Chauvinism Exposed

I can’t remember, but I don’t suppose that the word chauvinism featured very much in the vocabulary of the man in the street, in the 30s and 40s. There used to be a silly story, which had more truth than humour, about an Italian who was asked his views on life, and he answered ‘ I digga da pit, to earnna da mon, to buya da bread, to getta da strength, to digga da pit!’ As I was brought up by women, it was only after the war that I lived in a house where the head of the house was a man. None of us at that time took exception to the fact, that he and I contributed very little to work in the house, other than maintenance and gardening. One came home, read the paper, ate the evening meal, and spent most evenings with the family. Occasionally, at times of pressure one might help with the washing up but it was rare. Similarly, we wouldn’t have dreamed of attending a birth, let alone participating.

Recently, Sophie, my wife, has been so ill she was incapable of doing more than sitting still, with the result that I found myself as a carer, with all that entails. I’m not suggesting that I found it irksome, merely time-consuming, in many cases time wasting, and very tiring. I of course, in my 80s, would be more tired than most. But what it did do was make me realise, in the past, just how much we had denigrated the work of the housewife as being ‘ woman’s work’, something simple and easy, and I suppose, beneath us. Over the years things have obviously changed not only in my own household, but even more with the younger people where it seems, the roles have no clear definition, they are certainly interchangeable. In those ancient times the head of the house, was exactly that, what he said went, and the fact that this was only superficial in many cases, and those laws were modified by those carrying them out was never discussed. Today, chauvinism seems to be to be found more in the workplace than in the home. You never know, it might just disappear from there too.

Categorized as General

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