I had been wanting to read The Total Woman, by Marabel Morgan, for years. I had heard that it was like Fascinating Womanhood but much more sexy. As one who guiltily reads books like Fascinating Womanhood, by Helen Andelin, and The Surrendered Wife, by Laura Doyle, as erotic literature more than anything else, this sounded promising. Doyle and Andelin may have been silent on the subject of how extremely exciting it can be to be in an unequal relationship, but perhaps Morgan had mentioned the unmentionable.
The other day, I finally got my hands on a used copy of The Total Woman and read it. Evidently designed for housewives who are too busy ironing socks to waste time reading, it didn't take more than a few hours to read from cover to cover. I really wanted to like it, but it didn't live up to my expectations. Even the part on sex managed to be entirely unexciting.
It has some cute headings and its tone is more fun and light-hearted than Fascinating Womanhood and The Surrendered Wife, but it is so light on content that it almost makes The Surrendered Wife look deep—not an easy feat.
If you are a disorganised, frazzled Christian housewife and mother who has been snapping at her husband, bossing him about, and rejecting him sexually for years, you might find this book useful. The entire first part is about how to become more organised, and there is a large section on parenting too, because a “Total Woman” is more than just a good wife: she is an organised woman, a great housekeeper and a good mother, too. (But that's about it, as far as I can tell.)
The commonsense is fairly obvious stuff about not trying to change your man, and about being positive and effervescent and so on. For example, a cheery smile in the morning and an enthusiastic welcome when your husband comes home from work may make him feel good, and if he feels good, he will be nice to you, and everything will go swimmingly. That is, as long as he is the kind of man who likes that. Some people prefer zero interaction until they have had a chance to relax for half an hour after they get home from work. But you can see what the author is trying to say, even if she rather seems to assume that everyone has the same preferences.
Laura Doyle's The Surrendered Wife has often been criticised as advocating that women should turn themselves into Stepford wives, but The Total Woman seems to me much closer to advocating that. The Surrendered Wife has many faults to be sure, but it doesn't assume that a woman's only focus in life is her husband, home and children in quite the way The Total Woman seems to. I am all for women cherishing and focusing on their men, but Marabel Morgan appears to take the view that what a man wants is a woman who will make him, their home and children her whole life.
Some of the author's suggestions are excellent, but some seem positively frightening. She advises readers even to take up the same interests and hobbies as their husbands—yes, if fishing is his passion, you have to get up at 4 a.m. and go fishing with him for four hours if you want a good marriage; if he loves cars, you have to become knowledgeable about cars too; if he likes rugby, you have to learn the rules and the players and read the reports of games so you can talk enthusiastically to him about the latest player transfer. Why? Because when a husband talks about something important to him, some wives fail to engage with what their husband is saying and ask him to pass the salt.
If your husband is telling you something important to him (like what happened in the latest rugby game, or about his sighting of a “ruby-throated hummingbird nectaring at the zinnias”) obviously, asking him to pass the salt, or complaining about the neighbours' new garden furniture, is not ideal! But it doesn't follow that you should spend large amounts of precious ironing time (or whatever you like doing) teaching yourself ornithology or learning the rules of rugby, let alone going to a rugby match every Saturday, if that idea is about as appealing to you as ironing socks would be to me. It is perfectly possible to be supportive of a man and his interests without changing your entire life and dropping your own interests to do so. And how many men would really want a woman who spends so much time pursuing his interests that she has no time for her own? (On the other hand, quite a few women like rugby without having any idea what the rules are. All those big strong men bounding about and piling into each other in violent scraps—er, scrums, I mean.)
Marabel Morgan advises giving your husband a lovely home-cooked dinner every day, which you prepare in the morning after the breakfast you have cooked for the family. And don't forget to lay the table for dinner in the morning, after waving your husband off to work, and before doing all the housework necessary to keep your home spotless, and reading up on his interests.
And when your husband comes home from work, you are to greet him at the door wearing a different sexual fantasy costume every day, the aim being to signal your sexual availability and adventurousness. Now this might be a dream come true for some husbands, but not for all. The author does not seem to know what Laura Doyle knows, namely, that sometimes it is not the husband who feels sexually deprived, as seems to be assumed in this book, but the wife. In such a case, following Marabel Morgan's advice might well add more sexual pressure and put the husband off even more. He might feel manipulated or expected to perform on demand, and no good can come of that. So if you read this book, do not follow the advice mindlessly. There is so much that could be disastrous!
That is my view. If you have read the book, what do you think of it?