Beyond the Mystique: Domesticity and the Proverbs 31 Woman

She has dinner ready by six o’clock. The steam from roast chicken with carrots and mashed potatoes dances under the nostrils. Lamps and end tables are free of dust and clutter, kitchen countertops are shiny and slick, the sink is empty; not a hair is out of place on this woman’s head, and her lipstick perfectly kisses her wide smiling lips. She serves food to her husband and children, who are seated around the dining room table. Her children smile, laugh, and act affectionately towards each other and towards their parents. All is right in the perfect little world of this happy housewife, a scene akin to a family sitcom from the 1950s called Leave It to Beaver. June Cleaver was the iconic image of a 1950s housewife, and the show centered around her youngest son’s boyish mishaps and adventures.

The Cleavers were the quintessential post-war American family: the dad worked, while the mom stayed home and cooked and cleaned. They embodied traditional family values and stuck up for morality. For the most part, everybody in the household got along. If there were any familial or outside skirmishes, they were confronted with ease and perfectly resolved. Watching the show can feel like entering a time warp to a by-gone era. It is pure, innocent, and clean compared to some family sitcoms of today. I’ve known some Christians who wistfully look back on the show and decry the perceived corruption of our modern world. They would say our society is now less “Christian” than the 1950s. But was the show truly Christian? Was the portrayal of a happy housewife through June Cleaver something Christian women should strive to embody?

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