Last night I watched the 1951 B-film “Why Men Leave Home.” I found it on the Blockbuster site and was interested to see what messages women were given a half-century ago about beauty and relationships, and how these messages have changed — or not.
The plot in a nutshell: A “dowdy” woman puts housework ahead of putting out. Her handsome doctor-husband won’t stand for her not performing her wifely duties, so despite a 10-year-old daughter, he leaves her. The wife makes the acquaintance of a Hollywood make-up artist who helps her see that if she doesn’t pretty herself up, hubby’s going to take up with his sexy nurse and divorce her. She sees the error of her ways, the make-up man gives her a make over, and her husband comes back to his now-stunning wife.
This film is described as “an instructional primer for women regarding how to keep their husbands faithful.”
Several lessons emerged:
- If you don’t keep yourself beautiful and sexy, he’ll leave you
- In addition to household duties, you must regularly perform wifely duties
- There are always other beautiful women to tempt him
- Only through the use of heavy make up and stylish hair can you be attractive
- Having happy children, a clean home, home-cooked meals and a devoted wife is not enough to satisfy a man
While we have evolved as a society, as I read this list, I’m afraid many of these lessons are still true for many marriages. There are exceptions, of course, but these messages are still engrained in many of our psyches, especially for those over 40.
What do you think? Have we moved past these 50-year-old clichés? Or are they still embedded in our brains?
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