Goesaert v Cleary and Gender Norms

What does Goesaert v Cleary tell us about gender norms of this time?

As veterans returned from WWII, the inevitable fear of a lack of jobs for returning veterans forced law makers into passing legislation they felt would benefit our returning vets. These laws included the decision in Goesaert v Cleary, to prohibit woman from serving liquor as barmaids, unless they were the bar owners wife or daughter. These laws sought to “protect” women in the work place because they were seen as not capable of defending themselves against drunk patrons, or being able to control the bar if customers got unruly. The legislatures felt that it was “ok” for women to continue serving as waitresses if they had a male bartender to protect them.

The root of these laws, and many others of the time, were to re-open positions for men returning from war, but they essentially forced women back into “more suitable” positions, or to return home to be housewives. There were many laws set to because they felt women needed protection in the workplace, clearly showing the gender norms of this time presented women as the weaker sex. Even though by the time of Goesaert v Cleary in 1948, women were not only allowed to vote, but were also joining the military and fighting wars along side men, yet they still felt that woman needed protection.

In “Mixing it Up” it is stated that “the U.S supreme court ruled that women workers needed protection. Basing its decision on the fact that women were an inherently different and inferior class of workers (from men) due to their disadvantageous physical structure and reproductive capabilities.” This statement speaks volumes to gender norms of this time.  It is clear that women are still seen as delicate and incapable of completing the same tasks as men. By saying women needed to be protected and enacting laws to do this they essentially segregated women and worsened discrimination in the work place for years to come.

Going back to the case of Goesaert v Cleary, the sexist viewpoint is illogical; a woman may own a bar, however she cannot act as barmaid in that same bar. However, if her husband owns the bar, she can work as a barmaid because the law makers believe that having a male owner somehow protects her from possible violence. Yet these same delicate women managed to tend bar during the time of WWII? Laws passed during this time were a giant step back for women in the work place and gender norms. While law makers sought to protect women, they made it even more difficult to find and maintain employment due to the restrictions set upon them . Even to this day we are fighting these gender norms as we try to break societies preconceived constructs of women helpless delicate flowers, when you can see from our text that most women are anything but helpless.


8 thoughts on “Goesaert v Cleary and Gender Norms

  1. Great post! I also found this lawsuit ridiculous and sexist, especially on the grounds of the same point you made: Wives looking after their husbands’ bars while the men are away at war is fine, but when wartime ends, this is no longer legitimate. How does this make any sense? I cannot wrap my head around it, but evidently this case’s majority rationalized this decision by relying on centuries-old gender norms and sexism, particularly on the belief that women are somehow more inferior and weaker than men, therefore unable to defend themselves from belligerent drunkards. Very illogical, yet unfortunately was the court’s final decision.

    1. I agree, the fact that even courts were just spitting out barbaric rulings to cases blows my mind. Just shows how much different our world is today compared to then, and how illogical most people were back in the day.

    2. I agree that the lawsuit was ridiculous and sexist as well. Women are suddenly good enough to tend your bars when the men are at war, but when they return, they’re no good and have to be your prim and proper housewives? Blasphemy! Gender norms are so infuriating to me, especially when it comes to men invalidating the existence of women by stating they are inferior, unintelligent, weaker, etc. compared to men. Societal gender norms that were enforced were the cause of laws like this and I strongly feel that abolishing these gendered expectations is the way to go if we want to continue to progress and make positive change. Overall, just let people be people and let them live happily as long as they’re not hurting anybody or doing anything harmful.

  2. I thought you made a very good point in saying that the women managed to tend bars during World War II when the men were away. It just shows that the law was not actually made to protect women, but to force them out of their jobs so that men returning from war could have their jobs back. There were so many laws then that were made to “protect” women but if we look closer, they were only made to force women back into set gender roles of the time and reinforce sexist attitudes toward women.

    1. I agree with you 100% completely Danielle back then all the government was worried about was one winning the war but after that then worried about the men. Like you say some look at this as like owe get women more jobs to tend the bar not the case it is taking them out of there current position all together and that just isn’t right at all. Yes the men deserve there jobs back but also let the women keep there jobs to not fair to them need to find a happy medium that works both ways.

  3. I appreciated your satirical use of the word “delicate,” because that’s still a stereotypical trait of women and those who are feminine. Women aren’t traditionally thought to be strong or tough, and yet I think these sources show us that they are incredibly powerful- especially in terms of their voices. While the men were off using violence and continuing their patterns of abuse back home, women stood up and did what they knew must be done by fulfilling work quotas, supporting families and continuing to advocate for their right to be independent.

  4. Great post! I think it is great to learn about how women finally had a law passed that men will get in trouble if they touch or threaten women in the workforce. It is always insane and horrible that a law like this even had to be passed because respect should never be an issue of women not receiving it but that goes to present day as well. I really liked in your post where you pointed out that women weren’t looked at as helplessness anymore!

  5. It was a good thought to try and get jobs for the men who were risking there lives fighting for our country,but I think they may have picked the wrong action to take. Women have already made huge steps into becoming more independent, so to me this is kinda like them sticking there feet in the water. They should have known it wouldn’t work right. Why should a women only be able to bartend if she has a man or father owning the bar. Women have always wanted there independence and this was a great example of that.

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