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She draws on a broad range of published sources from popular magazines and college newspapers to academic articles, building a convincing case that a remarkably consistent and coherent set of ideas recurred at every level of public discourse.She's clear that she's talking about mostly affluent, mostly white, entirely heterosexual norms, but contends, again convincingly, that those norms exerted their influence everywhere.only a 'professionally trained person can deal adequately with the mass of research'...In short, the professionals had declared themselves the new arbiters of convention and morality, translators and preachers of their own "science of family living." Sounds like nearly every aspect of American life today.abundance), which gives new meaning to the phrase 'on the market' for a new partner.Examining prescriptive literature gives plenty of insight as to how Americans hungered for 'scientific' knowledge about marital harmony and etiquette about gender roles but it does not tell us how they applied these rules to their lives and experiences.Though I liked the thrust of this book (about how the concept of dating arose and how this intersected with new concepts of sexuality), I didn't know what to think of the blanket statement at the beginning that everyone basically engaged with these middle class ideals, no matter their class.If this is true, this ought to have been a much bigger point (and it ought to have been proven! But, the story nevertheless needed to have been told.
Making it clear that her concern is with conventions--the way behavior was described and proscribed--rather than experience--what people actually did, Bailey organizes her chapters around themes of control, competition, consumption, the sexual economy, etiquette, gender roles and "scientific" expertise and advice.It's a great example of how a book doesn't have to be as complicated as most of us make them. Many of my non historian friends read it before I did, and recommended it to me. This book was a great combination of fabulous scholarship mixed with intensely readable prose.The subject matter is of interest to anyone, but despite my having read plenty of social history books about the 20s/30s and the post-WWII era, I was fascinated to contrast the pre and post WWII eras.I understand the reason it is so popular in university history and women's studies classes: It is interesting, informative, and readable. In addition to journal articles, the author supports her writing with quotations from twentieth-century etiquette manuals, advice books for youth, and magazines. Bailey presents and backs up with citations strikes the modern reader as appalling.It makes abundantly clear, without preaching, that the second wave of the feminist movement that took place in the mid-to-late 1960s through the mid-to-late 1970s was necessary.
That is one glaring weakness of the text but the anecdotes from the literature are so amusing and horrifying that it quite makes up for the shortcoming.