This month Beyonce went retro in a 50’s sitcom-inspired music video for her song “Why Don’t You Love Me,” while also calling attention to the traditional pressures women face due to gender inequality. As a overburdened, depressed and unloved housewife, “B.B. Homemaker” drinks her misery away and croons about her unfulfilled life, despite being seemingly “perfect.”
After watching this video, I started to ponder portrayals of women in domestic roles on television and how, frankly, the job seems pretty thankless and scary — bringing us to the question, “Why don’t we love housewives?”
I mean, yes, we do have the pretty and pleasant housewives in commercials, who do their best to make kitchen floors shine and get stains out of their family’s clothes as they smile happily, but most roles of housewives on television are sad, crazy or stupid.
We have the likes of “Betty Draper” in Mad Men, a self-serving and mistreated sixties housewife with a drinking problem; then there’s schizophrenic “Tara Gregson” in the United States of Tara whose family is falling a part do to the tornado of her alter egos; next up we have the drug dealing Nancy Botwin in Weeds, who is perhaps the most selfish character ever written as she burns down neighborhoods and sleeps with drug lords; and finally there are the many ladies of Wisteria Lane on ABC, who deal with murder and remarriages to no end on Desperate Housewives; along with several other comedic mother-wives on 30-minute sitcoms who play it straight to joke-cracking husbands.
Each of these characters is a homemaker, creating an unfit home life with their destructive behaviors. These extreme roles lack the kindness, intelligence and responsible nature of real women. And, I’ll be honest, these representations don’t make the job appealing, which in a way, is an insult to mothers and wives of the past, present and future.
So what about those homemakers on reality TV, you ask?
They might as well be a modern version of Beyonce’s B.B. Homemaker, all dressed up and ready to act out what it means to be a “housewife,” making a statement about American culture. However, these ladies aren’t being ironic. The women who are “Real Housewives” exploit their wealth and silliness in top cities across the country on Bravo, or there’s the “swappers” who are willing to trade in their family for another, and who could forget the mom’s who have given up on their kids, ready for a nanny to take over on network television.
How are these women commenting on real world experience? You tell me. Are all women seeking to trade their families, be unhappy millionaire’s wives, or live selfish prime time soap opera-esque lives?
I think housewives are being objectified and silenced in a different way than the past. The wealthy, irresponsible reality TV stars and the TV show characters create a new stereotype of housewife, but not in a good way. Any of these scripted series would make any young woman think twice before moving to the suburbs if they thought their lives would be similar.
I mean, really, if the lives of wives on TV are any indication, young and married urbanites should be desperate to avoid wisteria-covered houses, back-stabbing neighbors (ha, literally!) and screaming, ungrateful children altogether.The suburbs seem to be a breeding ground of hatred, lies, divorce and dissatisfaction.
Maybe the term “housewife” needs a makeover and quite possibly, a publicist. Those shows, both fiction and “non-fiction” are created for entertainment, not to depict realistic versions of women we are, or will become. Was that the point of B.B. Homemaker? Is Beyonce a feminist too?
Since I’m not a housewife myself, I cannot speak on their behalf, however, as a feminist, I believe it’s important that we are aware of this disservice to strong, smart, generous and talented women who choose the role. We must also defend our right to work in the public or private spheres. Being liberated doesn’t make anyone better than another — whether she works in an office, on television, or at home — we are all equals.