Lately my husband and I have been watching some old episodes of the game show Password, hosted by Allen Ludden. They originally aired from the early sixties to the mid seventies and are quite a glimpse into the styles and attitudes of the times.
Every time a new contestant comes on the show, Mr. Ludden of course asks him or her a few questions so the audience can get to know the person a little. I was shocked, however, the first time he asked one of the women, “Are you a working girl?”
A game show host would never say that nowadays, and I realize that Mr. Ludden was just reflecting the culture of his time. In fact, when I pointed out to my husband that the question was a bit sexist, he said, “But a lot of women didn’t have jobs then.”
If by “having a job” you mean “gainfully employed,” he’s right. But that was only one of the points I was objecting to. I bristled a bit at the word girl. After all, Mr. Ludden never asked any of the men “Are you a working boy?”
But wait. It got worse. If a female contestant didn’t hold a job (again, in the sense of being gainfully employed), she was asked what her husband did. What she did with her time was ignored—as if her husband overshadowed her completely.
Just once (just once!) I would have liked this as a response to that question:
“Mr. Ludden, my husband works only eight hours a day, five days a week. I work twelve hours a day, seven days a week. I’m a chef, a baker, a seamstress, a laundress, a grocery shopper, a child care provider, a taxi driver, a maid, plus I run the errands necessary for a household. And I do it all out of love, not for money.”
I’m reminded of an episode of Make Room for Daddy in which the wife gets called up for jury duty, and the husband has to hire five people just to do the work she normally does all by herself. Take it from someone who was a stay-at-home mom for several years: the amount of work is astronomical, and it’s all done without pay and usually without any expression of gratitude from its recipients.
Something’s horribly wrong in a world when work is seen as valuable only when it produces a salary.