Call me old-fashioned: Why I think it’s okay to want to be a housewife

So I read this article from the Times this morning, and it really got me thinking. I realize I’m going a little off point here, but you know how it works when you get to thinking about something and it takes you all over the board. Call me old-fashioned, but I really don’t feel the need to “have it all” in the way women these days are supposed to. I’m good at my job, and I enjoy being financially independent, but when I have children, as long as it’s financially feasible for me and my partner, I’d much rather stay home and take care of them than continue to work, or only work part-time, or work from home – you get the idea. That’s not to say that people who don’t stay home with their kids don’t have their priorities right. It’s just that everyone is different, and given the choice, I’d rather be a stay-at-home mom.

I’m all about equal partnership, but I don’t think that necessarily means going 50-50 on income and housework. It seems to me that with mutual understanding and respect, any income:housework ratio can work. Every couple is different, and being progressive just for the sake of being progressive seems counterproductive. As “modern women”, we’re supposed to be able to juggle a career, kids, and housework so we can prove to the world that we can do it all just as well as any man. That pressure, to me, is more entrapping than being a homemaker or staying home with the kids. I think I would feel more empowered making the decision to be a housewife without being judged or disparaged by the hordes of hyper-feminists. Every woman is unique, and has unique desires and needs. Telling me that I’ve been brainwashed by the media and society and calling me a traitor to women doesn’t make me sympathetic to the feminist cause – it shows me that you’re just as closed-minded and pigeonholing as the gender- and heteronormative roles you look down on. All you’ve done is create a new standard that’s just as limiting as the old one.

Why does there even have to be a standard? I think the best thing we as women could do to further our cause is to stop judging each other. Let’s just each make our own choices about how we want to live our lives, and be supportive of one another in whatever we choose to do. That would show the world that we’re empowered enough to do whatever we want to do because we want to do it, not because we feel we are supposed to. If you want to be a career lady and your husband stays home with the kids, and that works for you guys, more power to you! And if I want to work from home while I raise the kids, and that works for us, more power to me! Or if Suzie Q is a powerhouse career lady and president of the PTA, and that works for her marriage, more power to her! Who’s to say that in a marriage situation where income earning is 70:30 and childcare/housework is 30:70, that the “power balance” within the marriage isn’t still 50:50? To bring it back to the Times article, raising children/managing a household is a full-time job in and of itself. Speaking from personal experience, working 80 hours a week sucks. So the idea of working full-time outside the home, then working full-time at home, is less than appealing for me, and the findings of the studies they cite about decreased sex drive totally make sense to me.

I know I only addressed about 10% of what the article actually talks about, but it’s early and I’m just trying to open up a discussion here. Thoughts?

PS. I haven’t forgotten about DisneyQuest, I just suck at life. It’s coming soon, I promise.

DisneyQuest #10: Song of the South

from IMDB

from IMDB

1946, 94 mins., Rated G

Aaaaaaand we’re back! No excuses about why this took so long – I just suck. But I did some homework on this one, and I’m really excited to talk about it!

So I’m finally ready to tackle Disney’s Secret Taboo Shame. I think it’s really hilarious how hard Disney has tried to pretend that this film never happened. It’s pretty common knowledge that Walt Disney was a bigot, but so were most of his contemporaries, right? All the other films that deal with (read: perpetuate) racial stereotypes are easily accessible, and even seen as quaint in their Silly, Ignorant White People neatness. But because of the subject matter this particular “racist” picture is suuuuper not kosher. And I’ll probably get hate mail for saying this, but I’m not really even convinced that the film, or the intentions of the folks who made it, is racist. Just hear me out.

First of all, let me make a note of how hard it is to get your hands on this thing. It was never released in its entirety on VHS or DVD, and it’s not available to stream on any of the legit sites (Netflix, Hulu, etc.). Really the only plausible way to get your hands on a bona fide copy is a European PAL, which then requires the proper equipment, or an expensive DVD or digital transfer. The next option would be one of the numerous bootleg DVDs. These are mostly crappy DIY transfers from the PAL or the single time the film was broadcast on television, and only available from very shady-looking online retailers. So really, my only option was to procure it by other means. I plead the Fifth. But really, if they don’t want people going behind their backs, they should just make the damn thing available. It’s an historical document and should be treated as such. This smells a little like Germany insisting the Holocaust never happened, or American schools teaching our children that the Pilgrims and Indians were BFFs. Except that this movie isn’t anything to be ashamed of, so Disney are just making fools of themselves and wasting everyone’s time. Okay, end of rant.

I will now attempt to defend this film in as tactful, respectful, and accurate a manner as possible. Bear with me, please.

Have you ever read the Uncle Remus stories? No? I didn’t think so. I have, and the folks who made this film certainly did. Before I started researching for this post, I’d only ever heard the name Uncle Remus in association with this film, and had never heard any of the tales. If you didn’t know, it is a collection of folk tales influenced by the African-American and Native American aural traditions, and published by a white man named Joel Chandler Harris during the Reconstruction era (just after the Civil War, when the South was tore to shit and they had to rebuild everything). Mr. Harris was a journalist, novelist, and a champion of reconciliation (both racial, and between the North and South). Little Johnny’s father seems to be modeled after Harris – the film opens with a discussion between the grown-ups about folks not liking what Daddy has to say in his newspaper, and he leaves Johnny and Sally at the plantation to get back to Atlanta to keep working.

Uncle Remus spins tales of Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Fox and all their adventures and misadventures. There are cautionary tales and creation mythologies. Br’er Rabbit is characterized almost as an Arlecchino (from the commedia dell’arte tradition), or a Jim Crow (from the minstrel tradition). Much like Tom Sawyer or Tyrion Lannister, Br’er Rabbit uses his wits and cunning to avoid work, often creating an even bigger mess for himself in the process.

I found the film charming, particularly the framing story of Little Johnny and his family. I don’t understand why it’s seen as racist. Does it show liberated slaves still living and working at the plantation? Yes. Is that what they did in real life? Yes, a lot of them. Is there a tar baby in one of the Br’er Rabbit tales? Yes. Did Walt Disney make up the tar baby story because he hated black people? No. It was already part of the Uncle Remus tradition. If anything, pretending that these aspects of history never existed and disparaging anyone who depicts them in popular culture is more harmful than people seem to think this movie is. Could the animation sequences have been handled better? Yes. Could we have done without the use of dialect? Probably. As we discussed with Snow White, Saludos Amigos, and  The Three Caballeros, the Disneyfication of cultural mythology is not always helpful, but does at least bring exposure. What about Hercules – is that disrespectful of the mythological tradition of Ancient Greece? Or is The Hunchback of Notre Dame racist against the Romani? Yes and yes. I say just take it at face value. If you don’t like it, that’s your personal prerogative – but I don’t understand the crusade against this film in particular.

On a related note, this film happens to be very finely acted and sung by the very talented James Baskett and Hattie McDaniel (who you may know as Mammy from Gone with the Wind). And speaking of singing, I think this film marks the beginning of the Disney tradition of coining words for catchy tunes. “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” is one of the best-known and best-loved Disney songs ever, though many people couldn’t tell you what film it’s from. They also went to the next level with the combination of animation and live actors (which will obviously come in handy down the road for Mary Poppins).

My point here is not to offend anyone, just to offer my own thoughts about the films I watch in the most respectful way possible. If you read something you don’t like and have an informed, thoughtful response, please feel free to leave it in the comments below and I will respond in turn. I am not, however, interested in hate speech. Comments that are rude, hateful, or unsubstantiated will be screened out. This is a forum for discussion, not a platform for hate.

In other news…stay tuned for Make Mine Music!

Christmas in California

Hey y’all. Merry Christmas!

Sorry I’ve been bad about DisneyQuest stuff lately. It’s been a really bizarre couple of months, especially December – it came and went before I had time to blink. I’m working on Song of the South now, and will hopefully have it up tonight or tomorrow!

So anyway…

I’m spending Christmas/New Year’s in California as a traveling nanny for a family I’ve done casual babysitting for back in New York. They’re super nice and the kid (a rambunctious 4-year-old girl) is great, but something feels kind of…off. I think it’s a combination of several things that are making me feel uncomfortable, and maybe it’ll help me to talk through them. My shrink is always telling me to talk to people about my problems, and since I’m 2,500 miles away from my closest friend or family member, this will have to do. Not sure it’s exactly what she had in mind, but whatever.

First off, Christmas has always been a super huge deal for me and my family. For me, the Christmas season begins September 13, the day after my birthday. I love the cooking and baking, the shopping and decorating, praying for snow (then cursing it when there’s enough to be annoying, but not enough to cancel school or work), planning really thoughtful gifts for people, and, most importantly, the warm sense of togetherness and family. Growing up, even when money was tight, Christmas was always huge and magical, and in my adult life I’ve tried to maintain that feeling, even living far away from any family. And although the place I now call home is 600 miles away from the place I call my hometown, and even further from where most of my family live, I’ve still managed to spend Christmas and New Years with family every year.

It’s strange. I travel all the time, don’t mind being on my own, and am generally just fine being far away from my family. I figured that taking this one year off (in exchange for a considerable amount of money) would be okay, and that I was tough and independent enough to not feel lonely. But boy, was I wrong. I was doing mostly okay (even enjoyed myself at Christmas Eve dinner surrounded by very friendly strangers) until I woke up this morning and started scrolling through my Facebook feed. Seeing all my friends and family (especially the ones with whom I normally spend the holiday) posting all their present-opening photos and statuses was the first blow. It suddenly struck me how utterly alone was feeling. Then I saw the time stamps on the posts and remembered that these posts were all several hours old. Most of my family and friends are on the East Coast and in Australia, so waking up on West Coast time, it was like I had missed Christmas all together. As I sobbed silently in the shower this morning, I coined the term “Loneliness Radius”. Mine extends 5,000 miles to the west and 2,500 to the east.

Skipped Christmas traditions aside, I’m also extremely uncomfortable being around new people – particularly in family settings – and all I’ve done since we arrived in the Bay Area two days ago is spend time with other people’s friends and families. The MBTI says I’m an E, but only by a very narrow margin. Being constantly introduced to new people is exhausting and uncomfortable, and never having any private time during which to process all this new information only exacerbates the feeling. I share a hotel room with the 4-year-old (her parents are in a nicer hotel across the street), and am at the beck and call of the parents and family who live in town (none of whom believe in making and sticking to a schedule), 24/7, for the next two weeks. I’ve had perhaps an hour of waking privacy in the past three days. It’s very uncomfortable, especially for someone who’s never been a live-in nanny before.

Also, California itself is making me uncomfortable. I’ve never been here outside an airport before, and it’s like a foreign country. Which would be fine, if I had the freedom to explore and familiarize myself with the place. But I’m on a pretty short leash, and haven’t been able to get used to being here. Having spent 5 years in New York (usually walking several miles a day), and 5 months living in and exploring Europe, walking is typically the way I get my bearings in a new place. Apparently no one walks anywhere here, and even if I weren’t bound by all this “Just sit tight at the hotel all day in case we decide we want to take our kid somewhere, but we’ll only let you know for sure 5 minutes before we come over”, the kid can’t do as much walking as I’d like to do. And if I happen to find myself with a day off, I’d like to spend it doing touristy things down in San Francisco, rather than trying to get comfortable with my immediate surroundings. To this more practical problem, the only solution I can think of is to come back to San Francisco some other time, on an actual vacation, and try to isolate why California makes me uncomfortable, and go from there to familiarize myself with it.

I always used to tell my friends, when they would ask why I put up with this internship, or that babysitting family, that it’s because I’m for sale to the highest bidder. But I think now I’ve found my limit. I suppose we all have to find our personal thresholds of what we will and won’t do for money, and now I know that my Christmas isn’t for sale.

Thoughts?

DisneyQuest #9: The Three Caballeros

from IMDB

from IMDB

1944, 69 mins., Rated G

Is it just me, or is this just Saludos Amigos Part II? The premise of the whole thing is that it’s Donald’s birthday and he gets all these “presents” from his friends in Latin America. It’s actually all these little vignettes about the animals and people in various locales. The Three Caballeros aren’t even a thing until more than halfway through the film. Donald is joined by José Carioca (our friend the Brazilian bird from Saludos Amigos) for a few numbers, then they are joined by an overly-friendly Mexican rooster named Panchito for a few more numbers.

My favorite part of the film actually has nothing to do with Donald’s main imagined “journey”.  The first vignette is of a little penguin from the South Pole who dreams of living in Latin America, and his journey there. It was cute. All the business with Donald seemed a little overdone after Saludos Amigos. I do think it’s great (regardless of whatever the real motive was) that kids were getting exposure to other cultures, so long before the influx of immigrants in recent years. I do worry, though, that films like these definitely perpetuate racial stereotypes and are in that way unhelpful. Thoughts? I don’t really have much else to say about this one, to be honest. Is that awful of me? I was expecting some Three Musketeers-type adventures, and that’s definitely not what this is. Watch it yourself and see if you can come up with anything else…

The next post might take a while. I’ve been preparing for weeks, doing lots of background reading. Normally I don’t prep this much for a post, but I want to avoid pissing anyone off when I talk about Song of the South. À bientôt!

DisneyQuest #8: Victory Through Air Power

from disneymovieslist.com

from disneymovieslist.com

1943, 70 mins., Rated G

This was a very interesting (though not entirely surprising) film. I think the summary on the YouTube page where I watched it sums it up pretty well:

“This is a unique film in Disney Production’s history. This film is essentially a propaganda film selling Major Alexander de Seversky’s theories about the practical uses of long range strategic bombing. Using a combination of animation humorously telling about the development of air warfare, the film switches to the Major illustrating his ideas could win the war for the allies.”

I wonder what differentiates something like this, which is definitely propaganda, from the war films of today, like The Hurt Locker, which are seen as commentaries which propagate political opinions, but not as “propaganda”, per se. I think the difference lies in documentary-style presentation versus dramatization. Victory Through Air Power has an educational feel to it, and capitalizes on the fear of a nation at war to sell a particular war tactic. It seems rather like an attempt to go over the heads of the military bigwigs who failed to see reason, to convince the masses of what needs to be done. When the war effort is being felt so dramatically on the home front as it was in WWII, swaying public opinion must have gone a long way in influencing political action – much more than it would today, even in the age of connectivity in which we live (Government Shut-Down, anyone?).

I haven’t done any fact-checking, but I did pay pretty close attention to the WWII unit in history class, and a lot of this information was new to me. As has been known to happen in propaganda films, there might have been some fudging of facts in order to make a point. This may well have been intentional, or could have been a result of limited civilian access to details of battle information. But I think probably the former.

That said, it was still very cool to see the (albeit, animated) early history of aviation. And the film does make a very good point that the pressure of war accelerated aviation innovation exponentially. If the World Wars had not occurred, we certainly would not have reached the moon a mere 24 years later.

There is one particularly striking moment that I want to point out. I don’t really have much to say about it, I just thought it was very well-done and poignant and whatnot. Early in the film, building up to the use of planes as weapons, we learn about the historic flight Charles Rolls (of Rolls-Royce) made across the English Channel. During the animation, which shows a small plane struggling through lightning, dropping pamphlets over a field, then returning to England, a voiceover reads a statement from him regarding the flight, “Departing from England, the flight across the Channel was quite uneventful. Reaching the other side, and being recognized, dropped greetings. And, without stopping, returned home safely, without mishap.”

Later, during the discussion of WWII, the narrator announces that “today, the historic flight of C.S. Rolls is repeated daily, by Rolls-Royce-powered pursuit and bomber planes”. The voiceover then repeats Rolls’ quote, while the animation shows bombers traversing the channel, bombing everything in sight, then going back the way they came. The narrator follows that up by letting us know that  “in one single night, the bomb load dropped on Cologne was twenty times greater than the total amount used in the last war by the United States.”

It’s a very harsh comparison and helps put the real importance of this problem into perspective, despite how goofy some of the film is. It reminds you that this film was released two years before the end of the war, and that these bombings were very real horrors that were killing civilians every day.

Overall, I think this is a nice little film. Accompanied by a disclaimer regarding a handful of factual inaccuracies, it could be the type of thing a high school history teacher could screen when there’s a sub or something. I would be curious to see something in this style updated for the tools of war we are developing today.

Up next, to lighten the mood a little…The Three Caballeros!

DisneyQuest #7: Saludos Amigos

from IMDB

from IMDB

1943, 75 mins., NR

This one was really interesting, and not at all what I was expecting. I had never even heard of it until I started this project, and was surprised that several of my friends grew up watching it. Based solely on the movie poster and my knowledge of the racial insensitivity of pre-1980s cartoons, I was looking for a totally racist 75 minutes of Goofy & Co. running around with sombreros and ponchos, Speedy Gonzales-style. What we get instead is a cute documentation of a trip several Disney animators took to several South American countries, and vignettes featuring animated shorts based on their recon there.

This came across to me as, “Look, we’re actually going here and observing these people. So when we make a movie about them down the road, it won’t be ‘racist’ because we did our research and showed you that we’re not just stereotyping!” But it was also 1943, so I doubt anyone really cared about coming off as racist. My boyfriend suggests it was more like, “Hey, we want to go to South America. How can we do this on Disney’s dime?” That could totally have been how it went down. Maybe they just wanted a vacay and Europe was obviously out of the question at the time, so South America would have to do as an alternative. And then all the Nazis who escaped fled there a few years later. Womp womp.

So here we go. First off, I want to point out something I learned. Remember those awful gaucho pants everyone wore in, like, 2006? I never knew where the word gaucho came from until I watched this movie. Did other people wonder that too, or was it just me?

Also, they said they weren’t allowed to film in Uruguay. Why is that?

My favorite place they talked about was Peru. I thought that bit was really well-done, especially when they were talking about the personalities of donkeys versus llamas – animating the llamas wearing spectacles with really snobby facial expressions was spot on.

What do you guys think about this movie? It’s more like a travelogue interspersed with cute little cartoons. It’s entertaining, I guess, but I think for the educational value, you’re better off finding something else.

Up next…Victory Through Air Power!

DisneyQuest #6: Bambi

bambi poster

from IMDB

1942, 69 mins., NR

Somehow I made it 22 years on earth in Western society without ever having seen Bambi. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up watching it like most of my peers, but I don’t really see what all the fuss is about. Sure, it’s a great film – I just wasn’t as wowed as I was expecting to be.

The story is simple and sweet: the “circle of life”, if you will, of the mighty deer – Prince of the Forest. I think (especially coming off Pinocchio and Dumbo) I was expecting more plot. Though I can see the benefit of something like Bambi over some of the more complicated films. This one is very easy and straightforward – calm and pleasant with just enough movement and action to hold a young child’s attention; whereas some of the other ones are a bit hyperactive. I caught myself nodding off a couple times, not because it was boring (because it wasn’t), but because it just didn’t hold my attention. That might have been because it had been a long day, but could also have been because there just wasn’t a lot going on in the film. There’s very little story and a lot of downtime, even considering its short length. Probably says more about the melted minds of my generation and our need for ZAP!-BAM!-POW! in-your-face-all-the-time entertainment than it does about the film itself.

The biggest thing I was anticipating with Bambi was the much-talked-about death of the young prince’s mother. I did go in knowing she gets shot, but I still felt that it would not have been all that surprising, given the harsh warning she gives her son about the meadow, and the Great Prince’s ever-present protection – her death would have been surprising if it hadn’t occurred. I want to clarify, though, that I’m not disparaging the writing here – it’s great writing. But the hype that I’ve always seen associated with that particular event doesn’t seem quite appropriate.

I watched Bambi with my boyfriend, who grew up with it, and the big sticking point for him was Bambi’s relationship (or lack thereof) with his father. Before we watched it, he couldn’t insist enough that the Great Prince is totally ambivalent towards his son. “He doesn’t even expend the energy it takes to hate [Bambi],” he lamented. After Bambi’s mother is killed and it sort of skips the rest of the winter, Brendan chimed in, “That’s why Bambi II is all about what happens during this winter – this movie makes fathers look awful.” More than once, the Cards Against Humanity card, “Being a Dick to Children” was mentioned. After watching the film, however, I had a different take on the situation. While he isn’t super involved in his son’s life (until the mother’s death, anyway), Bambi’s father is always swooping in at the last second to save Bambi from peril. (That aspect of it reminded me a bit of the Dumbledore/Harry situation.) My boyfriend conceded afterwards that perhaps his judgment of Bambi’s father was biased both by time (it had been something like 15 years since he’d last seen the movie) and by the contrast of the very close relationship he has with his own father.

On a lighter note, I absolutely loved the character of the Owl. He’s the curmudgeonly (but actually gentle and caring) old man type – like Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh, or Mr. Feeny from “Boy Meets World”. He actually kind of looks like Feeny. And his advice, warning the boys about Twitterpation, is very Feeny-esque. That whole sequence where the boys are dropping off like flies is adorable.

All in all, I thought this was a very cute movie. I’m not as obsessed with it as the rest of America has been for the past 70 years, but I’ll definitely plop my own kids in front of it when they exist one day.

Stay tuned (hopefully in the next day or two) for Saludos Amigos!