CTBHHM: Debi Takes Us Back To the 1950s

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 154—156

Debi begins this section with some history.

Liberated to Sorrow

Beginning with the women’s “liberation” movement of the 1960s, women have been taught and are expected to resent men in authority.

Um . . . no.

There is a great deal of diversity within feminism, as there has always been, and there is also change over time (all of this Debi conveniently ignores, along with the suffragettes and Seneca Falls and Mary Wollstonecraft, and, well, everything before second wave feminism). It is true that there were some feminists in the late 1960s and 1970s who wanted nothing to do with men and felt they couldn’t be reformed, but this has never been the majority view. In my experience and my understanding, what most feminists have wanted since the 1960s is a world where relations between the genders are based on equality and respect rather than sexism and misogyny.

As for resenting “men in authority,” I think Debi is missing some nuance. If a man is in authority just because he is a man, I indeed will resent it. And with good reason. But if he’s there because he earned it fair and square, I won’t resent it. In my experience and understanding (and again, there is diversity), feminism is not about resenting men, it’s about wanting a better world than we have now—for women, especially, yes, but also for men. And while we’re at it, I’ll be perfectly honest: from my reading of Debi’s book, I’m pretty sure I like and, yes, respect men more than she does. I don’t think men are overgrown babies who need coddling, for one thing. I would prefer to approach them as equal human beings with their own desires, needs, quirks, and abilities.

All media, magazines, movies, and popular books have promoted eradication of the distinction between male and female.

What. WHAT. Has Debi read Twilight? I mean sure, Harry Potter and the Hunger Games have prominent female characters, but both have faced significant feminist critique. But seriously, what movies? What books is she talking about? I want to live in this feminist utopia where all media, magazines, movies, and popular books treat men and women as individuals without buying into or perpetuating gendered stereotypes! My word, if Debi really thinks popular culture is totally feminist dedicated to breaking down the patriarchy, she needs to spend a week in the feminist blogosphere. That ought to set her straight!

Next, Debi references promotion of the eradication of the distinction between male and female. What exactly does Debi mean by “distinction”? I suspect she means that men are supposed to be macho while women obsess over their looks, or that men aren’t supposed to show emotion, or that women are supposed to be nurturing while men are independent, etc. These things are largely socially created (i.e., children are socialized into them rather than being born that way), but the bigger problem is that they are harmful—to both genders. I want people to be seen as individuals first, not locked into gendered boxes of dos and don’ts. Does that mean I think men and women should be identical, to eliminate all “distinctions”? Debi would probably say so, but I, perhaps not surprisingly, would disagree.

The established churches, as always, are only about one decade behind the world, so Christian books and ministers have followed with their own female liberation theology. Ministers and theologians have devised ways of dismissing the authority of the words of God found in Scripture that speak about the nature and duty of men and women. It has gone so far that the churches are now convinced that the Bible supports this modern view.

Notice that Debi doesn’t actually try to engage or rebut liberation theology, which, yes, does actually have biblical arguments and a biblical case. Instead, she just writes them off entirely and insists that her biblical interpretation is correct and theirs is not. But then, I don’t think Debi thinks she’s interpreting the Bible. I think she thinks she’s just reading it.

When I was a child, no one in our large, extended family could ever remember a divorce on either side of the family, including many aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. Neither was there a case of wife abuse or child abuse. In the last fifty years, all that has dramatically changed.

And Debi knows there wasn’t any wife abuse or child abuse how, exactly? She’s already explained that her grandmother was the very model of the quite and submissive and silent wife she’s promoting in her book, and if the others in the family followed the same patterns and beliefs, how exactly would Debi, or anyone for that matter, hear about any cases of wife abuse?

More generally, though, I see what Debi’s doing. She is suggesting that wife abuse and child abuse was rare before women’s liberation and have since increased dramatically. Yes, I can read behind the lines. And you know what? That’s absolute baloney. Anyone who has actually studied history will know that wife abuse has essentially always been common (and frequently legal!). And you know what? Child abuse—which has always existed, by the way—was only actually acknowledged as a thing that is, you know, bad, in the middle of the nineteenth century. Part of why we hear so much today about these problems is that we finally see them as problems and something that needs changing rather than as simply the unfortunate facts of life.

Moving right along . . .

It is hard to believe, but the following assignment was found in a 1950s public high school home economics workbook. When I was in school, this is what the general public was being taught! Can you imagine what an outcry it would cause if someone put this in a public school textbook today?

Yes, yes she does. That how to be a good wife thing floating around that is supposedly from a 1950s home economics textbook? She reprints it. (Interestingly, Snopes rates the text as “undetermined,” which makes Debi’s reprinting of it rather hilarious in my opinion.)

  • Have dinner ready: Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal – on time. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him, and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospects of a good meal are part of the warm welcome needed.
  • Prepare yourself: Take 15 minutes to rest so you will be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. His boring day may need a lift.
  • Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives, gathering up school books, toys, paper, etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too.
  • Prepare the children: Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces if they are small, comb their hair, and if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.
  • Minimize the noise: At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of washer, dryer, dishwasher, or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Be happy to see him. Greet him with a warm smile.
  • Don’t greet him with problems or complaints.
  • Don’t complain if he’s late for dinner. Count this as minor compared with what he might have gone through that day. Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax and unwind.
  • Listen to him. You may have a dozen things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first.
  • Make the evening his. Never complain if he does not take you out to dinner or to other places of entertainment. Instead try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his need to be home and relax.
  • The Goal: try to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.

I’m not going over this text line by line, since it’s not actually written by Debi. What I want to highlight is something I find fascinating. As several commenters have noted, Debi’s “biblical” model for husband and wife looks quite a bit like the stereotypical 1950s model. And as Debi makes clear in this passage, that’s not accidental. She really is gunning for the 1950s. On some level, this isn’t about being biblical, it’s about returning to an era Debi has put on a pedestal, conveniently ignoring things like Jim Crow or the threat of nuclear war.

Which brings me to another point. One thing scholars point out when discussing conservatives’ elevation of the 1950s as the ideal decade is that, for many, this was the decade when they were children, so they idealize it and forget all the bad things. Debi was born in 1950, and she brings her own childhood into this idealized portrait of the 1950s in a way that is entirely consistent with this argument. For people like Debi, it was a pristine and perfect time bereft of domestic violence or gang warfare or “kids these days” or financial struggle. Except that it wasn’t.

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.

  • NeaDods

    *long heavy sigh* Feminism did not roar out of nonexistence into full flower in the 1960s. “Second wave feminism” started to gain traction then, trying to build on the ideals of “first wave feminism” that had stalled during the pressing needs of world war and depression.

    Or more shortly, Debi has obviously never heard the word “suffragette” and is as ignorant about the date of the 19th amendment as she is about the back story of the bible and the world before she was born.

    Her white privilege and classism – even in the context of the animal feed story – drips off her here. Women of color rarely have the opportunity to be stay-at-home wives; Sojourner Truth famously asked “Ain’t I a woman?” after a lifetime of abuse and hard labor when hearing a man talking about how women were fragile flowers to be protected.

    Jim Crow is easy to ignore when you aren’t affected by it.

    Disenfranchisement is easy to live in when you don’t want to vote.

    • NeaDods

      Discus stopped letting me write on the ipad, so I have to end here: the world has always been full of people who want to change it. That’s not new, Debi.

      And the world will change. That’s not new either.

    • Sally

      I think Debi thinks she doesn’t ignore Jim Crow, as evidenced by this children’s book she wrote. However, I think it’s pretty clear Debi thinks in boxes. She doesn’t think about Jim Crow when she’s extolling the 1950s and she doesn’t think of the objectifying of women when she proclaims all media and books etc. are trying to erase the differences between men and women. When you think in such distinct categories – and speak from them-, you start to really look like a fool.

      • Sally
      • Alice

        After reading the “About the Author” blurb, I am really curious about her novel, “The Vision,” because it sounds hilariously awful.

        Edit: here’s a link to the summary. One of my favorite lines was “The Vision raises reality entertainment to a whole new level.”

        http://www.amazon.com/The-Vision-Last-Publishers/dp/0981973701/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1379127969&sr=8-1&keywords=debi+pearl+vision

      • Sally

        OK, you made me curious, and I went and read it. This is total quote mining, but I can’t resist. From the “About the Author” : This author s wild imagination takes you on a ride so real that you will find it difficult to separate fact from fiction.
        Created to Be His Help Meet, anyone?

      • Alice

        True, true. I wish the helpmeet and training books were fiction, if they had to exist at all.

        The first four chapters of “The Vision” can be previewed on Amazon if you are morbidly curious like me. It is extremely anti-Islam, using a lot of warfare terminology like “The Muslim Invasion [of the small American town].” It’s clear immediately that they’re mustache-twirlers who lurk in the shadows, kill pushy evangelists, and try to rape the men’s womenfolk. Five women characters are introduced so far. Three of them are slut-shamed, and the fourth acts like a child. Big surprise right?

        The one part that made me laugh is that IMMEDIATELY AFTER the standard disclaimer, “This novel is a work of fiction…product of author’s imagination or used fictiously…any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.” Debi says that her research is in the footnotes and “I want my readers to know that most of what they are reading is BASED ON FACT.” (emphasis mine) LOL.

      • Mariana

        Now I kind of want The Vision to be the next book Libby Anne reads on her blog.

      • AnotherOne

        Oh my gracious god. Mother of all that is unbelievable. I had no idea she had written a novel. How ridiculously, deliciously, islamophobically horrifying.

      • NeaDods

        It’s part and parcel of the whole “not really thinking, just regurgitating talking points” thing she and Michael have going, isn’t it? She spouts the right talking points at the right stimulus, and who cares if it’s not internally consistent? The cognitive dissonance already has to be high just to live her life.

      • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

        “Debi thinks in boxes” – I think that’s it exactly. I mean, I think that all of us do this to an extent, but Debi’s boxes are particularly small and particularly rigid.

    • Mira

      There have ALWAYS been women who refuse to be second-class citizens. There are lots of stories about it–though generally they are coloured by the time in which they lived.
      Strangely, people are people, and they tend to be individuals, not one homogeneous mass. Weird!

  • Melody Jones

    If you tell someone often enough that this is a holy behavior, a normal behavior, a good and healthy behavior, and this message is repeated by everyone in their life, they’re going to end up believing it. How are people supposed to speak against marital rape, or beating of children, or assault on people of color, if these things are socially coded as “good”? Just because women and children (and nonbinary people—god I can’t even imagine what that would’ve been like) who grew up in that sort of an environment were unlikely to be flaming feminists/hard core civil rights activists (and there were some who were! that’s why civil rights and feminism happened) doesn’t mean it was magically okay back then.

    It means that people didn’t have the vocabulary to scream out against these things.

    It means that people didn’t think that others would stand with them and support them if they spoke up.

    It means that people were being oppressed and harmed in a multitude of ways, none of which were remotely okay, and that we still haven’t managed to erradicate.

    Someone should also tell Debi that how things were valued legally have changed a bit. Spousal abuse wasn’t something anyone collected numbers on because—how could it happen? Wives vowed before God to obey their husbands. If their husbands had to correct them, it could only have been because their wives had first broken their promise (ew ew ew ew ew my fingers need to be washed for typing that) so there was no category for this. Instead, they would be viewed as disobedient wives and the husbands who refused to give up on them (and that is one of the most disturbing relationship dynamics that I ever encounter and I ALWAYS feel sick when I find out someone else I know is falling into it). Suddenly it is a healthy, God-honoring thing. See how one cares for the other! It’s not abuse, surely not! all it would take is absolute subjugation and submission and then everything would be perfect!

    Except not. :|

    • Jayn

      Don’t forget that divorce laws have changed in recent decades as well. Makes it hard to do a good comparison.

      Also, personal experience isn’t the same as general culture. I could say that my largeish extended family had no divorces and no spousal abuse in it either (though there were a couple of out-of-wedlock births), and I’m much younger than Debi, but I know better than to say that that means there was NO divorce and NO spousal abuse anywhere.

      • ZeldasCrown

        I could say the same. Just because I’ve never personally experienced something doesn’t mean that nobody else has experienced it. In the same vein, just because I react a certain way to a particular experience doesn’t mean that anyone else who has the same experience will react that way too.

        Plus, people can be very good at hiding abuse, particularly if they’re told over and over again that it’s their fault for not being submissive enough, and that divorce is never ok.

      • Rilian Sharp

        Divorce is rare in my family, but I only recently found out about abuse in my family. People don’t usually talk about it, you know? Because it’s disturbing.

      • Christine

        By that logic, it’s entirely possible that Debi’s family just wouldn’t talk about divorces in the family either.

      • That Other Jean

        It wasn’t a divorce, exactly, but there is the very-quietly-spoken family story about my grandfather–that my grandmother ran him off with a shotgun when she discovered that he had attempted to abuse his stepdaughter–in the early 1920′s. He never came back, but he founded another family or two, which my mother didn’t discover until her genealogically-minded half-sisters by her father contacted her in the 1980′s, Lots of things went on that nobody ever talked about.

      • shuttergirl46q

        My family has a similar story, which, ironically enough, happened in the early 1950s. So,yeah, this stuff happened, but people just didn’t talk about it.

      • Sally

        Yep, stuff has come out about some distant relatives decades after in our family, too.

      • Lyric

        One of my great aunts was apparently married quite young. And then she wasn’t, because there was some sort of trouble with the husband and his no-good friend. I think what happened was that her father went down for a visit and ended up rescuing her and bringing her back to the family farm, but the details are obscure because (a) everyone involved is dead, and (b) they never talked about it when they were still alive. Reading between the lines, it was almost certainly spouse abuse (also, the “no-good friend’s” role has never been clarified, which brings to mind all sorts of unpleasantly rapey possibilities) and should definitely count as a divorce by any normal definition—but I’m quite sure that no paperwork was ever done.

        On the other side of the family, my great-grandmother apparently actually got a divorce—and never mentioned it to any of her children. So I doubt Debi actually knows what went on in her family; these things weren’t discussed unless and until you went digging for them.

      • Gillianren

        I don’t know about spousal abuse, but my great-grandmother got divorced, and her daughter, my grandmother, got divorced twice. The first time was at latest in the early ’40s.

    • Christine

      I thought that spousal abuse was always considered a “thing”. Back in the middle ages, didn’t a wife have the same protection as apprentices, in that she couldn’t be beaten with a stick so large that it wouldn’t pass through her husband’s ring? This makes it somewhat more problematic – you can’t just point out to Debi that you can’t get arrested for something that isn’t illegal, you have to make a more nuanced argument, which has a whelk’s chance in a supernova of making it through.

      • gimpi1

        Love the “Hitchhiker’s Guide” reference. Also, you’re right. I find it hard to believe that Debi can understand much nuance.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

        Yes, but a wife was also very clearly her husbands property. As such, for a long time, she could not bear witness against him without evidence from multiple non-related males.

  • Parisienne

    Something about “born in 1950″ really struck me somehow, I think because it’s the same year my mother was born.
    It’s made me realise that Debi’s writings go into a space in my head for something that must come from an old person. I always imagine her “advice” coming from a woman who must have been born in about 1900. ‘Cept she’s not. She’s the same age as my mother, who is a more mature lady, certainly, but who I’ve never thought of as old.

    • Sally

      I think Debi likes to call herself an old lady because it gives her biblical authority to instruct.

    • alwr

      My mother was born in 1944. She does not idealize the 1950s, is a feminist in all ways and hates crap like Debi spouts. Debi’s year of birth is no excuse for this garbage. Growing up in that time does not excuse someone from thinking.

      • Sally

        I don’t think anyone is trying to excuse Debi’s thinking. Trying to understand it is not the same as excusing it.

      • The_L1985

        My favorite example: Ozzy Osbourne was born within a few weeks of my father. Yet they couldn’t be more different.

  • victoria

    Amusing typo: in that first long paragraph, I think you meant “who wanted nothing to do with men,” not “who wanted nothing to do with me.” (The first couple times I read that, I was trying to figure out which controversial second-waver might’ve done a guest post on CTBHHM and was completely stumped.)

  • AAAtheist

    Debi says this …

    “… When I was a child [the 1950s], no one in our large, extended family could ever remember a divorce on either side of the family, including many aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. …”

    Well, part of the reason for that might have been this

    “… Around the mid-1950s in the U.S. several court rulings and state laws clearly recognized the many instances of no-fault reasons to end marriages. These included long-term separation, instances of incompatibility and loss of sanity. In practical terms, though, no-fault legislation was hard to use to actually provide a divorce for couples. It seemed that attorneys and judges were still driven by social mores that established the finality of marriage. [my emphasis] …”

    Debi also goes on to say …

    “… Neither was there a case of wife abuse or child abuse. In the last fifty years, all that has dramatically changed. …”

    Since wife abuse and child abuse weren’t seriously legislated against until after the decade of Debi’s childhood, there wouldn’t have been an effective way for charges to be brought. What’s worse, she’s suggesting movements to liberate women and protect children are actually causing the abuse (victim blaming). Nice bit of sophistry there. And irony, considering the publication of her slave and child murder manuals marriage and childrearing books.

    Apparently, in Debi’s world, if a thing wasn’t recognized as a thing, it didn’t exist. (*headdesk*)

    • Christine

      It’s like people who claim that spanking is good for kids, because child
      abuse charges went up so drastically in countries where spanking was
      banned.

      Actually, you see a lot of arguments that arrest rate = crime rate. Black men are arrested more than any other demographic group? Clearly they’re much more likely to be criminals. Women are more likely* to get arrested for domestic abuse? Obviously men are more likely to be abused than women are. No one got in trouble for being abusive before laws that banned abuse? Clearly if you ban it you cause it!

      *I don’t actually know if this is normalized to the population or to the number of abusers, but it works for one of those.

      • Leigha7

        That always bothered me. In school we discussed the various things that were analyzed to determine how nice it was to live in the countries around the world, and one thing that always counted against the US was the high incarceration rate. This struck me as incredibly problematic, because a high incarceration rate means one of two things:

        1. more crimes are committed (which seems to be the prevailing assumption), or
        2. more criminals are caught and prosecuted

        The second seems like a good thing to me. Given two countries with similar crime rates, I’d prefer to live in the country with the higher incarceration rate. (Not that the current prison system is necessarily the best way to deal with crime, but it’s better than just letting them walk.)

      • Christine

        Around here, it’s option 3 that is generally assumed to be true – that it’s because people who are convicted of crimes are more likely to be incarcerated. That is still something that a lot of people don’t see as a bad thing, but it makes me very glad that we’re having constitutional challenges here to the new laws that would result in the same problem.

    • Sally

      Right, the idea that reported cases have gone up means actual cases have gone up is absurd. It actually would make more sense the other way around. When there was little means for reporting, abuse could go on unchecked. Now that something is more likely to be done, abuse might actually go down. She’s completely confusing lack of information with truth.

      • Divizna

        Even the fact that now people REALISE it’s not a good thing to do means there must be a decrease. In times when abuse was considered the norm, most people would just behave that way without a thought.

    • Leigha7

      My great-great-grandparents were divorced. I remember having to ask my grandpa about this specifically because he’d mentioned his step-grandmother but I wasn’t sure if it was the result of death or divorce, and I knew the laws around divorce were a lot more strict back then, but he said they were indeed divorced. That’s what I was thinking of when I read her little anecdote.

  • John Kruger

    “Beginning with the women’s “liberation” movement of the 1960s, women have been taught and are expected to resent men in authority.”

    I bet Debi has no idea how insulting that line of thinking is. Let’s apply it to slavery. “The whole emancipation movement to end slavery taught people of color to resent white people”.

    Yeah right. People being enslaved had nothing to do with people resenting those who enslaved them, it was all the movement for equality.

    As if the oppression itself would not foster any hard feelings as long as everybody just accepted it. As if nobody would be mad as long as they did not want equality. As if before there was any organized effort to make things equal, nobody had any hard feelings.

    It falls into that despicable thinking that if I don’t hear about it, it must not be happening. Just shut up and it is not real. The same thing went for forbidding children from complaining. The idea of shutting people up for the sake of maintaining illusions makes me sick to my stomach.

    • attackfish

      This is the same logic many school administrations take when they say it’s the bullying victim who’s the problem for speaking up, and not the bully. Shut up. There isn’t a problem for us if you don’t speak up.

  • The_L1985

    And you’ve hit the nail on the head right there. Everyone views their childhood through rose-colored glasses, because children don’t notice a lot of the bad things going on around them. It’s why I have such serious 80′s nostalgia. It’s why radio stations always play songs from the 50s and 60s (the Boomers’ childhood years) in December. Everyone* wants to believe “my childhood was perfect. Other, different ways of being a kid are wrong.” Debi just extends this idea out to society as a whole, forgetting that Leave it to Beaver was a pleasant fantasy sitcom, NOT a documentary.

    * Er, everyone who wasn’t abused, naturally.

    • attackfish

      Exactly. My childhood in the 90s was horrible for a number of reasons, none of which have to do with parental abuse, but I am already hearing people my age talk with nostalgia about the pre-9/11 years like they were some halcyon days of yore when all was right with the world. And I, who got an up close and personal look at a lot of the ways the 90s weren’t very rosy on a systemic level tend to laugh and tell them to stop being ridiculous.

      This is not a criticism, merely a note: plenty of people who were abused want to think their childhoods were perfect. It can be really disconcerting and disturbing to listen to such and such relative of mine talk about their wonderful parents, and perfect childhood, when I know from their siblings that their mother beat them bloody and terrorized them, and their father ignored it.

      • persephone

        Oh, lordy, yes. The psychic disconnect is amazing. My ex still seeks his father’s approval, even though his father whipped him and allowed his wife, my ex’s stepmother, to physically and emotionally abuse, and was going to let her place him in foster care to.get rid of him, never telling my ex’s mother.

      • redlemon

        I always thought that the idealization of the “childhood” comes from the want of actually having the childhood/life that they seemed to want. For example, my dad really wants the sort of 1950s life, yet his childhood was crap. (His parents didn’t abuse him, but they were off-the-boat immigrants 8 months before he was born, so he was brought up with non-English speaking, poor parents, from Germany no less) I always saw his constant 1950s lifestyle obsession as a sort of way to try and grasp that life that he always wanted but never got. It was a perfect life from the outside looking in. To him, those darn commies and feminists destroyed the life that he saw as perfect and he was trying his darndest to get it. He saw the 1950s through “Leave it to Beaver” and glossy magazines, yet it was out of his reach by the time he married in 1982. So he aligned himself with Christian movements to take it back. I do wonder if that sort of element is common with people who didn’t have that perfect 1950s lifestyle.

        Ironically, in his attempt to get that sort of stay-at-home-mom life for us, my mom ended up being a pill popper alcoholic. In the same sort of way that one hears about when speaking of the “dark side” of the 1950s.

      • Leigha7

        Having heard someone who was sexually and emotionally abused by her father talk about how much of a “daddy’s girl” she was and how close she was to him made me realize I will never be able to understand the complexities of all the various ways people react to abuse.

        Of the abused people I know, there seems to be a mix of absolutely hating their childhood and being extremely nostalgic for it. There doesn’t seem to be much of a happy medium, which seems to be the norm for most of the non-abused people I know.

    • persephone

      In some ways miss the 80s, though I was in my 20s, much more than I miss the 60s and 70s, because, although it was a fairly sucky decade, it was the decade I was finally out and away from my mom. I do miss many things from my childhood, but if I went back in time to my younger self, I would choose that time.

  • Sally

    Really good point that Debi is idealizing the time of her childhood as a model for society. I think many of us who had happy childhoods do that. I very much feel like my parents had it easier as parents in our culture of that time than I do now raising kids in our culture. But I think *every generation feels that way.*

    And then this quote from Debi, “All media, magazines, movies, and popular books have promoted eradication of the distinction between male and female,” is one of the most nonsensical things she has said. Give her another context and she’d be saying, “All media, magazines, movies, and popular books have promoted sexualizing women and encouraging men to lust after them.” How’s that for a distinction?

    • M.S.

      I agree we all want our kids to have what we had (if what we had was good) but unfortunately (for some reasons) and fortunately (for other reasons) the world isn’t the same now as it was 20, 40, 60 years ago.

    • gimpi1

      I think that’s very true, Sally. I don’t idealize my childhood. Both my parents were disabled, and I know my family had a rough time of it. But I didn’t really understand HOW hard it was on my mother until my aunt found a bunch of letters she wrote to another aunt. The poverty that is hand-in-glove with being unable to work, the humiliation and frustration of having to depend on your 10-to-12 year old daughter (me) for much of the everyday running of your household, the pain of not being able to afford glasses or trips to the dentist for your kids, it was all poured out in her letters. I just had no idea.

      Nostalgia is a powerful force for masking the truth.

    • smrnda

      ALL media and magazines? Has she heard of Cosmo?

      • Nancy Shrew

        Yeah, but, as shitty as Cosmo is, there’s still that awful, nasty, ungodly element of women liking and wanting to have sex within it.

      • Leigha7

        Right? I just started reading Cosmocking (after someone mentioned on here somewhere), and I never noticed it before but Cosmo is essentially a sex-filled (but still slut shame-y) version of this very book. It preaches the same “never communicate, do everything to please your man [though in Cosmo it's usually a boyfriend, not a husband], and make sure you stay pretty or no man will ever love you…oh, and aren’t lesbians gross?” ideas. Which sucks, considering how mainstream it is, and that the majority of people reading it are high school girls.

  • Lizzie

    Wow. She knows nothing about feminism, and then victim blaming for child and spousal abuse. How exactly would Debi define abuse? It’s clearly child abuse in TTUAC, however hat’s not abuse to them. Yowza.

    • Kate Monster

      Abuse is what happens in non-Christian and insufficiently Christian homes. Good Christians™, like Michael and Debi, don’t commit abuse, therefore nothing that they do can be considered abusive. Similarly, abuse didn’t happen in the magical 1950s–everyone knows this. Therefore, anything that seems abusive that happened in the 1950s or before is all in your heads.

  • BobaFuct

    “She is suggesting that wife abuse and child abuse was rare before women’s liberation and have since increased dramatically. ”

    Well Debi, one simple explanation for this is that we’ve simply redefined child abuse to include most of the things you’d call “training.” And I’m going to go ahead and say that one is a win for society….

    • gimpi1

      We also regard as rape many things that in the past would have been regarded as the woman’s fault, such as slipping a woman a mickey and having sex with her when she’s passed out. Hence the whole “legitimate rape” comments made in the last election cycle.

      It’s a win for society for sure, but in some quarters, that will never be understood.

  • Elise

    Here’s one thing I don’t think that Debi understands: That list she wrote makes perfect sense to me, because those are the things my husband and I do for each other as partners who genuinely respect one another. For example, I tend to have dinner on time for him since Mr. Adorable works out a lot and gets really really hungry. Now that I have bad morning sickness, he offers for me to rest while he cooks. Partnership, respect, showing love. Sad how foreign that must be to her.

  • Jaded

    ‘Neither was there a case of wife abuse or child abuse.’
    It must be nice to think you can spot a spouse or child abuser in your family, a strange sort of comfort – no one I’m related to could do that sort of thing, I’d know. Chances are, though, that you won’t be able to. They’ll spin you some story (‘kids will be kids’, ‘oh, she slipped and fell’, ‘she just bruises easily’, ‘I had to discipline her when she did X thing wrong’) and you’ll buy it because you don’t want to think that somebody who shares your blood and your values could do that kind of thing.
    Who draws the line with ‘training’ a child? Who decides when it’s appropriate to hit the child, for how long and with how much force? Not the child but the parent. That’s an easy way to justify child abuse. After all, you’re not randomly lashing out at the child in anger so you’re not a child abuser. You couldn’t be. Never mind how your kid is feeling, so long as they look smiley and happy all the time.

    • Gillianren

      And I mean, I think most of us would agree that, if the honeymoon really went the way Michael describes it, she was abused on her honeymoon. So yeah.

    • Kate Monster

      Well, no one ever brought charges or spoke out about anything or had visible bruises. If that’s not proof positive that nothing actually happened, then I don’t know what is!

      • Lucreza Borgia

        My husband grew up in the late 70′s early 80′s and was abused by his mother. They are fighting us in court over his daughter and their lawyer accused my husband of lying about the abuse. “Why didn’t you go to the police or why didn’t your teachers ever notice bruises?” was the lawyers question. Yeah, because 7 year old’s totally went to the police about their abuse and teachers were oh so vigilant about reporting bruises in 1980. *rolls eyes*

    • wanderer

      Exactly. I grew up hearing people tell “amusing” stories of their childhood where when they did something wrong their dad “beat them to within an inch of their lives”. This was something everyone laughed at and thought was good parenting. Now I am horrified at remembering people saying things like that and think “holy cow, these people were abused and think it’s FUNNY!”

      • KristinMuH

        There was an MRA I ran into once whose mom had beaten him with a BOARD WITH A NAIL IN IT and who insisted he hadn’t been abused. No idea where his raging hatred of women came from, either!

  • Ahab

    Debi, like many right-wingers, clearly never bothered to study feminism or talk to feminists (male or female), or else she wouldn’t have these incorrect stereotypes about it. What is it about the Religious Right that makes them so allergic to simple research?

    Oh yeah. Research would force them to learn about things outside their bubble and (gasp) possibly reevaluate their assumptions. Can’t have that!

  • TLC

    All media, magazines, movies and popular books have promoted eradication of the distinction between male and female.

    This sounds to me like Debi thinks the feminist movement has tried to make us all androgynous. Which, knowing their paranoia about stepping outside gender-based roles, makes sense. But instead of saying “all”, she should have said, “Except for Christian-based media that promotes a patriarchal, submission-based lifestyle like we believe in and sell books for”. . . . .

    Her nostalgia reminds me of people who think their high school years were the greatest years of their lives, and can’t wait for the next class reunion to relive them. Ugh.

    • The_L1985

      I still can’t understand that mindset. My high school years were hell on earth, and I was grateful to get out of there.

  • Annie

    I sort of wonder if the fifties in America wasn’t, at least in part, a product of a sort of collective denial. After two awful wars and the Great Depression, people had the GI bill and relative prosperity and unacknowledged PTSD, and dammit we are going to live idyllic, suburban lives if if kills us, and nobody better say we aren’t living the American dream. ‘Mkay?

    • Gillianren

      Oh, yeah. Well established sociology, really. “No, we’ve overcome our problems. We got past them. WE HAVE NO PROBLEMS.” It’s an era of denial.

    • Saraquill

      More or less. There was a huge push to go back to “normal,” though what that consisted of was more than a little vague.

    • redlemon

      “The Feminine Mystique” really digs into the mindset that happened after WW2 and how it was pre-war. An older book, but highly interesting and relevant in understanding back then, and even today. Personally, from reading it, I was able to understand how it came about in the 1950s and saw some of the same tactics in today’s society.

    • Nancy Shrew

      I would suggest checking out Mystery Science 3000′s take on a fifties short film called A Date With Your Family. Choice quote: “Emotions are for ethnic people!”

  • MyOwnPerson

    She forgot that the teen birth rate in 1957 was almost triple what it is now.

    • Sally

      Interesting point. Although I suppose she’d attribute that to the abortion rates of today. But that still points to a lotta teen sex in the ’50s either way! :)

      • nell2

        Yeah, but that “lotta teen sex” was totes okay as long as it was married teen sex, amirite?

        Does Debi not remember there were lots of shotgun weddings back in the 50′s and 60′s?

      • The_L1985

        She probably sees those as a good thing.

      • http://noadi.etsy.com/ Sheryl Westleigh

        Oh yes, I helped sort through a bunch of family records when I was a teenager. Every single marriage was followed by a baby in less than 9 months. I was surprised just how common it was and it explained all the marriages at 15,16, 17 years old.

      • Michael W Busch

        Although I suppose she’d attribute that to the abortion rates of today.

        While conveniently ignoring that abortion rates are falling, thanks to better contraceptive uptake…

      • Sally

        Oh, yes, contraception, too. All kinds of evils Debi could blame the improvement on while still allowing for lots of modern day fornication.

  • http://exploringthejungle.wordpress.com/ Kat

    I really can’t help but notice that this list makes having an outside job sound like absolute hell. I mean, sure, even a job you generally like is going to be stressful sometimes, but really? “Don’t complain if he’s late for dinner. Count this as minor compared with what he might have gone through that day.” “Never complain if he does not take you out to dinner or to other places
    of entertainment. Instead try to understand his world of strain and
    pressure and his need to be home and relax.” I think I’ve only ever had one job that was actually that bad, and even then I tried not to use it as an excuse to be a self-absorbed ass. Hell, I’ve had a few jobs where most days I came home in a great mood, because I loved what I’d been doing all day.

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like this list seems like it’s calculated to (not so) subtly suggest to women/girls reading it that having a job outside the home is awful. Based on this description, why would you ever want to do it? Be grateful that your man is willing to shoulder such a terrible burden for your sake. Imagine the hell he goes through every weekday just put food on the table! Surely you can put up with whatever he dishes out at home, because it could never be as bad as having a job!

    Seriously, I know it’s easier said than done these days, but if your job sucks that much, try and find a better one if you can. Work can’t be fun all the time, but it really shouldn’t make you that consistently miserable.

    • attackfish

      It also, not so subtly devalues child-rearing and home-making. Your concerns and complaints are petty, your husband’s work is more important than yours, outside work is so much harder, you have it easy, and you’re still unhappy, and imperfect? Anybody could do your job, you lazy shrew. They tell women, you’ll only be happy/valued/a real woman if you fulfill this female gender role, and then they devalue that female gender role. There is no winning.

  • katiehippie

    “Be a little gay and a little more interesting. His boring day may need a lift.”
    This made me giggle.

    “Honey, dinner is on the table and it’s FABULOUS!”

    • Sally

      You are a scream! :)

    • Liz

      Wow, I really needed that today :-D

    • Kate Monster

      I think what she means is that you’re supposed to lez it up with June Cleaver when things get dull in the bedroom.

  • Michael W Busch

    On some level, this isn’t about being biblical, it’s about returning to
    an era Debi has put on a pedestal, conveniently ignoring things like Jim
    Crow or the threat of nuclear war.

    And also conveniently ignoring chronic food shortages and constant risk of famines in much of the world, since the Green Revolution had not happened yet (thanks be to Norman Borlaug…). And ignoring smallpox and polio and measles and mumps and rubella…

    I don’t quite understand how the Nostalgia Filter can be so strong.

    • Anonymouse

      The 1950s were a great time to be white, middle-class Americans. They were not so good for anyone else.

      • WordSpinner

        And in many ways, they were not so great for them… women especially, though the conformity culture isn’t good for men’s souls either, they just had a wider box.

      • That Other Jean

        Not if your white, middle-class Americans had even a whisper of sympathy for Communism, as a fair number of people did. America was right in the middle of the Red Scare, and Joe McCarthy was alive, well, and wrecking the careers and reputations of large numbers of people, particularly in government or the entertainment industry.

      • Michael W Busch

        Even white middle-class Americans got measles. Hence my confusion about the Nostalgia Filter.

      • Kate Monster

        And even things like that get romanticized! How many complaints do we hear about how kids these days don’t have the backbone/work ethic/ pain tolerance/whatever that Boomers do because the “nanny state” doesn’t let kids eat lead paint in their school lunches or come to class without having been vaccinated against polio? I’m honestly surprised so many Boomers lived to adulthood, though my parents’ childhoods might have just been particularly wild.

      • http://noadi.etsy.com/ Sheryl Westleigh

        Not all of them did. My grandparents had 15 kids, 4 of them didn’t make it to adulthood. The child mortality rate wasn’t as high as other times but was still much higher than today.

      • The_L1985

        I’ve seen the measles and mumps romanticized. In fact, there’s THIS tripe out there.

        I hate the anti-vax movement, I really do.

      • Leigha7

        A children’s book about how great it is to have measles? I can’t even…ugh.

        The worst thing about the anti-vaccination nonsense, besides the sheer ignorance of what life was like before vaccines and how much they’ve done for us, is when they talk about how vaccines keep us from using our natural immune system. Uh, way to admit to the world that you have no idea how vaccines even work (hint: it’s by using your natural immune system).

        That and the people who say that they’d rather have their children die of measles/polio/whatever than take even the tiniest risk that scientists are wrong and there might actually be a one in a million chance that vaccines cause autism. Yes, because a large chance of a dead child is so much better than a tiny, microscopic, pretty much nonexistent chance of an autistic one.

  • shuttergirl46q

    My mother is a year younger than Debi, and she shared with me several things that happened in 1950s “utopia” that would people in jail for decades these days. When I asked why no one said or did anything, she said “That’s just the way it was back then.” When I was a child, however, she felt quite free to question teachers, preachers and other adults and even pressed charges against a neighbor who acted inappropriately toward me and other teen girls in our neighborhood. That’s what makes me see second-wave feminism as an effect, not a cause.

  • Jurgan

    The 50′s were also the days of strong unions and highly progressive income taxes, but conservatives never seem to remember that part.

    • The_L1985

      Indeed. Next time someone suggests something that would drag our society backwards, I’m going to bring up the line, “If we’re going back to the 50′s, can we have the income tax system from the Eisenhower years, too?”

  • smrnda

    On the whole ‘distinction’ between men and women – I think feminism just points out that many things taken to be ‘distinctions’ are culturally conditioned behaviors.

    I’ve read a few pretty gruesome reports of wife abuse from the 1800s, and anybody who thinks that abuse was rare is being willfully ignorant, or perhaps forgetting that in a society committed to inequality, the abuse of those lower in status is considered acceptable and therefore not ‘abuse,’ the way that people might say that child abuse wasn’t going on as much before as it is now – it was, just people were rationalizing hitting kids.

    The other thing is that, in the past, people were expected to shut up and stay in their place, so abusive marriages weren’t called out as such.

    • Nancy Shrew

      Not to mention domestic violence was a big reason that spearheaded the temperance movement which spearheaded Prohibition.

    • David S.

      I found on Google Books, in a British journal from the 1830s, an article on whether it was okay to kill your wife if she was a shrew. It fortunately came down against it, but it was a response to a trial where a man who did kill his wife was acquitted because of her alleged obnoxious behavior.

  • redlemon

    I’ve always assumed that the Home Economics Text-thingy was fake, or at least way over embellished from something that may have been real. However, I find this 1946 Daily Housewife Routine from Time Magazine to be more of an eye opener, considering it’s real: http://glamourdaze.com/2011/02/1940s-fashion-housewifes-daily-routine.html

    Imagine that, day after day after day after day.

    • Sally

      Well, that is what life is like if you’re a stay-at-home mom with several kids, including a baby. I would replace a few tasks with some different ones, including some walks to the park while the dishwasher and washing machines run, but the “feel” of that description is a lot like how it felt to be a young stay-at-home mom to me. (I of course don’t know if you’ve ever been a stay-at-home parent yourself and have a different perspective on it.)

      • redlemon

        I’m a sorta stay-at-home mom. I go part time to school while my husband finishes up his degree. Still, I fully admit I’m a terrible housekeeper.

        To me though, the Time Magazine article just reads in a less romantic manner and more matter-of-fact, while the one in this post just seems more…I don’t know. I just can’t imagine thinking that the stay-at-home option was my *only* option, and I would be expected to attend to it in this manner. I don’t mind staying at home with my daughter most of the time, but my husband also doesn’t expect a grand dinner every single night and he responds very well to “it’s pizza night” phone calls.

        I also fully admit to having gotten into the bottle of pumpkin ale last night, so my idea was only half thought out.

    • TLC

      Imagine having to get dressed up BEFORE you cook dinner. She’s obviously a much neater cook than I am!

      And when does the baby eat? Not much for a nursing baby.

      • Lyric

        Since she has older kids, she might be able to get one of them to bottle-feed the baby while she supervises loosely. Isn’t that when formula was really coming into its own?

        Or they could be an older baby, about half on solids. But then you would expect the list of chores to include:

        Feed baby
        Wipe off baby, being sure to get the oatmeal out of the eyebrows, ears, nose and out from between the toes
        Change baby’s outfit
        Wipe down high chair
        Wipe down anything else that might have become covered with oatmeal, which may or may not include chairs, tables, floor, ceiling, dog, cat, and you
        Fish Cheerios out of places where it should have been physically impossible for baby to relocate Cheerios.

        (Why, yes, we are expanding our solid food repertoire this week! Oy.)

    • Leigha7

      So the parents and children ate meals separately? That certainly goes against the stereotypical image. But it says the parents ate breakfast together before getting the kids up, and the kids were in bed before the parents ate dinner.

      I’m also intrigued by this: “Housewife Marjorie McWeeney stands amongst a symbolic display of a full week’s housework for a typical 1940′s housewife. Labour includes 35 beds to be made, 750 items of glass & china, 400 pieces of silverware to wash, 174 lbs. of food to prepare, and 250 pieces of laundry.” That comes out to 5 beds made each day (so presumably 4 kids), 6 pieces of glass & china per person per meal, 3 pieces of silverware per person per meal, 1.4 pound of food per person per meal, and 6 pieces of laundry per person per day. When you say it like that, it doesn’t seem terribly unreasonable (though surely they could’ve used less dishes, and that seems like a fairly large amount of food), but…holy crap, that’s an insane amount of work.

  • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

    It’s funny, my mother’s side of the family is full of atheists, agnostics, and extremely liberal Christians, and yet I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of a divorce – even among very extended family (the family is quite close and clannish, so I know lots and lots of distant cousins). As far as I know, there’s also never been an abuse scandal or anything of that sort. Yet nearly all of my relatives on that side would describe themselves as feminists, nearly all of the women have worked (some in traditionally “masculine” jobs such as coal miners, foresters, etc, though we do have lots and lots of teachers and librarians). Whenever I stay with my aunts and uncles, they are sharing things like cooking, housework, childcare, etc.

    In many ways, my family and my personal life always seem to me the ideal that conservative Christians promote – lots of kids, close family, everyone’s cheerful, no divorce… Heck, we even dress in ways that could “pass” in rather conservative circles (barring the pants on women). And yet even going back a few generations, there’s a strong current of gender egalitarianism and explicit feminism (my grandfather, for example, described himself as a feminist), and most of my family leans towards atheism.

    There’s no point to this comment, I just find if very interesting.

    • TLC

      No, there is a point — proving Debi wrong. I’m glad your family does!

  • Anna

    For one thing, divorce was a lot more difficult socially and legally in the past, especially for women, as was leaving an abusive spouse.

  • AnotherOne

    You know what was going on in my extended family in the 40s and 50s? For one, my grandfather was beating the shit out of my grandmother and their children in a neverending series of alcoholic rages. Their marriage lasted until the 60s, when my grandmother caught on to this whole women’s lib thing and managed to get a job and divorce him. She lived in much more dire straits than Debi’s supposedly nightmarish duplex scenario, but she never regretted leaving his sorry abusive ass. The thing is, I can’t blame my grandfather all that much–he grew up in the same alcoholism-ridden, poverty-stricken, Appalachian coal mining hellscape that most of my relatives did in that era. Debi’s right, divorce was pretty rare, but that was mostly because the family unit existed as a social phenomenon that helped keep people from starving to death. But domestic violence and alcoholism were endemic, child mortality was high (three of my grandfather’s siblings died as infants or young children of malnutrition- and poverty-related disease), and adults died really freaking young. Also, adultery and out-of-wedlock pregnancy happened A LOT, even though things were very hush hush. I’m guessing Debi’s got a case of rose-colored glasses syndrome, but that also her extended family was pretty well off, or at least middle class.

  • Leigha7

    So I think I just realized why people who are so attached to gender roles are so opposed to feminism (besides the obvious). In their worldview, there are exactly two types of people, men and women. Feminism seeks to dissolve the distinction between the two, at least in some ways. To them, this means reducing the world to precisely one time of person, with everyone on the planet being exactly the same. That is, admittedly, pretty scary.

    What they’re missing is that feminism also seeks to have each individual’s unique strengths and weaknesses, interests, and personalities be the focus. It’s not going from two types of people to one, it’s going from two types of people to 7 billion (which, to be fair, could also be a bit scary, especially to people who make a living off of categorizing people).


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