JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 907
[See the follow-up post "First Thing to Do is to Find Some Men"; How to Get a Boy-date, 1941]
An old friend of mine, Dr. Sam Koslov, was brilliant, accomplished and polymathic, with great senses of wonder, inquisitiveness and humor. He spent many years in research and as a long-time editor at Johns Hopkins APL. He was a delightful and serious man, though one of the projects he worked on sounded much more like squeaky scifi than pure sci. That was Project Pandora, and science fiction it definitely wasn’t—it was an attempt at a form of control over human behavior via low level microwave radiation1.
This came to mind as I was leading through some very low level, high impact behavior control exhibited in a series of social engineering pamphlets published by the Ladies’ Home Journal in the early 1940’s. It is heartbreaking, really, to think of people like my mother reading these things and being inundated by cultural architecture that left little to the imagination. It seems so terrifically outrageous in 2010; and of course it makes me wonder about what things that seem so de rigueur today will be the Ladies’ Home Embarrassments of 2050 .
Granted, nobody's corneas were being shaken loose via this method, but the effect of the sentiments of control in these pamphlets still seem eye-poppingly strangulating. I’ve included only a few examples here, but there are at least a hundred others to choose from.
Perhaps it was the Date-Rate pamphlet that caused most of my teeth to fall out—it is sheer and painful, offering virtually nothing to the young women reading it and practicing its morality play but gender obedience and servility.
“Did you give him all your attention?” “Did he run things?” “Did you give him a chance to impress you?” “Could you make him laugh?” It isn’t until the final rating question (#25) that we get to something that opened the possibility of a two-way interest in the relationship, but only barely: “Did you find you liked the same things?” Its sad, really.
When I read some of this to my 17-year-old
daughter, she just looked at me with an open mouth and eyebrow furrows: it was simply beyond listening to, for her,
and certainly not anywhere near worthy of a response.
Of course this is just the tip of the tip of the tippity tip of the iceberg on the control of social thought and the keeping of the male-dominated social order, and its only one part of a very wide spectrum of overall codifications, much of which seem pretty much left to history within two generations.