Harry

Knowledge Is Power

 
   

The American Woman 

Eric Dingwall 1956, 1957

(Note: Basically, Eric Dingwall shows how pathetic are American men in that they allow themselves to be totally dominated by their women.)

(excerpts)

... many domestic and foreign observers have remarked that the United States seems to have a surprising number of men who remain adolescent and of women who play the roles both of doll and of matriarch, and they have not always realized that this is part of the American cultural pattern and the result of the domination of society by women. The conflict in the American soul, is an economic and a sexual conflict, and the American woman is, I think, at the heart of that conflict. It is women who set the stage and largely control the players in important sections of American life. America is a woman's world, a world in which, as a Chinese woman, Helena Kuo, remarked, women have succeeded in everything except in the art of being truly feminine. In this lies the tragedy and the danger. It is the purpose of this book to try to see how the American woman has attained her position and how the whole of American culture is permeated by her influence. p. 14

Americans move in a world of illusion. To them woman is more than human and has become a goddess

... Theodore Dreiser, in his Hey, Rub-a Dub-Dub!, contributed a stinging indictment of contemporary America ... As to the American woman, Dreiser expressed astonishment that the ideas regarding her could honestly be held by any rational person. But, he stated, Americans move in a world of illusion. To them woman is more than human and has become a goddess, a divine creative principle to whom no vice, error or weakness can be found. He went on to say that this fantastic delusion caused sex activity, as it were, to become a criminal offence, since it was through its expression that the paragon was violated. p. 28

...Woman, who, unless carefully brought into legal and moral subjection, was of all things most likely to be used by that Infernal Serpent as he had already used her in those far-off days ... Woman was to be watched and guarded against, and the Puritans were the ones to do it... It is when we see the Puritan face to face with the problem of woman that we can see a picture of strong men wrestling with something so intangible and elusive that it seemed impossible ever to obtain a grip firm enough to discover just what it was against which they were struggling. The problem had always been the same. The Fathers of the Christian Church, saints and holy men in all ages and of nearly all faiths, had had the same riddle to solve and had failed utterly to solve it. For here was something that defied analysis; so subtle, so dangerous was it that proof of Satan's power seemed the only dear fact that emerged from mature consideration.... p. 34

... Sex antagonism is no modern notion built out of the difficulties and tensions of civilized life. It lies at the heart of the natural process, and compromise only is possible. The aims of the sexes are different and are incompatible. The ways of man are not those of woman and the paths destined for feminine footsteps can never be those trod by men. All attempts to suppress manifestations of this overwhelming impulse are doomed to failure... p. 35

... Marriage to the Puritan was an alliance of two persons joined in love and mutual companionship, help and comfort. It was, as William Ames again so well put it, an arrangement whereby existed a "most sociable and intimate affection between Man and Wife," and anyone who reads the family correspondence in the Winthrop Papers cannot fail to be struck by the tokens of esteem, respect and affection in the letters .. in the Puritan family the woman was a responsible individual, an equal partner with her husband before God, and, as the bearer and educator of his children (and in spite of the fact that as a female she was somewhat suspect), began to assume importance which, as time passed, began to grow and p. 36

change the general pattern of the family unit. This position of influence and authority grew so rapidly that I do not suppose that there are any competent historians, male or female, who would deny the importance of so striking a factor in moulding of the American Republic... p. 37

... many of the colonial women were soon engaged in tasks apart altogether from those connected with rearing a family. Except in professions such as Medicine and the Church, their activity was but slightly hampered, and they soon began to deal with administrative, executive[,] and legal matters, while some actually managed businesses ... The most important social unit in colonial times was natally the family, and, as we have said, the woman was the unchallenged head of the home, although her husband was nominally the head of the family... p. 38

... How far the Vindication of the Rights of Women was read in colonial America I am not prepared to say, but it is clear that the life of Mary Wollstonecraft was not one of which many would have approved, and that the sentiments expressed in her outspoken book were hardly those which would have appealed to the typical New England housewife. Yet it is here that we can, I think, perceive the germs of those ideas which were later to work such havoc in the lives of American women... p. 43

... The wife's place was the home, and her legal position, borrowed as it was from European enactments, was that of inferiority, although the conditions of life were clearly undermining the position of the husband and the ancient patriarchal pattern. The position of dominance that the wife maintained in the home extended not only to the management of the children and the household generally but to a certain amount of control over the husband's purse. In his Letters from America, which were translated in 1924, the writer, who seems to have been a German officer and who has described his experiences from 1776 to 1779, declares that the stylish display affected by the women of New England was due to the fact that they insisted on controlling the domestic finances, and he adds that mothers on their death-beds ordered their daughters to retain the mastery of the house and the control over their father's purse-strings. It was thus, he concludes, that "petticoat rule" was spread throughout America. Thus the growing power of women arose from a natural process which began to operate very early in the United States and from which the present almost "matriarchal" pattern has developed.... p. 48

... early American novels ... As early as 1802 .. signs of a changing attitude were becoming dimly perceptible. From the daring rake bent upon carrying off the protesting damsel to his lair, to prey upon her hidden charms, the beau was beginning to be considered a somewhat weak and poor specimen... ... But the preferences of the ladies were clearly in another direction and the Rhett Butlers of the 1800s were much more popular than the gentle beau who were likened to syllabub--"all froth and show, white, sweet and harmless." It was not, however, for the ladies to say so, for only females of the lower grades graded themselves thus.

 Man was beginning to take the place assigned to him by the American woman

"Ladies" had no such feelings, and thus they were able to rise superior to the other sex, which was clearly much lower in the animal scale. Man was beginning to take the place assigned to him by the American woman, for was it not she who was about to take the moral leadership of the country into her own hands? Freedom for women offered, so it seemed, boundless opportunities for female improvement and advancement, but on the other hand it provided opportunities for libertinism where such was desired. This was the dilemma in which the feminist leaders were always entangled. Jumping from one horn to the other, they became enmeshed in a web between the two, and in this web they are still struggling... p. 51

... The gradually increasing importance of the mother and the supposed innocence of the female child had a profound influence on social custom and behaviour, since to the power exercised by maternal authority was added the myth that women were superior morally to the other sex, and that it was only through an inexplicable arrangement of Nature that they had to submit to what was, after all, something of a degradation. Thus, as we shall see later, women were being divided into two sections, the pure and the impure, and since the children of both sexes were under the influence of the mother, both boys and girls were early trained to conduct themselves in ways which were not only unnatural, but which led directly towards the formation of those neuroses which are so noticeable a feature of the American scene today.... p. 59

... the problem of woman and the problem of love are two of the most serious questions that the people of the United States have to face. It is true, of course, that there other highly important problems, such as the economic problem, the problem of the Whites in their relation to the Negroes, and the problems of the relations of the United States with the outside world. Unlikely as it may sound, however, all these questions are linked up with the fundamental disharmony between the sexes, a disharmony distinct from, but still connected with, the sex antagonism in other countries.... p. 63

it is because her love-life is hopelessly awry that the American woman is as she is. She is too often a woman without love

... It was the nineteenth century which saw the gradual emergence of the new American woman from the early days to the days of organized feminist agitation and subsequent power. Her dissatisfaction with her lot can be seen gradually increasing as the dichotomy of the sexes became wider and more pronounced. But through the whole of her numerous activities and troubles a single thread runs from which branch out numerous fibres in all directions. That thread is her love-life, and it is because her love-life is hopelessly awry that the American woman is as she is. She is too often a woman without love, for love in America is not what it is in the rest of the world. Woman is the centre of the moral chaos, the immaturity, the strange fetishes and the even stranger practices which are to be observed everywhere in the United States. Yet it is largely through her that the system which has put her in her present position is perpetuated.... p. 64

... It must be remembered that, as Nathaniel P. Willis said, a lady in American society could do no wrong, for the women of the United States were superior to the men, physically, intellectually and morally... p. 72

... The American husband, as Mrs. Houstoun wrote in 1850, was "merely the medium through which dollars find their way into the milliners' shop in exchange for caps and bonnets." ... p. 73

In 1869 Catherine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe were still discussing the evils of tight dresses in their The American Woman's Home, and they joined in the increasing condemnation of everything masculine, and above all in the attempt to show the superiority of woman over the mere male. For example, they declared that it was the brother who was to do the hardest and most disagreeable work. It was for him to face the storms and perform the most laborious drudgeries. As to the family circle, it was for him to give his mother and sisters precedence in all the conveniences and comforts of p. 75

home life. 15

 Katherine G. Busbey, declared that the American boy was subject to the tyranny of his sisters

15 Writing in 1910, an American lady, Katherine G. Busbey, declared that the American boy was subject to the tyranny of his sisters, and that "an observing Englishman" saw in this fact the beginning of the so-called slavery of the American man to the American woman (see Home Life in America, p. 29). p. 76

... Margaret Fuller herself, who published sections of her Woman in the Nineteenth Century in the Dial, showed the same tendency to attribute sexual irregularities to man alone, and declared that many women looked upon men as wild beasts, although such a supposition was surely terrifying if they were all alike. Frail was man, indeed, she concluded; but how frail! and how impure! ... p. 77

 it was in the nineteenth century that we can see the beginnings of the theory of male inferiority and female dominance, not only in the home, but in society in general,

... it was in the nineteenth century that we can see the beginnings of the theory of male inferiority and female dominance, not only in the home, but in society in general, which, as Dickson Wecter points out in The Saga of American Society, women finally dominated completely and occupied a position which the American man has usually accepted without question. ... ... A. d'Almbert, in his Flanerie Parisienne aux EtatsUnis, said that the women in the United States realized their power to such an extent that they abused it like tyrants who are aware that there is no limit to their despotism. On the other hand, the men showed a boundless patience and a deference to the women that could scarcely be imagined. American husbands, he stated, knew that they were inferior to their wives, and as they secretly confessed it, their attitude was explained. The least sign of any gratitude on the part a woman towards a man was considered superfluous, a feature which Francis Lieber had noticed twenty years before. Similarly Alfred Bunn in his book Old England and New England declared that if there was one feature more striking another in the American character, it was the boundless attention that American men paid to women. She is supreme, and they are the mere creatures of her will, an opinion voiced twenty years before, when William Faux in Memorable Days in America declared that south of the Delaware woman was "a little divinity, to whom all must bend, give place, and pay idle homage." Bunn noticed the rudeness of women when travelling, and observed one case in which a woman turned a man off his seat and then used both halves of the settee for herself and her baggage. It was women of this kind to whom Anthony Trollope doubtless referred when he spoke of persons who were more odious to him than any other human beings he had met elsewhere. Although generally speaking he found American women charming, he noted that p. 84

they had "no perception of that return which chivalry demands of them," illustrating his thesis by an account of what he himself observed in street cars A similar point of view was expressed by Count de Soissons, who was interested to confirm what William Dean Howells had written about the American women when he had said that it was useless to quarrel with their decisions because there was no appeal from them. Soissons mentioned that in America everything was for the woman. Love played a very small part in her life, for her husband, whom she dominated, was merely a machine for making money.... p. 85

... a point of view [was] even more forcibly expressed in the p. 96

Philadelphia Public Ledger and Daily Transcript for July 20, 1848, when it said that one pretty girl was equal to ten thousand men and a mother was, next to God, all powerful... p. 97

... Mrs. Farnham proceeded to compare the two sexes, to the great disadvantage of the male. Woman's brain was finer, she wrote, as were all her other tissues: it was, moreover, more complex, as was her general build. Through this fineness arose her higher character, her mom delicate grasp, the more penetrative reach of her faculties, her swifter power to seize relations, her more receptive states, which were open to illumination and inspiration, and the more fluent inner life which she enjoyed. As to her body, the same proofs were there... ... Men, she went on, revel in bestial sensuality and they dare to speak of "fallen women." "I accept man's language," Eliza exclaimed; "it is a fall for my sex when it descends to meet his at the level of sense," for women abhor sensuality in their own sex, women, who have been shown to possess the most perfect, "complex, varied, refined, beautiful and exquisitely endowed organization, comprising, with its corresponding faculties, the most susceptible, sensitive yet enduring constitution; and also the purest, most aspiring, p. 100

progressive, loving, spiritual nature of any being that inhabits our earth."

 "Miss President, feller wimmin and male trash generally," the speaker began ...

Such was woman according to Eliza Farnham... ... what she had said was not the reasoned argument of a mature thinker, but the wild and incoherent ravings of a frustrated, jealous and neurotic woman, of an American woman of the middle nineteenth century. She voiced the opinions of many others who ... felt themselves cheated and trapped, and thus the fight for quality in the United States was a fight in which sex antagonism played a prominent part. In this connexion Emily Faithfull quotes an amusing skit on the kind of address delivered by an American feminist. "Miss President, feller wimmin and male trash generally," the speaker began, "I believe sexes were created perfectly equal, with the woman a little more equal than the man ... The only decent thing about him was a rib, and that went to make something better."... p. 101

When considering the effect of the motion-picture and the radio on women in the United States we shall see how the producers have constantly to bear in mind the tastes and desires of their feminine and juvenile audiences. For not only in recreation but also in retail buying the women of twentieth-century America played a highly important part. Separate as the sexes were in the nineteenth century, the gulf which divided them was wider still in the twentieth. Women were still dominant in the social sphere and in the home where children are concerned. Teachers were still largely feminine and unmarried, and men still retained a firm but probably weakening hold on business and politics. It was an age when the American Woman was coming into her own at last. She could do all that men could do--almost. It was the age when the American Man was beginning to wonder what it was that had hit him. He saw woman in the ascendancy, and had no idea what was to be done. It was an age when a Methodist divine (Bishop C. Denny) had to comfort his male followers by telling them that, come what might, women at least could not yet "grow a mustache." It was the age when, as an American woman once told me, the American Man was simply a doormat-and liked it! ... p. 124

... Instead of calm confidence many a woman exhibited merely restless frustration: many mothers were more often than not maternal tyrants: and younger girls became stereotyped dolls basing their appearance, manners[,] and dress upon the film stars ... ... hard reality was cast aside in favour of sensuous phantasy. The American family itself seemed to be breaking up... p. 125

the American Woman was becoming more and more of a problem not only to herself but also to others

... the American Woman was becoming more and more of a problem not only to herself but also to others... ... The more observant foreigners were amazed at what they found and the way in which so many American men allowed themselves to be dominated and "pushed around" by their female relations and friends... p. 126

.. I am inclined to regard the enormous importance of the sissy concept in American life as due to that feminine dominance which is everywhere apparent ... It seems to me likely that the idea stems from an only partly conscious terror on the part of men that maternal domination may so influence the son that he may lack at least some of the masculine characteristics that woman still permits the American male to exercise... At the same time, the American mother, while paying lip service to current beliefs, is not at all anxious to see her sons exhibit too many of the male characteristics, which may remind her of her own deficiencies and thus tend to deflate her assertive personality... ... H. Elfin, in his acute discussion of the aggressive and erotic tendencies in army life, published in 1946, goes so far as to say that the profanity and obscenity of the American soldier is the symbolic rejection of the shackles of that matriarchy in which he was forced to spend his early years. He goes on to say that a large proportion of American men p. 130

have never properly developed beyond the early stages of emotional experience, and that the anxiety and strong reactions they exhibit when required to live by standards expected of mature adults are proof of the kind of upbringing to which they have been subjected... ... The fact is that, as Graham Hutton so well puts it, American men, on account of their upbringing, retain "an unparalleled devotion" to their mothers ("Moms"). Their lack of maturity is reflected in what they are called. They are called "boys," often think of themselves as such, behave as such and indeed often continue to be called by this word all their lives... p. 131

 Another French observer, Christiane Fournier, ... declared that American girls knew nothing whatever about real love. All they wanted were husbands who would both earn a million dollars and also wash the dishes.

... With the rise of the motion-picture the desires and wishes of the American girl began to change. Her vitality and desire for happiness began to be centred upon the kind of life portrayed on the screen. Happiness was to be obtained by being beautiful, rich and well known. To be content meant having a body which men would look at twice, a long sleek car, and one or more long-drawn-out and passionate love affairs. As might have been expected, these phantasies made the girls neither happier nor more contented. The main effect was to standardize their behaviour as it standardized the cut of their hair and the style of their dress. It did not, however, make them more feminine. The American girl, remarked Maurice Dekobra in 1931, is a beautiful little tigress (although without claws) who feeds on orchids (without perfume), gramophone records (without needles)[,] and nocturnal telephone calls (without passion). Another French observer, Christiane Fournier, was even more scathing. Writing a year after Dekobra, she declared that American girls knew nothing whatever about real love. All they wanted were husbands who would both earn a million dollars and also wash the dishes. What was wrong, she insisted, was that in the United States the women had the men completely under their thumbs... p. 132

 schools have the best intentions but they are actually making girls out of boys

... We have already mentioned some of the effects which may be thought to follow the education of boys by unmarried women, although perhaps it is an exaggeration to say, with John Erskine, that the schools have the best intentions but that what they are actually doing is making girls out of boys.29 However, it must, I think, be admitted that one effect is that boys learn to obey women... In one of her critical and well-informed columns in the Washington Post, Mary Haworth declared that she thought that the manners and customs of American men were womantailored to a far greater extent than in any other modern society. American men have, she stated, been taught, with a few exceptions, by mothers and nurses in their cradle era, and by women school-teachers in the nursery school, kindergarten and grade-school phase of education. It has thus been possible for the American woman to fashion her ideal man...

29 J. Erskine, Influence of Women and Its Cure, p. 70, Cf. C. F. Ulrich's review, "Off with their Heads" (Sat. Rev. of Lit., Feb. 15, 1936, vol. xiii, p. 13). p. 138

... In the preceding pages it has often been said that the social p. 141

dichotomy between the sexes (concerning which more will be said later) led to an absorption of men in business, thereby permitting women to dominate the social scene... ... Miss Dix always managed to show what Maurice Dekobra called her imperturbable good sense. She pointed out how in the United States no amount of education or sophistication or knowledge of what happens to other people prevented women from believing in fairy-tales.

 Men, she said, take marriage as it is, while women yearn for it as it isn't.

They expected to be perpetual brides, trailing their clouds of glory for over forty years, and when this did not happen they could not take it without "squawking to heaven" that marriage was a failure. Men, she said, take marriage as it is, while women yearn for it as it isn't. Or again, a few weeks later she replied to a girl of nineteen who said she was very miserable because her husband did not come up to her idea of the dream husband and the romantic lover whom she thought he would be. Miss Dix said that if she had waited to marry until she were grown-up she would have realized that nobody got a fairy prince for a husband, and it would be far better for her to realise that she was dreaming of some impossible creation built out of her imagination... p. 143

... boys were often in as great a fix as the girls. "What line of conduct do the girls like?" asked one. Did they "crave a little mauling"? He went on to tell Miss Dix that when he tried a little petting the girl refused, but if he did not persist, then she would not date him again, because he was slow. Similarly, if he actively insisted, he lost the date, because then he was too "fast." To these conundrums Miss Dix had a ready answer. She told him that the mystery of how a woman's mind works made the riddle offered by the Sphinx look like a puzzle which any moron could solve without effort... p. 147

... In the United States, where the growth of the idea of sex equality has been one of the most important features of the changing social scene, it could be expected that courtship would reflect this tendency to a marked degree... The American girl, fed as she is week in and week out by the phantasies of Hollywood, still dreams of the Prince Charming who will take her away to realms of happiness where life will be one long honeymoon. Since real life is utterly different from that portrayed in the magazine or on the screen, disillusionment sets in: the young wife becomes discontented and miserable, and divorce follows... ... The main obstacle to female success and adjustment in courtship is psychological. Since, in the United States, woman has gained what she believes is almost complete equality with man, the usual female role in courtship has to be modified in response to these claims. In other societies man is usually (though not always) the one who woos: woman is pursued and won: she is not the pursuer. This pattern of being pursued and being able to yield to a man equally desired is a source of the keenest enjoyment to a woman, since, when finally overcome, she is p. 153

able to enjoy the exquisite passivity which is her role. Moreover, man is at a disadvantage when pursued, and he is apt to take fright and run away... He does not altogether care for the signs of the times as suggested by the titles of such books as Get your Man and Hold Him, Hold your Man!, How to Snare a Male, or Win your Man and Keep Him and How to Attract Men and Money."' Neither did he much relish the picture painted by Disney's Bambi, where the three bold young females soon had the fawn, the rabbit[,] and the skunk all "titterpated." But the fact remained that this was a prevailing tendency, and men had to make the best of it, and run away when the chase became unbearable.55 Moreover, if he read the magazines intended for feminine consumption, he might not be altogether edified by what he found there regarding the American husband. In 1938 Uhler and Fishback were asking if men were "mice" and saying that they were as timid as amoebae. Nine years later Louise Simpson said that a husband was seldom a mouse, but nevertheless could be "trapped"; while in 1942 Popenoe told the readers of the Ladies' Home Journal how husbands could be improved "scientifically," and in 1944 a wife revealed the secret of "How I Maneuver my Husband," while the man stated how he liked it!

It is true that in the United States the courting woman, or the woman who desires to be courted, attempts to make of all those subtle tricks known to the feminine world everywhere, and her experiences of dating and petting have made her acquainted with what the male wants and how he responds to attractive suggestions. But what makes courtship more difficult for the educated American girl is her incurably romantic approach, with its tendency to divorce love from sex ...

55 The Theme of All Women are Wolves (Ed. by A. Silver) is that it is the girl who is always out to get the boy and that the chief mission of woman is to pursue the male until capture is effected... p. 154

... Of all periods in the life of the child, the early stages are often thought to be the most important, for it is during this period that the course of subsequent development is usually laid down. From the start of life the girl often behaves differently from the boy, yet, in the aim of "equality" for the sexes, how often--and above all in the United States--are these differences forgotten, or sometimes even denied. The ova do not search out the spermatozoa. These swim in search of them in order to exercise aggression against them and to penetrate them. The very act of conception implies an act of male aggression against female passivity. Yet the ovum does not reject the assault, but welcomes it and enfolds the vigorous visitor. The very act of love is impossible for the man without tumescence, while in woman it is always possible... p. 156

Actresses ... on the screen are idols and what is offered is the unattainable and the impossible. Moreover, it has been pointed p. 188

out that the standards set by the screen characters are likely be accepted in many cases even if they be contrary to prevailing mores, Charles C. Peters [1933] giving as an example the fact that, according to his estimate, 76 per cent. of the pictures illustrating love-making present the girl as aggressive in her behaviour.... p. 189

... Cinema husbands are not like the men who daily return worn out from the office, described in Life in 1946 as "wrung-out rags." ... p. 190

[footnote] ... The domination of a woman by a powerful male is naturally a favourite phantasy in the United States, where women so often have to play the role of the dominant sex. Many novels harp on this theme, and scenes are in print, as they are on the screen, to show some hairy-chested giant as the wild lover...

The arts in America, he continued, were a gigantic racket run by unscrupulous men for unhealthy women.

... Sir Thomas Beecham, .. .. on returning from the United States in 1946, declared that Hollywood was a universal disaster compared with which Hitler, Himmler and Mussolini were trivial. The arts in America, he continued, were a gigantic racket run by unscrupulous men for unhealthy women.... p. 192

... Perhaps one of the most curious examples of the Hollywood portrayal of the American Way was seen in the picture The Best Years of Our Lives. Here we can see one of the basic patterns of life in the United States, a life where the men are childish, nervous and inept, and the women are strong, dignified and wise. The pictures of the sailor who has lost both his hands is especially instructive. For here we have the male who cannot any longer be aggressive. Safe at last, the woman must be the active partner, as the man's passivity is forced upon him. 86 In the more recent pictures of the post-war years, it was not to be expected that Hollywood would forsake the themes which had so long expanded box-office receipts, namely, sex and violence. Woman had, as always, to be portrayed in her triple roles, that of the glorified American showgirl, the saintly Mother[,] or the devouring Mom. Female pulchritude was still displayed in ravishing forms ...

 Here, in these [soap operas], the women of America can learn how good and long-suffering they are, how self-sacrificing and self-effacing --how superior, in fact, to the mere man who always creates the troubles, and who is weak, miserable and generally inept..

86 Cf. the film King's Row, where a male character is legless. It was Mable Dodge Luhan who acutely observed that women like to have their men sick in bed, as then their patients cannot escape the domination that the female can thus impose upon them. p. 193

... Whenever I arrive in my hotel in the United States I turn on the radio, hoping that one of these so-called "soap-operas" may be in progress... ... this deluge of sentimental folly is of profound psychological interest and importance. For this is what the radio thinks millions of American women want, and in fact millions do listen to the activities and sayings of a troop of moronic characters, sobbing, drooling, sniggering and sometimes reeking in gore mixed with gush, until even the most hardened investigator has to turn the radio knob to silence. Here we find, as Phil Wylie has pointed out, "mother-love" of the lowest kind, for those who listen can hardly fail to be stamped with the matriarchal brand... ... in  these daytime serials can be detected certain broad outlines of what might almost be called policy. .. ... in the core of the story is generally a woman's problem placed before women: poor, suffering, tender-hearted women, from whose beautiful eyes stream tears--salty tears, buckets and buckets of them. Here, in these poignant dramatic scenes, the women of America can learn how good and long-suffering they are, how self-sacrificing and self-effacing --how superior, in fact, to the mere man who always creates the troubles, and who is weak, miserable and generally inept... p. 195

... These dramas of the air assume the pattern of straight news. Phantasy becomes reality... ... since they are often written by women--American women--it is natural that man should be put in the place reserved for him by the dominant sex in the United States.... p. 196

... In a female-dominated country like the United States the man must always be trying to escape from the bands-swaddling bands--which are constantly throttling him. Yet, since his early years have been controlled by woman, he finds complete escape impossible. Only in athletics and business does it seem that the women cannot often follow him; and even in the latter occupation he is often surrounded by by painted "cuties" ogling him and titillating him... p. 208

 the "average American" was a downtrodden and henpecked creature, existing within the framework of a strict and rigid matriarchal system

... In baseball, Paul Gallico maintained, was one excellent escape. Here his "bossinhibited psyche" might be freed; and he went on to explain that the "average American" was a downtrodden and henpecked creature, existing within the framework of a strict and rigid matriarchal system. He is always being told what to do and how to do it, and so it is that when he can escape the women he loves it... ... even in the female-free world of athletic contests, the American man is still a victim to that form of delayed maturity imposed upon him through the influence of the American woman... p. 209

... The two sides of the American man's character were well described by George Cabot Lodge in one of his letters to Langdon Mitchell in 1904. The American man was an anomaly, he wrote: and then he went on to compare his efficiency in the practical affairs of life with his sentimental idiocy. As regards women, Lodge bluntly stated that man had been dethroned and a woman ruled in his stead, while as a husband he was "inept and drivelling" in everything but making money... ... Nearly forty years later Dr. M. F. Farnham, writing in Coronet, stated that the American husband, far from being the once dominant male was now a "sad imitation." More often than not, she declared, he was a cringing and timid person, henpecked and even afraid to say what he wanted. She mentioned cases of men who were not allowed to walk on the livingroom rug except when visitors were present, who could only smoke cigars in the privacy of the bedroom, or, "believe it or not," an instance of one husband who was only allowed to go out alone to play bowls with his friends once every three months. Finally, she suggested that it might be as well if "our women" quietly retreated from a few of their indefensible positions while they can still do so gracefully. It has been a puzzle for many years how long the American man is going to tolerate his position, though there is little doubt that in thousands of cases he has no idea that any other life is possible, so used to it has he become.

 "never in history has any country contained such a high proportion of cowed and. eunuchoid males,

 Indeed, Gerhard Venuner in his New York ohne Schmincke hazards the joking assumption that some mysterious hormones act upon him in a way which favours his subjection. In a review of his book, published in a Hamburg journal, Dr. Nettebaum asserted that men can be seen in the United States kneeling before women putting on their overshoes, and that it is not unknown p. 211

for a husband to have his ears boxed by his wife in a public place.16 ... ... Mr. John Fischer, of Harper's Magazine,... ... declares that "never in history has any country contained such a high proportion of cowed and. eunuchoid males," for it is in the United States that the Ideal Male "dedicates his life to the pampering of women."... ... the American Father--"Poor old Pop".. is almost a national figure of jest... ... Graham Hutton explains the remark of the American who said that the only two depressed classes were Negroes and white husbands ...

16 See Our Petticoat Government , etc. Cf. the cover of Vogue (Sept. 15, 1946), which shows the meek man kneeling before the woman, who is standing on a chair. p. 212

... We have seen above that, from the early days of American extreme feminism, attempts have been made to pretend that women were "as good" as men and could do all that men did.... as Viola Klein and Karen Horney have both pointed out, castration phantasies now and then play some part in the development of the American girl, and how occasionally there arises a desire for revenge followed by a symbolic castration of the opposite sex.

Now, it has often been asserted that women dictate the purchase of a good deal of male clothing in the United States, and thus it is possible that the obedient American man is inclined to accede to the wishes of his womenfolk more easily than would be the case elsewhere, especially if the favoured garments are exhibited and described in an attractive manner. Towards 1936-8 there began to appear on the American market a variety of odd articles of male attire ... ... all designed in order, apparently, to disguise the fact that the wearer was masculine and to pretend that he was feminine. There were odd snap-pounches and "concealed no-gap" flies; and in one advertisement the device was so drawn that not only was all trace of the objectionable bulge obliterated, but the tight binder was so designed that the role of the wearer was reversed. He had been turned into a fake woman.19...

19 ... A kind of symbolic castration has been achieved, just as the threat of actual castration is often used to deter children from undesirable habits. Indeed, one American mother declared that all she had to say was "scissors" to have immediate effect ... p. 213

... The increase of knowledge about the sexual life had affected women for the worse rather than for the better. For the more she knew, the more she suspected that she was being cheated. Reality seemed so different from what she had anticipated ... Many women knew little of the art of love as described by Marcel Barriere in his Essai sur le Donjuanisme Contemporain.

The art of love, he says, consists in initiating women into sensual pleasure, in revealing to them its poetry and secret mysteries... The man's pleasure is forgotten; what is important is only the pleasure that he bestows, so that his partner can say it was to him that she owes her deepest bliss. It is interesting to observe how the American female before marriage has to play the part of the romantic doll, and how after marriage, when the dreams of youth have been shattered and Prince Charming is seen without the halo, she adopts role of the dominating Mother ("Mom"), ruling not only children but her husband also, How far such a dominating position is desired or enjoyed is far from clear. It is obvious that, in many cases, the adoption of such a role is compensatory and is, in a sense, forced upon the woman. Through it she attempts to become apparently independent and not in any way "inferior" to the man whom she secretly despises for his spineless acceptance of the position allotted to him in the United States... ... a case printed in "The Worry Clinic" in the New York Post of January 15, 1943, referred to a young woman, p. 222

aged twenty-two[,] engaged to the type of "fine man" so idealized in the United States. She declared that sometimes he irritated her so much that she could scream. "Some day I may scratch his eyes out, so there!" ended her complaints.

 the more men submit to "such petticoat rule," the more irritated and angry the women become.

Further analysis showed what was wrong. Her irritation stemmed from the fact that her "fine man" was, as the psychologist put it, one of "these long-suffering doormats," and the girl herself finally declared that she only wished that her fiance would give her a sound spanking. Summing up the situation, the psychologist declared that the more men submit to "such petticoat rule," the more irritated and angry the women become. He summed up one of the basic reasons for the frustration and unhappiness that so many American women experience. Yet it is not often that American women complain and confess their true feelings, and doubtless they often accept their position and even glory in it. 28 One way out of the American wife's dilemma is to have more than one husband to fulfil her demands in various directions. This solution was amusingly put forward in 1925 by Alexander Black, and the relevant sections condensed in The Reader's Digest for February 1946. One husband would look after her material needs, another would act as handyman about the house, and the third would attend to her during the night, and when not active would have to be a "noiseless sleeper," so as not to disturb her ladyship... ... I am of the opinion that the lack of full sexual satisfaction is at the core of the discontent manifested by so many American women, and as it has therefore its repercussions in every department of life ...

28 See Emily Hahn, who stated that Englishwomen and American men "know their place," that a "female minority" rules the States, and that American "boys" are scared to death of not loving their mothers (London Evening Standard, March 16, 1948, p. 6) ... ... Mrs. M. A. Hamilton said, on Feb. 21, 1949, when broadcasting on American women in the United States, "Mother knows best" for "Mom rules the home." She even stated that in that "woman's Paradise" men wear overshoes because women insist, for the United States is ruled by women and they know it and "everybody knows it." ... p .223

... The man, for his part, has to contend with a complex of ideas and ideals which are fundamentally hostile to satisfactory relations. Tied to the maternal image, adolescent in behaviour and outlook, and with a picture of woman completely out of focus, many an American man finds that full and satisfactory relations are impossible. Full virility is not lacking: where he fails is in not using his powers so as to obtain not only the maximum satisfaction for himself, but also that for his partner, ... ... the attitude of dominance and superiority adopted by the American woman is fatal to her own enjoyment... p. 224

... The American cartoon is frequently valuable as a pointer towards the more intimate social relations between the sexes. A subject very commonly portrayed is the spineless male being p. 225

bullied, cajoled or persuaded to wake up and realize what a woman wants... ... were he to possess the technique of a Casanova and the virility of a sexual athlete, his work would be in vain p. 226

were he to attempt to court many an American woman. For if the American man's courtship is a "wash-out," to use Odette Keun's words, an American woman's bed-manners are a disaster. This truth came to the British author, R. W. Thompson, when he was in New York. There he saw these superb American women with their "lovely limbs," their "beautiful legs," with that amazing background of "breasts, buttocks and bellies" on the bookstalls, on the boards and even on the bedposts. Here they were, perfectly turned out, ready made and patterned, but "not for love."32 For he saw clearly that he was in the motherland of dominant women who were making idols of themselves and demanding tribute. Such women were to be worshipped at a distance...

32 R. W. Thompson, Black Caribbean, pp. 50-1.

It might be an American axiom, as Varigny averred in 1889, p. 227

that in the United States woman was queen: she might be "unique," or, as F. Roz expressed it in 1927, "un objet precieux et rare, infiniment recherche," she might be "envied" in England and "revered" on the Continent, as the Nearings maintained in 1912; she might, as Mrs. M. A. Hamilton expressed it when broadcasting from England in 1949 be "the Eighth Wonder of the World," but could she be happy when her men never seemed to grow up ... It was rarely that she lost her patience with the men who failed her. To do so would be undignified, and also it would show that she was at least partially dependent upon men for her own satisfaction. Occasionally, however, it was too much. One day the Baltimore Post carried a story of an incident where three girls offered a man a lift in their automobile. Driving to a quiet spot, they stopped, proposed a "petting party," but found the guest unable or unwilling to gratify them. Stung with contempt and fury, they seized him, stuck pins into him, and left him in such a condition that he to be removed to the nearest hospital.37

37 See Americana , 1926, p. 87; and cf. the American Mercury (March 1926). Another case has recently been reported...

... as Emily Hahn has put it in Seductio ad absurdum, seduction was really the art p. 228

persuading a person to do what he or she really wanted to do all the time.

"Do you think he'll rape us all? How wonderful!" The house broke into applause, and women all round me were clapping and stamping, their eyes bright with anticipation

The question was, did the American woman want anything done to her? Did her position as the dominant sex permit any act of aggression, without some kind of psychelogical conflict ensuing? Certainly, aggression with her consent was difficult. But what about it without her consent? This question always brings to my mind an incident in a theatre I once attended. During one of the scenes in the play, a number of women were together and about to be interviewed viewed by a mysterious man. Much whispering went on in the waiting-room, and then one said in a high-pitched voice, "Do you think he'll rape us all? How wonderful!" The house broke into applause, and women all round me were clapping and stamping, their eyes bright with anticipation. In 1953 the United States Government crime reports show 17,900 cases of rape. How far these were genuine cases of rape with violence on unwilling and resisting victims I do not know, and it does not concern us here.38 What is now of interest to consider is whether or no some American women cherish phantasies of rape, or perhaps it would be better to say of violent love-making, thus relieving themselves of the pretence of dominance, and enjoying what otherwise they would have resisted as being incompatible with their ideas of superiority and moral virtue...

38 Cf. J. A. and R. Goldberg, in Girls of City Streets for an analysis of 1,400 cases of alleged rape. Some time ago the Louisville Times decided to print the names of women who complained of rape in cases where the defendant was found not guilty. It was apparently found necessary to do this as a protection for men against the designs of frustrated and sex-starved women. In 1943 a girl of seventeen complained that she had been raped by twelve men during a cinema performance at the Bronx Opera House, where some time previously a woman had stated she had been raped twenty-five times! p. 229

... one of the main reasons for the violent colour prejudice in the South is due to the fact that the white women are sexually unsatisfied and jealous of the attention that coloured women get from white men, while white men are often jealous of coloured men, since the former labour under the common delusion that people of dark skin colour are more virile, sexually competent[,] and capable of sustained activity than persons of lighter pigmentation. These beliefs permeate the South and have created great trouble, misery and psychological tension. Before the civil war, Southern society, always very different from that of the East, was partly centred upon the position, charm[,] and desirability of women, but the presence of the Negro embittered relations, since the white woman had to be represented as the antithesis of her coloured sister. Young men consorted with black women as a matter of course, and indeed it is said that a Southern jest tells of how men in the South do not know till they marry that they can embrace a white woman. Thus the white woman of the South was supposed to have no desires and no passion. She was a block of ice, a white goddess, pure as the snow and as cold, and any approach was, in a sense, a violation of an ideal, almost sacrilegious... p. 233

... The Negro woman was not only complaisant; she was free from that ever-present sense of guilt and sin which still permeates all American society. Thus she offered a contrast to the white woman of the South, who was thereupon raised on a pinnacle and presented to the world as the perfect example of ice-cold chastity, purity[,] and innocence. The result of this gynaecolatry was (and is still) catastrophic. For the terrible frustration which the Southern woman suffered was turned outward and became aggressive, and her aggression was directed quite simply and naturally against those whom she believed were partly responsible. It is thus that we find that the whole question of colour prejudice in the South revolves around the sexual question. The ever-present thought of rapes; the eternal question as to whether one wants one's daughter to marry a Negro; the marked sadistic elements in certain lynchings; the growing jealousies and rivalries which are beginning to spring up-all these to the student in abnormal psychology are unmistakable pointers towards what J. W. Johnson has called 'the core of the heart of the American race problem.' " ... p. 234

... In the United States female tranquillity is an impossibility. The failure to find the mate she needs is finally accepted, and the domination which was partly the cause of the failure becomes a kind of compensatory device whereby her own self-respect may be maintained. The American Mother becomes "Mom," and takes her place in the p. 235

curious matriarchal set-up of American society, where she reigns supreme ... ... An American girl's bedroom is shown .. .. On the walls are eleven "pin-ups." No, not of boy-friends or actors, says the caption, but of famous pin-up girls. Indeed, it was an all-woman room, and possibly the caption suggests the "forerunner of an all-woman world." ... ... in the Washington Post, Mary Haworth is constantly having to deal with the question of maternal dominance and the adolescent attitude of the married man. On December 20, 1942 she was advising a divorced wife who married one of a mother's five spoilt sons. He proved to be impossible, two of the others died of alcoholism and another committed suicide. Two days later another wife told how her husband wanted to go back to his p. 236

mother, and not live with his wife, as he was the "perfect mama's boy."... ... Dorothy Dix's column told the same story. In 1942 two sisters (age twenty-eight and twenty-three) and their brother (twenty-six) wrote asking advice on how two escape "their mother's tyranny." ... The same year a young woman wrote asking advice on how to deal with mothers who try to prevent their sons from having anything to do with her. She described the maternal barrage of insinuation and abuse, and then remarked that "of course ... Sonny crawls back safely to Mamma and I lose out." In October of the same year Miss Dix had a whole article on the dominating woman. When a man marries, she said, this kind of woman believes he belongs to her "just as much as though he were a slave she had bought in the market-place."

 Men have their wardrobes, their stomachs, their eyes, their tastes and their thoughts taken over by women

As to the children, every symptom of initiative is ruthlessly crushed. "They must always hold on to Mother's hand and be guided by her." They are left in perpetual babyhood even after they have grown up. The divorce courts are filled with their complaints that they aren't pampered "as Mother did." Men have their wardrobes, their stomachs, their eyes, their tastes and their thoughts taken over by women. In 1943 a bewildered wife wrote to Miss Dix asking what was to be done with her mother, who, young, well[,] and strong, insisted on living with her and being supported by her, and at the same time tried to persuade her to leave her husband and child and live with her elsewhere. Finally, in 1943 Miss Dix said in plain words that "thousands upon thousands" of American mothers were wrecking homes because they could not bear the thought of their children's independence. This was what was called "mother love," Miss Dix dryly remarked, but it would be better for the children if it were hate... p. 237

... I have always been amazed at the quantities of alcohol that American men consume preparatory to love-making ... p. 244 ... It must be difficult for many an American man to have a normal spontaneous relation with a woman who has an attitude of cold dominance or of a goddess requiring worship. Sexual satisfaction, therefore, has to be either attained in phantasy or with women to whom sex is a profession and who do not fall within the class of "good" women to which belong the mother, the sister[,] and the wife... p. 245

... As early as 1862 I. J. Benjamin stated that America worships two idols .. Mammon and the female sex ... p. 256 (footnote)

... With feminism triumphant she lost her femininity, and with her femininity her peace of mind.

... With feminism triumphant she lost her femininity, and with her femininity her peace of mind.... p. 257

The main difference between the two great blocs of Englishspeaking people is, I am convinced, the position of women in the two societies. In the one case we have a culture through the development of which feminine influence has become dominant, and through this dominance a kind of infantilism and immaturity is spread among considerable portions of the population. In the other, as among the great Latin peoples, feminine influence is pronounced, but woman has never attempted to usurp the position accepted by man, and thus bring him under her undisputed sway. Such an empire brings neither happiness nor peace of mind to her who rules it and nothing but neurotic restlessness to him who submits. This is one key to the American enigma, and through an understanding of the American woman's place and sexual activities in the industrial society of the United States, the paradoxes and contradictions in American life may become resolved. p. 258

-------------------

SOURCE:

Dingwall, Eric John. The American Woman, Signet Books, New York . 1956, 1957.

 

 

 



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