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article imageIs The Housewife Making A Comeback In Battle Of The Sexes?

By Karolin Koecher     May 2, 2001 in Lifestyle
HAMBURG (dpa) - Jeanine has decided to be more diplomatic in the future and to have sex with her husband at least once a week - whether she's in the mood for it or not.
She says sex is like doing the laundry or cleaning house. "I'm not always in the mood for those things, either. But afterwards the house is clean."
Quotes like these are used by American writer Laura Doyle, a counsellor and author who is now advising women on how to restore happiness to their marriages, by resorting to their feminine charms.
Doyle's book, "The Surrendered Wife", has been a big success in America and has already caused controversial debate about new attitudes over the relationship between the sexes in Germany before the German-language edition comes out in May.
The book says that a diplomatic wife will let her husband take responsibility for the household finances, gratefully accepts presents, clearly expresses her wishes and then leaves it up to her husband as to how he fulfills them.
Such tips from a 33-year-old woman have caused a row in this post- feminist period. "All the measures to put men and women on an equal basis are being thwarted," complains Ingelore Welpe, a professor at the Kiel Institute of Women's Studies.
The German media has also heaped scorn on the book. "Back to the Stone Ages" said the weekly Focus, while the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung sarcastically commented: "Her (Doyle's) message is one of Biblical clarity which can be reduced to a single piece of advice - surrender yourself to your husband."
Writing in Focus, Elke Hartmann conceded that "with her advice Mrs. Doyle doubtlessly is running completely with the trend.
"Mothers in their day demonstrated against sexual repression and burned their bras. Now their daughters are wearing wonderbras. It isn't just Ally McBeal who would gladly give up their career for a husband and a pack of children," she added in a reference to the popular television series.
Futurist research Matthias Horx has another theory about what's behind the post-feminist era. He predicts there will be a "new deal" between men and women.
In the wake of the huge boom of women working, in the future the household could become the place most in demand for those seeking self-realisation, Horx wrote in his book, "Die acht Sphaeren der Zukunft" (the eight spheres of the future).
"Women - now emancipated - are withdrawing from the treadmill and voluntarily leaving the stress to their stress-addicted men," he says. Women want to have a profession, but they want to determine when.
Now, women function as "household managers" handling the complex activities of a modern family and determining everything from the interior design of the home to the children's rearing to vacations. Some household tasks are delegated or hired out to others.
What remains is time for women to pursue interesting part-time jobs, or to study further or engage in hobbies. This trend of "opting out", when successful career women leave the rat race, is already fully underway in America.
Many men appear to be tempted by the prospect of an organised retreat to private life. But women's studies research Ingelore Welpe says "this lasts only for a certain period. Then most men have had enough".
She adds that opting-out is really only an option open to financially privileged couples.
Publishing company Goldmann Verlag says it thought long and hard before deciding to publish "The Surrendered Wife" in German.
"Naturally the thesis that women can do without having their own income has caused controversy here," says Goldman Verlag spokeswoman Elke Kreil. But she sees a need for open debate.
Futurist researcher Horx says that more than 50 per cent of young women who have enjoyed a good education aim to return to the domestic life in the sense of being a "modern housewife". Emancipated women had always searched for men who earn more money to make it possible for them to pursue self-realisation outside the job market.
A reading of Laura Doyle would make it appear that she is less concerned about feminine freedom than about simple marital comforts. She advises women to practice three simple words: "I...can...not". Then they should give their partner the chance to do the work for them.
However, Doyle warns that the post-feminist Doris Days may be in store for a terrible curse. The dramas and battles between the sexes may be over, leaving behind a life of drudgery.
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