Surfing through google results for “June Cleaver” I found almost unanimous resentment or ridicule. The very name of this sitcom mom has come to be a derogatory statement, shorthand for a cardboard woman that does nothing but clean, wear pearls and say “Oh, Ward…” But for me, June Cleaver isn’t that woman. She was a college educated woman who made her family home admirable and warm for her kids. She had a loving relationship and took pride in her life. She was good at what she did and treated her home as her job – finding excellence in her tasks. If I get branded a June Cleaver, I’d consider myself lucky.
So why do we ridicule this character? Do we find it hard to believe she could have an inner life, a fulfilling life, taking care of her home? Do we mock her because her home exemplifies the unattainable – clean, organized, homey – that we see as the source of our irrational guilt over our own homes? I’d be the first to say that the Cleaver home was a bit too homogenized for me. I’d like to think that Ward had a stash of Playboys in the den and that June kept a drawer of leather corsets. The Cleavers could have used some Bridge partners of different ethnicity, social status, political persuasion or sexual preference. But be that as it may, I hope the day comes when we can stop villifying the woman and recognize that we wouldn’t even be talking about a 50 year old television mom if she wasn’t on to something.
Is my house picture perfect? Far from it. Do I vacuum in pearls? Rarely. Do my husband and son have a home waiting for them at the end of the day, with all that Home means to us? Yes. And really, I think that’s all June wanted for Wally, Ward and the Beaver in the first place.
Keep on wearing those pearls with pride.