Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Living The Viva Vintage?, Or Just Plain Loco?

Hubby sent me this link to Jen But Never Jenn's 50s Housewife Experiment; he found it via this post at MetaFilter, which was anything but kind.

This made me think about addressing an underlying question about this blog: Do I live a vintage lifestyle?

The simple answer is, "No, I do not." (And if you've read any of my other blogs, especially Kitsch Slapped, you'd probably know that lol) But the more in-depth answer is that I pick and choose what tips and practices of the past fit the needs of my family and myself.

My reasoning, is two-fold.

One, that I'm too well-aware of the unrealistic expectations of that time, for both genders, to pretend otherwise. As Jen mentioned, and I'm pretty sure I myself have written somewhere, is that the past is far too easily romanticized; we tend to recall and pine for the powerful love story of Casablanca, but forget the realities such as the actual pain of unrequited love and living with someone we are beholden to, but do not love -- let alone recall the wounds of war!

Two, I'm too busy to summarily reject out-of-hand modern conveniences which actually do the work more efficiently and even more cost effectively than if done the way our grandmothers did it.

While I'm too old to just pretend and play house, my age (an astonishingly old -- especially on the Internet! -- 46) and experience does provide me an interesting perspective...

It's true that some of us have overly romanticized the 1950s (or any era, really); but some of us have demonized the past as well. In the process, we've thrown the baby of helpful household tips out with the bathwater of modernism and/or feminism. This "either or" or "all or nothing" thinking has diminished the value of housewives and housework, and, in my opinion, many of the so-called conveniences are anything but -- they've only raised other economic, environmental and health problems, for individuals and our country as a whole.

I'm in the middle of reading a great book about the history of home economics which addresses much of this and, as I'll be reviewing it here, I'll wax on then.

For now I'll just summarize that there's a lot we can learn from the past, practical and otherwise, and I use this blog to help remind us all of it; it's up to each individual to decide what, if anything, is helpful enough for them to reclaim.

Image Credits: Housewife Marjorie McWeeney with Broom Amidst Display of Week's Housework at Bloomingdale's Store, photo by Nina Leen for LIFE magazine.

5 comments:

Gracie said...

"It's true that some of us have overly romanticized the 1950s (or any era, really); but some of us have demonized the past as well. In the process, we've thrown the baby of helpful household tips out with the bathwater of modernism and/or feminism. This "either or" or "all or nothing" thinking has diminished the value of housewives and housework, and, in my opinion, many of the so-called conveniences are anything but -- they've only raised other economic, environmental and health problems, for individuals and our country as a whole."

An incredibly cogent point that you have articulated much more clearly than I have been able to in talking with people.

One thing I haven't seen any discussion on is this. How aspirational were all this housewifery books and magazines targeted at women.

Fifty years from now will people be looking at Martha Stewart and Real Simple and InStyle and any number of other magazines and books and blogs and websites and take them as a literal representation of life today?

I shudder to think.

Jen said...

Well said, Pop Tart and Gracie! I was sort of amazed at the wealth of good information and advice I found while doing the experiment - much of which has all but been abandoned (even more so when it comes to advice out of wartime Britain - I collect homemaking guides from that era as well).

I've wondered the exact same thing, Gracie, as to how we'll be judged based on our current media and what impression of us it will leave on future generations. I hope that those who stumble across my experiment, realize that I was "going by the books" (magazines, books, etc.) and that those were highly idealized versions of what women were expected to do - and not how I imagine every woman of the time living.

Oh - and, yes - yikes to some of those comments on Metafilter. I'm actually really open to critique, but some of the digs were pretty harsh to put it mildly. Ah well ... :)

Anyway - love your blog and thanks for the interesting discussion!

Little Black Car said...

Actually, I was thinking the same thing the other day when I was at the grocery store, staring at the house & home magazines in the checkout line. My life sure doesn't look like Martha Stewart Living.

While I think it can be very interesting and informative to draw comparisons between now and the 1950's (or insert past era of your choice), I get tired of them making judgments. It was what it was and we can't do anything about it now, except hopefully learn to do better. I hope none of us leads a truly vintage life because there are a lot of authentic viewpoints that don't need to be resurrected/encouraged.

I'm content to settle for a lot of vintage aesthetics, while holding onto the advantages of the modern era. Yes, that may be superficial, but sometimes that's as far is it needs to go.

Pop Tart said...

Thank you ladies for chiming in on this!

As a collector of vintage magazines and other publications (among many things lol), the unrealistic aspirational quality varies -- as it does today. Over all, women's publications are the worst; the men's at least are obvious and almost comical in their stated belief system, while those publications supposedly "for" women often seem the most against them.

However, that doesn't mean they are worthless. Be it the odd tip, great interview, etc., they also offer a starting point for discussions of media, female identity, etc.

More on that at my other blogs, tho.

I look forward to reading more at each of your sites!

Val said...

I just found your blog, and I have to tell you that I really appreciate this post. I like to talk on my own blog about how our perceptions of history, both the good and the bad, are often inaccurate. There's much to be gleaned from history, and I very much enjoyed reading several of the household tips you've offered in nearby posts. On the other hand, though, we can't look at history and assume that it was always pleasant. Truthfully, many parts of history were quite difficult and rather unpleasant, and I'm glad that I didn't live through them. On the other hand, though, there is much of benefit that we can learn from the past as well.

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