Man of Steel and Velvet by Aubrey Andelin: a book review

Man of Steel and Velvet by Aubrey Andelin: a book review

Because I derived much amusement from reading Helen Andelin's Fascinating Womanhood, I decided to give her husband's book, Man of Steel and Velvet, a go as well.

Dr Andelin's premise is that in order to be a good husband, father, and a better human being generally, a man should ideally combine both steel and velvet in his character. He begins by giving some examples of men who combine these qualities, and he starts, rather ambitiously, with Jesus Christ. Lest some men should find emulating Jesus a somewhat daunting prospect, he continues with Abraham Lincoln, Petruchio, and Sir Lancelot.

Mulling over this list, I felt that as being a good leader of a family is the most important thing in Dr Andelin's book, none of these men are entirely satisfactory examples. While I agree that Jesus was a wholly admirable character, he was quite conspicuously uninterested in family life, and remained single as far as we know throughout his time on earth. Abraham Lincoln was a great man and a great President, but his family life left, so I have always understood, something to be desired (I gather that Mary Todd Lincoln was, to put it mildly, a difficult woman to live with). Petruchio—well, I know he has his admirers on this site, but I am not one of them, and I feel that as husband material he leaves a lot to be desired. As for Sir Lancelot, the fact that he spent his life being hopelessly devoted to another man's wife does not perhaps indicate that he was the ideal family man. Nevertheless, these are the men whom Dr Andelin suggests that other men should emulate, and I suppose he knows his business.

The book is divided into two sections, the first describing the 'steel' qualities, and the second (much the shorter part) the 'velvet' qualities.

Not surprisingly, Dr Andelin shares with his wife a belief in rigidly seperate roles for men and women. The man's role is to be the guide, protector and provider for his wife and family. This, he assures, us, is God's plan for the human family, and any deviation from this is bound to lead to disaster. Women are to be confined to a strictly domestic role and are not to get uppitty. Men were created to function as leaders and providers, and women to look after the domestic sphere, and any inteference with these divinely appointed roles can only lead to disaster.

Unlike Mrs Andelin, he does not lay the blame for all failures in a marriage with the woman. If a woman gets uppity and starts to act dominant, it is because the man has failed to perform his role adequately.

With a strong man, the dominating woman does not exist. women take over as men allow them to. The responsibility to retain his position is his. This he must do at all costs.

Women and children need keeping in their place, and only trouble can result if they are not. Dr Andelin is unequivocal in his opinion that a woman is entirely dependent on her husband. He writes:

A woman is very much in a subordinate position to her husband. The man leads, the woman follows. He holds the right of decision, the final say in everything. She's dependent on him for all she has, for every freedom, every consideration, for everything she does and every place she goes. He holds the reins in the family.

There is no place in Dr Andelin's world for families that do not operate in this fashion. It's all or nothing for Dr. Andelin. He stresses that the man should be fair to his wife, in considering her wishes and desires etc, but on the point of the man having all the power he is inflexible.

He stresses the importance of man as protector of fragile, delicate women. In this context he relates a traumatisign experience he had when he rented a trailer to do some moving.

When I returned the trailer, his wife was on duty. She was dressed in heavy work clothes, wore shoes which resembled army cmobat boots and wore a man's cap. At first glance I thought she was a man. As I tried to unhitch the trailer she moved in with a large wrench and said "Here, let me do that." She was competent and she knew what to do. When it was unhitched, I started to push it to the spot it had to go and she said "Let me do that" and she pushed me aside.
I don't know whether her hsuband placed her in that position, allowed her to do it, or whether she willingly assumed this manly task. But I do know that if he were a real man, he wouldn't allow his wife to present herself to the world in this unfeminine way.

There you are. If you're a real man, never let your wife near a wrench. Dr. Andelin is highly disturbed by the idea of a woman being competent at anything except strictly domestic tasks to which she is suited by virtue of her fragile, delicate, feminine nature. Woe to any woman who steps outside a strictly domestic sphere for she is 'unfeminine' the worst thing any woman can be, at least in Dr. Andelin's book.

One of the most dangerous threats to a woman's femininity is if she takes a job outside the home, for then she enters the masculine world of work, and she might as well kiss her femininity goodbye for good. she will labour under a natural disadvantage, for she will never be able to match the man's excellence at work. Furthermore, if she is working for another man, she may come to see him as more desirable than her natural master, her husband.

Seeing him at his best and perhaps as a more effective and dynamic leader than her husband, she makes comaprisons unfavourable to her husband whose faults and failings she knows only too well.

I give Dr Andelin credit at least for admitting that husbands may have a few faults and failings of their own, though their wives would probably have continued to overlook them if they hadn't been permitted to sneak out of the house and go and work for someone else.

Men have an important role to play as builders of society, acheiving things that are of public service to the world. In this passage Dr. Andelin makes a major mistake. Talking about collaborative efforts between men he writes:

No one really knows who came up with the genius. Who, for example, invented the jet engine?

Oh, Dr. Andelin! FRANK WHITTLE invented the jet engine! and my husband can tell you all and more that you wish to know about Mr Whittle, you only have to ask.

Of course, Dr Andelin's point in this passage is that men have made efforts for the benefit of mankind without asking for recognition, but I know for a fact that it took years for Frank Whittle to get recognition for his invention, and I don't think he was exactly happy to do without it.

Women, of course, can be builders of society too, but by staying home and raising children, and not troubling their pretty little heads about science, technology, or anything like that. Stick with the cooking and the sewing and you can't go wrong.

The chapter on masculine traits begins by a description of physical characteristics which I found somewhat startling. Dr Andelin writes:

A man may or may not be born with a large build, a deep-pitched voice and a heavy beard.

I had to mull this one over for a while. I came to the conclusion that Dr Andelin probably didn't actually think that any men were BORN with beards, large builds or deep-pitched voices, but I'm not sure. Does he really think that some boy babies are born with beards? I see from his resume that he has eight children, for all I know maybe some of his sons were born with beards. I couldn't say, but it's an intriguing thought.

When it comes to the 'velvet' part of the book, he tells us that men must build women up and make them feel their role is important, he argues that men are partly responsible for the rise of feminism, through not having shown women enough consideration or made them feel useful. Men need to be gentle, tender, affectionate, remember their wives' birthdays etc. He even goes so far as to suggest that men should help out in the house if the women's work gets too much for them, so long as it isn't done as a regular thing.

He lists the things that a woman wants from a man as follows:
1. To be loved and cherished
2. A master to rule over her
3. A voice in matters which concern her
4. Sympathy when she suffers
5. Appreciation
6. A feeling that her domestic work is important work.
7. Personal freedoms. Time to do things. Right to go places.

Dr. Andelin may be right about women wanting some or all of these things, but although he takes the refreshing positon of blaming men at least partly for the evils that beset society, feminism etc, he is quite inflexible that there is only ONE model for marriage. The man commands, the woman obeys, the man goes out to work, the woman stays at home. Deviate from that pattern even slightly, and you're finished. Like Mrs Andelin, he is capable of being selective in his quotations and examples in order to bolster his theories. He quotes the same passage from Proverbs about the good wife as his wife does, and like his wife, conveniently leaves out of the quotation the part that shows that the good wife is a businesswoman as well as a housewife.
He mentions as an example of chivalry, Sir Walter Raleigh putting down his cloak for Queen Elizabeth, without observing that Queen Elizabeth was, in many ways, extremely unfeminine (according to Dr andelin's definition anyway). she was very highly educated, she had a career (being Queen is a full-time job), she bossed men about, and at times she swore and threw things at people. She was in her own unique way a highly fascinating woman, but not of the kind admired by the Andelins.

Although this book provided a fair amount of entertainment, it disappointed me severely in one respect. Mrs Andelin talks a great deal about snakes and who should kill them in Fascinating Womanhood the subject evidently fascinates her. However, there isn't a word in Dr Andein's book about snakes. Either he just ins't as interested in them as his wife is, or else he just takes it for granted that no man would be rash enough to marry a snake-killing woman in the first place. Oh well, you can't have everything.

Louise C

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Comments

The Perfect Couple

Sounds like Mr. and Mrs. Andelin are made for each other..snakes aside.

They appear to agree completely on what marriage is supposed to be like. Good for them.

I'm glad my husband and I agree on equality.

"Pat"

Made for each other

Yes, I think they undoubtedly were. I gather Dr Andelin passed on in 1999, so I suppose his views on snakes will never now be known, this is something of a disappointment to me, I was hoping to be able to ask him. Maybe I could seek the services of a reliable medium.

Louise

Andelins

May he rest in peace. May Louise be spanked by her husband because she acts like a snobby girl.

A snobby girl?

If you mean by that that I haven't written a review of Dr. Andelin's book that is entirely adulatory, then I suggest you have a look at some of the reviews on amazon. You will find some much more critical reviews than mine! And if you think my husband would care what I said about the Andelins, then you don't know him. If I was disrespectful about Frank whittle it might be a different story!

Louise

Weak men need silly role division

I think it's a shame when takeninhand relationhips have to be seen as and tarred with the same brush as unfair unequal relationships in which women don't have competence outside the home. I have never been with a man for example who hasn't liked and admired my work. It's no a threat. It's just an interesting additional important part of me. If there's no doubt about who is in charge and what is agreed the minor details like who does the washing and who is better at tax returns are neither here nor there. You don't need those fake indicators if you're properly dominant.

Over 150 years ago in the UK we (men and women) thought women's brains were smaller and their personalities so weak there was no way they could ever be competent surgeons or lawyers or leaders of nations. That was very wrong. Also many couples are not wanting or needing takeninhand relationships but books like these and religions which suggest all women are or should be obedient are very bad news for the planet although I'm sure they'd be very popular in places like Saudia and under the Taleban.

Fake indicators

I think this is so true. People who insist that the woman must stay at home, not have her own money, not do this or that seem to have a very artificial idea of what dominance consists of. I find it hard to believe that Dr Andelin had never encountered a couple with a stay-at-home wife who bossed her husband, because I believe there have always been plenty of such women about. I believe who is in charge should be to do with what kind of personality you have, not your financial standing. A man who can only stay in control by holding the purse strings is I think using artificial methods to maintain his control.

I found it quite absurd that Dr Andelin could apparently not envisage a man being able to stay in command in a relationship if his wife went out to work. A man's dominance must be built on very shaky ground if it is dependent on his wife being wholly financially dependent on him.

Louise

lmao. I'm torn.

lmao. I'm torn. While decidedly much of what this book suggests is personally appealing to me...it's NOT appealing to everyone. And the fact that it seems to be proscribed for everyone is what makes it disgusting.

I think people need to understand that even this vision of marriage is a minority view. People are too dynamic to say "most" of them are any one strict rigid way.

At the same time I was personally amused by a lot of it, the idea that this is "the way it should be for everyone" hearkens back to the dark ages.

Having said that though...I think that a somewhat traditional way of being in some ways shouldn't be avoided because it might be seen as following this individual's prescriptions.

I have no control over the money and I stay at home. My husband isn't "fake dominant." He's not following some list of rules someone else said he should follow. He's taking control in the ways he wants control. Dr. Andelin has no horse in this race. He's just a boob who mistakes form for susbtance, and assumes his way is everybody's way.

The form doesn't matter. What matters is that the form is a genuine expression of the people involved and meets genuine needs, as opposed to being followed in order to fit a pre-set mold of what one's relationship should be. It seems to me that Dr. Andelin doesn't want men to be in control of their wives...HE wants to be in control of the way male/female relationships are defined. Which is a whole different thing.

As for whether or not I stay home, Tom gave me that choice. I wanted to stay home and write and take care of the house. Working outside the home has absolutely no appeal to me and the only way I'd do it is if Tom actually made me. Or if we were under some kind of financial duress and it needed to be done for survival. Otherwise I'm more than happy to be kept like a pet. ;)

Dr. Andelin's across the boards prescriptions notwithstanding.

It was the same old doublethink

Aubrey Andelin's wife not only worked outside the home, writing and lecturing...she was a lot more famous and made a lot more money than he did. In fact, I think he wrote HIS book as a followup to hers. She was only one of many female authors who made a fortune by telling other women not to work at all. The most recent version was Phyllis Schlafly. But then, Sinclair Lewis lampooned these ladies during the 1930s in "It Can't Happen Here."

Most Recent Version

I'd say the most recent version is Dr. Laura. She urges mothers to stay home with their kids but she is a hugely successful career person.

"Pat"

Enlightened Review? Hardly...

I would be so bold as to speak on behalf of a few, if not many, readers (myself included) when I write that part of this site's appeal is in its creation of an intelligent forum for people with similar yet divergent perceptions of what constitutes a Taken In Hand relationship to share their viewpoints and perhaps expose their vantage points to mature, rational discourse. And yet, an ironic smirk slips past my lips when I read a "review" that is over-emotional, imposing and hardly convincing that it can best be characterized as a long-winded, arrogant bitter diatribe against a viewpoint not shared by the reviewer. Boohoo

Needless to say, the Andelins' impassioned viewpoints on their ideal Taken In Hand framework may be too rigid, antiquated and evidently unsuitable to the reviewer and some audiences. Nonetheless, it works for the Andelins and may work for others.

A bitter diatribe?

I'm sorry you didn't like my review, but if you are familiar with anything else I have written on this site you must be aware that this is a book I am hardly likely to rave about.

I didn't feel bitter while reading it at all. Admittedly, I didn't find it as funny as 'Fascinating Womanhood' but you can't have everything, can you?

I would have no objections to what the Andelins wrote if they were prepared to acknowledge that their style of relationship might not be for everyone. But such is not ther point of view. For them it is an all-or-nothing state, to the point where they are intellectualy dishonest. As I have observed, both of them quote extensively from Proverbs Chapter 31, the bit about the good woman, and both of them quote selectively so that they leave out the part that makes it clear that the woman in Proverbs is a businesswoman as well as a housewife. It is this intellectual dishonesty that I find distasteful.

In the Andelins' world-view, a woman must be this, a man must be that, with no allowances for variations of character, abilities, tastes, or anything else. That is not the spirit of Taken In Hand as I understand it. There is no room in the Andelins' world for a woman with a wrench, and I find that rather sad.

Louise

My way is just my way

LOL Louise! hahaha @ not finding it as funny as fascinating womanhood. My issue with books like this is the prescriptions for ALL couples, not the individual practices. (Which I see seems to be your issue too.)

Whatever they want to think and believe and do is great, when they start trying to assume the right to dictate to others how they should think and believe and do, is when they cross the line IMO.

And I agree with you that they are not in the spirit of this website. Because the spirit of this site isn't that "my way is everybody's way" but just "my way is my way." And some women want a wrench, and more power to them. :)

The right to dictate

> when they start trying to assume the right to dictate to
> others how they should think and believe and do, is when
> they cross the line

Well, it's kinda natural for a guy who believes he has a god-given right to dictate to his wife what she should think and believe and do. Once you agree that other women have right to decide such things for themselves, you have to agree that your own wife has that right too and just allows you to make decisions for her.

Unlike most things in life, fundamental rights are the all-or-nothing sort of thing. Either you have it or not, and if you have it it's a majorat, so to speak. You can't divide the right or disown it. You can only decide how to use it. So if women in general have the right to decide for themselves how to live their lives, so does your wife. It does not matter whether you like it or not (and it does not matter whether SHE likes it or not!). No matter for how long she has been living under your control, if she decides she has had enough and wants to break free, she has every right to do so. If one wants to change this he should be concerned with the "excessive" rights of all women, not just of his woman.

Stop the attempts to silence people!

Sometimes appear here in this wonderful web posts trying to censor other readers' posts by shaming them out of posting. (This is a reply to "Enlightened Review? Hardly...") The editor chose to publish Louise's review. You are not obliqued to read this web.

For explanation, I live in a country where censorship blossomed for a long period. I smell it at a long distance.

Hali

Man of Steel and Velvet

I enjoyed "Fascinating Womanhood" and thought there was a lot of sense in it. I feel that her husband's book was simply an attempt to redress the balance, so to speak. Unfortunately he is not nearly such a good writer as his wife, so I soon got bored with the book and never finished it. There didn't seem to be any inspiration in it, to me it was a dull, uninspired attempt at putting similar views from a man's viewpoint. When I next cull my books, that will be one to go.

Malcolm

Unreadable

Malcolm characterized it well. The book is simply not as well written as his wife's book( which in itself is not exceptionally well-written, but it's better.) I found Steel and Velvet basically unreadable, because I felt Andelin was coming from a place so lost in history and of such limited vision that I could not intellectually or emotionally access it whatsoever.

Fascinating Womanhood, on the other hand, despite it being quaint and intellectually dishonest as Louise points out, has useful information to offer. My copy is actually quite dog-eared, and I think it may even have grease on it from the time I set it down next to my wrench.

Jennifer

Excellent Black Comedy

Louise, this book review is hysterical! It is foot stomping funny! You are the Monty Python of taken in hand! I laugh out loud every time I read it.

To the Empress

Thank you—it is a great compliment to be compared to Monty Python! If I am the Monty Python of Taken In Hand then you are—well, I can't really think of anyone to compare you to—your writings are so passionate and remarkable!

Louise

Where can you get it?

The book is out of print, I assume because men are not as fond of being told what to do as women are, but there are plenty of second-hand copies available for sale on amazon.

Louise

Brill review! I was laughing

Brill review! I was laughing all the way through. I have been lurking here for a week now and I am so happy I have found this site. I will try to do some proper posts when I get braver.

Just a thought. Do you think Mrs Andelin had to write her book in secret then? And hurry her husband away from every book shop for years afterwards? Hmmm.... writing a book and going on book tours and presumably publicising it on TV(?)sounds a bit like the dread evil work to me... :)

Beth

Fair review

I personally thought Louise's review of this book was very fair. There is good and bad in it but it is marred by his big unfounded assumptions about How Things Ought To Be.

Comment on marriage

Well, now... I grew up with the Andelins as guides and mentors. I am married, have 3 children, and my husband is the leader of our home.
I have a high school degree, a college diploma, and know the working world, having a job and taught yoga to women who wanted to become certified because they were without work or husband.
Times have changed.
However Gid did create us for purpose.
My diploma never earned me anything, however the look in my kiddos eyes when they smile up at me does. Everyday as we live within our means, are debt free, except that pesky mortgage, and I do stay home. We are not poor, we are upper middle class I suppose. We are smart, and wise.
When my man walks in that door you can bet the house is picked up, I'm showered and dinner is cooking. If its not he helps out of course, but fir the most part, i git this. And the pride in his eyes are more than words or diploma.
Your writing is cute. Even funny, but sarcasm is another way to filter anger. And really, why are you angry?
Because any woman who says they are happy being equal hasn't read these books or found what's inside. Peace.
Don't lie to yourselves girls.
There is so much splendor in letting daddy take care of the BS this life has to offer.
All you have to do is take care of him!
Don't think I am dimwitted, or naive. Or trying to tick you off. What I say is give it a try. Let God lead and give the boys back their "parts" for awhile.
See if you can go a day, a week. See how you feel. Listen to your heart. Dig deep. What will you lose? A job? Your pay check might be going to day care and gas to get to work.
What will you gain? A life. A family. Happiness.
It's not right or wrong. It's just what is. We weren't raised to understand. The Andelins give us every freedom. A way out. To find the real reason we are here.
Watch your husband react to you. See his adoration grow and his need for you flourish.
You will be amazed.
I was.

Anger?

No, I'm not angry, just mildly irritated at Dr Andelin's complacent assumption that there is only one possible way a marriage can work, and that any deviation from the perscribed formula spells death to a relationship.

I, for instance, know of some successful career women who like being controlled in their personal lives. And I know housewives who don't like that at all. My own mother, as I have observed before on here, was a housewife and she was about as submissive as Atilla the Hun.

My own relationship with my husband is rocky at times; we are both highly volatile people, and we're never going to be as perfect as the Andelins, but then I don't really want to be, since I find their rather rigid frame for how a relationship should work very unappealing. What I like about Taken In Hand is that it does not assume that everyone's relationship is exactly the same. There is room for more than one kind of Taken In Hand marriage.

As for me being happy in an equal relationship—I am puzzled as to how you could interpret anything I have said as meaning that. I am actually happy in an unequal relationship, but it isn't necessarily on the rigid model of the Andelins' way of life. I was a housewife for 17 years before discovering Taken In Hand, but that didn't make me submissive. Whether you work or not, it makes no difference. You can still have a Taken In Hand relationship either way.

Louise