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Are We Returning to the 'June Cleaver' Era? (And Would June Stand for What's Going On?)

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Ever since the 112th Congress was sworn in last month, there's been a seemingly endless barrage of news about lawmakers trying to take away many of women's hard-fought rights, so much so that I feel like Mr. Peabody's WABAC machine has deposited me on June Cleaver's 1950s doorstep.

Morning after morning, I hear reports about those who want to cut funds for access to contraception and screenings for breast and cervical cancer that American women of all political persuasions get from Planned Parenthood. Conservatives protest the use of pre-tax dollars for breast pumps, claiming it's an unnecessary tax break for working mothers who need to stay in the workplace to support their families and pump healthy breast milk for their infants.

States like Minnesota are trying to repeal fair-pay laws and local governments are cutting Head Start funds, saying young children should be educated at home (which, by the way, would also help trim budget deficits).

And then there is HR 3, better known as the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," backed by over 200 members of Congress who wanted to limit the federal dollars available for rape victims to only those who have been "forcibly raped," in essence taking us back to the days when teen boys talked about how girls really mean "yes" when they say "no." The furor over such a proposal made some of the bill's proponents back down, saying they would remove that "forcible rape" language. But according to a variety of sources, including the office of Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), who heads the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, three weeks after that announcement, the language still hasn't yet been removed from HR 3. While some expect that to eventually happen, it doesn't change a subsequently introduced bill by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) that would allow hospitals to refuse to perform medically necessary abortions, even if the woman's life is at risk.

Put all those things together, and I can't help but sense an effort to re-create the June Cleaver era, when motherhood was a woman's prime directive and reproductive health issues were only whispered about in suburban neighborhoods over coffee cake and Maxwell House.

It's all making me see my life, and my daughter's, in the black-and-white retro world of the Cleavers' Mayfield, USA, and not in an "Isn't nostalgia great?" way. Whether the effort is a coordinated one or not, it still feels like Republicans are seeking as many ways as possible to get women out of the workforce and back into a pre-"Feminine Mystique" mode.

There are budgetary arguments to be made in opposition to many of the proposed cuts and changes in policy -- the resistance isn't just to a seeming conspiracy to turn back the clock. But certain comments can only be evaluated by the Duck Principle -- something that walks and talks like a duck is clearly a duck.

And so it's hard to ignore what happened recently in Frederick County, Md., where commissioners voted to cut over $2 million dollars in Head Start funds. Head Start is a federally funded program that promotes school readiness for 3- and 4-year-old low-income children -- a program that would seem to be in our country's best interest, especially in light of other countries around the world that spare no expense on children's education. But two commissioners suggested that cutting those dollars was also an important statement about mothers' social priorities. Republican Commissioner C. Paul Smith, who has 12 children, justified his vote this way:

"As many of you know, I had a lot of kids and my wife stayed home at a significant sacrifice in those early years, because she knew she had to be with those kids. I know everybody isn't able to survive doing that, but clearly if we can strengthen marriage, we can decrease the number of children we have to reach."

If all of these efforts pass in a perfect legislative storm, we could find ourselves in a 21st century version of that June Cleaver universe, one where women, like my own mother, had fewer reproductive rights, fewer opportunities to work outside the home, were expected to be there when the kids got home from school, oversaw homework and made dinner, all with a smile and no complaints about their own ambitions or wishes to help support their families financially.

Conservatives sometimes invoke "Leave It to Beaver" as a pro-family image. But when I think about June -- chopping vegetables in the kitchen while Wally and the Beaver get into mild trouble and Ward handles the manly duties of going to the office and grilling -- I don't think she would necessarily embrace today's Republican agenda.

Yes, she was focused on raising her children and getting dinner on the table, but within that construct, she wielded influence in her home, took a largely hands-off approach to raising two sons, and seemed to have a "live and let live" attitude rather than a doctrinaire approach to living. She was a common-sense, straightforward kind of gal who, if she lived in today's world, wouldn't buy into policies that give women less say about their bodies, their children, or their reproductive rights.

And if June disagreed with any of today's lawmakers on issues that impact women's lives, she -- or at least Barbara Billingsley, in her "Airplane" incarnation -- just might take them on with some late-in-life bad-ass jive.

You can follow Joanne Bamberger on Twitter and Facebook.

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lonewolfwoman52

So nice that Republican (of course) Commissioner C. Paul Smith has such a great paying job that he can afford to have his brood mare of a wife stay at home with 12 kids. But the majority of people are much more responsible in their reproductive numbers and also probably do not have the same income level that this politician has been handed.

If taking this country back to the dark ages, which many of the GOP? T.P.er's want to do and they have all talked about cutting the wages of the working people-that means you the middle and poor class of wage earners all the while the highest 1+% get tax breaks, are they also going to roll back the cost of everything else back to the 50's levels also? After all Mitch McConnell-R- Kentucky wants minimum wage lower than $2/hr. At that wage level, all of the working people will be lucky to afford a cardboard box for a house if the cost of surviving in this new America they envision for us remains at todays levels.

March 03 2011 at 12:17 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
anastasjoy

The problem is that the shiny, squeaky-clean Cleaver way of life was not available to huge numbers of people in the 50s: people who were not white and middle-class. Many women were forced to work for economic reasons, just as they are now, but they had fewer options and little workplace protection. Kids played in neighbors' backyards and looked after themselves.And June Cleaver must have used birth control — she only had two children.

February 28 2011 at 2:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Judy

Republican women and men either know or try to repress the knowledge that they don't respect women as independent agents. Moreover, they are trying to create 2 classes in this country--the very rich and the poor, as shown by their anti-union, anti-education, anti-unversal health care activities. When will Americans wake up? Republicans snag the poor with legislation against women--pro human embryo legislation- and promotion of guns. Only the very rich stand to gain from their policies.

February 27 2011 at 7:22 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
monza866

Lets get people back to work and then you can pay for what you need just like the Cleavers. Where is it that the tax payer supports your parenting costs? If you are not able to handle it then perhaps you are not responsible to be a parent.

February 27 2011 at 7:05 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
azuernoir

To those who disagree with Ms. Bamberger's view of things: Are you willing to have your tax dollars go to foster care and intervention services for an increased number of unwanted or abandoned children? Why, for many "pro-life" types, does concern for a baby's well-being end once the baby is born? They're vehemently against terminating a pregnancy, but also vehemently against helping fund early education (Head Start), proper nutrition (WIC programs, affordable breast pumps, etc) because those are "entitlements". Um...no, those would be more pro-life than anything else you could possibly do for that child.

If you have a daughter, will you be satisfied to see her skip college and get married off to a nice secure paycheck-earner who, when he has a heart attack at 49, will leave her with three kids and no way to earn a living on her own? Now there's something to look forward to as you plan to enjoy your retirement...oh wait, something else your daughter won't have if she never held a job.

Eliminating funding for services that support families - not just women, but FAMILIES - is dangerous for the stability and success of our society and our economy. It's short-sighted and nothing more than political manipulation. The only winners in this scenario will be those in power who enact these changes and get re-elected by the voters who have been roped into believing that moving our country backwards is ...progress.

February 26 2011 at 11:51 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
sweetdreams7554

I'm sorry but once you are pregnate it is not just YOUR body anymore. There is another human being involved. If you don't want a child then don't sleep around! Don't expect the tax payer to pay to murder it for you and if you have it, DON'T expect the tax payers to pay to raise it for you. If there were more morals and personal responsibility, like there was in June Cleavers day, none of this would ever be an issue. Why SHOULD a hospital that does not agree with abortion be forced to perform them? Do you think you are the only one that should have "rights"?

February 26 2011 at 4:46 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sweetdreams7554's comment
RobinDH

Your comment seems to be directed only to women who get pregnant, and seems to leave out the men who get women pregnant. For a woman to "sleep around" (w/men), there must also be men who are "sleeping around," and they need to carry as much responsibility for the consequences of their actions as women do. Until that happens, until every child is wanted by both its mother and it's father, and until all fathers contribute to raising their children, someone has to help. Until then, women who need help must not be demonized, and they must not be the only ones being lectured to.

February 26 2011 at 9:56 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
antcmanche

There are no women's rights being taken away, at all. You have the right to have an abortion, to medical checkups, to work outside the home, to breastfeed your child, to make sure your child is educated and if you so desire to have a child alone, by yourself, by artificial insemination or to "use" a male merely as a sperm donor. You also have the right to pay for what you want or need yourself. I have the right not to pay for your choices or anyone else's choices. You are merely twisting things around and using "scare tactics" to further your own agenda. Way to go.

As for budget cuts; All of us must make cuts from the individual to the federal government. It will take years if not generations to fix the problems created by our government. No, it is not all Obama's fault, the two Bush's and Clinton, (and beyond), had a hand in it also, however Obama's progressive ideology has made things substantially worse. We must come together for the purpose of helping this country get back on track and it starts at home, NOT forcing your beliefs, whatever they may be, upon others and that goes for those on the extreme left to the extreme right and to everyone inbetween.

February 26 2011 at 4:10 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
inasctg56

reply to sah5151 - Divide and conquer is the gop. Is it surprising that they're focused once again on guns and abortion to rally the troops. And the dems legislation is working - 100% write offs for business improvements and incentives for hiring. Taking money away from oil and directing to clean energy and more efficient vehicles we all benefit from. Working with our manufacturing sector has contributed to over 18 months of gains in manufacturing and exports. The forecasts were very good for 2011 and 2012 until the gop started interfering with job cuts and cuts to job creation, and bringing back the 5.25% tax rate for overseas profits. It's more of the same failed policies from the gop.

February 26 2011 at 3:49 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
sah5151

This is what the Libs do all the time!!! They try to divide the groups that oppose what they are trying to do. We do not want to be a nanny state and what is she doing here? Trying real hard to pit Conservatives against womem!! What we are saying all over the country is enough is enough. If you want thing pay for it yourself!! The taxpayers are broke!! They almost got it done with close to have of the population paying nonthing in income taxes. So thank Obama for pushing just alittle to hard to the point the we finally are saying enough is enough!!

February 26 2011 at 2:49 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
Maxwell

Um..June Cleaver, and all the actors in "Leave it To Beaver" were just that - ACTORS. Nobody's home ran that smoothly, not even in the late 1950's/early 60's. It was created by scriptwriters, Joe Connelly and Bob Moshe. Nobody's father had the wisdom of the ages, as Father Knows Best. Ask Paul Peterson of the Donna Reed show. He has been advocating for child actors for decades with his group of ex-child stars called A Minor Consideration. After the suicides and self destruction of many child actors. Nobody's mother vacuumed the floor with heels, dresses and pearls. Not even the actors themselves, who portrayed these characters lead such pristine lives. That's liberalism for you. Just like these leftys who think if you hunt deer you are killing Bambi. Bambi is a cartoon created by Disney.

February 26 2011 at 1:56 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Maxwell's comment
B

My Mom did...she wore a dress and heels, (maybe not the pearls) everyday. My father always wore a suit...everyday.
To mow the lawn he would leave off the tie and jacket. Most everyone I knew dressed like that.
We had to wear dresses to school even in the winter...

February 27 2011 at 10:54 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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