In the midst of the Red Scare in the 1950s, there were many topics that were considered questionable. Of these topics were communists, people who were gay, and those who did not conform to the nuclear family standard. Men were to be the head of the household and women were to be the caretaker. Women were expected to stay at home, provide for the family, and look over children. This was said to be the way American households should be. However, during this time, there was a sexual revolution of sorts. Sex started being present in film, books, and music. This made people question what was the ideal American family. People thought that this was communism lurking in the background. Some American citizens thought that this was communism trying to break up the American family. It made people wary of going beyond the gender norms for the time. Because of this, many people thought that if women were to become influenced by communism, they would leave their family. Personally, I don’t see why this was the case. Maybe it was different in the 1950s, but marriage is not about finding a partner who can best serve you and your family. If the government gave each family equal shares of money, the role of husband and wife does not change in my opinion.
At the time, women were not only expected to stay home and take care of the home, it was encouraged. According to the article, people during this time period thought that women entering the workforce was a bad thing. It upset the middle class. They thought that women entering the workforce is just a step toward communist ideals. It makes me wonder why that connection was made. It also makes me wonder why women were not expected to work under a capitalist regime. To me, it does not make any sense.
Ana Pauker was the foreign minister of Rumunia. She had “communist” physical features for a female. She was more masculine and had an angry looking face, according to the American beliefs for the time. People thought she was everything that a woman should not be. This ruined her political career. Jean Fraser Kerr worked for Joe McCarthy. Jean was seen as a feminine girl who had an off and on relationship with Joe McCarthy. She did not conform to the idea of an American woman. She did not stay at home. She was active in politics and activism. However, she still maintained the role of being a ‘good American wife’.
All in all, society thought that breaking gender norms was a bad thing. They thought it was a communist push in the American capitalist system. Like I said earlier, I am not sure why that connection was made. To me, it does not make that much sense. However, I can understand that during the 1950s, people thought differently about things like that. I wonder how those people would view our modern world. Would they think that communism won in America? How would they feel about gay people having the right to marry? What is crazy is that those people in the 1950s could still be alive today.
One thought on “Gender Norm Breaking”
I like your point that a contradiction arises when you think about how American society relegated women to their duties as homemakers even though America was a capitalist country. From an outside perspective, a capitalist society should want more people in the workforce. Despite this, working was frowned upon for half of the American population. This goes to show how the fear of communism at the time made people think quite irrationally and cling to their traditional values to separate themselves as much as possible from the communist system. I also think that the increased talk of sexuality, including the idea of homosexuality that you mentioned, are partially what caused people to see the nuclear family and housewife as defenders against this supposedly communist influence.