For Joanna, Her Husband, Walter, And Their Children, The Move To Beautiful Stepford Seems Almost Too Good To Be True It Is For Behind The Town S Idyllic Facade Lies A Terrible Secret A Secret So Shattering That No One Who Encounters It Will Ever Be The Same.At Once A Masterpiece Of Psychological Suspense And A Savage Commentary On A Media Driven Society That Values The Pursuit Of Youth And Beauty At All Costs, The Stepford Wives Is A Novel So Frightening In Its Final Implications That The Title Itself Has Earned A Place In The American Lexicon. That s what she was, Joanna felt suddenly That s what they all were, all the Stepford wives actresses in commercials, pleased with detergents and floor wax, with cleansers, shampoos, and deodorants Pretty actresses, big in the bosom but small in the talent, playing housewives unconvincingly, too nicey nice to be real Katharine Ross stars in the 1975 movie versionJoanna Eberhart is an accomplished photographer A woman comfortable with herself, in love with her husband, and raising two charming rambunctious children They decide to move to Stepford, Connecticut an idyllic community full of successful people and beautiful scenery In an attempt to get to know her neighbors she soon discovers that the women are too busy waxing floors and ironing clothes to really spend time with her They are friendly and will offer her a cup of coffee, but they are driven to keep working as they chat These women have singular ideas and no ambition outside of pleasing their husbands and maintaining their households WEIRD even in 1972.The men have a club that is truly a men s only affair This is irritating to Joanna, but after some discussion they decide that her husband Walter should join the club to initiate change from the inside Joanna does start to talk to the local women about picketing the club and forcing the organization to allow women to participate, but she is met with stoic indifference She does meet one woman named Bobbie who is different from the robotic devotion of the other women in the community even to the point of having a gasp dirty house With the aid of her new friend Joanna tries to get support to resurrect a women s club that went away many years ago that failed, not surprisingly, due to poor membership numbers Her husband Walter meanwhile is spending and time down at the club Nicole Kidman stars in the 2004 movie versionWalter brings home Dale Coba, president of the men s club and a famous artist named Ike Mazzard whose sketches of woman set an impossibly high ideal of what a woman should look like in all the women s magazines The group does allow Joanna to participate in the conversation and while they are talking Ike Mazzard sketches her He gives her one of the sketches and Joanna is disconcerted at this idealized portrait of herself It turns out all the women have one Blueprint Dale Coba gives Joanna the heebie jeebies He used to work for Disney and as events unfold it becomes and clear what a large part he has played in making Stepford an ideal community Poodle SkirtThis book is considered a thriller satire It certainly makes fun of the idealized female portrait of the 1950s when women supposedly did housework in poodle skirts and kept their hair, nails, and figure in immaculate condition I m sure there are still men who would like their women to meet that criteria They might even pine for a woman to fetch them a beer when they hear him crushing an empty can from his recliner, but most of us enjoy the equality of women with jobs, with careers, with interests, with hobbies, and able to discuss with us than just what s for dinner This book made such an impact that now Stepford is a part of our popular culture language used to describe a submissive housewife I impulsively decided to read this book when I discovered that my local library did not have a copy of Ira Levin s even famous book Rosemary s Baby Sometimes detours are as fun or fun than the originally intended destination.If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at Ira Levin s 1972 novel The Stepford Wives is a darkly comedic and satirical modern horror story with cautionary but subtle overtones.Originally and commonly misunderstood to remark upon the growing feminist movement in the late sixties it is instead a scathing indictment on conservative attacks on women s liberation Levin describes a family that has recently moved into the quiet suburban township of Stepford, where a caste of upwardly mobile male professionals have barricaded themselves into an affluent and influential Men s Association Joanna Eberhart, a smart and talented married mother of two realizes quickly that she does not fit into the picture perfect stylized stereotype of the wives of Stepford who toil about the house in crisp Donna Reed dresses and makeup while their husband s while away the nights at the Men s club More disconcerting, Joanna realizes that there is a sinister explanation for this odd discontinuity Reader s will notice a similarity with Jack Finney s brilliant 1955 allegory Invasion of the Body Snatchers and with Robert A Heinlein s The Puppet Masters, though Levin eschews sci fi fun for a mainstream horror genre delivery.Levin s prose is elegant and direct, his storyline tight and focused on his understated message A very good read. When I finished Larry McMurtry s 800 page novel, Moving On two weeks ago, I felt like a war widow, grieving her fallen soldier I had become desperately attached to every single character in that slow paced but brilliant story, and after closing the back cover, I paced my house like a desperate ghoul, ordering books from the library and , in an attempt to fill the void.Turns out, one of the books in my new stack of arrivals was written just two years after Moving On McMurtry s novel came out first in 1970 , and both cover the theme of the Western woman trying to emerge after a mere millennium or of mistreatment and casual abuse Women s liberation, if you will.But, the similarities stop there The Stepford Wives couldn t be different than Moving On, but I loved them both, and I m only drawing comparisons in this particular review to bring attention to the diversity in writing styles and tastes that exist in our world and the gratitude I feel for having the opportunity to develop into such an eclectic reader Moving On was a tall cool drink of water, a Texas tale of characters and dialogue so real, I feel like I have wronged them by leaving them behind It s a novel that has almost no real action at its core, and I certainly wouldn t describe it as plot driven My copy ended up with some thirty dog eared pages The Stepford Wives has characters that amount to nothing than mere sketches of people, and scanty dialogue at best It is completely plot based and is a short little jaunt at 123 pages, but I truly marvel at the imagination that Ira Levin must have possessed to come up with this story.And holy shit did my heart race I was so anxious at the end, I m surprised I didn t drip sweat right down onto the book s pages.What a privilege to be able to read and to be exposed to such depths of human understanding and creativity.I m just sitting here, smiling in awe A total book geek. When Johanna, Walter, and their children move to Stepford, everything seems perfect A little too perfect, in fact Why do all the Stepford wives live to do housework and please their husbands Is their a conspiracy afoot or are Johanna and her friend Bobbie imagining things The Stepford Wives is a paranoid thriller by Ira Levin There is also quite a bit of social satire as well What would a community be like if all the women behaved like the stereotypical 1950 s style housewife It s a pretty creepy book, though Levin eases you into the waters little by little so you don t notice all the dead animals around the pond until you re up to your neck in it The feel reminded me of Jack Finney s Body Snatchers a bit When will it be Johanna s turn to join the ranks of the sexually charged housewife drones On the negative side of the scale, the book is very much a product of its time All of the male characters seem like they d be right at home working with Don Draper Also, the 1972 publishing date wasn t all that far removed from the book s 1950 s portrayal of male and female cultural ideals Now, over 40 years after the book was written, everything seems quaint and a little ridiculous.3.5 out of 5 stars I m throwing in an extra.5 for the level of creepiness. In the early 80s, I took a college course in feminist theory That s where I was introduced to the ideas of Simone de Beauvoir, Kate Millet, and Betty Friedan Little did I know that I could have saved myself a lot of time by reading The Stepford Wives instead The Stepford Wives is one of the popular books of the 1970s that I somehow overlooked, though I did see the 1975 movie on television years later What recently prompted me to finally read the book was an article at JSTOR Daily titled Sex and the Supermarket 1 3 18 While reading Sex and the Supermarket, I recalled the image of the women of Stepford in their maxi dresses, gloves, and floppy hats, languidly pushing their shopping carts down the aisles of the supermarket The clothes inspired me with nostalgia The sexism did not Ira Levin s 1972 novel manages to convey that sexism in a hundred or so pages of tight suspenseful prose I didn t remember much from the 1975 movie just the premise of the story and the image of the soulless wives with their neatly filled shopping carts but it was enough for me to be able to read the novel as a feminist text without the distraction of wondering what Stepford s sinister secret was A couple of scenes stood out to me as I read.Ike Mazzard, a magazine illustrator who created idealized images of women, sketches Joanna When she notices what he is doing, she feels as if she were naked 29 The way Dale Coba looks at her is disparaging 26, 27, 31 He says I like to watch women doing little domestic chores 30 This made me think of Simone de Beauvoir s existentialist feminism The problem, as defined by existentialist feminism, is that man casts himself in the role of subject and woman in the role of object himself as observer and woman as observed himself as Self and woman as Other These two scenes effectively convey that creepy feeling women get when subjected to the male gaze, that feeling of being naked, of being watched, of being reduced to an object Radical feminism defines the problem as the patriarchal nature of society itself And Stepford is this patriarchy in microcosm It is perpetuated from one generation to the next When one of the wives behavior suddenly changes, turning her from a spitfire into a hausfrau, her young son approves of the change in his mother Instead of missing her spunk, he welcomes her subservience.But the feminist theory that most informs this book is liberal feminism and the feminist text that The Stepford Wives brings to mind is The Feminine Mystique But this is no revelation Joanna and Bobbie are members of NOW Betty Friedan once gave a lecture to a Stepford women s club The backlash against women s liberation in Stepford is a backlash against Friedan s analysis and rejection of Occupation housewife The men of Stepford don t want liberated women They don t want equals They want wives who live only for their husbands, wives whose sole fulfillment comes from keeping house for her husband and satisfying his sexual desires They want wives who wear push up bras and girdles as they clean their kitchens, wives with large breasts and lipstick who get ecstatic over floor wax But all men aren t like this, right Joanna s husband Walter seems happy with their life as equals At least, that s how he seems in the beginning Yet Walter is just like all the other Stepford men When his discontent with having an equal for a wife finally comes out in full force, he reveals the insidious nature of the sexism identified by Friedan that it isn t just out there in society it s at home as well.In a chilling scene, Joanna becomes adamant about moving away from Stepford and Walter uses all the tactics of the manipulative emotional abuser He pretends to consider her point of view, but at the same time he calls her irrational and a little hysterical 87 He tries to arouse guilt by explaining how hard it would be on the kids Then he suggests she visit a psychiatrist to see if she s delusional In other words, he tries to make her doubt reality He tries to gaslight her The Stepford Wives is a book that deserves its iconic status It succeeds as both a feminist text and a psychological horror story And it is no less needed now than it was in 1972 We may have come a long way baby, but we still have a ways to go. I can handle watching or reading just about any level of horror so what was it about this tiny little novella that I read in an hour that truly chilled me First, I have never seen the movies so I had no real preconceived notions other than having seen the commercials Something about being a girl, who was raised in a society where everything tells you that you have to be beautiful, you have to be talented, and above all you have to be perfect or you are nothing this book really taps into that mantra The feeling that every little girl has that I m not good enough most of us hopefully follow that up with but at least I m ME and that is where the terror of this book lies.What if the ultimate deceiver, the true villain is the one person who should love you the most, your protector, your partner, your husband What if he would change you take away your identity for his own pleasure and what if everyone was on his side How would you hold on, how could you escape As you can tell this book really hit a nerve with me true I was born in 1978, so this was a little before my time, but it hasn t changed all that much even though we want to think so The book is really about men s desires, or Levin s interpretation of them That they would be willing to sacrifice their wife s very identity, her being, to make her a mindless barbie that did what they pleased The men in this book are truly horrifying beings but even frightening is that this is a doubt shared by all women, across the globe From a young age we are taught to doubt ourselves, our physical appearance, our mind, our talent, the love of others I know women with genius IQ s who act like idiots because that is what men want from them Though there is overnight drug that can do this to a woman there is the lifelong barrage of the media and society which does a pretty good job in and of itself.Off my soapbox now This book freaked me out it was very well written, very tight and compact, and rediculously short for the price I would advise getting it from a library, a used book store, or a friend rather than spending the cover amount on it Mainly because it is so short Still, I think this book has a lot of meaning, this book should be read and discussed with others and to the ladies out there odds are you will end up a bit unsettled and a bit angry at the end of it all. I REALLY do like Ira Levin s style of writing
There s a frightening secret in the town of Stepford, and Joanna Bobbie hope to get out of Dodge before it s too late, but the Men s Association is powerful and time is running out.
THE STEPFORD WIVES is a creepy little satirical novella that proves some men are pretty shallow or really were afraid of the Women s Liberation Movement
Suspenseful and deadly readWarning spoilery stuff aheadThe amazing thing about this story is its wide reaching cultural impact Whether you ve read the book or seen any of the film versions, when you hear the term Stepford wife , you know what it refers to an immaculate woman in a 1950 s throwback poodle skirt, with an impressive rack and a glassy, eerie gaze She s so busy with her housework and pleasing the husband she is so lucky to have, she doesn t have time for anything else.The idea behind this chilling social satire is nothing less than ingenious and that is why this book has achieved iconic status But the reading of this novella is a whole other thing A brief 125 pages, this reads like poor YA with a few errant sex scenes The super simplistic plot, the cardboard characters, and the lack of tension for the most part, combine to make for a truly lacklustre reading experience Had I not the stunning visuals in my mind from the silver screen versions, it would have been far forgettable It s a satire on misogyny and oppression It portrays an exaggerated, negative male response to feminism I understand that However, the author failed to interest me not with language, motivation, characterisation, or fear He repeats the word hausfrau at least a dozen times And he employs a monochrome brush of the broadest possible size to paint the men in this book Are we to believe after a few meetings at the Stepford Men s Association, every man is going to be sold into murdering his wife and turning her into a robot There could have been so much complexity and believability if we could have seen ANY thought process any at all on the part of the men, especially our main character s husband Sadly, the end result is bland, underdeveloped and a little bit boring.As I said, the idea is brilliant Ira Levin is the same man who brought us Rosemary s Baby Based on these two books, it s safe to say Levin didn t have a great opinion of husbands, or neighbours either, for that matter And it s equally safe to say this guy s imagination translated remarkably well to film 3 stars for ideas that keep us thinking, decades later. Find all of my reviews at I want to wish you a sincere and hearty Welcome to Stepford A quaint little hamlet nestled somewhere in Connecticut, Stepford is a place where you can buy your dream home for a mere 52,500 obviously this book is kinda an oldie but a goodie , your children will attend Grade A schools and have plenty of friends to play with, and your husband can unwind after a rough day at the office at the local Men s Club And how will you occupy your free time Well, if you are even a halfway decent wife you won t have much of it with all of the housekeeping you need to focus on But on the off chance you do have a minute or two, it s nice to find new products to test out while your husband is watching the big game Walter and Joanna have just recently moved to Stepford It should only take a few months for them to discover all of the amenities their new town has to offer, but hopefully sooner than that because poor Joanna File this under I can t believe I never read this before now At less than 150 pages this is a tiny little nugget you can easily devour in one sitting Aside from the aforementioned real estate prices and a couple of outdated pop culture references this 40 year old novel withstands the test of time remarkably well My husband should probably read this in order to figure out how to get me to be a little like this And not quite so much like this Book 4 in my quest to obtain a new coffee mug from the Winter Reading Challenge Instagram Twitter Facebook PinterestIs this a feminist book I just read this book called YOU PLAY THE GIRL, a book of essays about pop culture written through a feminist lens, and one of the essays was about Stepford Wives I seem to recall the author juxtaposed it against the Desperate Housewives and writing a good deal about what it means to be a housewife, whether you re a good one or a dysfunctional one I really liked what the author had to say, and it actually motivated me to go dig out my old copy of STEPFORD WIVES for a belated reread WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD Disclaimer I m a feminist, so obviously I m a little biased, but in my opinion, STEPFORD WIVES is a feminist book in the same vein as THE HANDMAID S TALES STEPFORD is set in the middle of the civil rights era, where Betty Friedan is giving her talks and NOW chapters are rallying for equal rights for women Men, for the first time, are suddenly expected to share in the housework, and women are being empowered to seek out their own jobs and goals independent of marriage and children, becoming sexually and fiscally autonomous.One of the biggest issues that women continue to face is objectification You see this a lot when sexist dudes talk about women, reducing them to their parts grab some p ssy, Tits or GTFO , or talking about them as if they are trophies to be won for their accomplishments I m such a nice guy, so why don t I have a girlfriend It s gotten better, but not nearly as much as it should have, and one of the chilling aspects for me is how modern STEPFORD WIVES feels, despite being published in 1972 I don t know about you, but it doesn t speak very highly towards our society that we re still being plagued by the same exact issues almost fifty years later Especially since the chilling climax of this book is objectification in the ultimate sense taking living, breathing women and replacing them with actual objects in this case, robots.I ve read this book several times over the course of my life, and with every reread I take something new from the text I feel like I was able to appreciate it this time because I ve been reading books about history and feminism, so I have a better appreciation for the zeitgeist of the time of this book s publication, and what the broader historical context behind it was In fact, I would say STEPFORD WIVES actually improves with subsequent reads, because there are all these sinister hints that you pick up on while reading between the lines that make it even terrifying.Examples When Joanna first finds out about the Men s Association, she is against it She expects her husband, who claims to be a feminist, will be, too, but he joins because the only way to change it is from the inside 6 The irony here is that the only changes being made on the inside are occurring within the context of her marriage Walter sabotages Joanna so slowly that by the time she finally feels the noose tightening, it s already too late.After one of his Men s Association meetings, Walter comes home late and masturbates furiously in their bed, but acts ashamed when she catches him His eye whites looked at her and turned instantly away all of him turned from her, and the tenting of the blanket at his groin was gone as she saw it, replaced by the shape of his hip 15 They have sex at her insistence, which ends up being one of their best times ever for her, at least and she says, What did they doshow you dirty movies or something 16 This is one of those moments where, in subsequent rereads, the reader wonders did the members of the Men s Association indoctrinate Walter by showing him what they do to their wives, and did the possibilities of that excite him instead of horrifying him Towards the end, after Bobbie, a friend to Walter and Joanna, changes , Walter hesitates when it s time to say goodbye Bobbie moved to Walter at the door and offered her cheek He hesitated Joanna wondered why and pecked it 77 I took this to mean that Walter is thinking of his own wife s pending transformation and feeling guilt and uncertainty Should he go through with it When Joanna is worried about her friend, Walter has this to say There s nothing in the water, there s nothing in the air.They changed for exactly the reasons they told you because they realized they d been lazy and negligent If Bobbie s taking an interest in her appearance, it s about time It wouldn t hurt YOU to look in a mirror once in a while 86 He goes on to say You re a very pretty woman and you don t do a damn thing with yourself any unless there s a party or something 86 That s when I felt like it became too late for Joanna In the midst of her mental breakdown, she let herself and the house go, and Walter decided he didn t want to deal with that, any of it, any Why settle for a flawed woman when you could have a perfect one When Joanna tries to run away from the women and the men from the Men s Association corner her, they hunt her down like an animal and mock her fear I took this to mean that the objectification was complete they no longer saw her as human they knew she was about to become a robot, and so to them, she was just a thing What makes this even ironic is when they say, W e don t want ROBOTS for wives We want real women 114 Because I ve heard so many men say similar things that they want smart, clever, beautiful womenbut there s always a qualifier As long as they don t try too hard, as long as they aren t successful than me, as long as they aren t shrill or know it all.The Men of Stepford want real womenbut they also don t want flawed, forgetful women who sometimes let themselves go and don t want to do all the housework They want the women of their fantasies made real they want Pygmalion Suppose one of these women you think is a robot suppose she was to cut herself on the finger, and bleed Would THAT convince you she was a real person Or would you say we made robots with blood under the skin 114 The ending of this book is depressing AF I m not sure what the message is, exactly, either is it saying that men are inherently sexist and unwilling to move towards equality Or is it a warning of the reductio ad absurdum variety of what objectification can lead to if left unchecked And what of the children are they going to groom their daughters to become robots when they come of age as well, marrying themselves off to the highest bidder The story becomes even bleaker if you consider the possibilities I took it as a warning, and a criticism of the patriarchy, but STEPFORD is open to so many possible interpretations, and I think that s what makes it such an interesting and lasting book.3.5 stars
- 144 pages
- The Stepford Wives
- Ira Levin
- 25 March 2017 Ira Levin