"It's All in the Family," in Citizenship Booklet
, p. 10.
The Department of Defense comic It’s All in the Family focuses on the central role of family in the American system, and as a functioning organization to fight the Communist way of life. Throughout the entirety of the comic’s sixteen pages, nearly every activity or discussion falls into a stereotypical gender role. I have listed the following activities and characteristics which are demonstrated within the text, all of which are demonstrative of the distinct gender roles of the area, with the exception of one which comes close to challenging the norm.
- In the very first panel, Joe (eldest child) is seen holding open a door for his wife, illustrating chivalry.
- Stephen (middle child) is introduced as he is repairing a fence in front of the house.
- Stephen steps in and helps Rosie (youngest child) with her typing, saying that he learned to type in the Navy.
- Stephen tells the family that he is a year away from his engineering degree, which is contrasted in the same panel with Rosie’s news that she has a new boyfriend.
- Following the meal, the father excuses himself to rest, while the mother and Rosie haul away the dishes.
- For Father’s Day, Mr. Palooka received clothing from Rosie and his wife, while Stephen gave him new technology, a radio, so that he could listen to baseball games.
- When the neighbors had trouble getting their car started, Joe offered to drive them to the hospital, while Stephen went to work on the car’s engine.
- The mother and father reminisce about the kids’ willingness to help others throughout their childhood. They recall that Joe got a job delivering newspapers to help with expenses, and Stephen said that he wanted to get a job when he was older. This is contrasted against Rosie’s selflessness in offering to give up one of the dolls she received for Christmas.
- When the parents are preparing to leave on a two week trip, Stephen offers to fulfill his father’s role and look after the farm.
- The mother is first introduced as she is rounding up the children in preparation for Joe and his wife’s arrival. The mother tells her husband and Stephen to clean up, but asks Rosie to help with the dusting, signifying that the men are done with their work, while Rosie is expected to do more.
- Rosie is introduced when her mother asks her to help with the housework.
- Rosie was given the honor of serving in a leadership role at school, serving as student council secretary, although she struggles greatly with her typing. This leadership role somewhat defies the stereotype, though her position as secretary is fairly gendered.
- The mother, along with Ann and Rosie, serve dinner (which she has presumably cooked herself) to the three men.
- Rosie tells the family that she has a new boyfriend, which is contrasted in the same panel with Stephen’s news that he is a year away from his engineering degree.
- When the neighbors had trouble getting their car started, Rosie tells Mrs. Harris that she will look after the children.
- The mother and father reminisce about the kids’ willingness to help others throughout their childhood. They recall Rosie’s willingness to give up a doll when she received two for Christmas. Her sharing of a consumer good is contrasted with Joe and Stephen’s willingness to get a job to help with expenses, and Stephen said that he wanted to get a job when he was older.
- When the parents are preparing to leave on a two week trip, Stephen reassures them that Rosie will be able to do all of the housework after school.
These roles, which almost exclusively exist in dichotomous spheres, create a higher value on the male sphere. The men are depicted as the earners and have the highest share of power and agency. This is perhaps best illustrated when the parents reminisce about their kids’ willingness to sacrifice for others. The mother ends the story with, “Don’t forget…You worked pretty hard yourself in those days!” to which he responds, “And you kept me from getting’ discouraged! You kept me plugging’ along…” Here he does not acknowledge his wife’s hard work in the home or her share of the responsibility in raising the children to be selfless. Instead he thanks her for the encouragement that enabled him to work so hard for the family. In this story, the separate roles and spheres are not considered equal and balancing, but instead the male role is considered primary to the family’s survival, and the female is there for support.
"It's All in the Family," in Citizenship Booklet
, p. 10-11.
In addition to these rigid gender roles and the privilege given to the male role, the story also draws upon some classically held ideas about patriarchal inheritance patterns and the preference for male children. Though Mr. Palooka is open to his sons pursuing other careers, he does state that he was hoping that Stephen would take over the farm, and had expressed the same desires when Joe was his age. Henry Harris, the neighbor, danced around the waiting room when he learned his wife gave birth to a boy. This idea is not only underwritten by ideas of male superiority and property inheritance, but also through the idea that a man was much better suited to be a father for a son, rather than a daughter. The expressed roles and statements carry heavy weight, as the story seeks to establish an ideal American family, and explain the ways in which families (presumably families like these) service as the bedrock of democracy and the American Way.
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