Thursday, March 1, 2012

Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad...June Cleaver?

And I have been pondering June Cleaver a lot lately. June Cleaver seems to be the house wife that everyone loves to hate. And I wonder just why that is?

June Cleaver has been described as the stereotypical 1950s housewife. A stereotype is a popular belief about a specific type of individual. This means that June Cleaver is what most people believe a 1950s housewife was like. And everyone, from feminists to modern evangelical Christian women, to home schooling-stay at home moms, make derogatory comments about her. And again, I wonder why?

 Barbara Billingsley aka June Cleaver
Well, I know why feminists dislike her. She is the epitome of everything they hate about women, and women's roles. June happily stayed at home. She kept a beautiful house, cooked, cleaned, wore pearls and high heels, and was the slave to all the male chauvinist pigs is her life. She was obviously repressed and unhappy to have to fill this role. Except, she wasn't.

Modern evangelical women tend to dislike her for the same reasons. How could a woman be happy staying home? We need ministries. We need jobs. Or we won't be happy. Our identity will be swallowed up in that of our kid's and husband's.

The home school/stay at home group tend to dislike her for an altogether different set of reasons. Who in their right mind would dress up everyday, wear heels and pearls? Ridiculous! And we all know that keeping the house like that is just unattainable. Scoff...We have swung the other way, glorying in our transparency and yoga pants. Or denim skirts. As if there is some merit in being sloppy, or casual.
I will say right now that I do not run around in high heels and pearls. I just don't. Nor do I always put the effort into my appearance that it deserves. Or that my husband deserves.

But, is there anything fundamentally wrong with vacuuming in high heels and pearls? And, by the way, June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley) wore her pearls to cover up her rather prominent neck hollow, so it wouldn't look dark on camera. And she wore high heels more in the later seasons to have a height advantage over her son/co-stars. I might just have to try that trick. My boys are catching up to me far too fast.

Here is what I think is positive about June Cleaver, and her 1950s house wife stereotype.

-She took care of her appearance. What husband wouldn't want to come home to that smile and that beauty?

-She had great parenting skills. Like, she never yells. I watch those episodes and think, "I wish I thought of that," as she and Ward handle parenting situations.

-She is a stay at home wife and mom. This is a very important concept. Leave it to Beaver was filmed from 1957-1963. This is in the post WWII era. The era of a mass exodus of women from home to the job place. They'd gotten a taste of working a job during the labor shortages of WWII, and a whole lot of those ladies decided to stay on in the work force. So here you have a highly skilled house wife taking on her generation, and showing how happy a woman could be working at home. That's courage, ladies.

-She arranged flowers, and greeted her sons with home baked cookies. People who knock that are just jealous. They either wish they did it, or wish someone else had done it for them. She excelled at making her home a wonderful place to be. She was interested in her kids' lives. And she loved on them. Also, a well known fact is that Beaver and Wally (whoever their real names were) loved Barbara. They all maintained a great relationship the rest of her life. They considered her a second mom, and a great friend. Her children rise up and called her blessed.(Proverbs 31:28) She was an actress, but she was also the real deal. 

Lucille Ball aka Lucy Ricarda

My other favorite 1950s housewife is Lucy Ricardo. Lucille Ball was one of the most popular and influential U.S. television actresses during her lifetime. If you compare Lucy and June, you find a lot a similarities. Lucy is often shown cleaning her house. She is beautiful, dresses to the nines, and is talented.

Both shows were set in the 50s.  So why was Lucy everyone's favorite, while June has gotten such a bad rap?

Lucy is hilarious. Completely and totally, gut splitting hilarious. I love Lucy. I truly do. But have you ever noticed how many times the episodes are based on Lucy's schemes to sneak onto Ricky's show?

Everyone can afford to like Lucy because she isn't the "stay at home stereotype." She is trying to break her bonds. Or so they think. (I think she seems pretty happy at home, except for her schemes.) Lucy often goes over her budget, and appears with curlers in her hair. She cuts holes in the rug. This causes no problem for the feminist faction. And her "transparency" mollifies the stay at home crew. Isn't that interesting?

So, why are we jumping on this band wagon? The hate June one, I mean. Surely we can find someone else to pick on. Someone who is actually polar opposite to what we believe. Let's boycott Desperate Housewives, or something. (btw I have never watched Desperate Housewives. So, maybe they are fulfilled women loving their lives at home. I'm just surmising they aren't, from the name of their show)
And, as for the 1950s thing. There is a current resurgence in love of the style. Why not the stereotype too?

And, about the perfection thing, I've been told,
"Shoot for the moon. You just might land among the stars."