Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Blast from the Past . . . or Is it?

Continuing my purge of my workroom, de-accessioning books. going through files and folders and mysterious boxes of stuff, unopened in thirty-some years, I came across this newspaper clipping from 1972. 

I remember when the Fascinating Womanhood thing hit Tampa -- and I remember being a little appalled at the whole rigmarole that insisted that wives who wanted to be happy must follow a routine that seemed to be straight out of a Fifties sit-com. I never owned a copy of the book but I did skim through one at a friend's house. Wives were advised to act 'child-like' (well, except for when they're meeting their husbands at the door, clad only in Saran wrap --a highly recommended ploy for adding that certain something to a dull marriage.)

Women were warned against being too capable -- one suggestion was that the woman start a project and bungle it badly so that the husband can come to the rescue, thereby feeling manly as the little woman collapses on his chest and flutters her eyelashes at him. 

At its worst, FW tells the woman that if her husband is mad at her, it's her fault -- she hasn't played the game right. This is a chilling idea, especially when viewed in the light of domestic abuse -- where the abuser often blames the victim -- and the victim often feels guilty for having provoked the abuse.

The whole idea of basing a marriage on manipulation of this sort seemed to me to be degrading to husband and wife alike. So I never signed up for the classes, even though a friend of our was teaching them. (Maybe John wishes I had...)

Later that year our first child was born. When I ran out of reading material during labor, John brought me some magazines. Among them was the inaugural issue of Ms. magazine -- the popular voice of the Feminist Movement. I recall thinking as I perused its pages between contractions that this probably wasn't for me either. I would just bumble along under no banner.

As I photographed the clipping and thought about doing a post on it, I decided to check the Internet for a little more info. And to my surprise, I found that Fascinating Womanhood is alive and well  -- classes are being taught in Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Utah, and Virginia. (It seems to be especially popular with Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints.)

There's a wonderful essay HERE with quotes from the book that made me grind my teeth to think that women are still buying into this.

I would have thought that, outrageous as it is, Fascinating Womanhood would have gone the way of the artifact below (also from the Workroom of Lost Things.) 

(I am posting this using Claui's Hot Spot -- we still don't have our server back. I'll try to blog visit this evening but don't be surprised if I'm silent for the next few days.)


Frances said...

Vicki, I am amazed to be the first commenter here...perhaps dear Blogger has got a few stored up for you that I cannot see.

I don't recall that particular named concept in my late teens, but do remember that my 1963 summer reading list sent for my freshman college orientation did include Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. I remember duly reading this and the other required books, but particularly still remember being in Mom's kitchen one August evening while she was preparing supper, when our young neighbor, a Sweet Briar grad and recent bride came by with her black poodle and asked me why on earth I was reading that book when what I needed to do was to learn how to drink.

Vicki, even then I listened to her advice with a bit of skepticism. Why was she bothering my Mom at that pre-supper, pre-Daddy-return-from-office hour. Wouldn't she want to be fixing supper for her husband?

I could email you so many more details, but just wanted you to know what memory your post brought back to the surface.


Barbara Rogers said...

Yes times have sure changed. I was sitting in a living room with women I barely knew and sharing as honestly as I could about what my life was like as a woman, wife, mother, and then divorce'. We learned this was consciousness raising. In the 70s I moved away from my 60s attempts to be perfect woman and began to discover who I really was as a person. And I wish many of the issues we discovered about ourselves and society had been resolved by now. I have friends ardently trying to pass the Equal Rights Amendment still.
Good luck on your internet connectivity!

Thérèse said...

Apparently time has not changed in parts of the country; I always thought that Arizona was regressing in a few ways lately so I am not surprised at seeing its name mentioned in your today’s post. I am smiling when reading these kinds of clippings but I should not.

Martin Hodges said...

Scary that in some quarters, so little progress has been made, Vicki. Earlier this year I joined the fabulous and much needed WEP. Non-partisan politics in the name of equality. I believe our three young granddaughters deserve to know, at every opportunity, that they are relevant and valued as individuals in their own right. If their Grandad can help to reinforce that line, all the better.

Ms. A said...

Not my kind of reading, for sure. I much preferred to be just me and not what someone thought I "should" be, although my first husband would have preferred me to be meek, mild, passive, obliging and obedient. We didn't last long.

Pepper Cory said...

Fascinating Womanhood made me want to barf from the first time I heard about it. Ms was catnip to me. Thus marriage #1 didn't have a chance. Marriage #2 has weathered all kinds of opinion differences and after 30 years, we must be doing something right. Re:wrapped in Saran Wrap etc--getting a new right hip last year a revelations as mu husband came through aces as a nurse. I remember being wrapped in Seal-n-Press so I could take a shower (great tip from a nurse) and breaking out in giggles. Husband/nurse asks, "What's so funny?" and I try to relate the Fascinating Saran Wrap thing. He doesn't get it. "That's supposed to be sexy?" God bless him.

Anvilcloud said...

Ah yes! Even before you got to it, I was thinking that the fundies would still lap this stuff up.

katy gilmore said...

What a blast from the past Vicki! I sort of remember the saran wrap proposal, and I really remember that when Ms came in the mail, I always felt a little dread, knowing in some way the issue would make me feel bad (or inadequate or something). I guess like you, I didn't fit either place, more in the Vicki camp.