Some things, of course, haven’t changed: the feminine mystique (that is, societal pressure to be “feminine”) is alive and well: girls experience more pressure to be pretty than to be smart, there is no social stigma to claim your occupation as “housewife” (though I find today the phrase “stay-at-home mom” to be more popular), and very large employers like the University of Chicago get away without day care in the surrounding neighborhood.
However, as profoundly important as this book is as a call to arms to find a higher purpose in your life than waxing your kitchen floor, I don’t think it needs to be as long as it is. Many parts are repetitive, and the dissection of Freudian psychology is unnecessary. The result is, as persuaded as I was by the book’s message, there was many I time I set the book down and had no temptation to pick it up again to learn another fascinating nuance of Freudian psychology or Meadian anthropology.
Therefore, I would recommend to read only the following chapters:
1. The problem That Has No Name 2. The Happy Housewife Heroine 3. The Crisis in Woman’s Identity
4. The Passionate Journey – optional if you want to read about the history of feminism, but not at all necessary to the book’s point
8. The Mistaken Choice 9. The Sexual Sell 10. Housewifery Expands to Fill the Time Available
14. A New Life Plan for Women
The intervening tracts on Freud, Mead, and how overprotective mothering causes autism and homosexuality, are completely unnecessary.
I loved this book even though I don't wear make-up: just imagine how much more I would have liked it if my cosmetic proclivities were more Nora EphronI loved this book even though I don't wear make-up: just imagine how much more I would have liked it if my cosmetic proclivities were more Nora Ephron and less Mary Beard.
Also, I didn't realize the home-gourmet-cook movement predated smartphones and posting pictures of what you cook on the internet.
Favorite parts of this book include:
"Back in the day when there were merely parents, as opposed to people who were engaged in parenting, being a parent was fairly straightforward. You didn't need a book, and if you owned one, it was by Dr. Spock, a pediatrician, and you rarely looked at it unless your child had a temperature of 103, or the croup, or both. You understood that your child had a personality. His very own personality. He was born with it. For a certain period, this child would live with you and your personality, and you would do your best to survive each other.
"'They never really change,' people often said (back in those days) about babies. This was a somewhat mystifying concept when you first had a baby. Exactly what was it about the baby that would never change? After all, it's incredibly difficult to tell what a baby's exact personality is when it's merely a baby. (I'm using the word personality in the broadest sense, the one that means 'the whole ball of wax.') But eventually the baby in question began to manifest its personality, and sure enough, remarkably enough, that personality never changed. For example, when the police arrived to inform you that your eight-year-old had just dropped a dozen eggs from your fifth-floor window onto West End Avenue, you couldn't help but be reminded of the fourteen-month-old baby he used to be, who knocked all the string beans from the high chair to the floor and thought it was a total riot.
"Back in those days - and once again, let me stress that I am not talking about the nineteenth century here, it was just a few years ago - no one believed that you could turn your child into a different human being from the one he started out being."
"Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don't take it off until you're thirty-four."...more
I wish I had read this book a year ago, when I was planning my own wedding: it would have provided a welcome antidote to the traditionalesque excessesI wish I had read this book a year ago, when I was planning my own wedding: it would have provided a welcome antidote to the traditionalesque excesses of the wedding industry.
However, reading it now, despite the author's three years' research, I felt like I didn't learn anything I didn't already know. Sure, there are the anecdotes of the wedding industry insiders at work, but how surprising is it that they exploit the bride and her family's emotional vulnerability for every last dollar they can squeeze out? Beyond the anecdotes, the author doesn't provide much evidence for her arguments, plausible though they seem: I would have greatly appreciated footnotes for her sources.
(I have a few anecdotes of my own of the absurdities of the wedding industry; ask and I can share some.)
This book also failed to address one wedding issue that profoundly struck me at the time: why is planning a wedding presumed to be a female activity? Why is the groom presented in the bridal magazines as yet another wedding accessory? Is it that the wedding industry doesn't think men will fall for the fantasy the same way women will?...more
(I suppose that's because I have an easier time imagining living in Vienna than living in Tehran, and as a result have an easier time thinking that I would have responded differently than how she did to her Viennese challenges, whereas, because I know so little about Iran, can imagine her experiences there as Quintessential.)...more
Also: do people actually talk together so frankly, like they do in this book? I assume this book is, like Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return about the rich interpersonal connections the author experienced with her family in Iran, as contrasted with her lonely, but less politically oppressed, stay in Vienna....more
Not exactly plot driven, but I really, really enjoyed reading this book. The characters are believable, the book is onAs heard on "Fresh Air" on WYPR.
Not exactly plot driven, but I really, really enjoyed reading this book. The characters are believable, the book is on occasion extremely funny, and I found the changing perspective fascinating.
For example, the first focus of the book is on Amy, who has a few personality traits to cause me to dislike her. But when the perspective switched to her friend Jill, Amy (in Jill's portrayal) is perfectly reasonable. I thought that that narrative trick captures so well the crises in self-esteem so many of us suffer (our own telling of our stories focuses on what we think are our insurmountable character flaws, which are simply invisible to the outside world or just nonexistent)....more
I've been putting off this book, although it looked interesting, until I had read Lolita.
This book is the memoir of an English literature professor iI've been putting off this book, although it looked interesting, until I had read Lolita.
This book is the memoir of an English literature professor in Tehran during the rise of the Islamic Republic. Part of it is about being an intellectual woman during that time, and seeing its effect on the younger generation, but just as much of it is about why we read literature, and how it applies to our lives.
The literary criticism is very good (though like I said, I missed some of it), but the memoir is less engaging. (After setting the book down, it was all too easy to wander off and find something else to do, I'm afraid.) If you're only going to read one memoir about the Islamic Republic, I would say go for Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis....more
Much like Rebecca Mead's One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, I began reading this and immediately thought, "Yes! I'm so glad I'm not the only one thinking those things! You are so right!" (which, I guess, is why I subscribe to The New Yorker). On the other hand, since I'm already completely sold, she couldn't really persuade me much.
The premise of the book is: women say they embrace raunch culture (by, for example, wearing Playboy Bunny jewelry or snug t-shirts with phrases like "Porn Star" or "Fluffer" emblazoned across the chest, or flashing for the Girls Gone Wild film crew when it drives by) because it empowers them, because it gives them all the rights and opportunities men have, because they have a sense of humor, because they're in on the joke.
Problems with this argument: 1. Men don't wear skimpy clothing or flash for the camera, so exactly how is that giving them all the rights and opportunities men have? 2. A man posing in Playgirl might describe the experience as fun, but probably not as "powerful". If posing in Playboy makes you powerful, it's only because you are extracting that power from the male readers. Wouldn't it be better to just have women have the power in the first place, by being, say, senators or CEOs? 3. What joke exactly are you in on?
But Levy's main objection with raunch culture, ultimately, is an aesthetic one. She argues that the Hooters-style of "hotness" that is so in fashion now is just one form of sexual expression, and its prevalence is stifling all others, which is a completely fair argument, but her objections to raunch culture are somewhat akin to Michael Pollan's to American cuisine: she just personally doesn't find it appealing.
Ellen added this book to her want-to-read list, which called it to my attention.
has been in the news lately, so the question has been on my mind lateEllen added this book to her want-to-read list, which called it to my attention.
has been in the news lately, so the question has been on my mind lately: under what conditions would I go to Saudi Arabia to do research? (Haven't come up with any yet, but maybe I just don't know much about it. Perhaps I will learn more after reading this book.)...more
**spoiler alert** This volume concludes the story as everyone convenes in Paris, loose ends are tied up, and the future is revealed, though not so hap**spoiler alert** This volume concludes the story as everyone convenes in Paris, loose ends are tied up, and the future is revealed, though not so happily as I would have liked....more
The first is shortly after the first time Conor attacks the author, shortAs heard on "The Diane Rehm Show" on WYPR.
Two moments in this book struck me.
The first is shortly after the first time Conor attacks the author, shortly before their wedding. Leslie Morgan Steiner, after making a token effort to seek help by calling a domestic abuse hotline (but no one picks up), continues with planning her wedding (yet another argument for low-key weddings, so that too much doesn't hinge on having One Perfect Day), including, of course, modifying the vows so that she doesn't have to promise to "obey". This is doublethink: she makes sure to follow the feminist tradition, but doesn't make the connection that the feminist course of action here would be to not tolerate abuse.
The second is near the end, after the author has finally gathered the courage to leave, is getting therapy, and is finally considering a future not only without Conor, but the possibility of a future with love but not abuse. Her therapist encourages her to make a checklist of what qualities she would look for in a future mate: must be kind, must have a good relationship with his mother, must love animals, etc. When she's done with her checklist, she looks over it and is astonished to discover that the only quality on the list that Conor had was that he was crazy about her.
So if you haven't yet found a mate, be sure to make a checklist, and don't settle for anything less just because someone likes you....more