Score Your Sweetie

If you feel like buying a new laptop computer, go ahead and click on the “More” link.  You will either laugh so hard the computer falls off your lap, or you will pick it up and throw it against the wall.  Your response probably depends upon how you view this, the 249,428th installment in the ongoing discussion of gender in the church.

The May edition of the online journal of the American Psychological Association features a time capsule column which shows what used to pass for informed opinion a few decades ago. You can click here to read about a, ahem, scientific method men could employ to score their wives. According to the chart,

. . . if your wife “uses slang or profanity,” she would get a score of five demerits. On the other hand, if she “reacts with pleasure and delight to marital congress,” she would receive 10 merits. The test taker would add up the total number of merits and demerits to receive a raw score, which would categorize the wife on a scale from “very poor” to “very superior.”

I give the APA folks credit for being able to have a good laugh at themselves. Much of what they thought they understood about successful marriages turned out to be rank stupidity. In some ways, the good old days weren’t all that good. Our own tradition has many of the same issues to deal with, and it is a lot more recent that 1939. Fascinating Womanhood was used for Relief Society instruction in the 1960s and 1970s. Our mothers and grandmothers were taught to put on a dress, makeup, and earrings before our fathers and grandfathers came home from work, to have a nice dinner on the table, and to keep the children quiet and away from their father. Shall we not palter? Let’s just admit right now that much of that is laugh out loud funny. What will our children and grandchildren think of us?

Comments

  1. sister blah 2 says:

    “Wears red nail polish” was listed under the “demerits.” Discuss.

  2. Peter LLC says:

    What!? “Is a back seat driver” is only worth one demerit, the same as “Seams in hose often crooked”? This chart is plainly unbalanced.

  3. Wow. Did that guy want a wife or a maid? It’s stuff like this that makes me grateful for my husband, particularly on the days when he comes home from work and he keeps the kids away from me.

  4. I was born 100 years too late… I’m kidding, don’t hate me!

    It makes me wonder what the husband’s version of this would look like. Of course there wouldn’t have been one in 1930, but if there was, what would be on it?

  5. Randall says:

    The list gives women merits for being gay. It must have been written by a man. We all have that same fantasy…

  6. Everyone knows that women who wear red nail polish are floozies! Black nail polish, however, is fine.

  7. This test seems incomplete. It appears the perfect score would be 25. Interesting that sending kids to church was the highest score by far.

  8. Researcher says:

    Whew! Thanks for noting that the test is incomplete, EN. I was starting to feel really sorry for my husband. Someone posted the rest of the test. (And as a bonus: the husband’s test.)

  9. Dresses for breakfast? Seriously?

    I’m lucky if I’m dressed by lunch.

  10. #5 “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    Funny stuff.

  11. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    “Puts her cold feet on husband at night to warm them”, should at least receive equal demerits as “Flirts with other men at parties or in restaurants.” In fact, I would support the latter, if the former would cease.

  12. Randy B. says:

    I’ve heard horror stories from my MIL about Fascinating Womenhood being taught in RS, but I had always assumed that this was the result of people bringing in outside materials. This post makes it sounds as though the book was more formally used or endorsed. Is that the case, or am I reading too much into this?

  13. Researcher says:

    Among other demerits…

    eats garlic or onions before coming to bed

    slip shows

    reminds husband it is her money they are living on

    wears pajamas instead of nightgown

    insists on driving the car when husband is along

    walks around house in stocking feet

    Boy. The things upon which a relationship sinks or succeeds. I’m not even going into the husband’s test. I’ll leave that for someone else. (Just one, actually: “Picks teeth, nose, or sucks on teeth when in public.”) What does Crane recommend if you find out that your spouse is a failure? Divorce them? Start nagging? I just slipped over the line from amused to irked, so I’ll move along now. Thanks for the laugh.

  14. #5, Gay + happy in pre-“GAY” days, several old primary songs, used to say things like “We’re always glad when grandpa comes, when granpa comes we’re gay…..”

  15. gay = happy

  16. Mark IV says:

    Randy B. # 12,

    As far as I can tell, FW was never endorsed by the church as a whole. When this book came out, local people had more control over curriculum, especially for the homemaking classes in Relief Society. Even now HFPE eaders have a lot of leeway. I know that both my mother and grandmother had it on their shelves, and that they acquired it in order to participate in RS. The author certainly knew how to push our buttons, for instance by speaking of creating a celestial love with one’s spouse.

    The fact that we don’t see as much of this as we used to can be counted as one of the successes of correlation.

  17. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    #16 – “successes of correlation”. Don’t hear that very often, eh? Thanks for the reminder that not all is negative.

  18. Mark B. says:

    I never saw dinner on the table when my dad walked in the door (although Mom was usually in the kitchen at that time, fixing dinner), never saw my mother “dressed up” for dinner at home, never saw her try to shoo us away from Dad in the evenings, never saw Fascinating Womanhood in our home. I remember that we helped fix dinner, worked with Mom and Dad after dinner to clean up (Dad always washed the dishes), worked on things around the house evenings and Saturdays (I remember all too well freezing in the garage while holding a light for Dad as he worked on the car’s engine). I remember Dad coming home “early” on Fridays–probably 5:30–after his 15 minute walk home from the University, and all of us cleaning the house together so Saturdays would be free for other things.

    Many of the “bad old days” stories about sex-based division of labor seemed to be myths in our home in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. Either we were pinkos, Commie fellow travelers, pointy headed liberals, etc., or the myths and reality don’t really match up.

  19. Fascinating Womanhood was used for Relief Society instruction in the 1960s and 1970s. Our mothers and grandmothers were taught to put on a dress, makeup, and earrings before our fathers and grandfathers came home from work, to have a nice dinner on the table, and to keep the children quiet and away from their father.

    How is this different from anything any woman (LDS or not) was taught about how to be a good wife in post-WWII American when Rosie the Riveter was suddenly de trop, redundant, unwelcome, etc etc etc and sent back home to be “proper” wives and mothers–ESPECIALLY in the South?

    I hardly think it’s fair to sink one’s teeth into the church for following American cultural norms– Oh, wait…

    Nebber mind.

  20. Kevin Barney says:

    I noticed that good wives send the kids to church–and go themselves–but they also let their husbands sleep in and skip church. [I'm thinking that one's worth some extra merits.]

    Ah, the good ol’ days…

  21. I noticed the test for husbands wouldn’t be that much out of place today. That could mean one of three things.
    •Women have always had reasonable expectations of men, whereas the reverse was not true.
    •Women’s expectations of their husbands have remained stagnant while demanding husbands adjust their expectations. (You must help me with the dishes but there is no way I’m mowing the lawn)
    •I’m a misogynist pig who just doesn’t see how the husbands test is just as demeaning of women as the wives test.

    Since the questions were developed by compiling a survey of 600 women, I’ll go with the first option.
    In the interest of full disclosure, my wife mowed the lawn this week and I do the dishes in our house.

  22. Women’s expectations of their husbands have remained stagnant while demanding husbands adjust their expectations. (You must help me with the dishes but there is no way I’m mowing the lawn)

    I think you don’t have a full understanding of the expectations WOMEN put on each other (that’s a good thing! It’d drive you crazy if you did). I’ll be willing to bet these weren’t mens’ expectations of women to begin with. They may have grown to EXPECT them, but I’ll bet this was driven by women.

    And notice these expectations weren’t about survival, but about the face one puts on for others.

  23. Makes me wonder what this list would look like today.

  24. I never saw dinner on the table when my dad walked in the door (although Mom was usually in the kitchen at that time, fixing dinner), never saw my mother “dressed up” for dinner at home, never saw her try to shoo us away from Dad in the evenings, never saw Fascinating Womanhood in our home. I remember that we helped fix dinner, worked with Mom and Dad after dinner to clean up (Dad always washed the dishes), worked on things around the house evenings and Saturdays (I remember all too well freezing in the garage while holding a light for Dad as he worked on the car’s engine). I remember Dad coming home “early” on Fridays–probably 5:30–after his 15 minute walk home from the University, and all of us cleaning the house together so Saturdays would be free for other things.

    With my work load of late, it’s like this:

    – I drag myself home around 7:30, eat leftovers off the stove (so dinner is ready)
    – Wife is getting dressed for book club
    – Kids walk on my back (therapy *AND* quality time)
    – Shove the dishes in the dishwasher
    – Pretend to work on my dissertation evenings and weekends
    – Turn off my laptop on Saturdays so we can do things

    I don’t know — not too different from the old days, in some respects… :)

  25. I think you don’t have a full understanding of the expectations WOMEN put on each other (that’s a good thing! It’d drive you crazy if you did). I’ll be willing to bet these weren’t mens’ expectations of women to begin with. They may have grown to EXPECT them, but I’ll bet this was driven by women.

    I think you’ve just encapsulated why my wife hates RS and everything about it. When we married, she made it a point to remind me, “I am, and will never be, ‘most women'”.

    I don’t know about the HP groups, but EQ is one long tedious exercise in one-upmanship. For an EQ activity, they asked for volunteers to bring their grills, and it turned into a hideous display of “well, *my* grill can feed the Saharan subcontinent **AND** my truck can transport all of yours!”

  26. “What will our children and grandchildren think of us?”

    I think they will laugh as hard at us as we do at this – and feel just as embarrassed / incredulous.

  27. While I agree that women tend to be their own worst critics, the source of these specific questions were husbands.

    From the last page of the wife’s testThis test represents the composite opinions of 600 husbands who were asked to list the chief merits and demerits of their wives

  28. While I agree that women tend to be their own worst critics, the source of these specific questions were husbands.

    I believe that’s a conditioned reflex, i.e., men expect it because they’ve been taught to.

    As a contemporary comparison, I’d propose this book: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist to see what a (fairly well traveled, social, and intelligent) woman of the ’30s thought.

    I also believe that’s a class issue. If you had money and leisure time, you could play those games. If you didn’t, you had to spend your time surviving.

  29. Something that I think is always missing from these discussions is that fact that many of these silly standards were actually passing fads in our culture.

    Too often the impression is given that life was the same up until the 1950s and then suddenly it was changed and the formally eternal oppression of women was overthrown.

    I suspect that 18th Century families would find many of these ideas just as laughable and strange as we do (if for different reasons).

  30. Mark IV says:

    Cicero, I think you are right, and so is Ray in # 26.

  31. Wow. I liked one in the merit column for wife that said Healthy or courageous and uncomplaining. So, if you’re sick, don’t bother hubby about it!

  32. Steve Evans says:

    Cicero, there’s an element to what you’re saying, but this wasn’t some quiz from Cosmo or something — the test here is a bona fide psych exam administered by a doctor.

  33. I also believe that’s a class issue. If you had money and leisure time, you could play those games. If you didn’t, you had to spend your time surviving.

    In other words, times haven’t changed all that much.

  34. Wow. I liked one in the merit column for wife that said Healthy or courageous and uncomplaining. So, if you’re sick, don’t bother hubby about it!

    Hmmm … Makes you wonder if maybe waspish stoicism shouldn’t have completely lost its cachet.

  35. I’ve heard horror stories from my MIL about Fascinating Womenhood being taught in RS, but I had always assumed that this was the result of people bringing in outside materials. This post makes it sounds as though the book was more formally used or endorsed. Is that the case, or am I reading too much into this?

    I do not believe Fascinating Womanhood was ever used as an official church manual, or referred to therein so far as I know. I don’t doubt that women in RS brought the book in, though.

    Also, I recently read a review in an old Dialogue (1971?) which completely panned the book.It was a pretty humorous review.

  36. Re #28 MoJo

    I believe that’s a conditioned reflex, i.e., men expect it because they’ve been taught to.

    That may be, but I’m not sure I comfortable with the implication. One could argue that “I’m a misogynist pig but it isn’t my fault”.
    I would rather believe that the source was selfish men and it was perpetuated by women who felt “If I have to do it, so does everybody else” A personality trait my daughter demonstrates all too well.

  37. Steve, you mention in # 32 that this Dr. Crane was a trained psychologist, but I think he also did a newspaper column, “Ask Dr. Crane” or something like that. It was still going on in the 60’s, and I remember running across it, and thinking “this guy is out of touch”. Kind of like Dr. Phil.

  38. Wow,

    Dr. Crane apparently just died yesterday. Here is his obituary in the NY Times. The column I remember was called “The Worry Clinic”. He apparently referred to himself as “an overeducated farmer”, but was indeed an MD, and a psychologist.

  39. That may be, but I’m not sure I comfortable with the implication. One could argue that “I’m a misogynist pig but it isn’t my fault”.

    I would rather believe that the source was selfish men and it was perpetuated by women who felt “If I have to do it, so does everybody else” A personality trait my daughter demonstrates all too well.

    I wouldn’t rather believe the source is selfish men, although that is probably a component amongst many. A wise friend once told me, “Whatever you do for a man, he will let you.”

    In that case then, it becomes a chicken-and-egg behavioral default ‘twixt men and women, i.e., that the assumptions one gender makes about what the other gender wants may be dead wrong, and neither thinks to ask the other.

    As a child of the late ’70s and ’80s, I’d really like to know if the Leave it to Beaver lifestyle was in any way close to anybody’s reality or if, in Mark B.’s (#18) example, a family’s reality was considered abnormal by comparison.

  40. Julie M. Smith says:

    Yesterday on the radio I heard a promo for a local nightly news program’s story on how to “train” your husband to “obey” or, more specifically to “sit, stay, and fetch.”

    I’m not sure where I am going with this, but somehow, it is related. And scary.

  41. Allison says:

    What cracks me up is just how low the standards are, especially for the men. Smoking in bed? Doodling on the tablecloth? Avoiding those habits, plus a job and some basic hygiene, puts you in the superior category.

    I think if we made an honest list today of everything we feel like we “should” do to be good spouses/parents, it would look a lot less forgiving.

  42. Left Field says:

    I scored the test for both me and my wife, and we both came out as very superior. However, some of the questions are obviously not applicable. We both lost points for stuff the other doesn’t give a fig about. Nobody darns socks, and I’m happy to sew my own darn buttons (though I think my wife did help with the buttons at least once, when I had procrastinated until about 6 shirts were out of commission). Am I supposed to notice if her hose seams are straight? Who knew? I don’t even notice whether or not she wears hose. Come to think of it, I never even noticed that hose have seams. I should probably get ten demerits for not knowing if her seams are straight, and another ten for not caring.

  43. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, my Mom worked outside the house for about half of my childhood. Dad did a lot of cooking, Mom occasionally mowed the lawn, and all of us kids had weekly chores to do. I guess they didn’t take Dr. Crane to heart.

    My folks were pretty collaborative on most things, but Dad did have a penchant for buying big things without discussing them with my Mom first. One Saturday morning, he left to go buy a shovel to work in the yard, and came home with a 1960 Studebaker Lark, pretty much the equivalent of a Chevy Cavalier these days. And no shovel. After the tempers went down a bit, they kept the car, but it was forever known as “The Shovel”. It was cursed, as well. I was too young to ever drive it, but both my older brothers got at least two tickets each in that car, all by the same policeman.

    Fascinating Womanhood was indeed used in my mothers RS class, but I also remember that there was some discussion at home that was not all approving. It had a place of honor next to the plastic grapes centerpiece that my mother also did in RS.

  44. Wow. Did that guy want a wife or a maid? It’s stuff like this that makes me grateful for my husband, particularly on the days when he comes home from work and he keeps the kid

    s away from me.

    Which is what I suspect our Heavenly Father is doing right now …

  45. My prior post displays strangely. Hmm. Hope it makes sense though.

  46. Re #42 Left Field

    Prior to the invention of nylon, hose had seems. My mother told me a story about how on double dates, she and her friends would check each others’ hose to make sure the seems were straight. Hose were supposed to be worn so the seem ran up the back of the leg. The seem was visible from behind but was difficult to fix with just a mirror.

  47. #15,

    That’s just what Hollywood wants you to believe.

  48. #44 So Heavenly Father is just keeping us out of Heavenly Mother’s hair? This is all making sense to me now.
    Or maybe he is having the older brother babysit while they are out on a date.

  49. Mark (16),

    It’s funny. Just last night, I checked the Wikileaks page when I heard about the CHI being posted there (it’s true).

    And I noticed another “leaked” document, titled “Mormon female beauty manual.” (http://www.wikileaks.org/wiki/Mormon_female_beauty_manual ).

    Actually, it’s nothing official like the Wikileaks title implies — it’s clearly a locally produced pamphlet for an enrichment night or something. Still, it’s pretty eye-opening — it includes lots of tips that would not be out of place on the 1930s list you link.

    (I didn’t see a date on the Wikileaks manual, but it didn’t look all that old to me.)

  50. Frasier Crane says:

    I’m listening.

  51. Mark B. says:

    Left Field’s comments about not noticing whether his wife wore hose, or whether they had seams, reminds me of that scene in Dave where Kevin Klein asks Siguorney Weaver when she was telling him when she had figured out that he wasn’t really her husband.

    It wasn’t, she said, when she saw him naked in the shower. It was when he looked at her leg when her slit skirt opened up a bit while riding in the president’s limousine.

    “Bill hadn’t looked at me like that in years.”

  52. #44 – Heavenly Father is doing what to whom? I read that as Heavenly Father is keeping more kids from ME which, hello – no one here knows me from a hole in the ground since that was my first post ever here, so that would be a totally unfair statement if that’s what you meant.

    I don’t care who keeps my kids out from under my feet in the evening – my husband or Heavenly Father or Mary Poppins in the idiot box – as long as someone does it because it is stinkin’ hard to cook dinner with a 2-year-old shoving herself between me and the counter.

  53. treen,

    44 is saying WE are the two year olds and He is keeping us out of HM’s hair.

  54. Looks like I need to start reading to my wife and not just the kids.

  55. #55: I am sorry, I missed the joke, nor found the humor. So I had my wife do the test too…she also came up with the highest score.
    I am saddened to think of the lack of respect some of you men receieve.

  56. Left Field says:

    #51: I don’t think either Dave or I were looking at hose.

  57. My wife and I attended a sealing not too long after our own, and the sealer counseled the new bride to make sure she was wearing makeup and had dinner ready when her husband got home from work. (This was 12 years ago.) My wife and I were shocked. And glad our own sealer didn’t say anything like that, not that I remember any of it. =)

  58. Bro Jones says:

    Mark B Re: #18
    Are you my brother?

  59. A trip to the marriage counselor in 1930…

    Husband: “You wouldn’t believe it. She wears red nail polish and the seams in her hose are routinely crooked.”

    Counselor: “Hmm.. you make some good points. What do you have to say, Maam?”

    Wife: “Well I can play the piano. Isn’t that worth anything?”

    Counselor: “Yes, one point exactly. Now let’s get back to you sir. Does your wife go to bed with curlers in her hair?”

    Wife: “How did you know that? Did you tell him that, honey?”

    Counselor: “I see… suspicious… ah yes, minus five.”

  60. My wife and I attended a sealing not too long after our own, and the sealer counseled the new bride to make sure she was wearing makeup and had dinner ready when her husband got home from work. (This was 12 years ago.) My wife and I were shocked. And glad our own sealer didn’t say anything like that . . .”

    This reminds me of growing up in the 70’s. Both parents worked and my mom always looked immaculate leaving for work in the morning. For family dinners they would serve the meals with gold utensils and their finest china and crystal.

    Today, it seems like such an excess but then again my mom was a perfectionist with a capital “P”. She still arranges at age 85 to have her beautician do her hair. Once a perfectionist . . .always a perfectionist. She’ll be disappointed if the utensils in the celestial kingdom aren’t 24k gold!

  61. Joking aside, I think we are being a little harsh on the 1930s society. It’s likely, in my opinion, that the test is indicative of the faults of scholarly methods, rather than faults of society.

    To make my point, imagine that a researcher were to ask you, “What things about your wife do you not like?” People generally don’t like to complain about people they love (especially if the other people might hear about it), so if it were me I’d probably pick a relatively “safe” criticism. Such as “She wears too much smelly hair product” or “She takes too long in the bathroom”. These are relatively innocent criticisms that the wife probably wouldn’t be that upset about hearing. (By the way, these are hypothetical criticism, just in case she’s reading this, and of course I would not have any “un-safe” criticisms.:))

    Conversely, when people compliment each other on doing something (like taking kids to church), that’s not to say that not doing that things makes them bad. I might say to my wife, “You look very nice in purple.” That doesn’t mean I would think less of her if she wore a different color.

    So if the researcher then took those things and generalized them into a list of things that make for a bad wife, well that’s the researcher’s fault, not the husband’s.

  62. Elouise says:

    At the height of FASCINATING WOMANHOOD’S popularity, the teen-aged daughter of a BYU English faculty member couldn’t believe the ridiculous suggestions of FW were to be taken seriously. She decided to expose their silliness.

    For two weeks, she used every trick in this very popular book on the young men in her high school classes, in Seminary, and at MIA.
    She looked forward with glee to writing an essay debunking Helen Andelin’s view of the relationship between the sexes.

    Perhaps you’ve guessed the outcome. It all worked.
    The boys began to flock around Alice, heretofore not heavily booked for social events. I don’t believe she’s recovered from the shock and its ambivalent emotions even now, decades later. Nor do I know if she’s shown her grown daughter the book, or the excellent, sardonic essay she wrote about her experiment.

  63. My experience as a member of a family in the 1950s and 60s is that there were some women who thought they should live the “Fascinating Womanhood” dream, and others, like my mother, who thought it was a call to manipulative phoniness and told me in no uncertain terms that it was garbage.
    My parents lived a life of honest communication and mutual support, made decisions together, hashed out their differences, defended each other fiercely and worked hard to raise their children while respecting our agency in spite of the dumb decisions we sometimes (often) made. Our house was often messy and noisy, my mother didn’t wear fingernail polish, and in our house aprons were worn primarily to keep fingerpaint off our clothes.
    I think _Fascinating Womanhood_ and “Leave it to Beaver” had the same kind of influence that “The Feminine Mystique and “All in the Family” had in the 1970s and that (put latest bestseller on women’s issues here) and (put most popular TV show portraying a family here) do now. Some people thought they portrayed the ideal and tried to emulate it and others thought the patterns portrayed there seriously missed the mark and made their own way in spite of what the best-sellers or television were portraying as normal or ideal.
    I think it’s always been that way. We think we are, but we are really not so different from all the generations before us. We live in a society where books and media portray family relationships in particular ways, some of which are sensible and some of which are totally off the mark, and, if we are wise, we choose to agree or not and then create our own lives. If we are not so wise we swallow it hook, line and sinker and the we (hopefully) learn from our experience. Men and women did the same in the 1950s and 1960s.

  64. We think we are, but we are really not so different from all the generations before us.

    Maybe we’re still living there.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,848 other followers