During the sixties and seventies there was an influx of social change movements, from civil rights, gay rights, student’s rights and feminism. In the early sixties the US was experiencing second wave feminism which advocated primarily for workplace equality and opportunities for women to move out of the private sphere and into the public sphere. The feminist movement that was so pervasive at this time encouraged women to be more independent and move away from their more domestic roles (Hewitt 414-16). Having this idea of the atmosphere of the early sixties gives the legend more context, and allows us to better understand why it began circulating.
In the legend a teenage girl is babysitting for a couple and in the house she is downstairs while the children are upstairs asleep. During the night while the babysitter entertains herself by watching TV she gets phone calls from a strange man telling her to check on the children. She ignores the man’s words and this continues a few times until the babysitter becomes worried and finally contacts the police who tell her they will trace the next call. After the man’s next call, the police call back and tell her the call is coming from i...
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...e children in her charge, becomes a statement about how women should not move away from their roles in the home for they are vulnerable without men to protect them. Therefore, the telling of this legend accomplishes the task of reinforcing traditional gender roles.
The legend, The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs, which surfaced during a time of social change and reform, such as feminism, reflects anxieties about women moving away from the home into the work place. The use of the babysitter in the legend manages to capture the conflict between traditional femininity and the resistance of feminists, to reinforce and caution women against struggling against the dominant patriarchal structure of society. Within the context in which the legend was first recorded it then serves to be told with the intent to frighten those who hear it and reinforce traditional gender roles.
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