The Documentary Every Woman Should See

by Erika Torres
23 comments

We need to live in a world where men do half, women let them do half, and being a parent is not a full-time job for a woman, and a part time job for a man.

Sheryl Sandberg
Facebook COO

I have often shunned the women’s movement for feeling like all it did was simply give me more work to do–not only was I now expected to work full-time, but I was still considered in charge of most of the household responsibilities.

The idea that women were ever considered anything less than equal in society–well, I simply couldn’t believe it. I started first grade in the early 1990’s, my mom had a full-time job and so did all my friends’ moms. I don’t know what went on in other kids’ households, but in mine, I knew my mom had just as much of an equal voice as my dad. In my career, I have never experienced any sort of discrimination because of my sex.

So as I turned on my DVR, and finally watched (in chunks, because it’s three hours long!) “Makers: Women Who Make America” on PBS, I devoured it. This documentary was like a refreshing glass of ice cold water on a hot summer day. It not only opened my eyes, but made me appreciate everything that women before me have fought for so that I could enjoy the privileges I have today.

A few of the golden nuggets I learned from this documentary included that flight attendants were fired once they reached the age of 32. And the first female tennis competition wasn’t until the early 1970s, and prize money for men in the Grand Slam was $1 million, while women’s first prize was $15,000.

Of course, the effects of the women’s movement wasn’t all positive. A flood of divorces occurred as women felt stifled in their marriage and men couldn’t adapt to their wives’ liberation.

The documentary also touches on the daughters’ of many of the leaders from the womens’ movement. While their mothers were the ones out fighting for equal rights, the daughters were often feeling stressed out to the max by working full-time and still being primary responsible for raising a family. Because you see, while women have helped the men with bringing home the bacon, in many households the men have not returned the favor by helping out more at home.

I saw this in my own household growing up. After my mom would come home from work, there wasn’t a night that I didn’t see her doing something, whether mopping the kitchen floor, putting in a load of laundry, balancing the checkbook, or going grocery shopping, while my dad mostly got to watch TV.

I knew that this was not what I wanted in my own marriage. Which is why when we first got married, I had a really hard time adjusting to married life because I sensed an increase in my household responsibilities due to having a husband, but felt like I wasn’t reaping any of the benefits of having a husband because I was also the breadwinner. Not that there aren’t other benefits, such as companionship, but as an apples to apples comparison, I felt like I was getting the shorter end of the stick.

It never ceases to irritate me how society still expects me to manage the household and if I do something for Eric–like laundry, cook a meal, balance the checkbook, or pick up his dry cleaning–it’s expected, but if Eric ever does something for me, he gets accolades and praise because he went above and beyond his only duty of bringing home a paycheck. [sarcasm implied].

husband trash

This doesn’t mean that I shun any opportunity to serve my husband, but if I do it, I do it out of love, and not because I have to. In fact, I do a lot of the cooking in our house, but it’s not because Eric won’t, it’s because I thoroughly enjoy it. Laundry on the other hand–we each do our own, and whenever someone finds out about this particular detail, they’re shocked.

With Eric working and going to school full-time, a large chunk of the household responsibilities fell on my shoulders–which is why I had no problem with deciding to hire a cleaning service. However, I do think toward the future, and now that I’m going to school full-time as well, will the household responsibilities be more equally divided? I doubt it.

I can’t even imagine how big the discrepancy will be when we have children. And while I’ve written about my desire to have a big family, I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to handle it while working full-time and having a husband that works 24-hour shifts. That means there will be three or four days out of the week, that I’ll be forced to be a single mom.

It’s not that Eric isn’t willing to help–in fact, I feel extremely lucky that I have just as much of an equal voice in this marriage as my husband. Its that the day to day minutiae of running a household doesn’t seem to bother him as much as it does me.

This battle of equality within our marriage is a battle that I have to tread extremely carefully, because a) I don’t want to become a disgruntled wife and b) I firmly believe that in a marriage, you can be right or you can be happy–and which is more important to you?

Equality in our relationship is huge to me, but I am smart enough to recognize that it is not everything.

It is stunning how much the realities of home life still feel like something from the 1950’s. Even with a wonderful husband, even with a great partner, even if you’re married to a man who is himself a feminist; somehow you end up doing all the laundry and 90% of the grocery shopping.

Melissa Harris-Perry
Television Commentator

I watched this documentary in awe and I think it’s a documentary that every woman needs to watch. Yes, we have come SO far–but we have so far yet to go, from equality within our own marriages to better maternity leave to work schedules that don’t punish women for being mothers.

Did you watch this documentary? Is there equality in your marriage?

image source: some ecards

23 comments

City Girl March 23, 2013 - 5:45 pm

This documentary reminded me a lot of classes I took at Wellesley. I totally agree with you about the household division of labor and how men’s work in the home must be revered, while women’s work is expected. (That only increases exponentially when there are children!)

Sanberg spoke in DC shortly after the documentary aired. My friends found her disappointing and surprisingly lacking confidence and seemingly unaware of her privilege. Huh…

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Alexis Marlons March 17, 2013 - 11:12 am

This is one documentary that’s definitely worth the share. Kodus to all women out there.

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Teacher Girl March 16, 2013 - 12:08 pm

I would love to see this! Have you heard of MissRepresentation? It really opened my eyes as well.

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JW_Umbrella Treasury March 15, 2013 - 2:59 pm

Thanks for sharing this documentary. I hadn’t heard of it, but now I’m anxious to watch it.

I would say that the division of labor in our marriage is fairly equitable. Although we both work, I’m the breadwinner by a large margin. My husband gets home much earlier than I do, so he usually cooks dinner and makes lunches for the next day. He also does the majority of the laundry over the weekend and runs errands, especially if I have to go to the office. I’ll take care of most other cleaning, as well as our finances. I think it’s a pretty even split…although I often feel like I’m not pulling my weight around the house.

I’m very uncertain – and a bit worried – about what will happen once we decide to have kids. It already feels hard to keep a balance between work and home life…and I’m sure the struggle will only intensify once there are little ones in the picture.

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John March 14, 2013 - 12:50 pm

A little off topic, but….

It goes without saying that your mother is an amazing woman…..strong, capable and compassionate….all at the same time……..
That’s a rare trifecta!
Given different life circumstances and opportunities when she was young….she might very well be ruling the world today.

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Jordann @ My Alternate Life March 14, 2013 - 10:04 am

Sometimes I forget how lucky I am. I’m the breadwinner in my relationship, and when I get home, the laundry is done, dinner is on the table, the dog’s been walked and the grocery shopping is done. All I have to do is sit down, enjoy a great meal and hang out with my fiancé who got home several hours earlier and did all of the above. It’s really and truly priceless.

Even in the rest of my family, everyone seems to be very progressive. In my immediate family, there are two stay at home dads, only one stay at home mom, and only three instances where the man earns more than the women. For us, it’s normal for the husband to take care of the bulk of the house hold duties.

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jadell March 13, 2013 - 8:54 am

I guess I will be the other side of the coin in this discussion. I have the privilege of being a SAHM. I GET to stay home and be my children’s full-time care giver. I love it! I love that I don’t have to get dressed first thing in the morning. I love that I have the freedom during the day to do whatever the heck I want!

I do virtually all of the cleaning, shopping caregiving, and I am ok with it. I am very much a traditionalist, and I enjoy it. I honestly don’t know how mothers work full time outside the home and yet still have energy to take care of everything/everybody at home.

Maybe I am part of a dying breed, but I love living in a 50’s style home. It works for me and my family!

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Michelle's Finance Journal March 12, 2013 - 7:08 am

A lot of my friends struggle with finding the right balance. Their husbands do very limited number of things around the house. I got lucky with my hubby who does a lot around the house. After he started school, I do most of the cooking and washing dishes. But laundry, whoever runs out of underwear usually starts and that’s usually my hubby. haha
When we clean the house, if one takes the kitchen, the other takes the bathroom. One thing that’s always his job is vacuuming and throwing out trash. My job is taking care of bills and savings and etc. and I like doing that.

We do things to help each other and get our lives in order, but we don’t try to divide up 50/50. That seems too individualistic to me. I don’t want to count what I do for him and what he does for me to make it 50/50. So far, the way we do things around the house works for us. But everyone’s different. It’s ok if you want to take over and do all the household things yourself if that’s what you want and what you belive, not because that’s what other people are expecting of you.

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Emily March 12, 2013 - 6:57 am

This is definitely an interesting discussion, and I’ll have to catch the documentary. My husband and I each do our own laundry and people seem shocked. We always have. I never have anyone to blame but myself if something isn’t clean, or if it wasn’t air-dried, etc. As new homeowners, I think the division of tasks is more evident. I tend to “manage” meal planning & groceries (I’m the food blogger so it is less archaic than it might seem) while he does more house maintenance, gardening/snow removal. I wonder what it’ll be like adding kids to the mix. He gets 3 weeks of paid paternity leave while I get the state requirement, unpaid. It hardly seems to promote working mothers even while I work at a women’s organization and am required to travel about 6 weeks a year.

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Kim March 12, 2013 - 6:25 am

This is a regular struggle for me. I get frustrated having the bulk of responsibility around the house, but I also bring it upon myself. I’m a perfectionist and even if hubs does chores, I go back and redo it up to my standards. He’s also willing to do anything, but I never ask him to step in. The scene from The Break Up is a favorite in our house: “I want you to want to do the dishes” “But why would I WANT to do the dishes?!?!?” More than chores though, I wish he would be more involved with our money. I pay all the bills and take care of everything financially, it’s frustrating that he has NO IDEA how much money we have in the bank and whether we should be cutting spending for a couple of weeks.

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Army Amy* March 12, 2013 - 5:35 am

Fantastic post! I have so much to say!

1. Do you read the blog A Practical Wedding. It’s a wedding blog, but so much more. There is a lot of discussion about current topics (like this one!) womanhood, feminism, and more. The “Reclaiming Wife” posts are my favorites and if you aren’t already reading them, I think you’d like them.

2. Yes, Amen, and Hallelujah to the division of household chores and the expectations of those chores from society. I hate it, for instance, when people say the father is babysitting the kids for the day. (Gag.) But if the mom is watching the kids she’s just being a mom. Because that’s what she’s supposed to do. Or the fact that when my husband and I got engaged, multiple people tried to teach me how to cook. I tried to explain that just because I have ovaries etc. doesn’t mean I like cooking. That’s why I married a man who likes to cook. But for some reason I’m expected to do it? And, interestingly, no one cared about my cooking abilities when I was single.

3. I think all couples need to divide things up in the way that is best for them. We do our laundry separately, I take care of cleaning the inside of the house, my husband takes care of cleaning the outside. That’s what words for us. And I’m damn determined to keep the two of us happy regardless of what anyone else thinks.

Anyway, just wanted to say I love this post!

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Tina @ My Shiny Pennies March 11, 2013 - 10:04 pm

I expect equality in my marriage in that both of our voices will be heard. Will decision-making always be equal? Probably not. There probably won’t be equality in household chores either. In an ideal world, I would like to see everything split down the middle 50-50, but like you said, some battles aren’t worth fighting. I agree, it completely stinks that society expects women to take care of the entire household. This sounds defeatist, but I don’t expect to change societal expectations. What I can do is to establish a framework such that I will feel valued in my marriage. There are tasks I enjoy such as paying bills and doing groceries that I know B doesn’t like, so I don’t mind doing them even if they may take up more time. Similarly, there are chores that B doesn’t mind doing as much as I do, so I will expect him to take those on. Hopefully, by focusing on our strengths, we can both be happy.

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Budget & the Beach March 11, 2013 - 8:43 pm

I really can’t understand the whole doing your spouse’s laundry thing. I don’t expect them to do mine…but I certainly don’t want to do EXTRA laundry. Sure if they want to throw in a sock or something…but totally weird concept to me. lol! I’ll have to check out the doc.

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Ariel March 11, 2013 - 5:53 pm

I LOVED this. I tried to find the documentary but it doesn’t look like it’s playing anytime soon. I grew up with parents who both worked full time, my husband grew up in a VERY 1950’s husband is the breadwinner wife takes care of the house thing. That was never, ever my dream. I enjoy working and I love making money. I feel like sometimes we do tug-of-war a little about some chores, but at the end of the day he’s a neat freak and I’m the messy one, so he’s more apt to start cleaning before me. It’s been a learning experience for the both of us over the past 6 years 😉 When it comes to kids…there will be no daddy “baby sitting”.

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CeCe @Frugalista Married March 11, 2013 - 5:00 pm

Women have come a long way! I think doing laundry separately is fine if it works for you as long as you aren’t wasting water watching a load of something in a smaller batch when you could be including other clothing that might be his. That’s really what it comes down to. What works for each couple. I grew up with a dad who lazed around the house and didn’t lift a finger to help too and made the biggest mess! I think that’s why I am so rigid when it comes to making sure my husband picks up after himself and that I’m not the one picking up after him because I’m not the maid. I clean and do laundry, he cooks. It works better because I don’t like cooking and if I had to wait for him to clean something i’d go crazy. I’m better at keeping the house clean so i’m doing it. If he cooks I’ll do the dishes if I feel like it otherwise I expect him to do that too. It’s a fine line to walk as you do not want to become some bitter ogre in your marriage because of principle or hang ups about wanting everything to be 50/50. I definitely get your frustration on that level. I try to learn to let some things go if I can and pick my battles. When it comes down to it most of the time I feel very good about doing for him.

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ND Chic March 11, 2013 - 4:27 pm

I have not seen the documentary but I can understand how it gave us more work to do. There are some things that I always do that are more of the traditional women’s role. For example, I cook almost every meal, do the grocery shopping, give our daughter a bath and clean the kitchen. I do all of this while working full time. However, my husband does just as much work as me. He is also the one to wake up with our daughter in middle of the night. Overall, the women’s movement has given us more options which is always a good thing.

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eemusings March 11, 2013 - 3:21 pm

I recently read a quote SOMEWHERE that went something along the lines of: How do we get more women ahead at work? Get men to clean the bathroom.

I struggle a lot with the household division of labour. We have very different standards of cleanliness. Sure, T *could* learn to clean more thoroughly and more often, but if he simply doesn’t care about it, it’s not going to happen. Let’s be realistic. Once a week is about as good as it gets. (And likewise, he doesn’t get everything he wants out of me- but that’s an entirely different topic and perhaps NSFW…)

FWIW, he’s awesome at cooking and more than pulls his weight there.

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Hannah March 11, 2013 - 3:13 pm

I’m not sure I agree with this comment:

“Of course, the effects of the women’s movement wasn’t all positive. A flood of divorces occurred as women felt stifled in their marriage and men couldn’t adapt to their wives’ liberation.”

I feel that people neglect to see how prior to the feminist movements many women stayed in abusive relationships because they had no way of escape. The women’s movements allowed women to save their lives (and the lives of their children, in many cases) by escaping from abusive (verbally, emotionally, physically, sexually, etc.) marriages.

But overall, I’m excited to watch this documentary! I’ve been able to read a lot of feminist theory and have enjoyed the thought provoking lens it has given me. We’ve talked before about the “last name issue” and even with that – why is it an “issue” if a women keeps her name or (mon dieu!) a man takes his wives name? It is little things like this, or people being shocked that Eric does his own laundry that makes me know that we’re far from equal.

I’m glad you’ve given “feminism” a second chance – the point is for you to feel comfortable with YOUR choices and not have them shaped or judged by society’s expectations based on your genitals. And sister, I think we still have a long way to go so I’m glad you’re on board 🙂

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eemusings March 11, 2013 - 3:16 pm

Echoed. Look, divorce sucks. But being trapped in a bad or abusive marriage is worse.

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newlywedsonabudget March 11, 2013 - 3:27 pm

Well I always fought for women’s equality, and I have ALWAYS considered myself a feminist, but there have been times that I thought it would just be easier if I could stay home and watch kids rather than go to work AND still have all household responsibilities.

And while I think we can definitely attribute some of the increase in divorces to abusive relationships, I don’t think that is the sole cause of such a large increase.
Divorce is still largely initiated by women, and I think a part of that has to do with marriage largely benefiting men rather than women. Maybe women are tired of picking up their slack? ; )

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Well Heeled Blog March 11, 2013 - 2:55 pm

One more thing – just because society expects something, doesn’t mean you have to follow that expectation. I say figure out what works for YOU and your relationship, and to the heck with what society says. (Easier said than done, true, but just imagine where we’d all be if women in the 1890s said, ‘well, society doesn’t expect me to vote” or women in the 1960s said, “well, society doesn’t expect me to have a career.”).

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Well Heeled Blog March 11, 2013 - 2:52 pm

I’m adding this documentary on my list. Have you read Stephanie Coontz’s A Strange Stirring about the 1960s when the Feminist Mystique came out? It’s staggering how far women have come in America (even as recently as the 1980s, women couldn’t get their own bank accounts without a husband’s permission or get a mortgage on their own).

As to the husbands’ “helping” – I really dislike that term. If my husband does his own laundry and washes the dishes – he’s not “helping” me. He’s contributing to the household as he should. Similar to dads “babysitting” their kids. Unless he is watching someone else’s kid, it’s not babysitting. It’s called taking care of your own child!

Household equality is important to me, because I believe that if my husband love and respect me, then by extension he should respect my time just as much he values his own. I also believe that if our household is not equal, I would be very unhappy, and that unhappiness will spill over to other aspects of our relationship. So in essence, for our relationship… more equality = happier wife, happier life!

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newlywedsonabudget March 11, 2013 - 3:28 pm

I have not read it, I will have to add it to my list! I think they mentioned the bank account thing in the documentary and I was absolutely astounded. It doesn’t seem that long ago for something as archaic as that to happen.

And the “helping” thing also bugs the freak out of me! That’s what I meant when I said it bugs me that society is all like “oh you have such a great husband he washed your car” but the reverse is rarely said about a woman because it is “expected” of us to take care of our husbands.

Whereas I look at the house and think “ok, this this and this need to be done” my husband just looks past all the things that needs to be done, and it doesn’t seem to bother him. We work on it : )

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