Gateway to ideas; 7; Changing Attitudes Toward Women
Gateway to ideas. Gateway to ideas. A new series of conversations in which ideas are discussed in relation to reading. Today's program changing attitudes toward women is moderated by Virginia Petersen noted author and critic. Ah guess today Miss Margaret Cousins formerly managing editor of Good Housekeeping magazine and then of McCall's magazine and now senior editor at Doubleday and Company. And Mr. Morton hunt author of The Natural History of Love and infinite variety and of a forthcoming collection of articles on psychological themes called the thinking animal. Changing attitudes toward women is
rather a fat trel and covers many things politics economics sociology not to speak of sex and emotions. I wonder MS cousins where you see the greatest change in the attitude toward women. If indeed you think there has been a great change. Well I think that the most tremendous change that ever happened to any group of people in the history of the world has happened to women in the 20th century and I think it's based largely on the fact that they have achieved a certain variety of economic freedom from which all other freedoms seem to stem. And I think that the stresses and strains that have a coming of this transition are responsible for the troubles that women have today. Well what do you agree that that is the other freedoms all stem out of economic. Liberation. Well I think that's an awfully important part of it but this is a very broad perspective on changing attitudes toward women. And I'm more interested in the changing attitude of the last 15 years or so which seems to me the really crucial and interesting thing today and I would
say that that's a kind of a synthesis it seems to me that when the economic change in women's position began it seemed that any woman who entered the outer world beyond the home particularly in industry or business of any sort was pseudo masculine aggressive dangerous unfeminine hostile and a bad partner for a man in all ways. Oh I don't know why that was necessarily true but this was this is a kind of an overwhelming impression that people had and that's the that was not that we had a man brought out. I wasn't only propaganda there were there were quite a few women who were somewhat that way. But what I think is happening now is a kind of synthesis in which it's not necessary for a woman to be either aggressive or super masculine anymore to take her place in the outer world and at the same time there has been this uniting of marriage and home life with a woman's interest in things beyond the home. That is what I think of as the most important change. This despite the fact that there still are books popping out which sound as though they were written by angry women. Well The Feminine Mystique was what I hate more than I'm sure is the one you have in mind.
I must say I think she she made a case for the effect of advertisers on women. I wondered don't you think Miss cousins that maybe they are deliberately setting about to corrupt women in order to keep the economy going. I think that may be true I think the economy requires a large percentage of women to do to have gainful employment for a certain number of years. And I think that women are all the product of men's imaginations as it is about reflect I think the women the United States are. Or required by the labor market and they are required by the consumer market so that is necessary for them to. Well I meant all of the necessary as customers to buy 50000 varieties that's what the consumer market requires them as well as the labor market. Well the thing I object to though in The Feminine Mystique is the feeling that there was really sort of a plot afoot. It's the same kind of thinking which assume that behind Oswald and Ruby there was a plot to when there really wasn't and I think that most of the advertisers men are just lunatics the way
Oswald and. I'm not going to defend a second Yeah that was rammed. No but I mean I don't think that Madison Avenue collectively is out to thrust women back into the home they may be out to make them buy more. Things for the home but they're not really out to to thrust them back into some kind of Victorian image. If they do I don't think they care about the image either but they are certainly out to make them pitches things they don't need because if they didn't we would we would go down unless we go on having a war in Vietnam. All right. Well I think that's true and I think the image you know if you look at the various Muslim women surveys Michelangelo's found the typical American family with a handsome father the beautiful house wife and two small children. That's really the image that they were once a picture on the cover of an issue the Saturday Evening Post that I've never forgotten it was a summer vacation and the Father and the two children were sporting on the sand and inside looking through the window was the woman with a pile of dishes as high as her head.
It was called a summer holiday. I mean where I live and I see how you could fail to hit every one of the women whether they were in the 22 million or so not. And ever since you put great stocks of paper plates. Well I don't think it's bad for women other women if they choose to be on homes. But this is the thing to do I think women to think of themselves as individuals now that they. Are free to choose they can think of themselves as individuals and make these decisions if they have the energy and the stamina and it takes a great deal of stamina to do both. That's fine if they choose to be housewives I think that's why I think they ought to stop apologizing for what Don doesn't seem to think it even takes stamina in that book of yours her infinite variety. You say along with the blessid image of shining women's faces being good wives good mistresses good mothers good and having this coming. Did I really just mean oh well now that you know I did something that's cool and all women could do it if they just kept their equanimity but please how do they keep it.
Well I think perhaps you saw in that something you might like to see but I did say that it's fairly difficult to do all these things at one time to do them all simultaneously without strain and stress in fact I really do believe that's quite a important thing that the this multiplicity of roles modern woman has is not a multiplicity that she can play all at one time. Sometimes she must lay aside one or two roles for a while while others are more important in her life and preempt her time but this doesn't say that she should then define herself as that one thing from then on. This I think is the mistake that many women make like when they leave the job and become mothers. They think now this is the real me and I will be this for ever and ever. And what I was trying to say is that. A woman should have a role repertoire and a whole series of selves upon which she can draw according to what time of life she is in. It's asking a great deal more than a day has king of men isn't it. I know I don't really think it is because we also have many role for idea of roles a
man who is a good and somewhat subservient employee to a rather tough boss plays quite a different role when he goes home and is there to talk to our studio as well as to his wife or strong father to his son. He plays another role together in a local PTA meeting or in his own club and so on and so on. All they seem to be saying though really ultimately is that we still are the second sex. Don't you think Miss cousins that we are I think both of us book was very annoying but all the same found it very annoying but I refused to admit it. I've always been alone and I was been very glad to be a woman and I do think she's not. That's no she's not about writing a book. Yes when she wrote about the shame and humiliation of childbearing I thought I'd go up through the ceiling because I doubt if there's a normal woman in the whole world who ever felt that way unless she were having a child she shouldn't be having you know if you don't have that joy you can have a very reasonably successful and satisfactory life as a woman and woman's life is I
think the best life I much rather be a woman than a man. Why do you say that. You have to take me about two or three years oh a long book to say why I say that you want to really write it because you're one of the most successful career women around and I think well I've been I've been to a very I'm a happy woman I'm I'm I'm I really am a happy woman and I I know that I have missed the most important thing in life for a woman that's marriage. And I would have liked that. But since I didn't have that I'm very grateful to be alive and I want to have a chance to to live a life on the terms that I can cope with. But you don't honestly think that marriage is the most important thing in a woman's life do you. I think a lot of the rhetoric one of the changing attitudes that perhaps it isn't the only thing the major thing I think that as well as that most women have to have to look up to another person and I think most women prefer to look up to a man and many women in business look up to the man they work for.
And I think some concepts business is always the best situation for happiness and that's what this is. Well that's for sure. There I would subscribe and that that is a very difficult thing to bear in mind in modern times for women and men because Freud has insisted on the importance of the self to the point where you forget that selflessness has an event use it. But let me say this. Petersen in reply to what you're just saying I think that the changing attitude toward women and by women toward themselves still is not ruling out the importance of marriage as really the number one thing in the lives of most women. This is but the difference is this that once there was a dichotomy it was either marriage or it was the career or the other activities in a woman's life and the two were really opposed they were. They were a missable. She couldn't do them both. And today what has changed is that she thinks she can do them both. She does do them both. She feels she ought to do them both and still in the minds of the great majority of women including
working women. Husband and home come just ahead of all her other interests and when there was a conflict it's the other interest it's the career or the outside activity which has to yield because for her the main chance the main importance is this connection with a man and the creation of an enclave of her own a world that is her world. This from some arbitrary philosophic point of view it may not be quite fair. This is the way it is and I'm only trying to describe the change that I see and not to say whether it's the ultimate and the best way for people who wouldn't wouldn't you say that this control for instance had been one of the most important things in affecting a changing attitude toward women in liberating them from sexual taboos and giving them the feeling that it's possible to have a love relationship with a man and still go on with a career and not have any consequences or any social consequences either.
I think it's a contribution but I think most women want children. Well I also am impressed by the fact that in history it doesn't seem to be the birth control is what preceded periods of sexual liberation or freedom but rather that people for various reasons got more liberated and free and thereupon went about discovering how they could control what was supposed to be what shouldn't be happening. You see which I think that's very much like you know that I really I really think it was the year the liberation or slackening of moral ties or a greater freedom of women to carry out their own urges which always stimulated the discovery of contraceptive methods I think it irritates me about many of the books I read about women is as it is them and so anyway sion that they are that they get married and everything stops. This just isn't true for a woman who's given a good education most of us now receive masculine educations can apply the education to Ennis situations to fund her 7 but many women do not really seem to realize that I wish this to
her I would say that some time that you can take take the sort of education you had and apply it to home community children husband. It's awfully hard to apply that to the vacuum teen and his cousins. It really isn't. I find the divine vacuum Kenya education somehow they're always dull jobs and ailing you do if you if you work in a. Terrific situation in a job you have many many chores that are every day chores that are not exciting that are not creative that are not glamorous that are just necessary and thats what keeping a house is like. Well Miss cousins I have to dissent slightly from this I agree with you that every job except maybe the top 5 percent of jobs in the whole world every job has a great deal its boring and dull and petitions. But I got a great deal of correspondence from women and I read an awful lot of letters from women in alumni magazines and so on all about the subject how you use Spinoza when raising children and that kind of thing or the vacuum cleaner. You know what's the role of cities in a vacuum cleaner.
And it seems to me that the big difference is that at home when a woman is living in a suburban household and dealing with small children. Her education is really sort of rusting away within her because there are no human beings of her own level to deal with. Dealing with children is one thing and it's marvelous. But she wants the stimulation of exchange with adult minds and even on a dull job you get some of this which is why many women who take part time jobs even as something fairly routine like bookkeeping find that it's a great stimulus because they're out there somewhere where the people are. Well you're one of those rare in sex who really seems to take women quietly and seriously as they would like to be taken but I have Breitling that among all the changing attitudes the attitude of contempt has not changed. I have the feeling that the extraordinary and ludicrous emphasis on sexual characteristics of women in the magazines and in the advertising furthers the contempt
for women as vessels for pleasure and nothing else. Good Lord. And I have a feeling that there's a great deal of contempt merely in the reference for instance let's say two women's clubs two women's cultural activities it's a housing joke. It's a stay unless the mother in law joke but it goes on to making men laugh. You know please. How about a man I would say is me is this. I feel very different. Well don't be too defensive because I'm a pretty as I am and since since I'm the only male representative on this hang on you've been kind enough to say that I seem to have a you know a warm friendly attitude toward women I must also say that if anybody starts to downplay or minimize women sexual characteristics I'm going to rise and that's how you know I think it's that old cliche. Yes but this doesn't in the least lead to contempt or appreciation. Well but it's not the kind of appreciation that a lot of women would like to have get I would like to hear somebody say Can women be creative on the
highest level as men can wish they again something of the individual is creative not the sex. Well how might a man ever play as many as you think like a man makes me was. It makes me want to go mad. Yes I know I think I mean I'm not a man I know too well on the other hand it's perfectly true that if you ever start to try and list the accomplishments of women vs. the accomplishments of men in the same field you find far fewer specimens of women men of men in George. Yes but but even when you take I think Eleanor McCabe a psychologist out of Stanford University who made a study of women Ph.D. and men Ph Ds and she found that even the single women Ph Ds did not turn out as many papers and books as the married male Ph Ds. So there was no factor here of their being tied down in the home and they had all of the time and freedom to do as much work as men. They were apparently inhibited and blocked by the kind of fear that women get culturally
induced. That to be too bright and too successful is to be pseudo masculine We still have some of that are frightening and big on family this is the greatest terror there. Well you are remember the article that Mari Mannus wrote in the in the Sunday magazine section of the times not too long ago about how men detest educated women. And she got an immense response to that article and do you think that men really like women to be educated as educated as they are. I would like to give a positive answer that is a positive yes and no because. I think in the first place that 30 or 40 years ago very very few men liked women to be truly educated and truly creative. And there was still a good deal of that resentment and fear and hostility. But it is changing. You talk about changing attitudes. How is it there today. Practically all school teachers women scholars when Ph.D.s women scientists women in government are all married. This is quite a difference from 30 40 years ago. Apparently a large number of men are beginning to find not only
acceptable but preferable. So I think that we are we are changing. We're learning how to synthesize our images of you. And good heavens we don't have to give up the image of us as sexually delightful just to like the other part of you. I think that's very encouraging. Well I'm trying to be encouraged. There are a good many novels dealing with women likely more than than we have before dealing with all women we had three last year we had the girls of slender means by Muriel Spock we had the little girls by Lizabeth Beau and we had of course we still have the Group By Mary McCarthy. All of them dealing entirely with women and men did read these books but did they read them because they were laughing up this leaves do you think. I wonder whether the majority of readers of the group for instance were men or women I suspect. It was very largely women.
I well I what I would think so because they're saying to me how vast one suspects some male figures must creep into them. GROSS I've been told by at least two different publishers that the bulk of book readers are women anyhow is this a canard against men or is this true. I think it probably is true. They certainly are the the major percentage of book buyers are women. Now I think men read books that women buy and yet when you go out to women's clubs to speak they're inclined to tell you you know we've got no time to read and write next. Well actually that that's not true a lot of them do have they have more time to read than men men if they are not gainfully employed as we say it would be coming back to the group for a moment of the reason. I would guess and this is just a shot in the dark but I would guess that a great many women read it more than men. Is one of the things I heard from a number of women while I was writing my own book was that they were very curious to see what I wrote because women don't really tell other women they tell them some things but on the surface but
they rarely reveal how it really is when married. He certainly told what she certainly told what she thinks she saw but I I'm not sure that it's a whole picture I often get a feeling that if she's right there isn't anybody on earth I really would like to be a friend of. And I don't know maybe that's just my reaction to her but I think she sees things through other dark glasses. I don't think women tell each other. What strikes me is they don't tell MIL either. What strikes me as as really any barrier saying is what a what a problem we are. I mean we American women I don't think women in the rest of the world consider themselves are considered as much of a problem we have a reputation for being a matriarchy in this country and the rest of the world thinks of American woman as the most privileged spoiled the self-satisfied animal of creation. Actually we're all we all seem to be into minimally distressed in the remote discussions of this kind that we're having
now than than the there are of any other kind we present to ourselves an enormous problem this doesn't seem to me to indicate that the changes that are in attitude are the right changes. We keep loving ourselves in that category so we cannot lump people into categories. Women as many women are diluted. I think they ought to be delegates when they will not think of themselves as individuals. They have not got that far along the road to freedom they insist on think of themselves as working girls. Here we have a working boy like that in your book. Maybe I am a great student of mystic books. But that's true they think of themselves always in terms of some category housewife. Let's say shyly You know a lot so it helps us to think in terms of categories and I've generally been generalizations but you made it you did make a generalization at the very beginning of this question which I think you have which on this I think is very right in in response to this question of Miss Petersons you said that you thought economic change had produced
most of the changing attitudes towards women and although it seems that American women are the problem women I think that this does them an injustice I think wherever other countries are changing the direction of high productivity and urbanization like our own. The same problems are coming up. And if you'll read what is happening for instance to British women or to German women and even to Japanese when they are coming up with the same problems American women have been facing for 20 or 30 years and I think that gradually as we're getting some kind of synthesis. American women will cease being such problem characters and everybody else will have women who are problem characters we just were ahead of the times a little bit because we became so much more industrialized so much more rapidly and had kind of a heritage of the frontier which gave women more freedom than they had in Europe. But how do you explain the hostility to women and so much modern literature both on the stage and in the novels. For instance Tennessee Williams and bee and the Middle
East all these these playwrights and many of the novelists all the way from the bottom from O'Hara or all the way up to two really distinguished novelists have as revealed a mock ta still a T toward women and all the books about mothers. And I blame this on Freud because I like to use Freud as a whipping post. All the books about mothers and in fact all the discussion about mothers is placing the blame on them. Mothers are the worst category in the whole of the United States they are possessive sentimental idiotic destructive women who ruin their children. Are we at reform for everything that children do is no one responsible for himself. Well before you blame Freud too much I like to point out there is a book which I think is being published later this month by an anthropologist H. R. Hayes and the title of it is the dangerous sex. This is a review I got a review copy just the other day so this is how I know about the book it hasn't even been reviewed yet as far as I know. This
is a a review from primitive times to the present of man's hostility to him and his fear of her. And it has both anthropological and psychological roots and Freud didn't cause it. And modern times didn't cause it goes all the way back you can go back to history if you want and find him telling you what terrible creatures women are. This is an old old story so I think that this is not really the fault of psychoanalysis per se. There is even a change in the attitude. In fiction toward adultery. Oh I mean if you think of Anna Karenina which is probably the greatest and most prolific novel but I'm sure it is from my point of view that I've ever read it is an extraordinarily sympathetic and yet highly moral picture of the destruction of a woman through adultery. Now adultery is not taken that way a tall There is no moral tone about it whatsoever but there also isn't the tenderness and the consideration for the woman
involved in it there's a sort of a contemptuous Well you wanted to get rid of the double standard and so pay a price. I think that's I think that's true enough. I don't think that Madame Bovary would get much attention now that there's a whole change in the moral climate which I don't I don't know where women are responsible for this. You know what I think is a good example of what you're saying is Peterson I just I just read sort of the summer I mean generally about three years behind on novels but that I think that you know the novel but heard no I haven't read that it has a has a number of affairs in it and it's perfectly true that the women in it are quite free creatures equals the men and they all seem to get their comeuppance. It was the happy exception of one woman who comes out all right at the end of it. But only after great trouble I should say what Dr. Johnson said many years ago that the reason women are represented so badly in literature and the fiction in everything is because men are the writers prepared to answer a way that isn't true is preponderance of writing is done by men I
don't know whether the preponderance is done by men but I think I think men's books get more attention than women's But wouldn't you say some of the best women novelists today women of the not of the very top not of the fork no level not of the Morea level not of the Thomas mind level but just below that you've got Catherine and Porter. And you've got Mary McCarthy outside of the group Sidney she's done a substantial body of work you've got her I can't think of them now but you should be able to. I should be able to make a think of the music I hope but there is a whole body of work by women which is is really just below the top drawer I think in that field perhaps there's been more of a change than in any other course you see. Playing amateur psychoanalyst I know I'm prepared to say why you can't think of their names. Women are all hostile toward other women so you're blocked really because that is the kind of free market sets my teeth on edge because I'm.
To have my teeth are very easily set on edge anyway. But I don't take it seriously. Do you do you miss cousins feel and say so quickly that we are on the way to becoming just members of mankind. Yes I do. You do. Yes. Well it seems as if the consensus of opinion of this discussion is that marriage and having children is a very major thing but that women are fully capable of assuming all the roles and that the more education they get the better it is and that pretty soon they will be established family as human beings and the won't be any more discussion of them as a second sex or a nation of sheep or any other dreary nomenclature for them. I want to thank you very much for being with us Miss cousins. And Mr. Hunt. Thank you Mr. Peterson. You have been listening to gateway to ideas a new series of conversations in which ideas are discussed in relation to reading. Today's program changing
attitudes toward women has presented Margaret Cousins former managing editor of Good Housekeeping magazine McCall's magazine and present senior editor at Doubleday and Company. And Martin Hunt author of her infinite variety the Natural History of Love and a forthcoming book on psychological and psychiatric subjects. The moderator was Virginia Petersen noted author and critic to extend the dimensions of today's program for you a list of the books mentioned in the discussion as well as others relevant to the subject has been prepared. You can obtain a copy from your local library or by writing to gateway to ideas post office box sixfold 1 Time Square Station New York. And please enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope right to box 6 for 1 Time Square Station New York gateway to ideas is produced for a national educational radio under a grant from the National
Home Library Foundation and the programs are prepared by the National Book Committee and the American Library Association in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters technical production by Riverside Radio in New York City. This is the national educational radio network.
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