Weird Words of Wisdom: Swearing, Shouting, and Back-Slapping Edition


“My prime concern is that, back at the childhood stage, parents and schools not encourage girls to be competitive with males if that is going to make them dissatisfied with raising children, their most creative job in adulthood, whether or not they go to work too.”

A Teenager’s Guide to Life and Love, 1970
By Dr. Benjamin Spock

Dr. Benjamin Spock

Dr. Benjamin Spock

About the author: Dr. Benjamin Spock was one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. His Baby and Child Care, first published in 1946, had sold more than 50 million copies by the time of Spock’s death in 1998.

Marking a shift from authoritarian parenting models, Spock’s book encouraged parents to trust their instincts and treat their children as individuals.

By the time Spock published this book for teenagers, he had attracted controversy for his protests against the war in Vietnam. In 1972, he would run for president on the People’s Party ticket, advocating for legalized abortion and marijuana and socialist economic policies. Unsurprisingly, he became a lightning rod for criticism from the right, which blamed his “permissive” parenting model for causing societal ills. (Recently, on a true crime message board I follow, one poster even blamed Spock’s influence for the Newtown, Connecticut, school shootings.)

In this book for teens, Spock doesn’t advocate any permissiveness. He makes the usual admonitions against smoking, drinking, marijuana use, and teenage sex.

When it comes to gender roles, he’s downright old-fashioned. He labels any female interest in non-baby-oriented achievements as signs of “rivalry” or “aggressiveness.” By 1970, many women were openly expressing dissatisfaction with being forced into a housewife role. Spock blames their feelings on parents and schools who have treated women in too egalitarian a fashion.

Spock’s reliance on Freudian theories of sexual development explains some of his weirder statements in this book, including the total WTF-ery that is this passage:

“I’d like to take this occasion to warn boys who earn money as sitters that a girl in the three-to-six-year-old period can become very seductive if for instance she gets excited in rough-h0using, just because she is at the early-childhood sexual-romantic stage, yet hardly knows what she’s doing. A youth with strong sexual feelings of his own may find it difficult to resist such as disarming temptation to sex play unless he’s somewhat prepared.”

Within a year after this book was published, Spock spoke at the National Women’s Political Conference and got an earful from Gloria Steinem and other feminists about sexism in Baby and Child Care. To his credit, he listened and learned from that experience, revising future editions of his work to eliminate sexist language.

Quotes from A Teenager’s Guide to Life and Love

“I think that treating the two sexes alike pits them against each other to some degree and increases the rivalry due to other causes. Women in America during the past 50 years have increasingly been wearing clothes and doing their hair like men. Some of them now drink, shout, backslap, use obscenities and tell dirty stories like men. In these respects I think they have been motivated more by rivalry than by natural inclination.”

“…the thing that I’m concerned about is that quite a few women nowadays, especially some of those who have gone to college, find the life of taking care of their babies and children all day boring and frustrating…I think that the main reason so many mothers are bored is that their upbringing and their education have made them somehow expect to get their satisfaction and their pride as adults from the same occupations outside the home as men.”

“One big trouble is that schools and colleges don’t teach about the tremendous contribution that women make to any society in raising the children and inspiring them to do great things. Schools and colleges hold up for admiration the statesmen, generals, inventors, scientists, writers, composers and industrialists. So these are the careers that bright girls as well as bright boys dream of. When young women find themselves instead taking care of their children all day, some of them feel they aren’t using their education, aren’t being fulfilled…I would say it is much more creative to rear and shape the personality of a fine live child than it is to work in an office or even to carve a statue.”

“When a significant portion of the women in a society become more rivalrous and aggressive, over several generations, they can push a proportion of the males into a more submissive role.”

“Another way in which some men have lost considerable sense of pride and masterfulness is by no longer being the only breadwinner in many families.”

“I believe that if a girl is raised at home and taught in school to have pride in the creativity of motherhood, joy in being a woman, a sense of fulfillment through her ability to understand and help people, she will be happier as a wife and mother. And then if she has an outside career in addition, whatever it is, she will bring her womanliness to it…In other words, she won’t feel that the main satisfaction of any career is to compete with the men at their own game.”

“What about the insensitive boy who persists in making advances—even forcibly—despite a girl’s sincere resistance? She has to be ready to fight and scream if necessary. But this possibility raises the question whether a girl really has to get into a situation in which she is at the mercy of a boy whose crudeness she is not aware of. The answer generally is no.”

“…boys and men on the prowl take it for granted that a girl who accepts rides from semi-strangers is probably looking for excitement.”

Other Weird Word of Wisdom posts you might enjoy:

Mugging, Smooching, and Flinging the Woo Edition

Embracing Our Nature and Destiny Edition

Big Splendid Manhood Edition


Weird Words of Wisdom: Embracing Our Nature and Destiny Edition

“Unless you are expecting to marry a militant feminist (and if you are, it might be well to reconsider what is in store for you), it is best to remember that even tomboys are actually girls who are just going through a phase, and that ‘equality’ is not the best word to describe what women really want.”

The Girl That You Marry, 1960
By Dr. James H. S. Bossard and Dr. Eleanor Stoker Boll

About This Book: A reviewers’ blurb on the dust jacket says this book will help boys learn “just why the little things that seem so foolish to him are so very important to his girl.” Indeed, the authors attempt to explain the mysterious workings of the female mind through such chapters as “She is Ritualistic and Conservative,” “She Needs Security,” and “She Wants to Be a Mother.”

Oh, the authors do admit these generalizations don’t apply to every girl. “The fact is,” they write, “that some of them are so sick mentally, or maladjusted emotionally or socially that cannot even live at peace with themselves. Among this group are the girls who are rebels against their own nature and destiny.”

By the way, if you’re wondering why teenage boys would be thinking about marriage, it’s interesting to note that the median age at first marriage in 1960 was 20 for girls and 22 for boys. In other words, half the people getting married were below those ages! In 1960, 72 percent of American adults age 18 and older were married. (Today, the median age at marriage has hit a record high in America—26 for women and 28 for men, and only half of adults age 18 and older are married.)

The Macrae Smith Company published this book, and they did a crappy job. It’s riddled with typos.

About the Authors: James H. S. Bossard was a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania who published frequently on marriage, family, and child development issues. Eleanor Stoker Boll, another Penn sociology professor, collaborated with him often. I can find almost no biographical information about them beyond what’s on this book’s jacket. Dr. Bossard died in January 1960, before this book hit the shelves. Dr. Boll, who wrote a follow-up book called The Man That You Marry, died in February 1997.

I became slightly obsessed with finding out if these authors were married to each other. A couple of vague hints in this book suggest they were, but I can’t confirm that. In this 1959 article about weddings (which is worth a look, if only for the photo and the sidebar on 1950s wedding costs), Dr. Bossard refers to Dr. Boll as his associate. Given their attachment to traditional gender roles, I’m curious how their academic partnership worked if they were husband and wife—and even more curious about how it worked if they weren’t.

Strange Sidelight: Both Drs. Bossard and Boll worked for the William T. Carter Foundation for Child Development at Penn. While looking for information about them, I learned about William T. Carter’s son Billy—a cad who let his wife and children fend for themselves on the Titanic. His car was the model for the car where Jack and Rose got busy in the movie Titanic.

Quotes from The Girl That You Marry

On Men and Women

“Our assumption is that the girl you are going to marry is like most American girls…She likes being a girl, and she wants to become a real woman.”

“Girls are built and designed to do certain things and boys to do different things. Girls excel in some things and lag in others, just as boys do, and the more normal the boy is and the more normal the girl he marries, the more this is apt to be the case.”

“The most secure feeling that a young bride can have is the confidence that she is married to a man…A wife looks to her husband as to Gibraltar—as a rock of strength and stability. If her husband does not prove to be that, the wife loses the comfortable feeling of having a man to rely upon for things she is not equipped by nature to do as well for herself. She also is a bit disappointed in him as a male.”

“Your wife will experience this secure sense of worthiness when you recognize her as different from you and support her femininity in a manly way.”

“A boy who has not grown up with sisters is often surprised at the quick changes of reaction and mood of his new bride. She may seem sparkling and strong one day and depleted, depressed and irritable the next few days, only to return after this to her former cheery self.”

On the Relative Importance of Clothing to Men and Women

“By ages eighteen and nineteen, the popular ages for girls to marry today, she has been reared to place great stress upon being well dressed, and with many appropriate changes. This is a necessity in the competition to attract boys and to get a husband. Later, when she is a wife, it is still necessary if her husband and children are to be proud of her and if she is to maintain her self-respect and her position as a wife and a mother among other women and men.”

“…boys have been brought up to think that being well dressed themselves is a sign of, or close to, sissiness. The male author recalls across the span of many years the day he took a brand new pair of shoes and ‘worked over’ the outside with a rough stone to take away the newness of their appearance.”

On the Importance of Wedding Symbols and Festivities to Women

“An engaged girl without a ring is perpetually aware of the unseemly nakedness of her finger. Girls take great delight in visible symbols of a man’s love for them. They differ from most men in this.”

“That strange community of females that finds such romance in these occasions will probably take up her time, and yours, increasingly with showers and parties…Added this this, the girl has new and absorbing interests. The hope chest must be equipped. Every new acquisition is exciting to a girl who is picturing its use in your home and hers. Fortunate is the boy who has, or can assume, interest in guest towels and double damask dinner napkins…”

“Were you to become President of the United States, you would probably not want to be inaugurated in private. Her wedding is just as important as that to her.”

On “Sexual Adjustment”

“It has quite generally been found true that the girl who has the least petting experience before marriage is the girl apt to take longest for satisfactory sexual adjustment in marriage. And practically everyone who has questioned large groups of boys about their attitudes on premarital sex experiences finds that boys, many of whom are quite willing to exploit other girls, want their own to have had practically no petting experience.”

“Your bride, if she loves you, will comply with your wishes often, without any resistance whatsoever, in spite of surrounding conditions, and you will both find a kind of satisfaction.”

On Homemaking

“…girls are reared to be domestic, to think of homemaking as a very important job. The girl who is happy about being a girl loves this job and wants to do it in the best possible way.”

“A husband should no more try to direct his wife’s housekeeping than she should try to direct his business.”

“When the woman from next door drops in, or the boss and his wife come for dinner, no one will blame the husband if the house is ill-kept and the food unpalatable and badly served. They will only pity him…And strangely enough, those same husbands who care not what conditions the lady next door may drop in upon, swell with pride when the boss praises “your charming home” and “the little woman’s dinner party.”

“She wants to please you. Be patient with her and encourage her, and you may be the prime factor in turning an experienced young girl into the chef of chefs.”

On Parenthood

“Adult males who are physically and mentally healthy, usually are quite aware of the importance of their part in reproduction and, at some time in their lives, feel like less than whole men if they have never played their role in creating a new life. How much more is this true of the female, whose whole body has been shaped by nature for the role of motherhood.”

“The conservatism of the female, which tends to be greater than that of the male throughout life, reaches its peak at the time of motherhood and the rearing of children…As a matter of fact, some of the giddiest girls become the most conservative mothers.”

“A group of fathers in Long Island, New York, has formed a Society of Frustrated Fathers. All their children are girls and as the dads put it, ‘Girls are fine but they don’t play football.’ So these fathers meet to do together and to talk about the things they would talk about at home had they sons of their own.”

And one of the weirdest, most WTF observations ever

“Some psychiatric therapists who work with children and their mothers have told us they think some high-grade morons make better mothers for small children than do well educated and intellectual mothers…What they mean is this: A woman of low mentality can endure and enjoy the constant association with small children, and without strain, because she is mentally in gear with them.”

Read the whole Weird Words of Wisdom series!