From: Crossroads for Marriage and Women
Marriage and Women: A Series
By Lori Anderson

Even though the capitalistic division of roles for men and women was no longer viable, it was part of our Society and the cultural fantasies of both genders.

Ellen McGrath, Ph.D., in her book When Feeling Bad is Good describes a Traditional Core which she defines as woman’s cultural conscience. It is a core of traditional values and thinking that exists deep within every woman.

It dictates behavior and what roles are “right” and “wrong” for women to fill. It was formed through centuries of cultural conditioning.

Like a conscience, the Traditional Core is a guiding force that evolves over time from the parental and societal messages females receive.

McGrath writes, “The Traditional Core has thrived for centuries because it was convenient for both men and women. It was so deeply ingrained and women and men were so unaware of their cultural conditioning that they couldn’t choose to change it. The Traditional Core worked because it matched the economic and cultural needs of a patriarchal system where men controlled the power and resources and women supported the men in return for protection, provisions, and, occasionally, status.”

One common mistake McGrath feels today’s women make is to defend the Traditional Core. In the process of defending this cultural conscience, women often strive to become more traditional than ever, especially if they have misgivings about their nontraditional behavior.

Let’s take our homes as an example. Unlike most men, women don’t see their jobs as justification for doing less at home. Instead, we try to do both. Some of us try to do even more. We don’t want so our families “to suffer” because we are working.

I can certainly afford household help. Yet, I do not have any.

Apparently, I am not alone. McGrath writes that only 57 percent of women who can afford household help actually have it.


Do we enjoy cleaning bathrooms, washing clothes, and vacuuming floors? Do we feel that it is our husband’s role to help us? Do we have any luck acquiring this help from husbands that Society has conditioned for another role?

With few exceptions, of course not. Yet many women still buy into the notion that we must clean and manage the house in order to be a real woman. We juggle it all.

We want our husbands to help us. But whether they do or they don’t, we still feel that we are responsible for the home.

Maybe our husbands or partners agree that we are responsible for the home. Maybe they don’t. Maybe they would prefer we hire a cleaning company and accompany them to the golf course or the lake. Maybe they have never even thought about it. But we keep on plodding for what we consider the sake of our family.

We are not Super Women. But we take these wifely duties upon ourselves, not always because our husbands are telling us to do it but because Society is demanding that we fulfill our traditional gender role.

It is part of being a woman, part of our “virtue.”