Fascinating Womanhood: How the Ideal Woman Awakens a Man's Deepest Love and Tenderness by Helen Andelin to myself and two of my sisters-in-law for Christmas. (Probably because not a one of us is a shining example of femininity.) I have a love-hate relationship with this book. There are some great insights and wisdom found in these pages. There are also some things that if a person said this to me they would have unleashed some wicked fury.
This book was originally written in the 1970's, when the feminist movement was really becoming big in America. When the media was saying that women needed to be liberated, Andelin glorified the beauty of and embraced the traditional role of wife and mother. (And it really infuriated the feminists.)
I think the thing that I love most about this book is the quote from the author on the back. "A loving marriage is the foundation of a happy family, and a happy family the foundation of a stable society. Most of the problems in this world stem from troubled homes. If we are to have peace in the world, we must begin at home." Yes! Now that is sound advice.
According to the author, the ideal woman (from a man's point of view) has the following qualities: she understands men, has inner happiness, has a worthy character, is a domestic goddess, is feminine, radiates happiness, has radiant health and is childlike (not childish). I can more or less buy that, and through the book she explains how to gain these qualities.
I found the part about understanding men very interesting. She explains why you can't change a man and trying to do so is futile. A man needs to feel accepted by the woman he loves, his home a place where he can feel secure. If this happens he will love her more. Sure, a man has faults, but so does every woman, he doesn't want you to point them out. If you try to change him, he will only get defensive. Appreciate what is good in him and you are more likely to bring out his better qualities. In this section I also read many things that made me realize so that's exactly why Mr. & Mrs. X are so very unhappy. And there were a couple things that I have been doing right and it explained why they work. Good to know.
I liked that she strongly encourages women to improve themselves, and not just in ways that are obviously for pleasing their men. Women need to have self-control, unselfishness, charity, humility, diligence, patience, moral courage, and honesty. They need to get enough sleep, exercise, eat properly, drink lots of water, take time to relax and have a healthy mental attitude. They should keep up on current events and spend time reading good books. They should find joy in the small and simple things in life. However, these things do aid to make a woman fascinating to a man. Every woman can improve in at least one of these areas.
Now for the things I didn't like about this book. In fact these quotes made me so angry that I highlighted them in my book. I never do that. "If chivalry is dead, women have killed it. They have killed it by becoming capable, efficient and independent..." Ok, I think that I could rant for a long time about why I have issues with that statement, but I'll sum it up in two points. 1) A man should be chivalrous because it is a reflection of his own character, not because of any quality or lack thereof in a woman that he should be courteous to. 2)What in the world is wrong with being capable and efficient? Is it better to be incapable and inefficient? 'Oh help, I am a woman and can do nothing in a satisfactory manner. As I am now so crippled in all facets of my being you should now love me and put me on a pedestal.' Um, no.
"A man's feeling of worth can be undermined when he sees women in the workforce doing a better job than he, advancing to a higher position, or earning more pay." If he were a real man, he'd grow a back bone and get over it. Does a man really feel less about himself when he sees someone else doing well? He should either be content with his efforts or try to improve. There are lots of men and women out there who are better at or have more of a lot of things than myself, but that is not a reflection of me, my abilities or my worth as a person. Comparing yourself to other people will only make you unhappy.
Throughout the book she also talks about the importance of a woman staying at home with her children. That is a woman's place and not elsewhere. And she gives many arguments that we've all heard before. Now I agree that it is important for a woman to be at home with her kids, especially when they are young. And I do believe that the job of mother is the most important that a woman can have, however that doesn't mean that other jobs that she may have are so unimportant that they can be ignored. What would happen if I and every other mother that I worked with stopped working in the hospital? On the unit that I work on there would be a few single secretaries, one single nurse on days and a couple of men who work nights. Many units would have to shut down entirely. Who would be there to care for sick children? Who would be there to assist women in labor, or care for them after delivery? Who would care for every other person who is in the hospital? Not nearly enough people I can promise you that. Yes, my job as a mother is priority, but that doesn't mean that my other job lacks value and importance. And there are many other jobs that are also of great importance.
I also detested many of the testimonials that are given throughout the book. If my husband started kissing my feet and saying silly sappy things, I would think he had hit his head or been possessed by aliens or something. It gives numerous examples of husbands who did things that a woman shouldn't put up with, but they just started applying the principles of FW and now everything is bliss. Really? Gag. Some women need to grow some back bones too, or tune into reality. And the book is very much in love with itself. 'Fascinating Womanhood can save any marriage'. Hardly.
Having said all of that, I still think that it was worth the read. There are many principles here that if applied can improve your marriage and your life in general. However, some of the advice must be taken with a grain of salt.