American Policy Of Containment During The Cold War And Its Consequences

The Cold War era saw peace and prosperity in the United States. But, there was also fear, instability and the security threat of nuclear radiation that loomed over everyday life for all Americans and the rest of the world after the end of the second world conflict. Domesticity was created to manage internal conflicts and “contain” this threat. The “domestic contained” strategy involved the gradual shift in gender roles. In the past, the breadwinner and primary provider of the family was the man. Women were responsible for caring for the children and being the homemaker. These roles were generally accepted by spouses, but many couples were unable to accept their new roles. This caused a lot instability and resistance to women and men needing to “know” their roles. These methods of “containment”, which led to instability and insurgency in internal and exterior conflicts, began to change the corrupt social standards that had been in existence for decades.

Many married in the post-WWII era at an earlier age than their predecessors. But the consequences of this were much more severe. Women and men had to make sacrifices. However, women had the responsibility of making more sacrifices for their husbands’ happiness. Women were expected to stay within the social boundaries to avoid being seen as violating containment and failing to fulfill their “purpose,” which was to be the “homemaker” of the family. Carol Sears is an example of a housewife who gave up her independence. “Carol Sears described her independence as if it were a chronic disease or allergy that flared up now and then to bother her…It did not fit well with domestic containment…Defying the consensus could lead to a loss of economic security, social reputation, or community support. Adaptation was clearly more secure than resistance.” Since the beginning of their lives, women had been enslaved by a set of norms that forced them into a life of misery. In order to contain women’s dreams of higher education and greater autonomy, society dictated that women should stay at home. “Because there were very few opportunities for women to work in the paid labor market, many women who wanted to marry believed they would be disappointed if they continued their education.” (May,79). Societal norms persuaded women to believe that the home was their purpose. The Cold War era was the best time to illustrate men’s roles in society. Sloan Wilson’s bestseller, The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, is a great example. This book emphasized that men were more successful in the family than at work. The family was the only thing that made work meaningful. Society would criticize men for not being the primary provider of their families’ needs. This was a huge burden on men. They had to work hard and be the authority figure at home. In order to be able to provide for their families’ needs, men also had to work extra hours and sacrifice their personal time, leading to bitterness and internal discontentment. “I wish that he had more spare time for his children and himself…he was also concerned about his family’s financial needs. Despite having setbacks in their marriages, both parents believed that the benefits and family life were worth the sacrifices and tensions. Postwar parents were able to instill in their children the notions of independence and comfortability that allowed them to be happy and satisfied with their lives. “I hope that my daughter will one day understand how to be a happy housewife and not become a miserable mother.”

“Domestic confinement” was an attempt to control society’s behavior in the home. But, there were also external conflicts in the post WWII era due to racial segregation, and the desire of African Americans for change in their corrupt, miserable lives. Whites held African Americans back by refusing them federal rights. They also denied them the opportunity to share public spaces with whites. These suppressions of freedom, the corruption of “separate and equal”, stirred much discontentment, tension, and whites still segregated, creating a foundation hypocrisy that favors white families and undermining civil rights. “Ironically,” the people who most lament the possibility of Federal action are those who made it inevitable. This proposed legislation was here because too few Americans have refused American Negros all the privileges. The change to containment that African Americans longed for was achieved through civil rights. In addition to receiving employment equity, women also received an end to sex segregation. America would not have a new face that was corrupt and full of hypocrisy. It would be one that is free and prosperous for all Americans. “Lets admit our hypocrisy now. We must not deceive anyone again. A new nation will be born, built in liberty and dedicated toward the truth that all people are created equal.

Social conformity was the foundation of many tensions. There were numerous attempts to manage threats and change society’s daily life. These values didn’t instantly change America’s face, but they were a step towards a brighter future. Americans were no longer required to conform to the society’s expectations of them. They could live their lives and pursue their personal goals. For anyone to feel at ease, there was still the Cold War threat.

Works citées

Brown, Victoria. Shannon. “Speaking Of Equality.” Going To the Source: The Bedford Reader In American History, 4th Ed., Vol. 2, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004. Accessible 20 April 2019.

May, Elaine Tyler. Homeward Bound: American Families during the Cold War Era. The book was originally published by Basic Books in 2008. Accessible 20 April 2019,


  • bensonsimpson

    Hi! I'm Benson Simpson, a 35-year-old educational blogger and teacher. I write about educational topics such as student motivation, creativity, and effective teaching techniques. I also run a blog about creativity and learning, which you can find at



Hi! I'm Benson Simpson, a 35-year-old educational blogger and teacher. I write about educational topics such as student motivation, creativity, and effective teaching techniques. I also run a blog about creativity and learning, which you can find at