Paid Housewives and Betty Draper

Federici’s piece on house work immediately made me think about Betty Draper from Mad Men. Set in the 1960’s, Betty was a housewife, with a husband who worked an important and high paying job in Manhattan. She had hired help, as well, to aid in caring for her children. Still, she was at her husband’s disposable and she cooked, cleaned, hosted dinner parties, and accompanied her husband, Don, to any events he might have had to go to for his work.

Throughout the series, we see Betty almost jumping through hoops to keep the house in perfect running order, and at the same time, we also see her struggle with depression. She is doing all of this work that Don expects, and also does not see her do, and she becomes unhappy without really knowing why. Don sends her to a therapist that’s brushes off her depression as just boredom.

Betty feels like she is stuck with her unhappiness and with her husband. Her neighbor is a divorced, single mother, her character serves as an example to Betty about what her future would be like if she left Don. The other mothers in the neighborhood look down on the single mother, and this keeps Betty feeling trapped in her marriage and in her housework.

Betty’s unhappiness and the hard work she does in the house is related. She is being exploited by the capitalist system. Her husband works hard and is rewarded through a paycheck, and a hot meal to come home to (when he does come home, but I won’t go there). Betty’s hard work is not rewarded with a pay check or someone to cook for her be because her work is invisible and goes unrecognized.

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