A few months ago, in the midst of a rant from me about how VILE Twilight is, a friend suggested that I read Fascinating Womanhood by Helen B. Andelin--he was pretty sure it would help to explain Twilight. He'd never read either, but he had Mormon daughters and a Mormon ex-wife, and he knew plenty of women who had read both.
In case you didn't know, Fascinating Womanhood is, like Twilight, a thoroughly Mormon book that never mentions Mormonism. Andelin, who taught marriage enrichment courses to Mormon Women in California during the 1950s while her husband was busy being a dentist, fasted and prayed about how Mormon women might achieve an ideal marriage--and the answer is contained in Fascinating Womanhood.
What the hell, I thought, when my friend suggested I read this. I'd read The Rules years ago. I'd grown up Mormon and been to plenty of Standards Nights. How much worse could this particular exploration and defense of caricaturized femininity really be?
Part of the difficulty in battling sexism and gender assumptions is that they are sometimes subtle, sometimes difficult to tease out. What makes FW so shocking is how blatant it all. Seriously: if I hadn't known, in all certainty, that it wasn't a joke, I would have thought it was satire. It was difficult to believe that anyone could take this crap seriously. But it is deadly in its seriousness--which is a tad ironic, since the overall thrust of the book is to teach women how to be frivolous.
That's right, ladies: being frivolous is serious business. Because the crux of gender differences and relationships between men and women boil down to one fact, repeated over and over throughout the book and presented in all caps, so you'll feel its pithy truth all more forcefully: