Fascinating Womanhood Review: more childlike ways


I thought it might be appropriate to use a picture of Wendy for today’s post since Helen dedicates four pages to quoting J.M. Barrie’s The Little Minister. I’ve only ever read Peter Pan, so I’m only really familiar with Wendy, but going by how Helen has virtually assassinated the other characters she’s used as “evidence” before, I think she’s exaggerating the girlishness in Babbie’s character (the romantic interest in The Little Minister).

And, while she spends four pages quoting Barrie, she spends only half a page talking about what we’re supposed to do when our husbands are angry with us. We’re to:

1) Exaggerate by words or manner
2) Distract his attention
3) Change the subject
4) Be submissive, in a childlike way
5) Be teasingly playful

How she goes on to describe how we’re supposed to do this is ridiculous. One suggestion is to put our hands on his cheeks, look him in the eye, and say “My prince, my handsome prince.” Dear lord– if I ever did that with my partner when he is upset with me? It would certainly not help. At all. But, according to Helen, this will guarantee that he “melts.” Gah. Handsome would not melt, I guarantee you. He’d probably look at me incredulously and then walk out of the apartment.

And, can you imagine being in a discussion with a grown adult and suddenly “changing the subject” because the person you’re speaking with happens to be upset with you? We should be able to have healthy, productive discussions that operate inside each other’s boundaries, and part of that means respecting you partner enough to hear them out. I’m honestly a little surprised that Helen is suggesting these tactics– they seem to upend everything else she’s been saying about how women are to interact with their husbands.


For the first time in a long while, Helen’s actually managed to say some things that I agree with. She says she’s going to teach women how “to ask for things the right way,” but as usual she starts out be describing “the wrong way.” Here’s where we actually agree– and for the first time I even don’t mind how she said it. She says that hints, suggestions, and demands aren’t effective, and I think she’s right in encouraging directness. She also spends some time saying it’s a bad idea to be the “self-sacrificing wife,” to never ask for things just to make yourself feel unselfish and noble, and I definitely agree with that. There is, however, one method where she goes off the rails again:

You may think of all the reasons why you are justified in asking for something. Then you take the matter to your husband to try to convince him, backing it up with your reasons. This method sometimes works, but it more often invites opposition . . . you appear as a decision-making equal, prompting him to say no, just to show his authority.

Any man who says “no” for no other reason than his wife has brought him a well-thought-out argument is not worth his salt. That Helen, once again, teaches that all men are like this is incredibly insulting. Malicious people are like this. Being a “man” doesn’t automatically make you petty and vindictive.

Also the ways we’re supposed to respond to the gifts we receive are just ridiculous. Yes, when my partner bought me a complete set of Collier’s Junior Classics after he’d heard me talk about how my childhood set had been lost, I sat there and cried because it made me that happy (same reaction happened when he got me a boxed set of Harry Potter in hardbound). Yes, I can get wildly excited and emotive. That doesn’t make my enthusiastic reactions the only right way to respond to a gift. My personality is not every woman’s personality, and that is perfectly fine. But, not to Helen it’s not. In order to be a fascinating woman, we have to eviscerate our own personalities and become this  . . . hideous thing.

The last part of the chapter, though, just made me laugh.

If you want to create some youthful styles of your own, especially housedresses, visit a little girl’s shop. There you will see buttons and bows, plaids, pleats, stripes, jumpers, daisies . . . all of their clothes are pretty.

Also be conscious of hairstyles . . . little girls wear ribbons, bows, barettes, and flowers in their hair. They wear cute little hats.

I just about died laughing at the mental image this conjured up. Seriously? Her best advice to “appear youthful” is to dress like a toddler from the Victorian era?

Also, I just googled “hairstyle ribbons” and “hairstyle flowers” and all the most of the results you get for grown women are bridal styles, which, admittedly, can be gorgeous, but it made me wonder . . . women probably are putting flowers and ribbons in their hair on their wedding day to invoke this image of youthfulness and girlhood . . . and, well, probably virginity, too. Our culture is obsessed with our women remaining permanently young, and I’m beginning to think that by “young” we don’t mean “early 20s” but “12.”

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  • The images of Japanese school girls entering my mind are not, I think, what Helen means to instill in me by this description.

    • Ellen

      Here, this might help.

      Actually, on second thought, that probably makes it worse.

  • I LOVED the Junior Classics. In fact, I still have my copy from my childhood, and have been reading them to my kids as well. Some stories have aged better than others, but still an outstanding collection.

    I don’t usually like to post links, but the whole “girly response” thing did it. I too would hate it if my wife tried something like that. My response would be like Groucho Marx:

    • LisaP

      That was hilarious!!

  • Culture does not idealize 12 year olds. It doesn’t go quite that young. Culture idealizes late teens, or as close to the legal age as possible. Still screwed up though, and honestly, if the legal age was lower, that lower age would be the idealized age.

  • LisaP

    I got to the part about “my handsome prince” and about fell over laughing!! My husband would honestly think I’d lost my mind.

  • This entire entry left me stunned. I cannot imagine calling my husband “my handsome prince” when we’re disagreeing or upset with each other – he would think I’d been replaced by a pod person! To me, it seems as though this is potentially dangerous advice, because it could easily be interpreted as a mocking response by an angry husband. As for Andelin’s assertion that more often than not, a husband responds to a rational discussion in which the wife backs her position through supporting reasons and examples by saying no just to spite his wife and take her down a few pegs for appearing to be a decision-making equal – that whole passage left me at a complete loss. Intellectually, I know Andelin’s mindset is very different from mine; emotionally, I still can’t wrap my mind around how she just says that, as though it’s a totally normal and reasonable reaction from any man, let alone your spouse.

  • Ahaha, the first thing that came to my mind was ‘she’s describing Dolores Umbridge!’ So wrong at so many levels…

  • Kreine

    You make a good point that your emotive personality isn’t every woman’s personality.

    I am gregarious & playful. I have a couple of flowers & a headband with a bow that I wear because I think they’re fun. And pretty!

    My 3 daughters have completely different personalities. Even as a baby, my oldest looked silly with bows & flowers in her gorgeous hair. My middle girl can wear simple headband, and my youngest can wear flowers, but to assume that a cookie-cutter style works for all of them would be…disrespectful of who they are.

    And that’s exactly what Helen does! She shows complete disrespect and utter disregard for the range of personalities God created in women & men.

  • Jackie

    Dear Helen, I quite acting “childlike” the first year I picked beans to pay for school clothes and supplies. I carried my own muddy bags of beans, thank you and it hasn’t changed since then.

  • Divizna

    – One suggestion is to put our hands on his cheeks, look him in the eye, and say “My prince, my handsome prince.” –

    Dear. Grabbing the other’s face in the middle of an argument is a direct physical attack, no second way to put it.

  • Emily N.

    Four pages from J. M. Barrie?!? I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure he was majorly messed up. I would think that a fictional work from a man who was apparently unable to consummate his marriage (to say nothing of rumors of inappropriate relationships with children) would not be the best source material for marriage advice.

  • If I met a woman who acted like a little girl at inappropriate times, I’d assume she ‘s mentally or emotionally retarded, and I wouldn’t want to take advantage of her.

    • Per my comment policy:

      Using the word “retarded” is ableist. If you continue to use ableist language you will no longer be permitted to comment.

      Thank you.

      • K.Martin

        Gophergold might not have known or thought about it. A lot of people don’t. I remember when Jennifer Aniston used the R word and got some backlash because of it. I think the politically correct term is mentally or emotionally challenged or disabled.

        With the exception of the R word, I think gophergold makes a very good point.

  • Y’know, I don’t always agree with Trinny and Susannah, but one thing What Not To Wear gets right is that your “best look” at twenty probably won’t be the same at forty or fifty.

  • The author of the book must like having a dependent man. By that I mean one who can do nothing around the house. My husband is an independent man. He can take care of himself and me also. Cook, no problem, clean – well that is not a strong point for either of us. Laundry is easy. I have never needed to call anyone to repair ANYTHING. Incredible, yes he is. When Paul writes about love in I Cor. 13, he is describing my husband. We have been married 50 years and 100 years would be to short a time.