Thursday, April 14, 2016

More On Working Wives And Househusbands

If you have watched Job Switching, you must have noticed several things. First, both Lucy and Ethel are housewives though neither of them has any children at the moment. Yet, their staying home is still shown as the normal arrangement. It's suggested that neither of them worked before they married, either (Have you ever tried to make a living?) which means that they got married right after school/college and probably belonged to middle class background.

Working women later in the episode are shown as masculine/unattractive (too plain to catch a good husband hence they have to work school of thought). Interesting enough, in another episode which features a two-income couple (the Fosters) it's heavily hinted that Grace Forster has a certain "reputation".

Housework is shown as " real work" and Ricky and Fred learn the hard way that keeping house demands more than just "lying around on the sofas" and it also proves that this stereotype already existed back then. And yet, the apartments of both are tiny by the modern standards (one bedroom). You can also see the importance of home cooking, not only dinner, but breakfast, too!

Lucy wears trousers at home in the first scene, but she puts on a more formal outfit when she goes out to work and so does Ethel. Ricky and Fred's behaviour changes considerably when they switch to being "housewives". While in the beginning of the episode Ricky behaves in an authoritative manner he starts sounding submissive when asking Lucy what sort of job she's going to take. This whole episode proves once again that the husband's authority was tied up to his responsibility to provide an income.

In the end they all decide to go back to the "traditional way" of doing things which is shown as the victory of common sense. And though Lucy could do a much better job of saving money and managing her finances, it was never implied she had to engage in "home businesses" of any sort. In fact, the series heavily ridiculed this idea in more than one episode which is probably the reason so many "fundie" Christians obsessed with their women making a dollar while homeschooling 12 kids and grinding their own flour dislike it.

If you have any more ideas or observations, feel free to share them in the comments section.


  1. Thanks and welcome to the blog!

  2. I liked that this episode showed that work is no picnic, be it in the home or in business. And in the end each was thankful for his/her place and appreciated the other more for what he/she had to go through in a normal day.

  3. It also showed that there were natural distinctions and each sex had its own strengths and weaknesses.

  4. Housewife from FinlandApril 16, 2016 at 9:35 AM

    I think back in 50's it would have been rather outrageous for a woman to run home business. Well, of course there were seamstresses and such, but they provided a service, they did not sell anything. I reckon that people used to think that selling is not proper work for woman. It kind of prostitutes her, and is far too public.

    I still tend to think like that. Even when I was still some sort of feminist I always thought that I would rather die than sell stuff.

  5. Apparently the idea became popular then since it's depicted several times in the series. IMO, what the authors of the show were trying to say was that you should leave professional stuff to professionals and do what you are good at, so that a housewife shouldn't try to both keep a house and run a business.

    I don't think there is anything wrong with selling things per se, I just dislike the idea that a homemaker has some sort of a religious obligation to earn an income, too.

  6. Housewife from FinlandApril 18, 2016 at 2:24 AM

    I just watched "Call the Midwife" and once again noticed how almost all married women were housewifes, even in very poor Poplar. In the last episode I saw there was childfree couple (their baby had died decades ago). Husband was selling fruits on the marketplace, which propably doesn't make huge profits. Wife cleaned the church, but since the parish was poor, I reckon it was more charity job, she did it because it was important to her. Maybe she get payed a little, but it is certain it was not a full time job.

    So back in the 50's you did not need to be even middle class to be housewife. It worked in working class, too. And Lucy and Ricky are really not middle class, either, concidering what Ricky does for living. (BTW, if he works in a night club, home come he seems to be working 9-5? ::)

  7. Middle class wasn't/isn't necessarily about income, but also about culture, education, way of life, this sort of thing. In the beginning of the series they are all lower middle class, then Ricky starts making more and they move higher. Ricky being a band leader was certainly not on the same level as, for instance, a factory worker.

  8. Also look at the way Lucy dressed, talked and kept the house and their social circle and compare her to, say, the ladies from the episode where Ricky's agent sent invitations to all the women who had ever visited The Tropicana to have a date with Ricky. There is a stark contrast.

  9. "The Honeymooners" is a show from the same period depicting two working-class couples. Alice had no children, but didn't work, either.

  10. Housewife from FinlandApril 18, 2016 at 6:08 AM

    Interesting. I my opinion a band leader is not a civilized profession. It is very much NOT middle class. And Lucy, she hardly is civiled woman. Too much make up all the time, all that screaming and face twisting -there is nothing civilized in her manners. Not to meantion that she is a spender, which is also a sign of a lover class attitude.

    Her clothes may be fancy and tailored, but clothes alone do not make a lady. :)

    If we compare her to mrs. Hyacinth Bucket (I compare her because it would be unfair to compare comedy to non-comedy), it is obvious that Hyacinth IS rahter civilized to begin with. She is maybe lower middle class, but tries to sneak to upper middle class. And she would have never ever screamed and made faces all the time like Lucy does.

  11. To be a band leader one needs to have a musical education. Ricky had a white collar job. Heavy make up was fashionable in those times, as for Lucy's attitudes, well, that's what the whole show is all about.

    Hyacinth was obviously very ill-bred and it's made fun of all the time. She didn't scream, but she was pushy, impolite and totally devoid of any sense of tact. Also English class system is different from American one. Lucy is a TV series from the 1950s so some things are rather dated.


No anonymous comments. Anonymous comments will be deleted.