Not Funny

[Update: MSNBC dropped Imus altogether. Maybe they’ll do something really outrageous and put a real news program on in that time slot? I’m not holding my breath.]

[Another update: Don’t miss the Steve M. smackdown (figuratively speaking) of Little Lulu.]

Some time in the mid to late 1970s I was working for a small book publisher in Cincinnati. One of the contracted authors was a professional after-dinner speaker; this guy made a living traveling around the country entertaining Kiwanis and Lions and Elks. He was especially prized as a humorist, and my employer was publishing a collection of his tried-and-true jokes.

So there I was reading his manuscript, but I wasn’t laughing. Mostly, I was appalled. At least half of the “jokes” were aggressive and nakedly hostile put-downs of women. There was a whole section devoted to Ugly Wives, for example. And then I came upon an anecdote about a fellow buying a fishing rod. The punch line revealed he was buying the rod to beat his wife.

I blue-penciled that puppy out of the manuscript faster’n you can say “male chauvinist pig.”

The author complained to the managing editor, saying that I had no sense of humor. The managing editor, also a woman, read the “joke” and backed up my decision. It stayed out.

The truth was, if I’d deleted everything in that manuscript I found offensive there wouldn’t have been enough material left to fill a moderately sized pamphlet, let alone a book. (As a junior staffer, I didn’t have the authority to request the amount of revision I desired, which involved stuffing that manuscript someplace where the sun don’t shine.) But at the time, most of this “humor” was representative of much “humor” we’d all seen on television and in movies. It was mainstream stuff, in other words, although less so in the 1970s than it had been in the 1950s and 1960s.

I often wish someone would research the stand-up comedy routines presented on such venues as the Ed Sullivan Show and analyze how much of it amounted to complaining about women. Mothers-in-law, women drivers, nags, and of course ugly wives were the meat and potatoes of comedy in those days. A comedian — always male, of course — had only to say “my mother-in-law!” or “women drivers!” and roll his eyes, and the audience would howl. Thanks in large part to second-wave feminism, by the late 1970s television comedy had mostly moved on to other topics, but our author from the rubber chicken circuit was still telling the same jokes he’d been telling for twenty years.

And if he’d published his joke collection a decade earlier, the fishing rod story would have stayed in, and it’s unlikely anyone would have had second thoughts about it.

By now you’ve guessed I’m going to talk about Don Imus. Yes, but I also want to look at the use and abuse of put-down humor generally.

For some reason, in the years after World War II American society went on a woman-hating binge. You might remember that in The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan cataloged considerable differences in the way women were portrayed in popular culture in the 1950s to early 1960s (Mystique was published in 1963) compared to the 1930s. Women in the 1950s were seen as considerably dumber (remarkably, even women’s magazines were “dumbed down” in the 1950s) and more helpless. About the same time it became trendy among psychiatrists to blame all manner of pathologies on bad mothering and to declare that a woman who wasn’t interested in being a housewife and mother must be neurotic and needed psychiatric help.

I honestly don’t know why this was happening, but I remember it well. And as I remember it, second-wave feminism began as a backlash to the postwar put down of women and only later expanded to challenge sexism throughout human history. It’s also clear to me that the pervasiveness of misogynist humor in those years helped keep women “in their place.” Believe me, the wife jokes you might have heard the late Henny Youngman or Rodney Dangerfield tell were mild compared to what was common fare in the 1950s, and those two gentlemen — Dangerfield in particular — usually told their jokes in a way that made the joke on themselves as much as their allegedly ill-favored wives. (Dangerfield sample: “My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.”) The jokes of the day carried the subliminal message to women that we’d better not be ugly, or shrews, or nags, or assume competence in anything but cooking and housecleaning.

This morning I googled “psychology of humor” and came across this book, big chunks of which are available for reading online. Humor is a social phenomenon, it says, that can be employed to many ends, both beneficial and malicious. It’s common for people to express genuine hostility in the form of teasing, for example. “Some of the social functions of humor can also be quite aggressive, coercive, and manipulative,” it says at the bottom of page 17.

Some researcher in the 1930s made the brilliant discovery that Jews found anti-Jewish jokes less funny than did non-Jews (page 51). On the other hand, the text continues, a survey done in 1959 claimed that an audience of blacks laughed at anti-black jokes as much as a white audience did. (It doesn’t say if a black or a white comedian was telling the jokes; seems to me that would make a big difference on how the audience perceived the humor.) And I see on pages 51-52 that some guy named Cantor in 1976 “found that both female and male college students showed greater appreciation for disparagement humor in which a male had the last laugh at a female’s expense, as compared to jokes in which a female disparaged a male.” Somehow I suspect that wouldn’t be true now.

But I think that illustrates the damage put-down humor can do. Women (or a racial minority) raised in a culture in which women are pervasively ridiculed are likely to internalize that ridicule and see themselves as worthy of ridicule. And those women in college in 1976 had been raised in a culture that had relentlessly ridiculed women. I don’t doubt that generations of vicious racist humor had a psychological impact on African Americans as well.

Like my author from years ago, Imus probably thinks some people have no sense of humor. But there’s a big difference between Imus insulting the political and media elites who are guests on his program and calling the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy headed ho’s.” If he and his defenders can’t see that, there’s something seriously wrong with the lot of them.

It’s a plain fact that expressions of malice are often disguised as humor. I found this in a Psychology Today article:

This aggressive type of humor is used to criticize and manipulate others through teasing, sarcasm and ridicule. When it’s aimed against politicians by the likes of Ann Coulter, it’s hilarious and mostly harmless. But in the real world, it has a sharper impact. Put-down humor, such as telling friends an embarrassing story about another friend, is a socially acceptable way to deploy aggression and make others look bad so you look good.

When challenged on their teasing, the put-down joker often turns to the “just kidding” defense, allowing the aggressor to avoid responsibility even as the barb bites. Martin has found no evidence that those who rely on this type of humor are any less well-adjusted. But it does take a toll on personal relationships.

The author of this piece and I disagree on the alleged hilarity of Coulter. Coulter’s “humor” is about as close to pure hate speech as “humor” gets. Real humorists don’t wish for people to be poisoned or assassinated, for example. There may be a fine line between “poking fun” and hate speech. But when you go from, say, Bob Hope’s “Carter wants to go to Washington. He’ll feel right at home there – he was raised on a nut farm” to Coulter’s “We need somebody to put rat poison in Justice Stevens’s créme brulée,” I say you’ve crossed that line.

There is no question much hostile rhetoric is being flung from all partisan sides these days, and some of this rhetoric is in the form of humor. Bob Geiger puts together a wonderful selection of political cartoons every Saturday morning, which I usually link to. I’m sure righties find many of these cartoons offensive; frankly, some of them aren’t the least bit humorous, even to me, but they make valid points. It’s also true that much humor is in the eye of the beholder. But I think political cartoons should be judged by the point they make. Is the point true? Or is it just about mocking someone the viewer doesn’t like?

I love the way Mike Luckovich draws George W. Bush — a furious, strutting little man with big ears (here’s another example). Luckovich captures the essence of the inner George Bush, IMO. On the other hand, now that Nancy Pelosi has been labeled Public Enemy Number One by the Right, the righties are going all out lampooning her. Here’s an animated GIF making the rounds today. It’s not just hateful; it’s also dishonest. The point it’s trying to make is a lie. Righties might drop by here and call me a hypocrite for approving Luckovich but not the dumb GIF. I don’t think so, but that’s me.

This is a huge topic that would take a lot more blog posts to full explore, and I’ve gone on way too long. To close, I give you Colbert —

Update: Well, I thought I was done, but I guess I have to keep writing — Today’s question is if what Imus said about “ho’s” is bad, isn’t it just as bad coming from rapper?

Kevin Drum gets it

A slur aimed at specific people is obviously different than a generic slur in a rap song, but it’s not that different. If one is offensive, so is the other, and it’s hard to argue that the cesspool of misogyny in contemporary rap has no effect on the wider culture. It’s not that this excuses what Imus did. It’s just the opposite. If we’re justifiably outraged by what Imus said, shouldn’t we be just as outraged with anybody else who says the same thing, regardless of their skin color?

Exactly. On the other hand, Fontana Labs writes,

Data point: the thought police of the academy have managed to mold my psyche to the point where Imus’s remark is genuinely, viscerally unpleasant to me, both in its stupid racism and the way it pollutes what should have been a moment of enjoyment and pride for the Rutgers team. On the other hand, I can listen to mainstream hip-hop without cringing at, or feeling indignation toward, the sex and the violence. What explains this awkward conjunction of attitudes? One hypothesis: I’ve accepted, at some level, the presence of lyrics like these as features of the genre, and in doing so I ignore them.

Back in the 1960s we talked a lot about “consciousness raising.” We’d lived in a culture in which sexist and racist rhetoric was ubiquitous, like air. We read and heard things all the time that would be shocking now, and thought nothing of it. It took a lot of work and a lot of courage on the part of civil rights and feminist activists to get people to realize how bleeped up that was, and how damaging it was. Essentially the rhetoric was being generated by a dominant group to keep subordinates “in their place.” And I don’t see what’s different about sexist rhetoric in rap music. Ignoring this stuff isn’t necessarily a healthy sign.

Update2: A rightie blogger is calling TBogg out for writing this of Condi Rice:

Oh oh….looks like a pouty Brown Sugar is going to ask Daddy to buy her another pair of Ferragamos. Or invade another country.

Racist? Or just a fair slam of Condi Rice? The rightie argues,

… of course, Ms. Rice not being authentically black or even authentically female, she’s just getting what she deserves, because the Rules of PC only apply to the Right. The Left, regardless of who is in power, is *always* speaking truth to power and therefore exempt from any such considerations.

But Tbogg doesn’t say she isn’t “authentically black or even authentically female.” The “Ferragamos” remark reminds us of Condi’s shoe shopping while New Orleans drowned; that’s a fair slam. “Invade another country” is a fair slam also, given the role Condi played in stampeding the nation into Iraq. The question is, is it racist per se to mention Condi’s skin color in any way? I would argue the “brown sugar” remark is more sexist than racist, because it implies that Bush is her “sugar daddy.” But I think calling her “brown” is only an insult if you think there’s something wrong with being brown. If Condi were caucasian would mention of her red hair or blue eyes have been an insult per se? I don’t think so. Maybe I’m wrong, though.

32 thoughts on “Not Funny

  1. One of my college profs said that the backlash against women in the 1950s was a reaction to veterans coming home from WWII and finding all the women working in their jobs. He said there was a huge, conscious push to persuade women to get out of the workplace and into the home so that the men could get their jobs back. Along with this came new household inventions, Leave It to Beaver, the baby boom, and the attending new humor you speak of.

    I don’t know if he had any data with which to back this theory up, but instinctively it made sense to me.

  2. Merciless – one of my American history profs in undergrad said the same thing. He wrote our textbook so the data probably exists somewhere.

  3. Very interesting post. I well remember the endless putting women down jokes from the early 1960s, thank God that infantile stuff is over. I’m glad you closed it with the Colbert piece, whose “ERT” program is a not-too-subtle play on Limbaugh’s so-called “Excellence In Broadcasting”.

    Colbert deserves whatever big bucks he makes. Twisting your mind up to play an idiot looks like truly hard work. I’m glad at least some comedians have moved past the need to disparage others, and embody the disparagement themselves.

  4. Another point about “pouty Brown Sugar is going to ask Daddy” is that Condi is often pouty-faced, and her being in the administartion at all, after what all seem to feel was a lackluster, even hackish, academic career, is due to some a sugar daddy of sorts. It also speaks (says a lot in a few words, as humor often does) to that weird business which we see with both Rice and Karen Hughes and their love affair with the person Condi called, in an odd slip of the tongue, her husband.

  5. It strikes me that we’ve flipped the other way completely, at least judging from pop culture as expressed in TV commercials. The common butt of the joke these days is the middle-aged white male, who’s universally portrayed as a bumbling moron married to a wise and tolerant woman.

    Payback? Or is the middle-aged white male the only minority left that it’s ok to pick on in public?

    (Full disclosure: Yes, I’m a middle-aged white male. But honestly, I’m not feeling picked on! 🙂

  6. merciless and a517dogg — I think what you say was a big part of it, but for some reason the postwar misogyny took on a life of its own. It was still going strong in 1963, and the bleeping vets had had their jobs back for 18 years already.

  7. Dave — I think some of the humor aimed at white guys is a bit hostile. Popular culture tends to portray men as oversexed buffoons, and I suspect that’s not a healthy role model to hold up to our sons. But lots of guys seem to have bought into this model of themselves.

  8. Comment 5, this common theme in commercials has long intrigued me. I’ve concluded that advertisers cast the woman as the wise person, who of course happens to embody the demographic the ad is being pitched to. In other words, she’s so smart and wise in the ad because she chooses product X. What a genius. I guess this is supposed to make up for her choosing a bumbling moron as a husband.

    I wonder when this theme arose, if there’s any parallels with the changes in humor regarding women, or have advertisers always pitched to women this way?

  9. Thanks in large part to second-wave feminism, by the late 1970s television comedy had mostly moved on to other topics, but our author from the rubber chicken circuit was still telling the same jokes he’d been telling for twenty years.

    Yeah, that stuff faded away, didn’t it?

    Fortunately for white male assholes everywhere, Imus and Howard Stern and their little He-Man posses brought it all back. (This is from the Stern crew, and was published by Simon & Schuster not long after Howard sold a million hardcover copies of his first book.)

  10. I vividly recall watching an ‘All in the Family’ episode in which Sammy Davis Jr. appeared. Sitting beside me was a friend, a black woman. I was laughing uproariously at the exchange of dialogue between Sammy and Archie. My friend found nothing funny in the episode. In fact she felt insulted.

    I think that perhaps the assault on women following WWII was because during the war women had had to fill what were normally men’s jobs and men felt threatened, felt denigrated…I have no idea.

    Then the ERA amendment, which only said that women should be afforded equal pay with men when equally qualified and doing the same job. The movement started out pebble-size and grew into a gigantic boulder when, if launched down the hill, would destroy America.

    How about years ago, actually not that far back, female public school teachers were not allowed to marry, had to attend church every Sunday and generally be continually available as servants of the community.

    Do I detect fear in all of the above? Fear of women? Basis? Who knows.

  11. I’ve wondered about the transition from Gracie Allen to Lucy (and then to the bottom with The Honeymooners). Supposedly, Lucy was in the Gracie mold, but Gracie was a comic genius – when she was being “dumb”, she was usually actually being smart (or at least honest). Lucy was just shrill, annoying and stupid. When you got to the Honeymooners, any pretense of there being another level to the humor evaporated. The Three Stooges without the physical shtick.

    OTOH, we soon had Rockie & Bullwinkle and Fractured Fairy Tales. Now that stuff was funny.

    (No, I’m not old enough to have seen Gracie except in re-runs.)

  12. I think what Imus said was wrong and was out of line primarily because he made the comment about young, presumably amatuer, student athletes. Had he made a similar comment about pro atheletes who while very good had failed to win a championship game it would still have been wrong, but hardly out of line in our current culture. The misogny thing is certainly also present, but that is a pervasive part of our culture and goes both ways. I do not doubt that returning veterans had some resentment about women after WWII and it probably was not limited to women holding more jobs. In WWII women typically did not serve in combat roles and I suspect that men who had survived getting shot at for 2 and 3 years and seen countless numbers of their comrades killed expected that the world would be their oyster when they returned home and of course it wasn’t. Reasonable requests from a spouse were seen as nagging, the desire to share in the prosperity that a family enjoyed was seen as money grubbing etc. My point is that it goes both ways. Yes I am a male, but having grown up in a house with 8 sisters and 1 brother, having gotten married and having two daughters and no sons, I have spent the vast majority of my 55 years on this planet surrounded by women who delight in poking fun at male foibles. I can not say I feel victimized or that my self esteem has been shattered, but the idea that men are incapable of picking up after themselves, of feeling empathy, of always thinking with their genitals etc gets old too and a fair amount of is both demeaning and has at least a grain of truth. Of course I have some misognistic tendencies myself which I blame on having been surrounded by females all my life.

  13. Carolyn — it was widely reported that Condi slipped and referred to the President as her “husband.” I don’t know that this was ever debunked.

  14. There’s a theory that, due to the social upheaval caused by the Depression and WWII, there was enormous popular attraction to the idea of domesticity — GIs wanted to come home, get married to a nice girl, buy a house in the suburbs, have lots of kids, and have a “normal” life. Women also bought into this ideal, hoping to take refuge in family life and to escape the financial hardships of the previous two decades that caused many of them to work in factories. As attractive as this ideal may have been to the WWII vet or teh factory girl, it obviously didn’t turn out so well for a lot of them, and it had to have involved a great deal of repression and disappointment. One wonders whether it wasn’t a natural outlet for those disappointed and repressed men to laugh at jokes denigrating the women who had “trapped” them into domesticity, just as it was natural for some women (like Friedan) to conclude that the ideal was empty and a disaster for women.

  15. Data point: the thought police of the academy have managed to mold my psyche to the point where Imus’s remark is genuinely, viscerally unpleasant to me, both in its stupid racism and the way it pollutes what should have been a moment of enjoyment and pride for the Rutgers team. On the other hand, I can listen to mainstream hip-hop without cringing at, or feeling indignation toward, the sex and the violence. What explains this awkward conjunction of attitudes? One hypothesis: I’ve accepted, at some level, the presence of lyrics like these as features of the genre, and in doing so I ignore them.

    We, as a culture, have become altogether too de-sensitized to absolutely too much and somehow, we need to pull things back. We have become much to complacent about so-called “art” movies like Quentin Tarentino’s new Grindhouse. I think those types of movies are disgusting. I think movies and lyrics and video games that show people being tortured and killed are TRUE pornography, as opposed to movies and lyrics and video games where consenting adults are having “normal” sex and no one is getting hurt. We’re like the degenerate Romans and their coliseum games. We’ve become jaded and totally corrupted.

    Just my opinion.

  16. comment 15, marijam, you are spot on. Righties have a point that Imus was singled out for saying things that are way too prevalent, and spoken by many in this culture. The general coarsening of our culture and the desensitization of the public to violence of many forms over the last few generations is a vast subject with many datapoints.

    I’m certain I’m not the only one who rolls up the windows and cringes, waiting for the light to change, when somebody pulls up next to me, hip-hop blaring from their overloaded car speakers.

    Ditto for Quentin Tarantino’s cinematic bloodbaths. What Imus has done, rightly or wrongly, is make himself a lightening rod for all of us who feel impotence in the face of this downward spiral of degredation we see all around us.

    I hate to say it, but I sound like a conservative in this regard. The thing we hold in common with conservatives is a desire for civility, respect, and order. We differ greatly in how to achieve this, and what it ultimately looks like, but no one who’s healthy wants to live in a sewer.

  17. Just for the record, we Caucasians usually have dark hair and eyes. you mean “Celt” or “Aryan”, don’t you?

  18. I grew up with Leave It to Beaver, Father Knows Best, and Ozzie and Harriet, which btw shows a bumbling white male being saved by the ever so smart June Cleaver, Margaret Anderson, and Harriet Nelson. Those times were bad for women not only because they were the butt of jokes; but, because they were never considered anything other than an extension of their husbands. My Mom was never Iris Matheson until my Dad died in 1992. Until then, she was Mrs. Jerome W. Matheson. She was expected not to work and to be at home to fix our meals, etc., when we got home. In those days, my folks watched the Honeymooners; but, I never thought it was funny when Ralph Cramden talked about knocking his wife to the moon. I never found crossdressing very funny; but the adults would laugh and laugh. Much of my life was filled with sexism everywhere. But, my Dad made a mistake. He also wanted to teach his children (without regard to sex) how to take care of themselves. He was a DIYer. When we brought things to him to fix, he showed us how so we could do it ourselves next time. Thus, he ended up with a couple of really independent daughters living in a world of sexism. I showed very early signs of independence. I just wish I hadn’t been so very shy then.

    There are lots of jokes from that time period that every now and then I tell a friend about them. There are a few that I think are still funny in a “black” humor kind of way; but, I keep them to myself. Yet, I don’t remember all that much humor that was truly hateful in the mode of Coulter’s humor and others of her ilk. I still think the really mean-spirited folks are on the right because they often call for our deaths.

    As for Rap music, I stopped listening to it when I heard several in a row that were so insulting to women. But, it is up to the parents to assist the children in that. I constantly heard from the adults in my life that Rock and Roll was the music of the devil. It is so tame compared to Rap. Also, if you have heard one rap song, you’ve heard them all because they are all the same beat. If I am going to listen to something with that much sameness, I prefer Strauss Waltzes.

    Imus’s joke was not funny and it took away from a great achievement by some talented young athletes and he should be fired.

    As Maha said this is a topic that could take a long time to discuss.

  19. i’m going to go out on a limb here and say the illustrious and much loved by me TBogg may have slipped a little by throwing in the “brown sugar” bit in an otherwise spot-on jab at our grossly untalented secretary of state. because what it reminds me of, unfortunately, is the particularly vile “brown sugar” by the rolling stones, which talks about how much fun a slave owner is about to have raping his female chattel. and don’t think i’m a mick-basher; “paint it black” may as well be my theme song.

    as for making fun of middle aged male-cisgendered northern europeans with melanin deficiency syndrome – otherwise known as the “people of no color” – bring it on. because let’s face it: we’re funny. in a laugh-at, as much as a laugh-with, kind of way.

  20. let’s face it: we’re funny. in a laugh-at, as much as a laugh-with, kind of way.

    I’ve often said there is no funnier sight in the world than a room full of naked white people. Don’t ask how I know that.

  21. … of course, Ms. Rice not being authentically black or even authentically female, she’s just getting what she deserves, because the Rules of PC only apply to the Right. The Left, regardless of who is in power, is *always* speaking truth to power and therefore exempt from any such considerations.

    God help me for agreeing with a rightie, but I think that’s a very fair statement. Pardon the atrocious cliche Barbara, but let’s call a spade a spade. The whole (excellent) post was about the thoughtless intolerance of people using caustic humor like this. I used to refer to Secretary Rice as ‘the first negroe secretary of state’. One thing this whole Imus affair (and this posting) has taught me is that we need to think about the words we use as weapons. We need to remember to criticize on the merits (or lack there of) instead of engaging in these far too common ad hominem slurs.

  22. tontocal — Where was the ad hominem slur? It can be argued that the “brown sugar” part was sexist/racist — although I think there’s room to argue it isn’t — but the rest of what TBogg wrote was perfectly justifiable. Condi got “what she deserved” because of what she has done, not because she is a black woman.

  23. Barbara,

    I disagree. It’s kinda like the threat of global warming. I can get all verklempt about it (and I do sometimes) but if I’m watching coverage of it on my plasma tv, it’s kinda pointless, isn’t it? My point is that I certainly don’t think that TBogg meant like the Rolling Stones meant it. While subtle, the epithet is meant to cast aspersions on her as both black and female. We can say she’s arguably the friggin’ lousiest Secretary of State in American history without having to demean her sex or her race.

    One of the reasons I read your blog every morning, and have for a couple of years now is that I come to you for reasoned debate and many times, excellent editorial style viewpoints.

    Again, the point of my last comment was that name calling demeans us all.

  24. There’s a difference between words used as art, and words used as opinion. Sometimes the line between art and opinion is hard to find, or different people find it in different places. But basically, on one side you have irony, and on the other misanthropism. Nobody mistakes Johnny Cash’s “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” for misanthropism; I’ve never heard anyone upset about Led Zepplin’s song about being a glorious slaughtering Viking. I personally put Tarantino’s flicks firmly in the irony category.

    Some argue that Imus was just using words that rap music put in the lexicon. Some argue that rappers just let the sun shine on attitudes that are already there. They both have a point, but I think the Paris riots indicate we should give the rappers some credit (in France, everyone is *by definition* equal, so there can’t possibly be any discrimination).

    My son asked me why anyone would watch Imus. The only thing I could come up with was say you really wished you’d gotten plastered the night before, you could still get that hung-over feeling.

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  26. I was born in the late fifties, and the cookbook I learned from was my mother’s wedding present, a Betty Crocker comprehensive, everything from kitchen organization to packing cookies for the brave fellows overseas. It had lots of pictures and showed you stuff like the lost art of “creaming” butter and sugar when making a cake.

    It also did not have a single woman’s name in it. Everyone who were generously sharing their recipes and entertaining tips were “Mrs. Lionel Uptight” and “Mrs. Edward Dull.”

    It also had little tips for getting through your day. I vividly remember a cute illustration, where a hardworking housewife was “taking a moment for herself” by looking at a squirrel on a branch. Which, of course, she was supposed to “share with her family later.”

    I became a heckuva baker, if I do say so myself.

    But the cookbook also made me a very early feminist.

  27. WereBear — If you think the cookbooks were sexist, you should have seen the pre-Dr.Spock child care manuals from the 1930s and 1940s. My mother had one that is lost now; I wish I still had it to show to people. It was medieval.

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