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Lecture 13

Lecture 13 The 1950’s Nuclear Family, Readings: Mary Louise Adams’ Chapter: Sexuality and the Post-War Domestic Revival.docx

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McMaster University
Sandra Colavecchia

1 Sociology 2U06: Family Sociology Oct 27 2011 Lecture 13: The 1950’s Nuclear Family, Readings: Mary Louise Adams’ Chapter: Sexuality and the Post- War Domestic Revival Mary Louise Adams - Book: “The Trouble with Normal” o Looks at the discourses of the 1950s  Discourses reinforced heterosexuality as normal and dominant, only acceptable form of sexuality o Focused on Michael Foucault’s idea of Discourse  Discourses  A body of knowledge or info or expertise that helped to define something, “truth”  Question about whose version of truth we are  Frame our understanding of the social world o Shapes social policy  Shape our understanding of our own sexuality o Can exert tremendous power over us o If discourses about sexuality in the public realm only reinforce heterosexuality, then essentially people are denied other truths and other ways of expressing themselves o If this is presented as the only option, people HAVE to conform o Self-regulation: concept of surveillance – over time people take part in self-surveillance/self-monitoring to conform  Prof’s experience: born in the 70s, didn’t hear anything about homosexuality until first year of university in 1990. Everyone she encountered up to this point was completely in the closet o Class discussion: our experiences with homosexuality?  Majority of class born in late 80-early 90s, therefore this experience doesn’t resonate with the majority who grew up with homosexuality as a regularly discussed topic/phenomena 1950’s - Question: Why did people embrace family life? o Conclusions of class discussion:  People had suffered through WWII, so tremendous losses (death, people returning from war very scarred, i.e. PTSD)  Embracing of family life was emotional reaction to dealing with this huge trauma 2 - Popular culture, consumerism, economic prosperity, fear of communism (Cold War) reinforced hetero nuclear fam with clear gender roles o Emotional Response to WWII  Women told to go back into the home after the men returned to their jobs after the war  Had no other choice but to focus on the family o Economic prosperity  Wages increasing rapidly, huge economic growth that we haven’t seen since  Increased by more than they had in the previous half a century o In response to this, long-term family trends (in 20s-40s) reversed – this promoted the hetero nuc fam as well  Declining fertility of 20s-40s reversed – fertility increased dramatically in the 50s  Women had kids earlier and more of  Stats from pg 145(not tested on): o Number of births from 1947-56 per 1000 rose from 20.1-28.9 o Much of this increase accounted for by young mothers with 3 or more kids  Age of marriage had been increasing, in the 1950s we see it decrease  Stats: o 1941: average age just over 25, 1961: had dropped to 22 years of age  Divorce Increased  Nowhere near the increases we see in the 70s onward  But because the number was going up, a lot of people saw the family as in crisis  Gap in education between males and females widened  Women getting less education than men  Measure of gender inequality  Proportion of people who had never married dropped  Home ownership increased  Growth of suburbs  Generous government policy to help support families  i.e. in US: education benefits for anyone in the military o College/university could be paid for if you were in the military  Also in US o Generous house loans  In Canada o Generous policies such as the Family Allowance (aka Baby Bonus) o Families who didn’t conform to this model (working class immigrant families who had wives in paid employment) were pressured to conform to this standard 3  Immigrant settlement services and the worker in them pressured families to this ideal  Pressure to conform linked to a very explicit understanding of what it meant to be Canadian (to be a citizen)  Demanded a willingness to participate in consensus o As heterosexuality seen as only natural and normal way, people who diverged from this faced social condemnation and potentially prosecution (homosexuality legalized in the 1960s - Impact of the Cold War o Fears of the cold war and the bomb and of communism impacted family life and promoted the nuclear hetero fam  Reinforcing the nuclear fam was seen as a defence against communism  People who didn’t conform to this were viewed with a lot of suspicion  Class Question:  According to the readings, which groups that didn’t conform faced suspicion (even prosecution) and were seen as a threat to security?  People who aren’
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