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
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.