Posts Tagged With: Sam Levenson

Everything But Money, Part VII: The Modern Woman’s Dilemma, Continued

This is an excerpt from “Everything But Money” by Sam Levenson.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

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The easy answer is to proclaim that woman’s mission in life is to be a mother. Most women want to be mothers, but they were also trained for many other professions. Is is possible to be a good chemist and a good mother? Can a mother be in two places at the same time? What about the needs of the children? And what about the country’s need for talent of all kinds? If women were intended by nature to be mothers, why does nature also endow them with intellectual gifts equal to those of the men? And what right have men to ask their mates to deny their talents and devote themselves to housekeeping?

Some people have suggested that a woman should get a full education, then marry, raise her children, and after about ten years, go back to her career. The children would then be taken care of by some member of the family, or a maid. The chances of resuming her career after ten years, however, are not very good.

Perhaps the husbands of such women should stay home and raise the children. The husband as breadwinner is only a convention based on the assumption that he is the stronger of the two. In this age of technology we don’t need strong people; we need skilled people.

Perhaps there should be all-day schools that would take care of the children from 7am to 6pm.

Perhaps women should postpone going to college until after their children are old enough to be looked after by others.

Perhaps those college girls who feel very intensely about a life devoted to science or the arts should be encouraged not to get married at all.

At any rate, we have worked ourselves into a situation we did not anticipate when we proclaimed liberty and justice for all and built an educational system to promote it. Perhaps we did not truly believe that woman could become the equal of man. Well, she is, and, in many instances, superior. Man had better find a just way of giving her her due.

There are many fine mothers who want to stay at home but are forced by economic necessity to neglect their children and go out to work. Society should subsidize these women adequately and keep them at home. We cannot have Papa on the night shift and Mama on the day shift, leaving kids to shift for themselves.

There are also many mothers who use work as an excuse to get away from the responsibilities of home. They rationalize themselves into a job that will provide the “luxuries” they claim the children need. Most children would rather have the mother at home than any “luxury.” A key to the house is not a substitute for the welcome of a mother at the door. Unwarranted mother absenteeism is an unhealthy condition in the house.I am not talking about leaving the children with Grandma or some other competent and devoted person while the parents grab a few hours or days together. I do refer to chronic neglect in so-called “rich” homes where children of educated parents are being raised by semiliterate strangers. It does not make sense for an intelligent mother, presumably aware of the emotional, aesthetic, spiritual and physical needs of children to turn hers over to the care of a housekeeper. One of the most revealing comments was made by a youngster who, when his mother said, “Don’t tell me what to do. I know how to bring up children,” replied, “You do? Were you once a maid, Mom?”

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It’s unfortunate that in the half-century since this book was published, we seem to be no closer to resolving these issues. In many ways we’ve lost ground: instead of working together for a mutually beneficial solution, resentment and hostility seem to be mounting on all sides.

One thing I do take exception to is Mr. Levenson’s question, “If women were intended by nature to be mothers, why does nature also endow them with intellectual gifts equal to those of the men?” Is he suggesting that parenting isn’t an intellectual pursuit? That intelligence and wisdom and knowledge are wasted resources in the upbringing of the next generation of humanity? I don’t think that’s true AT ALL. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Another thing I’d like to add is that the father can make or break a mother’s sense of fulfillment and contentment in her role as homemaker. In my opinion, any man who gets his wife pregnant and then abandons her to her domestic fate while heedlessly continuing to enjoy freedom and recreation without her has earned himself a spot in the Special Hell. If both husband and wife aren’t ready to shift their priorities to accommodate the needs of children, then they should not become parents. Period. It’s not like the world is underpopulated, or needs more neglected children.

I could rant almost indefinitely on the subject, but this post is already too long. I’d enjoy hearing other people’s perspectives, though.

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Everything But Money Part VI: The Modern Woman’s Dilemma

This is an excerpt from “Everything But Money” by Sam Levenson.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

** ** **

For the college graduate, male, the world today offers great opportunities. For the college graduate, female, there are almost equal opportunities, and more than equal agonies. The problem becomes more acute each year as more and more women attempt to combine careers with matrimony only to find out that the problems of home and children fall to her. What happens to the right to self-fulfillment, which is as much hers as her husband’s? She was promised the world. She is a free, thinking, educated, emancipated woman, with a message to deliver. She is different from her mother, whose world was limited to the home. She is at home in the arts, music, literature, science and philosophy. She is, in fact, at home everywhere but at home. At the age of twenty-one, holding a diploma full of career promises in one hand and a marriage license full of romantic promises in the other, she is carried over the threshold — into the kitchen. This is the true “commencement.”

For a year or two everything works out fine for the young couple. They are both working. He picks up the newspaper; she picks up the TV dinner. There are quick fun meals, rich desserts, much talk about their respective jobs, and much honeymooning. This is the college dream come true.

Then comes the baby, and with it the explosion of the equal-rights principle. Motherhood is the one career for which she has had virtually no training. While the possibility of such an eventuality was vaguely mentioned in college, it was just one of those remote bridges to be crossed if and when she got to it.

She is now trapped at home. He is out in the free world. She becomes jealous of his freedom. He comes home at 6pm to greet this prematurely old young lady, her dark hair highlighted with farina sprinkles, a strong-smelling kid on her arm, and anything but a Mona Lisa smile on her lips. She thinks, four years in college for this? He takes one look at her and he thinks, Oh, boy. What I married! and politely kisses her between the smudges. If she can afford full-time help she becomes jealous of the child’s natural affection for the mother-substitute. The child, naturally, has learned to love the hand that feeds it. The mother is afraid of losing the love of her child. She wants to be a mother. She also wants to have a career. Grandma had a saying about this dichotomy: “You can’t sit at two weddings with one fanny.”

Her job is more difficult than her husband’s. He has the greatest “out” in the world. He is making a living for the family. He can leave the scene of the crime every morning with the approval of the whole world. She cannot. She would trade places with him gladly, but she makes a noble attempt at homemaking, a career which, she hopes, will eventually provide the same satisfactions as the chemistry laboratory.

She gets down to the business of being an “enlightened” mother, of fulfilling the multiple roles expected of her: wife, mistress, and delightful companion in the evening: and, with the rising sun, chauffeur, shopper, interior decorator, crabgrass puller, den mother, PTA-er, bazaar chairlady. She appears to herself as a cubist painting of a mother and child: two heads, four eyes, three ears, four bosoms, one baby, mandolins, pots, pans, microscopes, diplomas and the death mask of a college girl.

Meanwhile, back at the lab, there’s her husband, the all-American boy, whose unmarried secretary looks like his wife used to. She’s pretty and young and calm. No kid has vomited onto her typewriter, and she has the freedom, time and availability that his wife has sacrificed — in the service of his home.

The frightened wife picks up the challenge. She’s got to look and behave like a seductive secretary. She colors her hair, lowers her neckline, heightens her heels, shortens her dresses, lengthens her eyelashes to re-entice her husband, whose sense is coming out with his hair. He thinks he has remained handsome, irresistible, the eternal Don Juan. The wife knows he’s behaving like an idiot, but she mercifully keeps the news from him.

The conflict in the mind and heart of the college-educated married woman is only one more aspect of the problem of individual fulfillment of one’s greatest gifts. To deny selfhood to a woman because she is married and a mother leads to profound unhappiness, a nagging sense of “might have been,” and too often a resentment against the husband and children who lured her away from her true mission in life. The tortuous division of loyalties inflicted upon this woman by our ambiguous promises of equality of opportunity for both sexes leads many women to the psychiatrist.

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More on this subject tomorrow.

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Everything But Money Part V: On Prejudice

This is an excerpt from “Everything But Money” by Sam Levenson.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Quick note: When this book was written, the polite term for a black person was “Negro.” That word has become politically incorrect, even offensive, but in context it’s obvious that the author meant it respectfully. Hopefully it will be accepted here in the spirit in which it was used, and give no offense.

** ** **

The founding fathers said: “All men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”

Christianity says: “The Lord make you to increase and abound in love toward one another and toward all men.”

Judaism says, “What thou thyself hatest, do to no man.”

Confucianism says, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do unto others.”

Islam says, “Help one another in righteousness and piety.”

How, against this background of lofty principles to which all men pretend to subscribe, do we explain to our children the petty hatreds, slurs, restrictions and humiliations inflicted upon those singled out as “undesirables” by self-appointed “desirables?”

Of all obstacles to a human being’s growth to full stature prejudice is the worst. It destroys more individuals than war. It is hereditary, not in the blood stream, but in the stream of conversation within the home. Out of the mouths of babes come adult slanders, repeated word for word.

How do you go about explaining to your child the meaning of words like spick, dago, wop, sheen, kike, nigger, hunk, polack, shanty, mockie, hebe, chink, coon, greaser? You might refer him to some glossary where he will get nice, sterile definitions with all the pain removed, or you might refer him to a living victim with all the pain still in him.

What a horror it must be for a child to discover that his skin is the wrong color. How can he liberate himself from the despised skin? Of all disadvantages, this, the terrible disadvantage of color, was the one my brothers and I did not have to overcome. A child learns early in life that color hatred is not just skin deep. It goes clear through to the marrow of his self-esteem. Hate my skin, hate me. Often he comes to accept his oppressor’s judgement and ends up hating himself and his group. What an iniquity in a civilized world to burden a newborn child with the hatred of ages.

Society has no right to mislead any child by promising him rewards for good conduct which it will not deliver. If he is treated like the experimental guinea pig in the maze he will behave like the guinea pig. A reward, usually a piece of cheese, is placed at the end of the tricky passageway. The guinea pig will make hundreds of learning attempts until he finally finds the right road to the reward. However, if after he has succeeded in learning the right road, you remove the cheese, even a guinea pig can have a nervous breakdown or become violent. The child who makes every effort to learn the “right way,” who strains to achieve the reward only to find it cynically withdrawn at the last moment, will break down. If we offer a reward for virtue we must offer it without consideration of skin color, language or religion, or we will reap the reward of violence.

This aberration called prejudice is an ancient malady and no one is completely immune to it. Even those most often victimized by prejudice may nurture prejudices of their own, perpetuating the vicious cycle of unreasoning, sick hate: white against black, black against white, nation against nation, neighborhood against neighborhood, man against man.

…The violated minority can appeal for justice but the final solution of the problem will have to come from the oppressor. Basically, anti-Semitism is a Christian problem. The Negro problem must finally be solved by the white man. After all, who done it?

Shedding a prejudice is an agonizing experience. An illogical hatred nourished for hundreds of years for whatever reason — religious, economic, or political — finally becomes a mass mental disease. The white people of this country are predominately favorable to the Negro’s demands for equality, yet many cannot shed their prejudice. When they say “The Negro is not ready yet,” what they mean is “I am not ready yet.”

It will take longer to unravel the knots of hatred in the white man than it will to achieve equality for the Negro. I have heard white men of good will say, “I don’t want to hate him. I hate myself for hating him. I don’t know why I hate him.” One woman’s deep-rooted fear of the Negro came to this: “Who is she to hate me? I am somebody. When she becomes somebody I will be nobody. If she moves next door we all become nobody. We can’t all be somebody.”

I am concerned here primarily with the effect of prejudice on the chances of the newborn babe delivering his message to the world. What are the odds for a kid born with the unpopular skin of the century? How can we afford the possible loss of this child’s talents, one of which may lead to a cure for cancer, or perhaps even a cure for the greatest killer of them all — prejudice? What might happen to the world if for one generation we did not teach our children to hate?

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Everything But Money Part IV: On The Value Of Trade Skills

This is an excerpt from “Everything But Money” by Sam Levenson.

Part I

Part II

Part III

** ** **

There are many kinds of intelligence. At the moment, academic intelligence is being honored far above vocational intelligence. Only when the teachers and parents will come to truly believe it will the child also believe that his talent, whatever it is, is good, that he will be respected for his labors, that a job well done in any field of human endeavor is truly an achievement, whether it is cerebral or manual. Tribute is long overdue the future tillers, toilers, makers and menders who will keep our physical environment from falling apart at the seams.

We owe an apology to the nonacademically-minded young man who is not college bound. How often do the newspapers print the pictures of vocational school graduates who have made the most of their mechanical gifts? In June of each year long columns appear in the newspapers listing the names of the Westinghouse, Merit, and other scholarship winners. Rarely are the achievements of the vocational school youngsters similarly publicized. Why no fanfare for the future plumbers, painters, bakers, mechanics? We are not fooling the kids. Is the mechanic, by implication, a less important human being than the scientist? We keep on asking, “Who is going to do the plumbing?” Certainly not any young man whose honest labor is not respected as much as that of the scientist.

The members of juvenile gangs come mostly from the ranks of the nonacademically-minded youngsters who resent their exclusion from places of honor reserved for the “smart kids.” In retaliation they create honor rolls of their own, social orders in which they can achieve positions of prestige. The very names of the street gangs indicate their hunger for status: the Dukes, the Kings, the Royal Ambassadors, the Princes, the Lords, the Barons.

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Debora here: This is something I feel strongly about. There’s been a general exodus in America from manual jobs to corporate “office jobs,” which has created its own set of problems. One, there aren’t enough good office jobs to go around, so a lot of young people are finding themselves buried in college debt with no employment prospects to show for it. Two, we’re running short of skilled laborers. Example: here in California the roads are absolute crap. Even freshly-laid asphalt is rough, bumpy and uneven. It’s like no one knows how to properly build a road anymore. We need to woo young Americans back into skilled trades before the infrastructure completely falls apart. Three, the lack of social respect for manual labor has led to an appalling decline in pay scales and benefits. People like to say, “We hire illegal immigrants to do the job that Americans won’t do,” but that’s not true at all. Most young Americans would be happy to take a manual labor job if it payed a living wage, offered reasonable benefits and didn’t treat its employees like disposable trash. Four, all these sedentary office jobs are wreaking holy hell on our collective health. As a nation we are overweight, under-exercised, depressed and discontent. Most of those miserable cubicle slaves would be astonished to learn how much happier they’d feel after a day of satisfying physical work that fits their particular talents. But they’ve been told that that kind of work is beneath them, and they believe it. And don’t even get me started on all the sweatshops in other countries manufacturing virtually every product that Americans use or wear, because it’s cheaper to enslave children and pollute countries with looser industrial regulations than it is to practice domestic environmental responsibility while giving workers safe conditions, fair pay, reasonable benefits and humane treatment.

I…seem to have hijacked Sam Levenson’s post, so I’ll stop here. More tomorrow.

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