The last of the four virtues is domesticity espousing that a woman’s place is the home. This assigned home and housework as the female world. Parenting is also seen as best suited for women. Catharine Beecher, a dedicated follower of The Cult said “Woman’s greatest mission is to train immature, weak and ignorant creatures, to obey the laws of God, first in the family, then in the school, then in the neighborhood, then in the nation, then in the world. “(qtd.
In Wikepedia The Cult of Domesticity) As men spend more hours working in industries, child rearing or parenting is left mostly with women. These virtues were widely circulated in women’s magazines, advice books, religious journals, and fiction. Godey’s Lady’s Book is the most widely circulated ladies magazine in the United States having 150,000 subscribers by 1860 (Wikipedia). The magazine is said to have “encouraged motherhood as a religious obligation” and “crucial in preserving the memory of the Revolution and securing its legacy by raising the next generation of Americans”.
This same magazine further proclaims that “The wife is truly the light of the home. ” The From Difference to Dominance to Domesticity: Care for Work, Gender as Tradition, a Chicago-Law Review also by Joan Williams, discusses the structural changes in the American that resulted from domesticity. The advent of domesticity created delineation from that of the “productive” and “reproductive” work. Productions are thus shifted to the factories or businesses while other kinds of production such as food and clothing are gendered feminine.
There is also a shift in the role of childrearing from that as one of the primary roles of the father but was later on shifted to mothers and associated to femininity (Williams, 3). In a dog-eat-dog world of capitalism, domesticity is said to provide a humanizing balance in this system. As men are expected to be “selfish and calculating, that spirit has be balanced by women’s selflessness” (Williams,4) Domesticity does not only affect women but also men, the ideal of manhood also shifted from the father role to that of the breadwinner.
It created gender roles that pressure men to provide for the economic and material needs of his family. This shift also resulted to fathers spending less and lesser time with their children, depending the parenting role almost entirely to women. Though women still performs productive work such as canning or livestock raising, domesticity constructed new work patterns that the workload of women ceased to be regarded as “work” but as “labor of love”(Williams,6).
Women’s labor, especially housework, lost its economic dimension as domesticity as a gender system has coded all these work under the label of “care” (Williams, 7). Two centuries later, women are better educated now than before but the ideology and practice of domesticity remain intact. Survey shows that about two-thirds of Americans believe that it would be best for women to stay at home and care for their family and children (Williams, 2). Though the market economy has opened a place for women, domesticity is still deeply entrenched in the system that it still defines and marginalized the role of caregivers.
Williams further noted that the current ideal-worker norm which can work at least forty hours a week year round generally excludes most mothers of childbearing age. In a society that is so deeply rooted in the structure that upholds that the best jobs almost nearly means working beyond the eight-hour a day period. As most working married women or single mothers are still homemakers, they are vulnerable to adverse job consequences because they cannot work overtime. Childbearing can actually have strong negative effect in women’s income.
Figure shows that “mothers who work full time earn only sixty cents for every dollar earned by full-time fathers” (Williams,2). Aside from this equality in the family work have remained elusive women. American women are said to perform 80% of childcare and two-thirds of housework, this include cooking food, doing dishes and laundry, cleaning the house, and caring for children which on the average mothers spend thirty-one hours a week (Williams, 2). In short, the basic principles of domesticity still remained today — women still specialized on housework and men on market work.