The Feminist Politics Behind...Tupperware!
History is full of emergent feminist movements from the most unlikely places, like the fraternity of stewardesses that really became the first "lipstick feminists".
And here's a new one I hadn't considered before: Tupperware Ladies.
I just can't imagine inviting a bunch of friends over to buy plastic containers. But, they did -- by the millions.
According to this great article in the Globe & Mail:
The prevailing idea was that any man who could look himself in the mirror could provide for his wife," says Laurie Kahn-Leavitt, a U.S. filmmaker who made a 2003 documentary about the company, titled Tupperware! "Here was a company saying you could earn extra money, and it wasn't really work. He could still feel like he was a breadwinner."
Cultural historians describe Tupperware as moulding gender politics in much the same way it shaped its polyethylene plastic; some even invoke the product's tight-sealing lid as a metaphor for the hermetic containment of postwar homemakers.
Ms. Kahn-Leavitt acknowledges that most of the 300 "Tupperware ladies" she interviewed for the film, who worked for the company during its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, were a socially conservative lot. Yet she insists that social theorists often fail to recognize the entrepreneurial, even subversive spirit of this group.
"None of the women I interviewed would call themselves feminists, but they were always working around their husbands," she says. "[Feminists] looked at the Tupperware ladies as a total anachronism, not realizing they were kind of proto-feminists in a way. It's a working-class boomer company, is what it really is."
Some of Tupperware's attempts to keep pace with the evolution of boomers were more successful than others. The company boasts, a bit tenuously, that it participated in the nascent 1960s women's movement by creating plastic organizers and travelling cases, as more women entered the work force.