January 10, 2014

"I am not a passive person, but I chose to fall into a more submissive role in our relationship..."

"... because I wanted to do everything in my power to make my marriage and family work.... The definition I'm using with the word 'submissive' is the biblical definition of that. So, it is meekness, it is not weakness. It is strength under control, it is bridled strength."

Says Candace Cameron Bure, an actress I'd never heard of, who has a book.

This got me trying to remember a trend in the 1970s that took this approach. There was Marabel Morgan's "Total Woman":
The Total Woman sold more than ten million copies and was the bestselling nonfiction book of 1974. Grounded in evangelical Christianity, it taught that "A Total Woman caters to her man's special quirks, whether it be in salads, sex or sports," and is perhaps best remembered for instructing wives to greet their husbands at the front door wearing sexy outfits, or draped in transparent saran wrap, with nothing (but herself) underneath. "It's only when a woman surrenders her life to her husband, reveres and worships him and is willing to serve him, that she becomes really beautiful to him," Morgan wrote.
I think there was another book that was less oriented toward sex, something more like "the surrendered wife," but I see Morgan talked about "surrender" and that there was a book that came out in 2001 called "The Surrendered Wife," which inspired a movement, "The Surrendered Wife movement," if I am to believe Wikipedia.

Here's a 2001 NYT article about "The Surrendered Wife":
Her suggested path back to marital bliss runs suspiciously close to the doormat. ''Instead of throwing out traditional roles, try them on again,'' [the author, Laura] Doyle exhorts in Chapter 13, called ''Abandon the Myth of Equality.''...

[The book] has inspired Surrender Circles around the country where women gather to practice saying, ''Whatever you want, dear'' with a straight face....
Do men really want their wives gathering in circles with other women and chanting "surrender" cant?
Ms. Doyle believes that every decision, from vacations to child care, is an opportunity to make a husband feel more masculine and thus more eager to please. To get hubby to carry packages, a wife should marvel at how big and strong he is. ''This will feel odd -- perhaps even dishonest -- at first,'' writes Ms. Doyle, who actually suggests that women practice covering their mouths with duct tape to curtail the urge to sass....
I love the "at first." If you're bullshitting, at first, you'll feel uncomfortable, even ashamed, but make it a habit, and that old, nagging conscience becomes a thing of the past.
The surrendered wife provides sex on demand (a rather innocuous edict compared with a zestier suggestion in Marabel Morgan's 1973 work, ''The Total Woman,'' which urged wives to greet their husbands naked and wrapped in cellophane). Being available, Ms. Doyle temporizes, ''doesn't mean you don't have to ask for what you want first.''
You've got to give old Marabel Morgan credit for putting an image in our head that we never forget... or remember mostly. Cellophane and Saran Wrap are not the same. You could get more compression with Saran Wrap — more of a Spanx effect — while cellophane would merely be loose, albeit transparent, packaging. But there's no accounting for taste. Try both! Try aluminum foil too. Who knows what household wrap best contains a woman's "zest[]."

By the way, why is sex on demand considered "innocuous" compared to presenting yourself wrapped in Saran on the day of your choosing? Maybe only because sex on demand is a more abstract concept. I think if you go through the effort of picturing it — and what an arduous mental exercise that is! — you'll see that it's "zestier" than the old 1970s Saran Wrap routine.

That's a long digression. You may remember that I was on a search for another 1970s books, something less sex-oriented than "The Total Woman." I ask Meade if he remembers, and he suggests "The Sensuous Woman." No, no, that's more sex-oriented. "Not too long ago only 'bad' girls had a good time in bed. 'Good' girls endured — and wondered what they were missing."

What I am missing is the name of that other 70s book. I Google "counter-feminist books of the 1970s" and get to Wikipedia's "List of feminist literature," which is in chronological order and is very long.

I spot Andrea Dworkin's "Right-Wing Women," from 1983, which probably has the answer I'm looking for, but I'm not seeing it in a searchable form. I searched the NYT for a discussion of Dworkin's book (which I read 20-some years ago), and I found the puzzlingly titled "JOINING HANDS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST PRONORGRAPHY." (The NYT also spells "pornography" correctly many times, but also misspells it as "pornograpy," so I'm just going to guess that the word elicited messiness in the proofreaders.)

That NYT article revisits the old anti-pornography movement, which presented the feminist problem — I remember this so well! — do you want to win a fight that you can only win in alliance with the right wing?
Miss Dworkin said she had never met [Jerry] Falwell, Phyllis Schlafly or any other conservative leaders. ''But more and more right-wing women are coming to hear me speak,'' she said. ''They keep reading in the papers that they're on our side, and I'm having the most interesting conversations I've ever had in my life with them. I don't ask women to pass a political litmus test to talk to me.''

While many feminists disavow Miss Dworkin and her work, she, in turn, is critical of what she calls ''organized feminism'' for not taking a stronger stand against pornography. ''The National Organization for Women is incredibly cowardly and timid on the issue,'' she said, ''because they don't want to alienate their liberal supporters.''
Now, I've dragged you into the 80s, but the 80s grew out of the 70s, and there was an interesting interplay between feminism and the answers to feminism, especially in the way the more radical feminists diverged from liberal feminists of the NOW ilk and found fellowship with the right-wing women. But this is only a blog post, and we can't go down all these roads. I've already gone too far, I didn't find what I was looking for, so I'm stopping now, and I'll update if anyone reminds me what's that book from 4 decades ago.

UPDATE: A reader emails the name of the book I was trying to remember: "Fascinating Womanhood."
The first step to a happy marriage is to understand that all life is governed by law--nature, music, art, and all of the sciences. These laws are immutable. To live in harmony with them produces health, beauty, and the abundant life....
The art of awakening a man's love is not a difficult accomplishment for women because it is based on our natural instincts. However, in our highly civilized life many of our natural instincts have become rusty due to lack of use. You need only to awaken the traits which belong to you by nature....

The study centers around the ideal woman, from a man's point of view, the kind of woman who awakens a man's deepest feelings of love... The role of a woman when played correctly is fulfilling, fascinating, and full of intrigue...


betamax3000 said...

Admit it, Althouse: This Post is in Response to the Mannequins.

Fen said...

As more and more men opt out of marriage and society in general, you will see more of this - feminism tossed to the side of the road as more and more women contemplate a life alone with 6 cats.

Fen said...

I lose 5 points for abusing the word "more"

Abdul Abulbul Amir said...

This is so stupid. A successful marriage has both spouses surrender to each other. Marriage is about sharing and commitment , not a power structure.

Beth said...

Gabby Reese a professional athlete, wife and mother, also wrote about being submission to her pro-surfer husband in a similar manner and caught a lot of flack for it.


Johanna Lapp said...

You've never seen Full House, America's finest television program ever? Candace Cameron was oldest sister D.J. Tanner.

CatherineM said...

Candace Cameron was a child actress in the 1980s/90s on Full House with the Olsen twins. Her Brother Kirk was on the show with Alan Thicke as the dad. Both Kirk and Candace became committed born again Christians.

madAsHell said...

caught a lot of flack for it.

Kiss-n-tell allows others to judge.

Lyssa said...

I read a lot of people talk about these "submissive wife" relationships, but I guess I still never understand what they mean in practice. I agree with Abdul - both spouses must surrender to each other. A wife, as well as a husband, should make efforts to make the other feel good, strong, needed, cater to his or her desires, etc.

But the surrender of the wife - how does that play out? If the wife wants to go out with her friends Friday night, but the husband would rather her not (assume there are no childcare concerns or other responsibilities) does he get a veto? Does she, if he wants to go with his friends another night? If the wife's doctor recommends a medical procedure and she agrees with the doctor that it's best, but the husband does not, does is it the husband's call?

Those are where I would start having a problem. But for many or most decisions that impact the family, they should be family decisions.

CatherineM said...

Ann- it's weird you brought up the cellophane thing. I was a baby when that book came out, but as a tween I started reading adult paperbacks sold in Walgreens and I remember so many times reading about women greeting their husband at the door wrapped in cellophane and holding a martini. So weird. I think an Art Linklater book had a joke about the wife opening the door that way and the husband had a a co-worker with him. OOPS!

SOJO said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BDNYC said...

Stephanie used to be the hot one, but then she got into drugs. D.J. was overweight and awkward as a teen but has grown into an attractive woman. I suspect she got some plastic surgery because her face looks very different now.

Her brother is a bit loony.

rhhardin said...

Feminism is about whether nagging can be institutionalized, or does it have to be done in person.

Bob Ellison said...

Glad Press 'n' Seal is the way to go.

CB9 said...

I am of the mind that in good marriages, spouses complement each other, which is, I think, an old fashioned belief. A woman who is always acquiescing to her husband does not complement or complete her husband, but merely echoes, and is not offering her best self to the relationship.

From the movie, Rocky:

Paulie: [about Adrian] What's the story? What's happenin'? Ya really like her?
Rocky: Sure, I like her.
Paulie: I don't see it. What's the attraction?
Rocky: I don't know. Fills gaps, I guess.
Paulie: What's 'gaps'?
Rocky: I dunno, gaps. She's got gaps, I got gaps. Together, we fill gaps. I dunno.

Lyssa said...

I'm surprised that people seem to think that she was awkward and overweight as a teen - I was a few years younger than her character when Full House was on, and considered DJ to be my absolute style icon. I spent hours teasing my bangs trying to get them just like hers.

Ah, that late 80's/early 90's style.

Bob Boyd said...

I watched that Simon Baron-Cohen video you posted. Seems like it has some bearing on this topic.
If women (on average) have the greater ability to read their partner's emotional ques and adjust accordingly then they have a lot of potential power in a relationship. Especially if the man is just basically trying to eliminate variables and understand the system. This works, that doesn't, I'll do this.

Inga said...

The name of the book was "I was an abused wife and how I learned to love it".

By B. Tendaily.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I think there was another book that was less oriented toward sex...

You're thinking of the Bible.

Salamandyr said...

I have no particular beef for or against the "surrendered wife" movement. I figure most people wind up in the relationship they really want.

It just occurs to me that a lot of people outraged by women "surrendering" would probably celebrate a man coming out publicly stating his "submission" to his wife.

Just about every relationship related image macro I see on Facebook boils down to that...A good man is one whose entire life is committed to keeping his female mate happy, fulfilled, and empowered. In the several years I've had an account, I don't believe I've ever seen a single image macro posted that talked about what a "real woman" is responsible for.

Michael said...

These intellectual women!! Feeling this and caring that. Why didn't they just invent something? Or build something? Think of all the things that have been introduced into modern life by men during the time women have been thinking about feeling and about relationships? Hybrid cars, solar panels, decent running shoes, micro chips, laptops, wide screen t.v.s, Spotify, Warby Parker, the iPhone and iPad and iPod, the thumb drive. Not one fucking thing other than Spanx has been invented by a woman during all the years of this handwringing and feeling and worry about relationships. Get with it, girls.

Carol said...

I remember my parent trying to be submissive to her second husband, by sitting at his knee. That was a thing back in the early part of the 20th. You sat at the guy's knee, and looked into his eyes imploringly: What can I do for you?

But I would think this would backfire, and the wife would seem like a burden and a bore. They broke up after a couple years. I think there needs to be a constant equilibrium, or the partner who feels more powerful will exploit the situation. It's only human nature.

Shouting Thomas said...

Any human who pays the slightest bit of attention to politics in her intimate life deserves precisely what she gets, which is misery.

Got to church. Pay attention to the elders. Do as humans have done for generations.

Forget this stupid shit that Althouse wallows in. Let her prove great intellectual things with who and how she fucks. Be happy taking care of your basic human needs in the way that thousands of generations of humans have done.

Ignore feminism. Ignore lawyers. Althouse is welcome to this blithering idiocy. Feminism and lawyers are things we pay attention to when the oppressor (like Althouse) finds a way to push her way into our living rooms and bedrooms. Submit to the intellectual morons only when you must to avoid being dragged off to re-education camp.

Fritz said...

"I love the "at first." If you're bullshitting, at first, you'll feel uncomfortable, even ashamed, but make it a habit, and that old, nagging conscience becomes a thing of the past. "

IIRC, you extolled "Fake it 'til you make it" in the context of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe.

Larry J said...


There are some people, not all of them women by any means, who apparently believe in magic. By that, I mean what Arthur C. Clarke said when "Any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic."

They flip a switch and the light comes one. Magic! They either don't know or don't appreciate how many people (almost all men) who work to make that happen. If they're uncomfortable, they adjust the thermostat and the room gets hotter or warmer. Magic! They go to the grocery store or restaurant and find food. Magic! They don't know or understand how many people (mostly men) who worked to raise, harvest, process, deliver and in many cases cook that food. They want food, they buy food as if by magic. Spread that across all of the things we take for granted and it all seems magical.

Some women who live in the world of magic write or read books like "The End of Men" with satisfaction. They don't realize that without men, they would literally die hungry, thirsty and cold in the dark. To them, writing a silly article for Time magazine counts as a significant achievement. At least a few women like Camille Paglia get it.

supplementalsecurity said...

You may be thinking of Fascinating Womanhood.

Renee said...

""the surrendered wife,"

I remember the media reporting that book, it maybe good advice for a woman who tends to be a bit of a 'nag'.

It was a really strange example of a husband missing an exit, and the wife saying nothing.

Poor analogy, because who wouldn't want a spouse to speak up at that point.

As a spouse, you do not be a nit-pick about everything. But spouses always listen to each other. Always. We doesn't have to agree, but we listen thoughtfully.


I like Pope Francis advice in 'surrendering'for everyone in the family.

"Pope Francis then repeated one of his oft-used instructions on family life. “Remember the three key phrases: excuse me, thank you, I’m sorry!” he exhorted the crowds, who cheered in response.

In a family that uses these words, “there is peace and joy,” he assured them.

Carnifex said...

I read on some anti-man femm post about how all sex was rape, and that men and we-men or whatever they call themselves couldn't be equal because of this and the solution was to become carpet munchers.


I feel about that like I do about the total subjagation of my spouse to my wishes too.


lemmee know how that works out for you people.

I'll be easy to find...I'm here with my partner

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

This is bigger than there's time or space for on Althouse, but we're talking bible interpretation here and I'll attempt to provide some clarity.

The passage is question is from Ephesians, and the typical English translation commits one egregious error which confuses the entire discussion: it places an artificial break between Eph 5:21 and 5:22. It's not there in the original, which reads (in the original Greek) ... Submit to each other out of reverence for Christ, for example wives submit to your husbands, as to the Lord. Then a few verses later ... And you husbands, love your wives the same way Christ loved the church, by personal sacrifice for her.

Can you sense the mutuality there? It it even more evident when you understand that the Greek word translated "submit" ύποτασσω (hupotasso) is primarily a military term for "arrange yourselves in formation" or "fall in". Non-military usages included the harmony of oxen in a team or voluntary cooperation, giving in, carrying a burden, or assuming responsibility.

That a quartet takes its time from the violinist says nothing about the value or roles of the other musicians. That's "hupotasso" and the Bible is very clear about its voluntary nature.

As a Christian husband I actually find my requirement to be the more difficult of the two. I'm not very good at imitating Christ himself, and when I'm not both my wife and our marriage suffer as a result.

Mike said...

Bart, thank you for clarifying the biblical origin of the "submission" concept. I'll take it a step further. Candace is talking specifically about a "Christ-centered" marriage in which both spouses are Christian in the classical sense of the term. That is, they both orient themselves toward God's will, with (as Bart noted) the man responsible for being Christ-like and assuming the role of spiritual leader for the household.

Within that Christ-centered marriage, as the man follows in Christ's footsteps, so the wife follows his example and submits to his will, as the man surrenders his will to God the Holy Spirit dwells in the man.

Paul also provides instruction to men and women who are "unequally yoked" -- married to a non-Christian. Again the Christian spouse has the responsibility, whether a he or a she, to align their will with God's will and set an example for the spouse.

Unlike the cartoonish or cavemanish scenarios non-Bible believing people create once they seize on the word "submission" and misinterpret it, real Christianity is full of nuance and presents a rich vocabulary that is difficult for outsiders to understand without a Biblical foundation for interpretting the Old Book's terms into modern language.

Ignorance is what presently informs most public debates about these concepts.

Paul Zrimsek said...

The best thing in the NYT article was the constant repetition of "Miss Dworkin". Thank Mr. God for the rigidity of the Times stylebook!

Jason said...

Wow. Ann can go into so much detail about the intellectual history of feminism - its authors, books, counter-feminism ideas.

But when it comes to straightforward Christian ideas that have been around for centuries, and which have been the underpinning of western civ for the last 2000 years, it just doesn't register. It's as if her education started with Susan B. Anthony.


Jason said...

Bart has it right. The feminists might as well be barking at the moon for all they understand the topic.

When pressed to explain it, I encourage people to think of the term "husband" as a verb, and extending it slightly, to think of the term "shepherd" as a verb.

This is servant leadership, and Christ set the example by going even so far as to lay down his life for the flock.

Ladies, you find someone like that, don't listen to the femtards. Make a home with him, and let him be your husband, shepherd and protector. You win at life.

Joe said...

Bart and Mike explained the context quite well. The problem is that feminists see EVERYTHING as a zero-sum power struggle; that is how they perceive men. And completely misunderstand the world.

For most men, power and dominance is a very fluid thing. The boss at work may be a willing subordinate on the softball team, not out of some Machiavellian reason, but because he knows that's the best thing for the team or simply wants to NOT be the boss sometimes.

Jessica said...

I think some of these "surrender" gestures come from a conciousness that our society has gone too far in the direction of deifying women. In most marriages I observe, the woman sets the tone. Her choices (note that she has choices) are beyond reproach. Her work within the relationship is seen as incredible sacrifice. If the man asks more of her, or criticizes her, he is seen as piggish and unappreciative, no matter how inequitable their split of duties.

I've posted on here before about my husband and I's traditional split of duties. The strangest thing to me is that even people who know he typically works 50-60 hours a week and that I don't work outside the home at all will accuse him of chauvinism when he says it's part of my job to have dinner ready most nights.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

It is by no means a question of "power and dominance" in fact Christian husbands are specifically enjoined from "lording it over your wives".

Let us continue with the basics. Hupotasso has nothing to do with dominance or subjugation, both of which are different words in Greek.

Hupotasso is very much about "get in time with" your husband, or the violinist. If two horses saw back and forth on the hitch the move nothing. If they both pull forward and are not in time with each other they are terribly inefficient.

Two horses pulling in time can move 40% more than twice one horse. THAT is "hupotasso" and only a dysfunctional or insane woman would not want that in her marriage. Ephesians tells Christians the best way to make that happen quickly and easily.

paul a'barge said...


Freeman Hunt said...

This seems like shooting for something and missing.

I have no opinion on other people doing this beyond that.

Freeman Hunt said...

Maybe this is more about people expressing counterwill against what they perceive to be hurting families. More like, "We're going to be the total opposite of what we think you are! So there!"

Or maybe it's like young earth creationism.

Freeman Hunt said...

Food wraps don't seem very sexy. They remind one of leftovers or pasta salads or butcher counters. Saran Wrap makes horrible squeak sounds under normal circumstances. Imagine the plastic screeching if someone were walking around wearing it!

Freeman Hunt said...

I think it's a good idea to marry someone with a personality as strong as one's own. Otherwise, the weaker personality is likely to become a doormat and full of resentment clothed in martyrdom, and the stronger personality is likely to become a tyrant and despise the weaker.

Jamie McArdle said...

There was an old movie, "If A Man Answers," that speaks to this point a bit, I think. In it, a wife approaches her mother to say that her marriage is unhappy, and the mother gives the daughter a book about training dogs. The wife follows the book's advice, attempting to train her husband the way a dog is trained, and then at the end of the movie she realizes that what she's actually been doing is training herself: she has become more consistent, more understanding of why he does things, more clear in her communication of what she wants, all that stuff.

So, to apply all this to the modern couple in which the wife actually does want her husband to do "manly" things like lifting heavy objects and fixing things that she may not know how to or have the physical ability to fix, is it a terrible thing to compliment him on the traits he actually does have that she does not? I mean, just because she's been taking them for granted all these years doesn't mean she can't wake the heck up and see that yes, he actually IS strong; yes, he actually CAN install a light switch or a ceiling fan; or whatever else.

I say this as the wife with the power tools; my husband's wheelhouse includes household finances and intelligent, measured decisions where our children are concerned, and the day I realized that I didn't have to compete with him on these grounds, but rather ought to celebrate his abilities and be glad and grateful that he brings them to our joint table, was a happy one indeed for our family.

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