“You bitches are lucky to have a health clinic,” one of the girls said. “Hold up, ladies,” Marisol said. “Remember, you are not bitches,” she said. “You are hoes.” The women laughed. “Bitches are dogs,” Marisol said. “But whores are…?” “Professionals who get paid,” they chorused back. “Thank you,” Marisol said. “Show some respect for the trade.”
I first noticed the books about five years ago in a grocery checkout line in suburban Chicago. Their covers sport bonnet-clad heads on demure-looking young white women posed in calm domestic or pastoral scenes. Perhaps a horse-drawn buggy rolls by in the distance, or a barn is etched on the horizon. Maybe a young man in a wide-brimmed hat stands gazing at the woman in the foreground.
While on her way to get cheeseburgers with a friend, Samantha Irby decided to start a blog, mostly to impress a dude she had just met on the Internet. Since she was at that very moment loosening her belt to accommodate said cheeseburgers, she decided to call her new blog Bitches Gotta Eat. Four years later, the blog has outlasted the relationship.
In 1972, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss published The Flame and the Flower. With this novel, Woodiwiss transformed the romance genre by making explicit what had previously been implied—that is, sex—and created a formula for success that romance authors would follow for decades. The archetypal romance plot of the post-Woodiwiss era goes like this: An innocent young woman experiences sexual awakening when she succumbs to an older, very powerful man, who in turn is domesticated—but not in any way emasculated!—by the aforementioned innocent young woman.
An interview with Peggy Orensteinby M. M. Adjarian,Illustrated by Rebecca Green,appeared in issue Primal;published in 2011;filed under Books.
From the outside, Peggy Orenstein epitomizes feminist success. She's an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in such distinguished publications as the New Yorker, Elle, Vogue, Discover, Mother Jones, and O: The Oprah Magazine. But her work itself is dedicated to asserting the ways in which "having it all"—or trying to—in a world built to the measure of men can have profound effects on women and girls.
Articleby Eryn Loeb,Illustrated by Kristopher Pollard,appeared in issue Confidential;published in 2010;filed under Books.
In a sweetly musty used-book-store, I recently bought a few thick, oversize issues of Good Housekeeping and Ladies' Home Journal. Dating from the early 1950s, they were full of ads for Del Monte fruit cocktail (serving suggestion: use it to top a loaf of canned ham, for something "really different!"), Lustroware plastic wastebaskets ("Love its elegant beauty"), and articles worrying that comic books "create child criminals" and warning mothers that "Nobody likes a young smart aleck."
Call it a feminist coincidence: Two books published in 1963 examine gender, sex, and marriage, but arrive at diametrically opposite conclusions. In The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan complains that "the only passion, the only pursuit, the only goal a woman is permitted is the pursuit of a man." Meanwhile, Helen Andelin's Fascinating Womanhood urges women to embrace that primary passion, because it leads to ultimate fulfillment and complete happiness. We all know how The Feminine Mystique changed the world for countless women. But Fascinating Womanhood, while lesser-known than Friedan's polemic, has had its own powerful impact on notions of women and their potential.
Now in its sixth edition, Fascinating Womanhood has sold more than 2 million copies. Over the years, the book has grown from less than 200 pages to more than 400, with most of the additional pages featuring testimonials from women whose miserable marriages were saved once they began following the book's advice. And Andelin's legacy is still very much in effect—not only for the adherents who blog about the book's wisdom or enroll in online "Marriage, the Fascinating Way" classes offering personalized advice on how to act like a little girl, but in the female infantilization enthusiastically embraced by popular culture.