Monday, July 30, 2012

Pioneer Women

If you're in Utah, you celebrated Pioneer Day this past week. This holiday, celebrated both by the state and the LDS Church, marks the arrival of Brigham Young and the Mormons in the Salt Lake Valley.

And the week's festivities reminded me of something that one of our interview subjects argued...that Helen's ideas about romance and femininity represent a cultural shift away from the ideas about women just a generation before her. That, on the frontier, there was no room for dependence and childlikeness and flirtation. That pioneer women in Helen's mother's and grandmother's generation often needed to be hard-laborers in the fields and in the house, that they endured incredible privations complicated by high birth rates and isolation, that Mormon women were sometimes within polygamous relationships that demanded much and offered very little.

Helen's ideas about fascination then seem a conscious effort to escape the very demanding lives of the pioneer women who came before her. This is something we explore in the documentary.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fascinating Women

Sally Ride died last week. She was an astronaut, physicist, teacher, tennis player.

But she wouldn't have counted as fascinating in Helen's book.

Sarah Palin, conservative doctrinaire, has taken it upon herself to remain a warning voice in American politics.

Also not fascinating.

Hillary Clinton...  I don't even have to finish that thought, do I?

Maya Angelou, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Toni Morrison, Nancy Pelosi, Oprah Winfrey, Madeleine Albright, Rachel Carson, Marie Curie, Indira Ghandi, Golda Meir, Angela Merkel, Condoleeza Rice, Sandra Day O'Connor, Rosa Parks, Martha Stewart, Margaret Thatcher. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Parran.

None of these women rate very high for Helen. They are powerful, competent, articulate, successful women, whether or not we agree with their politics. Helen says often in her book that women's first calling is to be a wife and a mother. She repeats on her website that feminists have ruined our economy and upended our American values system. At one point, she even quotes Rush Limbaugh, saying that women have "screwed up America."

And she advises that if single ladies must work, they should try not to be more successful than the men around them. It's more important to be feminine and well-liked than proficient and accidentally insult a co-worker's masculinity.

Yet, Helen still has an incredible following on the web and in print. The latest edition of Fascinating Womanhood went to press in 2007. Her message appeals to many women, perhaps because they feel like their choices to raise children are denigrated by today's society. This is what our documentary hopes to explore. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Erin's Past Films II

Here's another film from Erin!

Called The Milliner, this film was created for the 2009 Attack of the 50 Foot Reels at the Egyptian Theater, Los Angeles, CA.

Erin focuses on the process of hatmaking here, an art some consider out of style. But her use of experimental techniques brings a real physicality to the subject.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Helen's Thoughts on Daughter's Education

Taken from the 2007 edition of Fascinating Womanhood.

Should Daughters be Trained for Careers?
You may think your daughters should prepare to make a living in the event of widowhood, divorce or other compelling emergencies. Consider the seriousness of this step from the following viewpoints:

1. Makes her independent and less likely to attract a man.
2. Encourages her to continue working after marriage.
3. Wastes her time on training that changes from year to year.
4. Provides an easy escape from marriage.
5. Deprives her of a liberal education that will prepare her to develop creativeness, intelligence, sound reasoning, and wisdom.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Valerie Hudson Profile

Dr. Valerie Hudson is professor of Political Science at BYU and director of the WomanSTATS project.

Hudson's research into international family law and the global status of women confirms that the health and wellness of women in a nation-state will predict the stability of the economy and state security.

How does this connect to Fascinating Womanhood?  One of the arguments about Helen's ideas is whether or not she promotes gender equality. With Helen's call for a return to previous standards of femininity and sexual division of labor, is she helping women regain the respect and protection they lost via the Second Wave of Feminism? Or is she asking women to give up legal, social, and ethical gains they've made because of Second Wave Feminism?

And how does that affect our society?

You can read this article in Foreign Policy about Dr. Hudson's new monograph, Sex and World Peace.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


As you know, independent documentaries and feature films scramble for funding on a constant basis. Handkerchief Films as a production company is no different. Much of the travel, equipment, and other fees have been paid from Erin's work as a commercial editor. Other positions are unpaid, and generally we're doing what we can to move the project efficiently along.

We continue to work on grant applications. One of our successful grants is fiscal sponsorship from the Utah Film Center, which extends us non-profit status. This means anyone donating to our project via UFC can earn a tax break for 2012. Please contact us if you're interested in donating in this way.

We also have two more days on Kickstarter. We've already reached our goal, but the website is an easy way for people to donate to the project. You can donate at a level ($22) that will reserve a DVD copy of the final film to be sent out next spring.

Once our Kickstarter campaign has finished, we will make pre-ordering of the DVD available on Amazon. Look for that by the end of the week.

Many thanks for all those who continue to support the project.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Erin's Past Films

Erin has been making documentaries ever since we met in 1996. She specializes in portraits and for today's post I want to show off one of her earliest pieces, called A Merry Widow.

The beauty about Erin's work is that she approaches her subjects with generosity. And when she focuses her work on women, she's able to hear the stories that are often overlooked in our mainstream culture. This means that in the interview process, the women she interviews trust her, open up, are unafraid to laugh at themselves but also unafraid to make claims about who they are and what they want to be.

As we finish up interviews for Fascinating Womanhood Documentary and head into the editing process, we still don't know what the final film will look like. It has been a journey, an exploration, and we appreciate all the support we've had so far.

We'll link to other films from Erin as we go along. Think of them as tapas; small and flavorful, satisfying.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Helen's Thoughts on Feminism

Taken from Helen's website

"What is the Fascinating Womanhood Way, and how does it differ from the Feminist Way? Here is a quick review of the basic differences: Feminism centers round claiming rights, whereas FW centers around filling responsibilities, especially those in the home. The feminists want to assure equality of the sexes, whereas FW women want to preserve the differences between the sexes. Feminism teaches women to focus on their needs. FW teaches women to focus on their husband's needs and their family's needs. Feminism promises women a life of freedom and equality. FW promises women a life of love and happiness. Feminism is a self-centered philosophy, whereas FW is an unselfish, giving philosophy. Feminism ignores basic religious principles, such as those taught in the Bible. FW is based on religious principles, supported by the Bible.

It is easy to see why some women become involved with the views of feminism. The words rights, freedom and equality sound so fair and square. They are especially attracted to feminism if these ideas are planted in their minds by their mothers, who hate housework, hate men and urge their daughters to liberate themselves from the chores of the household by seeking careers outside the home. Once out in the world of men they are urged to claim their rights in all areas - equal pay, equal opportunity, equal benefits etc. Naturally, young women exposed to this background are easy targets for feminism. They relate to their ideas and the influences of other young people. If there is no light to guide them in a better direction, they listen to the loud voices of the feminists and think it must be the only way to go."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

desire to understand

Hi this is Erin. One of the reasons I read Fascinating Womanhood was for its advice about understanding men. Relationships are difficult! As we have been making this documentary I have been keen to understand what are the real differences between men and women and what makes a relationship work well? I think there's a spectrum - on one end men and women are the same, and on the other end of the spectrum they are very different.  Here's what Fascinating Womanhood says:

Six Characteristics of Men:
1. His need to be accepted at face value.
2. His need for admiration.
3. His sensitive masculine pride.
4. His need for sympathetic understanding. 
5. His need to be No. 1.
6. His need to serve as the guide, protector and provider to feel needed in this role, and to excel women in doing so.

My personal belief is men and women have many similar needs.  I believe people need to be valued and respected. If a woman is giving this kind of attention to her man, then she is most likely to receive it in return.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fabricating Womanhood

 Hello, it's artist Emily here. I wanted to share some of my work and thoughts with you. In 2010, my final MFA exhibit was entitled, Fabricating Womanhood. It was a spoof off of Helen's book. I wanted to explore some of the ideas in her book, as well as the notions of her time period. Click HERE for images. Here is what I wrote about it in my thesis paper:
 I wanted my final exhibit to be a house because it seemed like the appropriate space to display my work. The house functioned as a metaphor for many things in my life: my messy brain full of questions and contradictions, a relationship that was built then destroyed, a prop to help explain the narrative aspects of my work, a vehicle to help me steer the viewer into the questions and contemplations I was sensing. While the outside of the house, isolated in the dark gallery space looked plain and unadorned; the interior space had the trappings of pleasantries, gay colors, comfortable chairs, pillows, welcoming candy dishes, a genealogy of portraits on the wall, but underneath the comedy, laughing, frilly bows, and pink ruched roses there was a questioning- with a sometimes bitter, cynical, and tragic tone to it.
Making the house was a way for me to explore identity and find catharsis. It was an open-ended exploration of ideas, a way to help me sort out the messages of the media, my parents, and my faith. In all its idealism and glory, the home is the stage for many important events.  It’s where women perform their greatest roles as mothers and homemakers--they have impact and power there. The home is both a cage where monotony and conflict exist as well as a realm where women flourish and prosper, and it is where I learned my first lessons.  
Below are some featured works.

 This is an oil painting of a Barbie Doll. Her arms are up in a surrender pose. I'm not sure if she's happy about that.

  The mothers are instructing their daughters in love and concern, possibly talking about what is going to happen to the daughter’s body- how she is going to mature, and  how she must take responsibility for how she is perceived by men. The etchings depict a process of going from innocence to knowledge and accountability. The young girls are learning how to behave towards others. Here are some suggestions for them:
Men are impressed by softness, curves and bounce. They like a wind-blown look.
-John Robert Powers, The American Magazine, 1946.

If a parent can make a child realize how sweet are the fruits [of abstinence], later in life, of good, clean living in youth, half of the battle will be won. With some natures it is necessary to resort to the psychology of fear in order to bring home this truth, with others simply appealing to their sense of honor and pride is sufficient.
- The Digest of Hygiene for Mother and Daughter, 1947

Keep your mouth clean and your breath sweet. Brush the teeth at least twice a day- nothing is more repellant than a bad odor from the mouth. If you have it persistently you should consult a physician.
- The Digest of Hygiene for Mother and Daughter, 1947

Poise and self confidence are available to any woman. Discover who you really are and where you are going. Develop your own convictions. Have the courage to live by your standards. Enjoy your unique spot in the world.
-The Total Woman, Marabel Morgan, 1973

Fascinating Womanhood and FMH

Feminist Mormon Housewives allowed us space for a blog post on their site. Many thanks to them for their generous support.

Read the comments.  People react strongly to Fascinating Womanhood, on many fronts. This is what our documentary hopes to account for---women who found Helen's books helpful and women who disagree profoundly with her strategies and suggestions.

As for myself, I have read several editions of Helen's book and I have tried to find ideas that are useful. Such as:

  • You can't change people.
  • You are responsible for you, so be the best person you can be.
  • Treat the people in your life with kindness. 

As a wise woman once told me, there's no commandment against common sense.

As for the rest of the book, ambivalence and heartburn abound when I read it. A friend just wrote to me her experience of the book, and I quote from her summary:

"But when you're scared, or overwhelmed, or lonely, or have tons of self-doubt, [the book] is a total siren song.  I think the enduring popularity of this book is really just a monument to how many people do feel scared, overwhelmed, lonely, are crippled with self-doubt, or have a history of abusive relationships and don't know what love actually is.  A monument to sad."

Maxine Hanks Profile

Maxine Hanks is most well-known for her book Women and Authority (1992), a historical review of women's position within the LDS church. Hanks is uniquely situated to comment on Helen's cultural roots who was a Mormon woman who used the opportunities available to her to promote her ideas about gender and marriage.

 Hanks offers a sympathetic perspective on Helen's attempts to be recognized for what she saw as doctrinally accurate strategies in fixing marriages.

Friday, July 6, 2012

At the Movies with Helen

Often at her website,, Helen Andelin referred to movies for examples of FW principles. Below are some of the films she referenced.

Pride and Prejudice (1995, BBC production): Elizabeth's demeanor influences Darcy to give up his pride and her character excites an ardent love in him.
Anna and the King (1999, staring Jodie Foster): Anna knows when and how to be assertive, a virtue that must be balanced with submissiveness.
Woman of the Year (1942): Katherine Hepburn plays a career woman who learns the best thing for her marriage is to give up work outside the home.
Little Lord Fauntleory (1980): A good example that treating a man like the man you want him to be will help him change.
A Star is Born (1954): Judy Garland's career outshines her husband and devastates him, pushing him to suicide. She learns too late that their marriage and his happiness are more important than her success.
The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (1956): The male protagonist tells his wife of his many exploits during the war, including killing other men and having an affair with another woman. His wife wisely forgives him all.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Holly Welker Profile

Dr. Holly Welker is a writer whose poetry and prose have appeared in publications ranging from
Seventeen to Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought to The New York Times to Best American

Read her essay in Bitch Magazine about what she calls the "legacy" of Helen's ideas, most evident in the Twilight series.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Stephanie Probst Profile

Stephanie Probst, blogger on Feminist Mormon Housewives, wrote two posts about her book club's reading of Fascinating Womanhood that received over 900 comments from readers.

In Fascinating Womanhood the documentary, Probst discusses how contemporary women struggle to live by conflicting social ideals about women. Helen's book embodies one set of values that Probst feels is at odds with women's daily lives.

Helen's Thoughts on Submissiveness

Taken from Helen's website

"Women everywhere are fighting for their rights, not realizing that the way to win with men is to yield.  Once [a husband's] authority was recognized and honored he was more than willing to yield also. Most men are not nearly as difficult as they appear. They are usually struggling for position. When this is respected they relax and are more reasonable...
Submissiveness is a wonderful feminine quality, greatly valued by men, not just because it puts the ball in their hands, but because it is charming."

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Spreading the Good Word

Gilly Kuehn was one of many certified instructors across America who taught the principles of Fascinating Womanhood in her community. These courses were often taught in neighborhood churches or a woman's home, lasting 10 weeks. Mrs. Kuehn taught FW courses for over 30 years and this experience led to her eventual position as couple's counselor at her church.

Irwin Zuckor Profile

Irwin Zuckor, book publicist in Beverly Hills, CA, represented Fascinating Womanhood among
hundreds of other self-publishing success stories, including Helen Gurley Brown (Sex and the
Single Girl
, 1962) and Paul Bragg (Cure Yourself, 1929).

Mr. Zuckor pinpoints the market value of Helen's book, and the competition in ideas it offered the American reading public.