When I work on a project that takes up a lot of my time, I often have to deal with a vague sense of guilt that I'm not working on something more practical. But as Bob said to me the other day "you can work on projects all you want, now". And he's right. Other than errands and general upkeep and building things, my time is free to work on all sorts of things.
One of the things is more embroidery patterns. As soon as my studio has reached a semblance of organization, I'm getting to work on the patterns I was working on before we moved.
But, until that time, I've been working on a project that involved going through my old magazines and pulling out the parts that were useful to me, most specifically, recipes and fashion spreads, but also articles and ads that catch my eye.
The magazines are from the 1940s, '50s and '60s, and have no intrinsic worth - I got them for cheap, because they're mouse-nibbled and torn and generally in awful shape - so I don't feel bad about ripping them apart. I save the fashion spreads so I can build a file of past fashions that will help me accurately date my vintage clothing, I save the recipes because some of the are too fun to lose, and some sound delicious (hot dogs stuffed with a slice of cheese and a sliced pickle, wrapped in bacon and broiled? Wow!). Also, I love the weird recipes that advertisers come up with so you'll use their product - sliced doughnut and Kraft cheese slices sandwiches, for instance.
(Barf. I showed it to Bob and he made a noise that was difficult to interpret, but I think sounded like he was deeply unenthused at the idea of doughnut sandwiches.)
I also save the articles and ads that are most awful about women. For instance, do you know of the life cycle of Listerine? I have ads for Listerine as mouthwash, which you would expect, but also an ad that suggest you use Listerine as a douche.
There are a lot of ads in the magazines that focus on how awful women smell, and how much of a turn-off it is for men - I don't know about you, but I don't recall most women smelling of anything bad. But to look at these ads, you'd think women in the midde of the 20th century emitted aromas that would fell a buffalo. Suppositories (strictly speaking, pessaries, but in addition to thinking women stink, the men making the ads can't tell the difference between their anus and a vagina, it seems) to shove up there to solve "the most intimate of marriage problems" (yes, ladies! All your budget problems are solved by shoving medically suspect things up your hoo-ha!), and things to douche with (I haven't found the legendary "Lysol as douche" ad, but I am assured that Lysol used to advertise its product as safe for vaginal tissues, and after all, women are stinky, stinky creatures, right, men?) that made Bob's hair curl when I showed them to him.
Supposedly, the makers of Lysol stopped advertising it as a douche after a woman used it full strength and died, but I haven't been able to verify this fact. And I'm too lazy to look it up on the internets, but you're free to do so, if you want that in your search history.
Woman's Day had a terrible regular column titled "How to be a Girl", that dispensed advice to young women about dates and beauty, and how nice girls should behave, which each month basically boiled down to "you must change yourself completely into a docile obedient cheerleader for your man, because otherwise no man will want you, ever". I saved one of the columns that said it most forcefully, informing girls that men want a woman who never makes any demands on him to share her interests, but she must go along with everything he wants to do. As a sop, it threw out that a "generous" man might be willing to put up with a bit of shopping, or something, but not to expect it. What a delightful vision of marriage!
I think it was Virginia Woolfe who said that women act as mirrors to men, "reflecting them at twice their natural size", for otherwise men would shrivel up and die because they are so sensitive, and that this was not a good thing.
Those heady advice columns that suggest servitude is the highest honour a woman can attain sounds like a good deal for men, and certainly there are still men who would like things to go back to that state of affairs (see: The entire MRA movement), but it sounds like a piss-poor deal for women. I know why the magazines and the media tried so hard to push women nto domestic roles and as "helpers" to men in the 1950s - just 10 years before, women were doing all the men's work, and doing a damn fine job of it, while all the men went off to war. Now, to ensure that men had jobs (you know, because men are more worthy of being salaried than women), all the women who had been earning a paycheck now had to go back to being unpaid domestic servants. The only way to achieve this was a wholesale propaganda effort to brainwash women into believing that they weren't anything without a man, and a man didn't want an independent woman capable of taking care of herself.
It was really evil, actually.
I remember my mother told me that her mother was absolutely stuck after the war, because all her servants (uh, all two of them) had gone off to do war work, and decided that they liked it much better than being servants. I can't imagine that most women didn't feel the same way - money of your own, that you didn't have to wheedle and beg out of your partner? Security that no matter what, you can take care of yourself? No worries about your husband leaving you after years as his personal servant and child-rearer because he wants a younger cuter woman so he can pretend he isn't getting older himself? It's nice to have money for yourself - something that men have always known, which is why they removed women from competition by first making them property, then writing laws so that women couldn't hold jobs - and when that didn't work, paying them less than a man, and harrassing them mercilessly until they quit.
The true evil genius stroke was to tell women that they enjoyed housework - that they were naturally suited for domestic duties and child-rearing, and that their wombs would become shrivelled up and fall out if they dared to want something other than unpaid housework. Some women love being mothers, and some men love being fathers, and they are happy to stay home and be there with their children (more power to them - I deeply respect the homemakers and mothers I know, because it's hard work!), but some don't. Some women love working (my mother, for whom work is life, and independence is essential), and some men don't. To divide the sexes along absolute lines and say that the shape of one's genitals somehow predestines a person to one kind of life path is to ignore the rich diversity of personality and talent amongst all people, male and female.
I hate housework. My genitals are definitely female (though my womb rebelled early on and refused to house any little alien life forms), but I haven't noticed that they endowed me with any talent or prediliction for domestic chores. In fact, they're called "chores" for a reason - no-one wants to do them. I think it's pretty reasonable for women to be angry at men as a whole for the wholesale servitude they forced onto women throughout history. And I hope that most men now are enlightened enough to understand that the way things were has been fundamentally unfair. Yes, that means that men can't rely on the laundry fairy any more, but it also means that men are far more free to be the one who stays home and raises the kids while their wife is the breadwinner. Those who wish to maintain the hoary old status quo may declaim in ominous tones about how men are somehow losing their testicles (for fuck's sake, don't buy this terrible book) because women are seeking to be equals, but they're stupid and wrong.
(Yes, women can be just as bad about trying to maintain inequality between men and women, but you'll notice that the women who yell loudest about how women should stay home and be meek obedient helpmeets to their all-powerful husbands are all career women who wouldn't think about doing what they preach so loudly as mandatory for other women.)
It's funny, that even 50 years later, the same old arguments about how women are supposed to stay home and be unpaid servants to men stick around. The language may be slightly (but only slightly) more subtle, but the threat of "no man will want you" is the stick that these regressionists wield - as if being single is the worst thing ever for women. Back when women weren't allowed to hold jobs and be financially independent, it may have sucked to rely on your family for everything for your entire life, but now, is it really more awful to be single, or is it far more awful to be trapped into a marriage where you are not an equal, not respected, and expected to earn no money, demand nothing, and be a mirror to your husband, reflecting him back at twice his insecure size, being nothing yourself, and having no interests that he doesn't approve of, just so you can "have a man"?
Sounds like bullshit to me - and to a lot of men I know. A man who is so insecure and selfish that he can't conceive of his partner as being a full human being with interests of her own is not a man who deserves a wife. And all the men I'm friends with would agree. The really positive change from the 1950 magazines to today is that far from taking instructions on "how to be a girl" to heart, we now roundly mock such drivel.
Damn good thing, too.