In the keywords essay Domestic by Claudia Nelson, domestic is defined as a term relating to all things “home.” This relates to the fact that household pets are referred to as domestic animals, the nation is referred to in terms of domestic policy, and how the tasks of the home are usually known as being more domestic. This also can be gendered since domesticity is more associated with girls than it is with boys, as seen in the essay. This is also a reason why during adolescence, girls are taught to play house or take care of their baby dolls to teach those home skills earlier on. Some of these domestic tasks and their gendering play a part in Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’ve also recognized this in the  show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. 

The show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s season 2 came out in December of 2018. It was heavily promotes and they ran advertisements through many social medias especially on the weeks right before it premiered. After seeing all of these advertisements, I decided to watch the first season to see what it was all about. The show is centered around a woman named Miriam in New York during the 1950s. She has the “perfect life.” She has a loving husband, two children, and an upscale apartment on the Upper West Side. She is a housewife that maintains the home and entertains guests when the family hosts events. She is the picture of a trophy wife, essentially. After a few episodes in the first season, she discovers that she has a knack for comedy. This jeopardized her life since it took her away from her duties at home with her family. Although this show is set in a distant time period, the ideals of “womanly duties” are still very much alive in many parts of the world, even partially in the United States. Miriam has to choose between doing something that genuinely makes her happy and something that is imposed on her just because she has to fit the mold of the perfect stay at home, trophy wife that only is there to please and serve her family. 

In Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the story is about a family in the 1870s who move from a farm in the Midwest to a Prairie in Kansas. The story is told from the perspective of Wilder herself. Her and her younger sister are taught from home. The two are taught how to maintain the house, cook, and tend to the garden while their father finishes building the house and doing more physical labor. The girls are taught more how to be a good wife and mother than how to thrive or even survive in the environment that they are in. Now, this could be the case since they are quite young, but the move put the family in a different area that could have ended badly. The girls should now how to do basic survival techniques in the environment in case of bumps in the road. Whenever I think about this book, I try to imagine how different the story would have been if Laura had had a brother rather than a sister and just how different their education and chores would have been from each other. I feel as though, just because they were girls, their tasks and chores were more domestic minded. 

I feel as though both of these media types reflect a taught idea that women and girls are defined to only fulfill more domestic roles in their lives. It is frowned upon for them to follow their own paths that could possibly stray from the home and the duties of the household. 

7 thoughts on “Domestic”

  1. I definitely agree with you that it is still instilled upon society for women to be domesticated. Therefore, I am always pleased when movies or films with a strong female lead character comes out, such as Frozen or Brave. These children movies are particularly helpful in changing this set mindset as I think that it is during childhood where one shapes their personality and ideals about the world. Therefore, to tackle these long instilled ideas, it is very helpful to tackle it from a very young age.

  2. Hi Audrey,
    Initially I took the show as a comedy (it is in some ways). Indeed, there are deeper meanings behind the hilarious scenes and we all should take some seconds before laughing out loud. We live in a world where applaud masculine values and demean women are applauded. I think this show is good demonstration that women can not only struggle for domestic tasks but they have proven time and again that they can do everything that a man can, and more.

  3. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is such a good show that directly empowers women to leave the domestic setting. The first few episodes of the show was infuriating to watch when Miriam’s parent both blamed her for her husband’s affair, however, it was apparent from the beginning that she has a knack for stand-up comedy when she did a speech at the wedding. She didn’t realize it until her husband cheated on her. I would say that it wasn’t until then she realized she deserved better and she could be the one in the spotlight. Even though people didn’t approve of her choices, Miriam has never been the one to comply. She knows that she belongs outside the domestic, and proves herself worthy. This show really brings out the problem with the assumption that women have to stay at home and tears that assumption down.

  4. Hi Audrey!

    I really like the way you brought out the aspect of the housewife in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and also in the Little House on the Prairie book. This book and TV show represent how women should be and should behave. In other words, how they are included in the domestic space and not outside of that comfort zone. These examples remind me of the princess movie from Disney. Before, Disney produced a lot of movies that female characters are always the weak character who waiting for the price to come and save them. They also skillfully with domestic tasks. Now, Disney has done a great job of representing girls is more than just a “housewife” but also show a deeper traits such as bravery, courage, independent and intelligent.

  5. I love the show, and I think the male characters in the show are also very fascinating in Mrs. Maisel’s story. For me, it is interesting to how Abe’s, Mrs. Maisel’s dad, attitude toward his wife changes in the Season 2. the beginning, Abe is viewed as a career man, restricting Rose in a domestic space, not caring for her needs. After Rose eventually flies Paris for a more idea life, Abe starts to respect and care more about what Rose wants. The shifts of the character is compelling, and illustrates the historical context and domestic tensions in a marvelous fashion.

  6. This shows defiantly has an interesting message about womanhood, and the expectations in a domestic home. Midge isn’t taught that she must be domestic in the sense of cooking, and cleaning as she comes from a family that hires people for that, but more that she must look the part as a lady as she does through measuring herself everyday and never letting her husband see her without makeup. I agree with how this connections to the roles taught in the “Little House on the Prairie” books. Midge and the Ingalls girls are not taught the same skills as to be domestic but these girls all were taught how to be domestic in the sense of their time and their class in society.

  7. I agree with your ideas about the meaning of “domestic”. I also watched the The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and impressed by the main female character who is independent, delicate and intelligent. The domestic should not only imply to household especially for women. A domestic women could describes women who do housework and manage her family well. But the “domestic” may just a part of personality of a women. Domestic women could also have success in their work field.

Leave a Reply