Off on a weekend road trip to explore some of the scenic routes in the Waitakere Ranges that I’m fortunate enough to live near, my mate John and I happened across Hellaby House – a historical display centre tucked back from the road and easy to miss.
It was once owned by a woman called Rose Hellaby, and boasts spectacular views of Auckland City. There are plaques everywhere telling stories about how she used to invite all and sundry (irrespective of class) over for tea so they could admire the view. One might even go so far as to name her as one of the pioneers of neighbourly spirit in New Zealand.
Anyway, the purpose of today’s post is not to pay tribute to Rose, but to snigger at attitudes of decades past. Rose’s house is now the home to Aranui Antiques & Collectibles, where you can find old cookbooks and back issues of the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly for a mere $2.
I bought this issue, from February 20, 1967, due to the irresistible selection of headlines on its cover:
Immediately drawn to “Why Men Leave Their Wives…Depth Researchers Reveal Surprising Reasons”, I dropped to my knees and began to leaf through to the appropriate page. The two-pager has a boxed heading bearing the legend “Some Reflections On The Opinions Of A West German Commentator, Ruth Gleissner-Bartholdi”. The article is credited to John L. Moffat (a man, one presumes).
I skimmed the article to see if there was any late-60s panic about the deadly disease of homosexuality that continues to destroy the fabric of society. This surely would be cited as one of the reasons men leave their wives. I didn’t have to look far, but the way in which it was dealt with made me laugh out loud:
“The third reason stems from our common initial bisexuality. Each man contains within his nature the feminine desire to yield, buried though it may be beneath layers of convention, upbringing, competitive sport and rugged militarism.
And each woman contains within her nature the masculine desire to rule and dominate, buried though this usually is, too, by social graces. Some of our oldest French mediaeval plays depict wives wearing the pants.
And after the first novelty of marriage has worn off it is very easy for the roles to become reversed. In a moment of fatigue the man yields. In a moment of pique or boredom the wife seizes the reins. At first in private only, then openly before guests, and at last brazenly before the world she wields the stolen sceptre.
Until one night she goes too far and wield it in bed. The following morning the passive slave revolts, and falls into the clutches of almost any female who can make him feel like a man again.”
There are a few conclusions we can draw from this:
- Bisexuality has nothing to do with a man’s desire to play hide the sausage with his best mate.
- Feminism can be blamed on the French.
- If women so much as speak without their husband’s permission, it’s a slippery slope to doom. His masculinity is so fragile that it will shatter like a dainty ornament if his wife is foolish enough to “wield” the weapon that is otherwise known as normal human interaction.
- Sex is the last straw – god only knows what the woman did in the above scenario to make her “passive slave” revolt. Move slightly while in the missionary position? Unbutton his shirt rather than wait for him to tear her bodice asunder?
The rest of the article continues in this misogynist strain, and it amazes me to think that this is the crap that women were being fed on a weekly basis as late as 1967. All of the reasons cited for men leaving a marriage are traced back to it being the woman’s fault, and peppered with statistics that show that the man is the one blamed in court settlements.
I’ll leave you with one final bit of bile to either laugh at or throw things, depending on your mood:
“The family budget is a favourite battle ground for the expression of morbid feelings. I can well remember the fuss the mother of one family used to make when the father, a builder, bought a new plane or saw.
‘But I saw a perfectly good plane out in the shed only yesterday,’ she would remonstrate. ‘And you’ve at least half a dozen saws already!’
Poor woman, this money was not being spent on her. She could not see that without this expenditure there would have been no money to spend on her at all. Every man must be allowed to buy the tools of his trade, and a wise woman will not question the expenditure, but rather be grateful for what he earns with it.”
Yeah, selfish bitch. How dare she?
Who let this prick write for a woman’s magazine? Unless it was written ironically, such a piece appearing in a woman’s magazine today would lead to a storming of the barricades. Can you imagine a heterosexual man or a religious figure being allowed to write a “Why You’re Gay And How To Fix It” column in Express? This is the equivalent.
I suspect this magazine will be the gift that keeps on giving – please let me know if you enjoyed this, as I’m thinking of instituting a retro Friday section on the blog during which we can point and laugh at attitudes of (not so long ago) eras gone by, and shudder at the insidious similarities to rhetoric we’re still stuck with in the present.