‘I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.’

That’s what people in the fifties had been; sick and tired. Now however, they were sick and tired of being sick and tired and weren’t going to stand for it any longer. Betty Friedan wrote her book ‘The Feminine Mystique’ in 1963 and despite the fact that I belong to a completely different generation, reading it touched something inside me the way it did with the women of those times. Just the idea of being in their situation of, as Friedan states, ‘living through their husbands and children and giving up their own dreams for all that’ is incredibly daunting for me to think of. Not only is it a terrifying prospect but an incredibly unfair one at that. However, reading this chapter of Zinn’s book made me see how women had gotten into that miserable situation in the first place. Men would require the women to work when they were off at war and as soon as they would come back, they would the push the women away and expect them to go back to the way things had always been. Not only this, but the way men talked about women to each other was appalling. According to Robert and Helen Lynd, men among themselves were likely to speak of women as ‘creatures’ that were relatively ‘purer’ and ‘morally better’ than men but as ‘relatively impractical, emotional, unstable, given to prejudice, easily hurt and largely incapable of facing facts or doing hard thinking.’ They also thought of women as ‘weak and incompetent sex play things’, of pregnant women as ‘helpless’, middle aged women as being ‘no longer beautiful’ and older women as ‘people to be ignored and put aside.’ If their fathers, husbands and sons thought about the women in their lives that way, it’s no wonder women were so frustrated and plagued by the ‘problem that has no name.’

Betty Friedan’s book helped start the fight for the civil rights of women. However, in the sixties and seventies there seemed to be a general rebellion against repression and oppression of any kind, especially against the ‘artificial, previously unquestioned way of living.’ Sex became an openly discussed topic. Married couples began having extramarital affairs in what became known as ‘open marriages.’ One of the greatest changes that took place was that homosexuals no longer concealed their sexual orientation. Gay men and lesbians now started organizing to ‘combat discrimination against them, to give themselves a sense of community and to overcome shame and isolation.’ This shows how humans in the sixties started a great wave of a radical reconstruction of sorts once again, which would continue on into the seventies.

The ‘Marjorie’ in my life.

Reading ‘Busy Wife’s Achievements’, an article about 1950’s modern day American housewife reminded me of a woman in a very similar situation, but one that as time went by broke out of that suburban rut. I witnessed this transformation in my youth and it remains strongly a part of me because as I grew, so did she but in more ways than just biologically. This woman happens to be my mother.

In a country where this way of life for women was still common in the 1980’s, my mother went to an art college after high school knowing that whether or not she got a degree, whether or not she got a job, she’d be okay because she would get married and it would be her husbands job to support her. As such, she got married as a sophomore and gave birth to her first child (out of three) as a junior.

After graduating, she was just like Marjorie; running the house, taking care of the children and getting dolled up for her husband (my father) was her job. Like Marjorie, she was pretty and popular too. She would make an effort to get ready and apply her makeup before my father came home from work every evening and then she’d get busy with the preparation of dinner. They would entertain friends and family occasionally and this was their mundane, suburban life. Despite her being an avid painter and reader, she had no mental stimulation in her life. She felt like she was stuck in a void that she couldn’t find her way out of and she was also bored. She didn’t feel like she could connect to her husband either because gender roles did not permit them to have much in common.

Three kids and twelve years later she realized she was unhappier than she’d ever been, and she couldn’t figure out the reason for her unhappiness and dissatisfaction. She had everything she could want, (a grand home, three healthy children, a husband that earned a steady salary) why wasn’t she happy? Betty Friedan best describes this feeling in her book ‘The Feminine Mystique’. My mother had spent her youth trying to be the epitome of the ‘perfect wife and mother’, never once stopping to think of herself, of what she wanted in life. This was probably because she had been brainwashed by society into thinking that being the ‘perfect wife and mother’ was the only thing she had wanted for herself.

This wasting away of her twenties made her regret some of the decisions she had made in her life. My mother knew she was worth so much more than just a pretty child-bearer and she realized she wanted to get out there and experience the world in a way she hadn’t ever before. Despite strong disapproval from her mother in law, she decided to put that graphic design degree to use and look for work. She didn’t completely forget about her family, rather she managed to find that difficult balance between family and work that only few manage to achieve.

Eventually, after trying out several jobs over the span of ten years, she settled for teaching at her alma mater. She is a much more vibrant person now. Brimming with vitality, she is also much happier. Being her only daughter, she has been very adamant that I receive as much as education as I can so that I am able to thrive in the competitive world of today, get a job and independently support myself. Though, she would eventually like me to get married, it wouldn’t matter to her if I chose not to. Her hopes for me are much greater than those she had for herself.

“I am a false prophet. God is a superstition”.

Nietzsche has recently declared God dead, people are selling out their families for money and hypocrisy is at an all time high. What happened to the American dream? Industrialization was supposed to bring about prosperity and better lives for everybody but only the people who had luck and timing on their side woke up from the nightmare. ‘There Will Be Blood’ depicts the negative effect industrialization had on people who weren’t clever enough not to be swindled, using Eli Sunday as a vessel to get that message across. Though Eli’s religious practices are far from conventional, he manages to gather a sizable congregation at the Church of the Third Revelation, most of whom believe in his dramatic antics.  He is a pastor, yet dire financial straits coerce him to denounce his faith in God for money. It’s ironic that the character he asks for help is the ‘sinner’ himself, the one who symbolizes Satan in this film. This particular aspect of the film truly highlights how powerful industrialization was at convincing people to go back on their word, betray their kin and to forget the fundamental values of human decency. ‘There Will Be Blood’  emphasizes the influence of greed and how not even the people chosen to guide others onto the right path are immune to it.