Who makes a better wife: the modern girl or the old-fashioned girl? In 1930, this was a hot topic on campus, and unsurprisingly (at least to me) the old-fashioned archetype prevailed.
Such a debate (and a formal one at that – hosted by the Women’s Debating Society) is one I initially wanted to dismiss. Who wants to take such archaic discussions about “culinary skill and budget-keeping proficiency” by “freshettes” and “sophettes” very seriously?
What’s sad, however, and what makes reflection on such seemingly outdated conversations worthwhile, is that really, not much has changed. A stunning 83 years later, we’re still talking about the same old issues. Granted, we use different language and our judgment of women has expanded beyond the criteria of cooking and financial planning. But women are still commonly expected to desire the essentials of the “old-fashioned” girl’s life: being a good wife, wanting to “bear and bring up children,” learning to cook (and being good at it), and willingly sacrificing her career for children.
It’s not that women should feel bad about questioning who they want to be, what they want out of life and what ideals they want to live by. Those are natural and critical conversations to have with oneself; but that’s just it – they’re private subjects for reflection, and are not appropriate identities to classify as either “modern” or “old-fashioned” binaries. Women’s, or rather, people’s identities are far too nuanced to be so simplified and pigeonholed.
Back in 1930, The Silhouette’s writer was careful to point out that despite their edgy discussions, “the freshettes have firm faith in the modern girl’s ability to make a perfect mate for man.” On the contrary, I have firm faith in the modern girl’s ability to see beyond society and convention and be their own person, pursue their own careers, have babies if they want them – and not be shamed if they don’t.
If they attract a man – or woman – along the way with whom they are equally enamored, then that should be seen as pleasant happenstance.
Women’s personal growth and skills are not a means to an end in marriage. I hope that in 2013, we can put this thinking to rest.