold. For the first time, women were given a choice in their own destiny. A woman could choose whether she wanted to be a homemaker or a career woman and perhaps have both.
You can read more about Betty Friedan here.
Phyllis Schlafly, A Choice, Not an Echo
Phyllis Schlafly was the prime opponent to the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. She spearheaded the pro-family opposition group against the ERA and wanted to preserve women’s traditional roles in society. In Rapture, Blister, Burn, the women discuss how Schlafly believed that marriage and family was not a natural state for men and that society should shame them into marriage. According to Schlafly, women must act as the weaker sex for men to want to marry them. A man must lead and a woman must follow. In a 2011 interview with NPR’s Michael Martin, Schlafly said this about the feminist movement:
“I think the main goal of the feminist movement was the status degradation of the full-time homemaker. They really wanted to get all women out of the homes and into the workforce. And again and again, they taught that the only fulfilling lifestyle was to be in the workforce reporting to a boss instead of being in the home reporting to a husband. That is an attitude toward marriage and homemaking that I think is intolerable and false.”
You can see the full interview on NPR’s website here.
You can read more about Phyllis Schlafly here.
It’s obvious why these two viewpoints were controversial and proceeded to cause discussion about women’s roles in society. So that begs the question, can you have both? Is it possible to be a homemaker and also fulfill yourself as a woman professionally? Will you look back at age forty and wonder “what if”? Perhaps the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
“Phyllis Schlafly Still Championing The Anti-Feminist Fight.” NPR. N.p., 30 Mar 2011. Web. 16 Oct 2013. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=134981902>.
Phyllis Schlafly. N.p.. Web. 16 Oct 2013. <http://www.phyllisschlafly.com/>.
“Betty Friedan Biography.” Bio. True Story. N.p.. Web. 16 Oct 2013. <http://www.biography.com/people/betty-friedan-9302633>.