Monday, March 17, 2014

Christine Webb, the Feminist

I have never considered myself a feminist.  I just haven't.  I think men and women are of equal worth and are equal citizens under God's eyes, but I also think they have different roles that should be respected.  Today, however, I found myself thinking very feminist-y.  Or maybe it's just that this situation is so abhorrent that finally feminists and I would agree on something.

Here is the introduction letter to a feature article in a 1954 issue of Ladies' Home Journal (I will type the words underneath so you don't have to read the tiny print):

Dear Dawn Norman,
       When I was 16 years old, I weighed 287 pounds and wore a size 54 dress.  I looked older than my mother.  Today at 23, I am 150 pounds and a size 14.  I'm still dieting.  My doctor tells me that 135 lbs would be better for my height of 5' 6 1/4 ".
       I have started dieting many times, would lose 20 or 30 pounds, and then quit.  Then I fell in love with a very handsome fellow.  Of course he wouldn't give me a tumble.  I was at rock bottom.  It was the Journal stories about real-life dieters that gave me fresh courage and made me realize that I could do something besides feel sorry for myself.  
       In one year I lost close to 100 pounds.  By the time I reduced to 190, Dennis asked me for a date.  At 165 pounds we started "going steady."  When I reached 150 he proposed.  Today we are happily married.
       My heartfelt and most humble thanks to the Journal for giving me a new and wonderful life.
Doris Stradley McFall

To be honest with you, I read the entire article that follows this letter with the kind of mixed intrigue and horror with which a person would watch a true crime show.  I could not believe this girl's story.  Here it is in a nutshell, just in case you didn't get the picture from her introduction:  The girl loved ("loved") this guy, and her friends tried to set her up with him, but he was totally uninterested.  She decided, "I love him, so I must lose weight in order to make him love me back."  She started losing weight, and he got progressively more interested.  It took losing 97 pounds before he asked her on a date, then she lost 25 more pounds and she was worthy to be his official girlfriend, then after another 15 pounds he proposed.  Um.  How did no one see an issue with this?  How did the editors of LHJ look at this and think, "Wow, what a great example to set for our readers"?  This was a feature article, so clearly they thought it was important.  Nowhere in the article did it emphasize, "Once I lost the weight, he was finally able to see my great personality, which attracted him to me even more."  Nope, it was all about, "If you're skinny enough, you too can get the man of your dreams!"

What kind of way is that to start a marriage?   What if she gains the weight back?  Will he still love her?  What if she gets pregnant?  You can't expect a woman to be skinny if she's pregnant.  Also, nobody is sexy when they're old.  (With the exception of George Clooney, who I contend will always be sexy).  You don't look at an 80-year-old and think, "Wow, what a hottie."  Presumably marriage is forever, though, so eventually you would hope to be married to an 80-year-old (when you're approximately 80).  If that 80-year-old isn't as sexy as the twenty-something you married, does that mean you leave?  Of course not!  That's why your marriage has to be built on a solid foundation, and that solid foundation doesn't include temporary perks like attractiveness.  Come on, Doris.  You can do better than this guy.  You need someone who's going to love you no matter what you weigh!

Also, side note - I think it's great that she lost the weight.  I have friends currently struggling with weight issues, and I think it's awesome that they're working so hard to get healthy.  They're doing it for themselves, though, and because it's good for their health.  They're not doing it to "get a man" or to make their husbands love them.  That is absolutely the wrong reason to do something.  Imagine the constant insecurity that would stem from that mindset!  If a guy is going to love you, he should love you for who you are and not for your dress size.

Interesting side note...I did a bit of Google research, and I found a marriage record between a Doris Stradley and a Dennis McFall that lasted from 1954-1956, which would be consistent with the timeline of this article.  I don't know how reliable the source was, but assuming it's true...that would mean that their marriage lasted two years.  Either one of them died (possible), or Dennis was a misogynistic a-hole and one or both of them got sick of that (probable).

I realize this doesn't exactly translate to my project of trying to be more like a vintage housewife, but the article made me really mad so I just had to write on it.  I suppose I could hit the gym, go on a diet, and try to lose weight for my husband in order to better identify with Doris.  I feel like if I did that, though, I would start resenting my husband (which is totally unfair because he would never ask me to lose weight for him) and also  I would lose respect for myself.  Also, I'm not overweight, so losing weight isn't even a necessary goal at this point.  I think I'll just leave this as a "take it for what it is" post, and I won't integrate the principles into my life.

1 comment:


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