Debi Pearl’s Logic in a 1963 Ladies Magazine Quiz

I recently came upon one of those quizzes that sometime grace ladies’ magazines, this one from 1963. I include it here because, to be honest, it made me think of Debi.

Note first of all the entire premise of the quiz: Does your guy treat you wrong? Have you ever wondered if it’s your fault? As regular readers will know, this exact line of reasoning is shot through Debi Pearl’s Created To Be His Help Meet. Next note the scoring. This, for instance—”he’ll never treat you wrong, because you love and trust him.” In her book, Debi suggests over and over again that if you just respect and obey your husband no matter what, he’ll become a good husband. And then note this—”the way you distrust him would make any boy behave like a heel!” Similarly, Debi too suggests that husbands’ faults are the result of their wives’ failing to respect and obey them.

The problems with this thinking shouldn’t be hard to see. A woman’s love and trust does not guarantee that a man will treat her well, and blaming a woman for her boyfriend’s maltreatment is is truly toxic. I found this quiz an interesting illustration of the way some of Debi’s ideas can be found in mainstream pop culture—or at least, in mainstream pop culture in 1963, though I rather fear that this sort of logic remains more pervasive today than I would like.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Ismenia

    Most of those questions I wouldn’t do any of the things suggested. Interesting that half-accepting another date is better refusing and telling your boyfriend. Is it so terrible for him to know that you prefer him to the other guy?

    And then there’s believing him when he says he loves you. The tactic of many abusers. Anyone who substitutes “I love you” for an apology is being manipulative and that should ring alarm bells.

    • Richter_DL

      I wondered about that thing too. Apparently, aside from dropping dates to hit the town with his boys, forgetting your birthday and fliring up strangers while you’re around, the ideal man is unable to cope with the fact someone else flirted his girlfriend up (probably while *his* respective girlfriend was around?).

  • Amtep

    The conclusion of the quiz would be more convincing if some of the A answers were “I don’t know, he never does that sort of thing”. Apparently even the ideal boyfriend still breaks dates, flirts with other girls and forgets your birthday.

    • Richter_DL

      It’s not about what he does wrong, but about what you do wrong, after all. All men do this (apparently).

    • sylvia_rachel

      I agree, although the quiz is, after all, titled “Does Your MR RIGHT Treat You WRONG?” so it’s presumably aimed at women whose boyfriends are already acting like asshats.

      I generally find magazine quizzes really irritating for their lack of “does not apply” and “other” or “none of the above” options. (Also, I edit social science articles for a living, so the fact that such quizzes are hugely unscientific bugs me a lot, even though I know perfectly well they’re not intended or even pretending to be statistically valid.)

    • Niemand

      Meh, some of the questions are “shit happens” situations. Everyone is late sometimes when traffic is bad or the subway breaks down or whatever. And most people do go on long trips periodically. OTOH, hurts you and tells you he loves you? Um…unless some steps were left out (like the one where he apologized and talked about ways he could avoid doing something like that again), that’s a serious warning sign of abuse.

      • Composer 99

        The magazine quiz question used the word ‘upset’ rather than ‘hurt’; assuming the magazine is more of a lightweight “fluff” magazine that wouldn’t really discuss issues such as abuse, I suspect that, in context, ‘upset’ would not mean behaviour that would be considered abusive (although perhaps 1963 standards were lax in this regard).

  • Yoav

    Most of Debi Pearl’s ideas are more 1263 then 1963.

    • Richter_DL

      Women had much better social standig in 1263 than 1963. Native Americans were a lot less sexist than today’s American society.

      • Niemand

        It depends on which NA society you’re talking about. There was considerable diversity between them.

      • Richter_DL

        None was as bad as the puritan settlers, though.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        And the Puritans came out looking not so bad compared to a lot of other European groups, including those within England.

      • Richter_DL

        In that time, sure. Pre-renaissance was the deepest, darkest, most Christianist time in Europe after all.

      • Niemand

        How about the Aztecs? The Caribb? I know that the Puritans set a high bar, but there’s been some really nasty societies throughout history.

      • Richter_DL

        Well, I’m pretty certain some Chinese emperors and the Baltic and Catharian Crusades were worse, too, but let’s keep it within US borders. To my knowledge, none of the heart-carving folks were among the Native Americans encountered by American settlers.

      • Neurotic Knight

        I like it when you assume all tribes were the same, some treated them like goddess and some like pieces of shit

      • Richter_DL

        I like it when you know nothing and assume too much. To my knowledge, none of them treated women as badly as American society did at the same time. at least their own, they were slavers just as Americans are.

      • Neurotic Knight

        I must be so ignorant, i just forgot how many women are sacrificed to fertility goddess now over the native american times,

      • Richter_DL

        How many were sacrificed? And by which peoples?

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Er, “Native American Times?” You do know they still exist and have societies, right? And you seriously think that all NA groups practiced human sacrifice? And btw, from the little I do know about the groups that did practice this on a large scale (which is still a lot more than you know, clearly), the practice was not just limited to women, nor did it have to do with some generic “fertility goddess.” Stop making stuff up based on racist tropes.

      • Neurotic Knight

        They also had gender roles, while men would hunt , women would usually pluck berries and farm, they had no real control in administration or judicial trials.

      • Richter_DL

        Totally different from America until very recently.

      • Stev84

        You might be thinking about South American cultures there. Especially when you mention human sacrifices. Northern American tribes usually weren’t that extreme (even when they were patriarchal) and several prominent ones did give women a high status and even power. Matrilineal societies were hardly uncommon. In the Iroquois Confederacy for example, chiefs were selected by a council of women. A few others encouraged girls to learn skills like hunting and fighting, even though their primary responsibilities lay elsewhere.

  • Gillianren

    My boyfriend forgets my birthday. On the other hand, he forgets his birthday. (Clearly, dates are not his thing!) So my solution? We have a calendar on the wall with all the important dates written on it. Sure, I could either yell at him (every year) or suffer in silence (every year), but isn’t working with what I know about him more sensible?

    • http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/ lana hobbs

      my husband wouldn’t forget my birthday, but he might forget to order presents in time. i write ‘last day to order on amazon prime and get my birthday present’ on his calendar and send him reminders. Working with what you know is much more sensible :D

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

      I can’t remember dates to save my life. Not even my own wedding. I know it was in January and on a day somewhere between the 26th and the 29th. Oh and it was a Friday.

    • gimpi1

      I got lucky there. My husband and I share a birthday, right down to the minute. He’s 8 years older than me, but, on a lark I had our astrological charts done once. Clones. Perhaps that’s why we get along so well. He forgets many things, but not his own birthday. Our anniversary though…..

    • Monika Tillsley

      My husband and I both forgot our first anniversary. We thought it was the 11th when really it is the 10th. If my mum hadn’t called to wish us a happy first anniversary we would never have twigged …

  • sylvia_rachel

    I actually find the “Ten and over” answer most interesting, because it acknowledges that the boyfriend is being an asshat and the girlfriend is “putting up with … more than [she] can stand”, and suggests she’d be happier without him — and *doesn’t* suggest that it’s her own fault. So … passive-aggressive acceptance of bad behaviour makes your relationship problems *not* your fault, but actually communicating your upset makes his bad behaviour your fault? Really? How interesting.

  • Niemand

    Most of my answers were seriously “none of the above”. He’s late for a date? I’d call his cell. Duh! (Ok, ok, that wasn’t an option in 1963. But unless he was really late and that was entirely atypical (in which case I’d be worried), my response would be “Hey, how’s it going? Traffic bad?” or something like that.)

    He flirts with another woman? Another man asks me out? It depends. Do we have an explicitly monogamous relationship? If so, I’d talk to him about the parameters of that relationship and how much I felt comfortable or uncomfortable with his flirting with someone else and would turn down the guy. Nonmonogamous relationship? There’s no problem to be dealt with.

    If he’s going on a trip? I’d probably join him if I could-I like to travel-but if I couldn’t then I’d just keep living my life as usual and look forward to his coming back. And so on. So often the options just don’t make much sense.

  • http://ripeningreason.com/ Rachel Marcy (Bix)

    How does one “half-accept” a date?

    • Amtep

      “Sure, that would be nice. I’m pretty busy this week though. Let me get back to you about my schedule.”

      (note, not actually recommending this :)

  • onamission5

    I’m trying to figure out how me getting upset with my guy after something happens makes me responsible for that thing happening before I yelled at him.
    Oh right, it doesn’t matter, it’s my fault no matter what he does or when he did it.

  • Guest

    Dont like a guy? don’t date him. Sorry if that comes of as misogyny.

    • Helix Luco

      you’re gonna flunk the AIMS reading section for sure

  • Neurotic Knight

    If a relationship fails it is mostly both parties fault. women, it is okay if your guy wants to play video games or hang out with buddies, he still loves you, he just also likes his friends. Men, it’s k if she wants to shop, she drags you along because she thinks you have an eye for beauty. It’s k if people fumble, you can still love.

    • Helix Luco

      bone up on that reading comprehension ok dude?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

      Yeah dude…I play video games more than my husband does AND I hang out with my buddies (both male and female) without him. That man shops more than I do to boot!

      • Neurotic Knight

        I was just giving an example -_- not a global rule, like i said, it is understanding each other’s interests whatever it may be and respecting it that matters,

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

        You don’t think it’s telling that those were the first examples you thought of?

      • Neurotic Knight

        Those were the 1st that popped up, because those were the one’s being discussed in the comments :/

  • Rilian Sharp

    It says if you get 18+ he’ll never treat you wrong, but you’re supposed to take the quiz if he did something wrong. 10-17, you’re putting up with far more than you can stand. That doesn’t sound so entirely blaming of the woman. 7-9, you’re gonna drive each other crazy. The wording is weird, but I think it’s maybe saying that if you score low, it just means you don’t really like him and you shouldn’t be with him.

  • Kate Monster

    I like how many of the “right” answers are super passive aggressive. He’s flirting? Go stand silently next to him while he does it. Don’t say anything. Just…stand there. He forgot your birthday? Send HIM a card–after all, YOU would never, ever forget things..not birthdays, not anniversaries, not that time he forgot an important day in your life. He’s late? Rush to the door and look worried–enough that he notices. Enough that he KNOWS he’s made you worry and feel bad.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine

    My ex tried the “I love you” thing. It made me even MORE furious when he did. For the entire relationship he never once said it, and only after making me upset to the point of telling him it was through he pulled out the “love” card.
    I hadn’t been upset the entire time, and only after that did I start to get really angry and upset.


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