August
31st 2009
Who wants romantic advice from a two-time Stepford loser?

Posted under: art, Gender, unhappy endings, women's history

stepford2

Surrender, Dorothy!

Via Phila posting at Echidne, here’s a priceless bit of auto-humiliation by novelist Fay Weldon, who has lots of advice for us straight girls on how to live a happy life with a man:

She says, for instance, that there are some things that women should simply not try to get men to do – such as make coffee, pick up their socks or clean the loo.

The 77-year- old author – best known for The Life and Loves of a She-Devil – also criticises the strident approach of early feminism for encouraging women to believe that all men were stupid and useless.  [Ed. note:  I think the belief that "that all men are stupid and useless" is actually the philosophy of modern conservativism, not feminism--but Weldon ain't an intellectual historian, is she?]

.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .      

‘At work, gender should not come into it. Women are right to refuse to make the coffee, but when you get home I’m afraid you have to make the coffee.

‘It’s such a waste of time trying to tell your husband to pick up the socks or clean the loo. It’s much easier just to do it yourself.’

.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .      

She did, however, have a warning for working women, saying: ‘They (men) just don’t want to commit to you, and why would they when you are a busy working woman who can look after yourself and probably goes to bed easily with them?’

.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .      

‘The thing is, you need to find a man who is cleverer than you, or at least not let him know that you are cleverer than him,’ she said.

‘Women want boyfriends to be like their girlfriends, fun to go to the pictures with, but men are not like that. They want sex and they grunt. If you really want a man to be nice to you, never give him a hard time, never talk about emotions and never ask him how he is feeling.’

She also said women should have babies early, then go out to work, and suggested they should be less picky in the search for a partner.

‘As long as you have a sort of semi-good looking, able-bodied, intelligent man, you should have his baby,’ she said.
.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .      

She once told women not to expect orgasms but to fake them and still praise their lover.

Excuse me:  who’s hating on the menz here?  Feminists who think that men are people too, with a wide range of talents, skills, and interests, or the woman who patronizes them as incapable of more than having sex and grunting, and who encourages the outright deceit and manipulation of men?  I don’t know about Weldon, but I and my feminist friends–women and men alike–have much higher standards.  (And, what’s with the ableism, with the “able-bodied” comment?  What a jerk.)stepfordwife

For me, these were the funniest parts of the whole interview:  “More recently she said the problem with most feminists was that they were so boring.”  And retro-Stepford Wifeism is so. . . not boring?  And get this:  Weldon is “a mother of four boys who has been married three times.”  Awesome!  And so sad (and sadly predictable), that she and the Daily Mail think that it’s newsworthy for a twice-divorced person to be dishing out advice to women about how to do heterosexuality successfully.  Here’s a pathetic detail from her Wikipedia biography:  “During her marriage to Ron Weldon, the couple visited therapists regularly. They divorced in 1994, after he left her for his astrological therapist who had told him that the couple’s astrological signs were incompatible.”  That’s almost as funny as “Dr.” Laura Schlessinger continuing to lecture and scold after her bare-nekkid adulterous amateur pr0n photos were published.

I’m sorry that Weldon believes she has to take on the role of the smiling drudge in order to stay married, but that’s her choice, not feminism’s fault.  As Phila says,

Feminism is admirable to the extent that it has allowed Fay Weldon to speak frankly about sex without being ducked in the nearest pond. But when it runs up against biological determinism, male privilege, and the basic assumptions of capitalism…well, it’s time to step away from the abyss, and return to First Principles.

Well, it’s been a bang-up business for Katie Roiphe, Rebecca Walker, and so many other younger writers–can you blame Weldon for trying to sell her latest book this way?  I’ll let Phila have the last word here:

One thing that’s especially irksome about all this is that Weldon is not just spouting regressive nonsense out of spite, but also deploying it as a promotional tactic, for reasons that have as much to do with the structure of British journalism as with her own psychological difficulties with the basic demands of feminism. Like many people who share her ideas, she’s using a powerful and essentially sympathetic cultural apparatus to advance her “daring” views, and thus to increase her own visibility relative to other novelists, while ignoring the role that this very apparatus, and the machinations of people like her, play in the formation and reinforcement of regressive attitudes. It takes a huge amount of contrivance and artificiality to portray this as authentic communication, just as it does to portray men who “want sex and grunt,” and women who clean up after them with a light heart, as authentic men and women.

I’m glad I don’t live in Fay Weldon’s world.

32 Comments »

32 Responses to “Who wants romantic advice from a two-time Stepford loser?”

  1. Clio Bluestocking on 31 Aug 2009 at 6:41 am #

    Weldon (and her ilk) are so out there that I wonder if they are actually writing satire. She didn’t originally write that piece for The Onion did she?

  2. Susan on 31 Aug 2009 at 7:19 am #

    What I always wonder is why anyone takes this stuff seriously. And should we? (Oh, I know why we should, but really, I don’t like giving it more time than it deserves.)

  3. Anonymous on 31 Aug 2009 at 7:25 am #

    Yep, it appears that Weldon is a man-hating non-feminist. For any single women out there, here is some counter advice from a single man, as Weldon’s advice seems to be a sure-fire strategy to get screwed (over).

    - Clever women are sexy. In fact, clever women are DAMN sexy. If you got brains, flaunt em. A good intellectual stramash makes for wonderful foreplay. But be careful, if the winner gets to be on top, he may end up throwing the argument. Weldon is right about one thing. He DOES want sex.

    - Do not fake orgasms. If you go down that road you will not have real ones. DO coach your BF. If he is worth it, he already knows two things. (1) Ideally, he should not be concerned with himself until he has seen the whites of your eyes. (2) An orgasm for you also makes it ten times better for him. Be aware of the fact that he may need some help making this happen.

    - If you want coffee, you should make it. If he wants coffee enough, he will make it. If he is not a coffee drinker, but he is making breakfast in bed, he will make it.

    - By all means, ask him how he is feeling, but choose your moments. If you have any thoughts about having his baby, you had better start asking him about his emotions. That costs you nothing, unlike marriages and divorce lawyers.

  4. Anastasia on 31 Aug 2009 at 7:54 am #

    “- If you want coffee, you should make it. If he wants coffee enough, he will make.”

    we could expand this into a general housework principle: If it’s bothering you, you clean it up.

  5. Janice on 31 Aug 2009 at 9:01 am #

    It’s a pity. I’ve loved some of Weldon’s work (her screenplay adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” is still the best out there for retaining Austen’s sparkling wit). But this kind of faux-transgressive anti-woman bitchiness does nothing but sadden me — how pathetic she must feel to spend so much time lashing out at others.

  6. Historiann on 31 Aug 2009 at 9:03 am #

    Susan wrote, What I always wonder is why anyone takes this stuff seriously. And should we?

    Great question. I thought before writing this up, but then I thought: What would happen if a person of color told other people of color to give up on fighting racism? What if ze said, “It’s such a waste of time trying to tell your white acquaintances to check their privilege. It’s much easier just to shut up and smile when someone assumes you’re the housekeeper or the gardener because you’re Latin@ or African American.” What if ze advised people of color to make sure not to look “cleverer” than their white friends?

    What other social justice movement is expected to apologize and compensate for the hostility of those on the other side?

  7. GayProf on 31 Aug 2009 at 9:19 am #

    Well, that was disappointing.

  8. John S. on 31 Aug 2009 at 9:20 am #

    I am not sure why Weldon thinks that reasonably clever men and women can’t actually negotiate the housework they do. (Maybe if all the husbands are cleverer they always win? I don’t know.) I can say that Professor Mrs. John S. and I have a firmly negotiated housework arrangement which does allocate somewhat more tasks for her. But: the whole arrangement is premised on the fact that she never, ever, *ever* cleans a loo (or the catbox) as long as we are married. Hasn’t in the 13 years we’ve been together and isn’t about to start now, that’s for sure.

    (And as for coffee–given that we are both caffeine addicts, I don’t know which one of us is more likely to go for the “score” each morning.)

  9. perpetua on 31 Aug 2009 at 9:21 am #

    What I *do* like about Weldon’s piece is that it demonstrates how demeaning patriarchy is for everyone, even though many men obviously benefit from it. We need to take Weldon’s piece seriously because her advice is enacted in large ways and small in most marriages in the US, in gender dynamics from the earliest age. (Just yesterday I had to sit and listen to two mothers gushing on about how it’s obviously “natural” for boys to be drawn to trucks the ways girls are “naturally” drawn to dolls. And so it begins.) Even though the ways Weldon writes sounds like ready made satire, women really are socialized to behave this way, and they do, even many smart successful women. I know a lot of relationships where the men take little interest in childrearing/ household, and the wives silently do all the work while amongst their friends rolling their eyes about how stupid and useless men are. This a less flamboyant version of what Weldon is espousing. Is this a system that respects women or men? It makes me so frustrated and sad by how little traction has been gained by the argument that feminism is about the liberation of BOTH (or all, if we think about intersex people) sexes from gender norms and restrictions through creating true equality.

  10. squadratomagico on 31 Aug 2009 at 9:23 am #

    The Stepford Wives had to be turned into animatronic robots before they could functionally maintain that kind of relationship with their men. I wonder if anyone intelligent enough to actually think about gender issues and relationships between the sexes at this level, could suppress that intelligence sufficiently to carry out this kind of lifelong, manipulative set of tactics with an intimate partner? That takes a helluva lot of discipline.

  11. Kathleen Lowrey on 31 Aug 2009 at 10:19 am #

    Fay Weldon’s reactionary message makes me mad, of course, as a feminist. But thinking about her as a person sitting down to write it makes me sad. It’s so “abandon all hope ye women who enter heterosexuality”. What if she really has had a set of life experiences such that she believes all that stuff in her heart? What a bummer, ya know?

  12. perpetua on 31 Aug 2009 at 10:27 am #

    @ Kathleen – you know, I never thought of it that way, but I completely agree. If I hadn’t thought there was hope for a fully equal partnership founded on respect and admiration I would have been full of despair. (And like many of ya’ll, I’ve actually found said heterosexual partnership, with a husband who scrubs the kitchen floor on his hands and knees, in addition to his many other wonderful qualities.)

  13. Kathleen Lowrey on 31 Aug 2009 at 11:23 am #

    well, I don’t mean it in quite such a (potentially) victim-blaming way. I don’t know much about Fay Weldon, but I think it’s mean to call her a “two time loser” because she’s been divorced twice. I more mean, I think a lot of adults have had utterly crap experiences with heterosexuality. I feel pretty sure the answer is more feminism, not less feminism, and so as a feminist when I see these messages about “less feminism is the answer!” I just think, gaaaaaaahhhhh. But what makes me sad is the genuine pain behind the idea that “you’ve just got to accept that men don’t really like you & wish you would shut up when you talk to them”, like, somebody has cried some real tears to end up feeling that that is the way of the world.

  14. cgeye on 31 Aug 2009 at 11:43 am #

    This is so sad to see. This from the broad who wrote SHE-DEVIL? Now that was a cri de coeur about patriarchy, feminism and its complaints, and it didn’t back down one inch.

    Man, could someone check her brain chemicals? WTHF?

    Please please please PLEASE tell me this is Swift-level satire? Please?

  15. Historiann on 31 Aug 2009 at 12:07 pm #

    Kathleen–I wouldn’t have called her a “two-time loser” for having two divorces if she didn’t have the gall to dispense all kinds of obnoxious advice to other women. Some of my best friends are divorced, and some of them have been divorced more than once. But, they don’t give interviews in major newspapers telling everyone else how to run their personal lives!

    Maybe two-time loser is mean. But, I think telling young women to give up and “settle” for a lout is pretty darn mean, too. “Because I never managed to have a happy companionate marriage, it must be impossible, or at least I don’t want to think about what I could have done differently with my life, so nuts to the lot of you.” That seems to be Weldon’s attitude. (To which she is entitled–but I really like Phila’s parting shot about the toolish usefulness of her comments to a powerful institution that likes to proclaim over and over and over again how dead is feminism.)

  16. Historiann on 31 Aug 2009 at 12:13 pm #

    Oh, and I liked this from Perpetua: Weldon’s article “demonstrates how demeaning patriarchy is for everyone, even though many men obviously benefit from it.

    Yes. There might be some “grunters” who would enjoy that kind of relationship on a long-term basis, but really–that’s got to be a minority of men.

    And cgeye–I wish this were Swiftian satire, but you know–I’ve found that most antifeminists are totally humorless and probably are incapable of such cleverness.

  17. Kathleen Lowrey on 31 Aug 2009 at 12:33 pm #

    No, you’re right, maybe I am just feeling excessively tragique today: first day of classes and all that ;) It’s definitely hard to sustain the empathetic “who needs a hug?” attitude toward people hurling nunchuks — I feel this way about a lot of the right generally. They *do* need a hug and they make it impossible to give them one.

  18. Historiann on 31 Aug 2009 at 12:43 pm #

    Weldon, presumably, can get her hugs from her third husband. Oh, wait–maybe she can’t, since she said that “If you really want a man to be nice to you, never give him a hard time, never talk about emotions and never ask him how he is feeling.” So, her definition of “nice” is not getting beat up, or what?

  19. Poe on 31 Aug 2009 at 4:04 pm #

    I must admit that I am shocked. If I remember correctly, Weldon wrote one of my all-time favorite books, _Letters to Alice upon First Reading Jane Austen_, which I read in high school. I remember it as a very feminist book – I especially remember the narrator’s urging her niece (the eponymous Alice) to take Mrs. Bennett in _Pride and Prejudice_ seriously, since her concern with getting a husband were the necessary result of that society’s gendered hierarchy and class system. I just hope that this interview is one big satirical put-on.

  20. Another Damned Medievalist on 31 Aug 2009 at 5:00 pm #

    OTOH, I *have* been dumped for being smarter …

  21. Notorious Ph.D. on 31 Aug 2009 at 5:22 pm #

    You know, I have never once referred to men as “stupid and useless.” But Fay’s own statements may have just changed my mind on that.

  22. squadratomagico on 31 Aug 2009 at 5:33 pm #

    Kathleen, thanks for brightening my day! I love your statement here:

    I feel this way about a lot of the right generally. They *do* need a hug and they make it impossible to give them one.

    So absolutely true!

  23. Comrade PhysioProf on 31 Aug 2009 at 6:57 pm #

    I’m glad I never even heard of this Weldon fuckwad before.

  24. Brian on 01 Sep 2009 at 3:22 am #

    Just think of the consequences for gay & lesbian couples. The lesbians are going to be running around completely over caffeinated and we men will be forever tired and grumpy waiting for someone to make the damn coffee.

  25. Feminist Avatar on 01 Sep 2009 at 4:35 am #

    The Daily Mail tho’ has a tendency to a)take a writer’s novel and claim it is their ‘true life’ experience, thus making said person look insane, and b) just make up interviews with people, say what they want to match their extremely anti-woman agenda, and pretend it was all real.

    There is the instance where a woman wrote a NOVEL about women who go on holiday for cheap sex, which was turned into a real life story, much to the author’s dismay.

    There was also the time they interviewed three career women with kids about their experiences, and said that the women said they couldn’t have it all, everybody suffered, especially the kids, and they were miserable. They got sued for this one and lost big time- they claimed it was an editorial error (making up quotes is an editorial error?).

    But ultimately, controversy means more readers, more links, more money in advertising, etc, etc. So, if this doesn’t sound like Fay Wheldon, there is every chance she didn’t say it.

  26. Feminist Avatar on 01 Sep 2009 at 4:38 am #

    Er, that should be ‘interviewed’ three career women…

    Plus, I should add, lawsuits for writing nonsense is an expected and calculated expense in British journalism- it’s part of the game. Can a dody headline sell more than you’ll lose at court? Of course, because you can then cover the court case as well and make money from it.

  27. Leila on 01 Sep 2009 at 5:55 am #

    Sigh. Reading stuff like this makes me incredibly grateful for my upbringing (my mum, really). SO many of the ‘debates’ over feminism I got into at uni devolved into this rubbish… presented as ‘empowered’ views of the students around me. I keep trying to hope this sort of stuff is atypical, and then I go have a conversation and realise that a frightening amount of women my age (24) wouldn’t actually be able to see what’s wrong with Weldon’s approach here.

  28. Paul on 01 Sep 2009 at 6:05 am #

    I would agree that the attitude toward men is somewhat insulting, but I’m a little confused by the comment that “all men are useless is the philosophy of modern conservativism [sic?]“.

  29. Historiann on 01 Sep 2009 at 8:22 am #

    Paul, “all men are stupid and useless” is in fact foundational to modern conservativism, if we read “men” as an ungendered stand-in for “humans” or “people.” (Which of course most conservatives would agree with, since they tend not to go for feminist analyses of language, history, or really anything.)

    Classical liberals believe that humans are perfectable and can learn and grow, whereas conservatives believe that that’s tragically naive. Conservatives believe that “all men are stupid,” unperfectable, ineducable, and therefore great caution must be exercised to ensure that the hoi polloi don’t acutally exercise much influence let alone direct control in a democratic republic. (Better yet, because of man’s essentially “stupid and useless” nature, go for an authoritarian system or perhaps enlightened despotism. At least that’s what conservatives would say.)

  30. Kathleen Lowrey on 01 Sep 2009 at 11:08 am #

    squadratomagico – :)

    Feminist Avatar — yeah, the Daily Mail does seem to sort of specialize in All True Reports about “My makeover [photo] and breast implants [photo] did nothing to stop my husband for leaving for a 24 year old bartender [photo] and now I am sad and living with cats [photo] JUST LIKE THE FEMINISTS PLANNED FROM THEIR CENTRAL CONTROL TOWER [photo withheld].

  31. Historiann on 01 Sep 2009 at 11:14 am #

    Heh. I noticed that the dreadful Rebecca Walker’s article about her terrible, awful, no-good mother’s feminism was published in the Daily Mail. What a tooly rag!

  32. Paul on 01 Sep 2009 at 11:14 am #

    Classical liberals believe that humans are perfectable and can learn and grow, whereas conservatives believe that that’s tragically naive. Conservatives believe that “all men are stupid,” unperfectable, ineducable, and therefore great caution must be exercised to ensure that the hoi polloi don’t acutally exercise much influence let alone direct control in a democratic republic. (Better yet, because of man’s essentially “stupid and useless” nature, go for an authoritarian system or perhaps enlightened despotism. At least that’s what conservatives would say.)

    It is true that generally conservatives do not believe in the “perfectibility” of people or institutions, but that is a far cry from thinking that they are “ineducable”, let alone “stupid and useless”. Plus, conservatives of a more libertarian bent would be among the last people in the world to support an authoritarian system. (Many conservatives are certainly willing to become authoritarian if it serves their interests, but so are many liberals.)

    Another difference, as far as I can tell, is that people more to the liberal side tend to assume that most social problems are caused by the structures and systems of society, while people more to the conservative side tend to assume that most social problems are caused by bad individual actions and choices that are misguided or outright evil. Of course, this has a profound effect on what they believe is the best way to improve society.