Tuesday, October 14, 2008
"Sorry Sweetie, Love, Walt"
Just 70 years ago, a young woman from Searcy, Arkansas applied for a position in the Walt Disney creative department.
Silly girl! She obviously didn't realize that Disney maintained a strict hiring policy: men only.
Youngsters who see a rejection letter like this may think, "what possible reason could Walt Disney have had for not hiring women?"
It's simple. In 1938 (or 1968, for that matter), a woman didn't think in terms of developing a "career." A woman's career was simple: get married, raise children, and keep your husband happy enough for him to resist running off with his secretary. If a woman pursued a career, she was seen as an oddity at best, and a worst, a threat. She was a strange creature who obviously had no interest in following her divinely-prescribed societal role and would probably die alone and childless.
If, as a young woman of that time, you had the temerity to question the status quo, you would find no shortage of Bible instructors and moral teachers who would conveniently point out this was the way things were supposed to be, as per God himself. Any deviation from the plan would lead to a breakdown of society, and an eventual Communist overthrow. It was best, they argued, to stick with a Bronze Age sensibility.
When confronted with a relic like this, we usually roll our eyes and think, "wow, we've really come a long way."
Actually, we haven't. Here's an essay question: what sort of cultural imperatives do we cling to that our antecedents will snicker at in the year 2078?