Miscellaneous

Become a 1950s housewife. Or your money back.

Fifties Housewife PosterWritten by McClung’s incoming co-editor-in-chief Mai Nguyen

I was skimming through the contents page of a recent issue of Maclean’s when this title caught my eye: “It’s ‘wife camp’ for 10-year-olds.” Say what? I quickly flipped through the thin, glossy pages until I finally hit Joanne Latimer’s story. The first page shows a photo from a scene of the TV hit show, Mad Men, which portrays the hellhole that was the 1950s (for women at least). The image shows a Stepford wife obediently fulfilling her duties as an entertainer and server for her husband and dinner guests, while her eyes show a look of wanting out. No surprise there. It’s an image that one would expect of the 1950s.

But is it often we see this kind of image in 2009? I should hope not. Not in the sense that women shouldn’t be living like it’s a Martha Stewart episode. In the sense that women shouldn’t have to be a miserable, domestic entertainer because of their biological makeup, especially with the advancements that have been made that have expanded women’s equality and opportunities.

That’s why it disgusts me to have read about something called a Makeover Camp, a two-week summer program for girls that was established by Wonny Song of Montreal’s Lambda School of Music and Fine Arts. No, it’s not the kind of camp where you come out of it with a 24-inch waist and an entirely new wardrobe topped with a fresh haircut. This is worse. Girls come out of this camp with improved posture, voice, conversation skills, table manners, music appreciation, wardrobe choices, makeup application and (gags) party-planning skills.

This camp is aimed at girls between the ages of 10 and 14. Song says that this camp will provide girls the skills they need to enter the professional workplace. Mr. Song, a nice wardrobe can only get you so far in your career, much less your seemingly poised posture.

What scares me the most is that some mothers have already expressed utter excitement in enrolling their daughters in this camp. There’s nothing wrong with being ultrafemme or learning proper etiquette at the dinner table. (I hate it when people chew with their mouths open, too.) But what this Makeover Camp instills in these young, impressionable girls is a set of ideas, beliefs and standards; ones that tell them that the woman they are to become must fit a very strict and, often times, compromising model.

According to Wonny Song, “There was zero per cent interest from the boys. Look, this is not a boot camp to reinforce the notion that girls should stay home. It’s not sexist. We would love to include boys, but what can we do?”

Okay…. The fact that no boys have expressed any interest in this camp is another reminder of that cultural force that has been placed, and always has been, on girls to improve on themselves, whether sexually, physically, emotionally, socially. You name it.

Young girls need a boost in their self-confidence, not a lesson on how to display a platter of fruits.

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14 thoughts on “Become a 1950s housewife. Or your money back.

  1. Hey, I think it is cool to have this camp. Why is it so bad to learn to be polite and with good manners? I am 22 and would be happy to learn all these even at my age. If I have a daughter, I will certainly send her. By the way, Wonny Song is a guy.

  2. There is certainly a sense of overboard feminism here – in the strong sense of negativity against something that is beneficial for society at large. There are so many ill mannered kids around that I do hope more kids can go to camps like this.

  3. It’s certainly a contentious issue. You’re right, some children could definitely work on their etiquette and mannerisms. It’s the gender issue that I’m worried about. This camp seems to have a very strong focus on femininity. How does that affect children experiencing gender identity issues? It would be nice to have such a camp break down gender stereotypes.

  4. Why is it considered sexist for a girl to act lady like? I think people are just being way too sensitive – and are tainted by skewed views.

    Well, I don’t think a camp like this will be of interest to boys, as they are likely to find it way to cissy.

  5. Depends on your definition of “ladylike.” Why should wardrobe choices, party planning and makeup application be “ladylike” behaviour? Because women have grown up with these social standards of what it means to be a “lady.” I really recoil from those labels.
    Then if a girl doesn’t act “feminine” enough she’s automatically a tomboy. It bothers me that a camp is teaching young girls to act like “ladies”….as if there’s a rule book somewhere.

  6. It is almost obscene to condemn a program that offers girls a chance to develop their confidence through working on overall presentation, communication, and good manners. My girl took the camp, not only did she enjoy it tremendously, I am impressed at how updated this camp is. They taught subjects that I wish I could have learned when I was a teenager.

  7. Hi Mai,
    Thanks for reading my story and writing this great post. I couldn’t agree more. Indeed, it was hard not to gag while conducting some of the interviews. The camp founders have good intentions, but I can’t get past the camp’s girly content. It will be interesting to see if the camp is offered again next summer!

  8. I just read about this camp and I`m 20 and wish I could attend!! I just love the 50s and I want to be a housewife someday. The problem is what was taught 50 years ago- training to be ladylike and a housewfe (the norm) is bad-mouthed and mocked today. In Fact, you cant find these etiquette schools for women anymore, unless maybe you live in the U.K. Maybe some women want to live like the 50s or semi-modern. Damn those feminist fools who preach against this femine revival. After decades of housewives in denial, “hiding inthe closet” it is wonderful that women want to embrace the roles they realize they were meant to fullfill. And no, I am not a modest Christian, or such. Just a young woman who takes pride in feminine couture and manners. Being a housewife, or just having manners is a wonderful thing that NEEDS TO BE MORE PREVALENT TODAY. Women, EMBRACE YOUR SEX. EMBRACE SKIRTS, DRESSES AND THE ROLE YOU WANT TO FILL. DONT BE EMBARRASSED TO BE LADYLIKE AND/OR A HOUSEWIFE. IN FACT, TAKE PRIDE IN IT!!!!

  9. I believe people are being too judgmental and entrenched in their own belief systems without keep their eyes open. What is wrong with cultivating poise and etiquette in young girls? Not everything is about feminism, or gender issues.

  10. I think the age group is just too young .
    A course like this should be aiming at people in their 20’s or entering the job market .
    It might give them more confidence.

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