Archive for June 4th, 2008

June 4, 2008

Improving Literature for Women

Like every nice girl, I am constantly seeking to improve myself through edifying literature. My first real exposure to the genre (tragically “moral science” was not a part of my school curriculum) after the Ideal Boy/Girl posters was this set of scans from Dr. Harold Shryock’s classic On Becoming a Woman, from which I learnt of the dangers of fiction reading, the horror of masturbation, and the wholesomeness of female genital mutilation. This was followed by a present from Alie titled What Every Married Woman Should Know* a couple of years ago.
A recent trip to Daryaganj yielded, among other things, two books that looked most educational. Both were aimed at the young-ish female reader.

The first of these is titled Girls, You’re Important: Instructions for Catholic Girls. It is by the Reverend T.C Siekmann, and was published in the 1950s. The internet denies its existence. It’s divided into short chapters, and I will quote briefly from some of these:

Liberty and License
The thoughtful girl will not resent regulations meant to save her. She will accept them in the spirit of genuine kindness in which they are given. She will appreciate liberty by avoiding license.

Glamour and Modesty
There is one kind of character that the good girls should never imitate. That is the attractive girl who does not hesitate to be suggestive. She makes herself appealing in an enticing way that is nothing short of temptation. Much of her appeal comes not so much from her good looks as from her deliberate efforts to entice. She may be very winning and very coy, but her motive is bad. How unfortunate that she should, of direct purpose, set out to undermine the virtue of the weak.

Engaged persons, near to marriage, are permitted to kiss each other chastely out of true love, but even for them prolonged and passionate kissing is wrong. For the ordinary run of teenagers, not close to marriage, kissing between boy and girl is dangerous. If it does not amount to sin for the girl it may do so for the boy, and she would then be an occasion for his sin.

A good, clear-thinking girl will ever be respected by a boy. He will later on appreciate the reserve and good sense with which she guided him. Men are remarkably alike in this one thing and very young men are no exception: They need the help of women to keep them on the right track.

Cooking for Fun
The girl who is rapidly approaching womanhood should have a natural yearning to express herself in preparing food.

Other Hobbies
There are, of course, many hobbies for girls besides cooking and sewing.

Boy or Girl?
Although some activities of men and women or of boys and girls overlap, certain types of work or sport are out of place for one group or the other. The reason is simply that a boy is a boy and a girl is a girl and each is by nature and interest particularly devoted to certain fields. No amount of wishful thinking can make a real girl a boy or a real boy a girl.

A girl ought to be beautiful. She should use her beauty to make herself the most nearly perfect girl possible.

[Its] good effects are easy to see. We learn better English. We copy gracious mannerisms.

Keep Informed
Communism is the enemy behind which the enemy of Christ’s Church lurks today. It is a godless movement, a materialistic way of life that cannot stand the doctrines and practices of religion. Already seething in revolt for many years, this dangerous enemy is ready to strike whenever the opportunity seems ripe.

The Reading Habit
She will want to know the latest kinds of furniture and home decorations; she will find delight in discovering new recipes for exciting meals and snacks.

Other Vocations
The girl who trained for a career will often find her knowledge and skill highly useful later on in the home.

The Chance of a Lifetime
Many a non-Catholic girl is practically waiting for someone to introduce her to the Catholic Church. You can do her this favour.

The other book is by one R.Bajaj, and does not appear to have been edited at all. It is titled How to Impress Man. It is so execrable in its grammar that it ceases to be funny after the first couple of pages and I have thus been unable to read it. So I’ll just give you what it says on the back cover (unedited, of course) and hope someone volunteers to read it for me instead.

Woman has tender and emotional attributes. Education and cultural development lend grace and glamour to a woman. Physical beauty is skin-deep, mental, enrichment is everlasting. Artificiality is the bane of womanly acquirements. Simplicity, virtue and understanding, with make a woman universally valuable and respectable.
The book deals with woman’s inherent qualities which when properly tended and nurtured, will have soothing effects of humanity. A woman wins all by love and sympathy, and not by made-up behaviour. With enough of practical suggestions, guidance and episode the book is unique in its field.

*It deserves some extensive quoting, but my bookshelves are in chaos and I can’t find it. I am suitably ashamed.

June 4, 2008


One of the books I bought in Calcutta was Thomas Frederick Crane’s Italian Popular Tales, edited by Jack Zipes. I’ve been reading it in a very scrappy fashion. The first story in the book is a variation of sorts on the Cupid and Psychemyth. It’s from Sicily and is titled “The King of Love”. For those of you who don’t know the story, Psyche is married to a mysterious man who only comes to her at night; she’s curious about what he looks like (or made curious by her sisters, depending on what version of the story you read); she takes a lamp into the room at night, finds hot nekkid Cupid, manages to drop burning oil/wax onto him and thus wake him up; he disappears and she has to face much torture by Venus before she can achieve marital bliss.In the Sicilian story, the King of Love (he disappears when Rosella, the heroine of this story finds out his name) first appears in the form of a green bird. In my head, I picture him as one of the bright green parakeets (that everyone calls parrots – as far as I know there are no parrots in India. They also refer to that bright colour as “parrot green”.)

(from here)

The Hindu god of love, Kamadeva, is said to travel around on a parrot. I assume this too means a parakeet – certainly all the pictures of him I can find seem to have interpreted it that way:

I find this a strange coincidence, this intersection of love gods and green parrots-that-aren’t-parrots. I suspect I only blogged about it, though, so I could make the horrendous pun in the title.