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Not Your Mother’s Rules: plowin’ on through

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Pages 202-206:  "Like it or not, we live in a thin-obsessed world where guys have their pick of girls, so most prefer a thin girlfriend, not an overweight one. …

"We are not trying to make you feel bad — and please don’t get upset as you are reading this — we just want to be honest about how your appearance can affect you socially. …

"…[H]alf the battle is changing the way you eat. The other half is changing the way you think. … Instead of thinking that nothing beats doughnuts dipped in butter cream, think nothing beats being in a bikini on the beach. Think long term. Being disciplined with food will help you be disciplined with … everything else."

"We live in a thin-obsessed world," but let’s not bother to examine critically the problems with this obsession, nor even the possibility of alternatives. Let’s just parrot its scripts unthinkingly.

I like how they pretend to be so compassionate and realistic about their fat readers’ dating prospects. They’re just concerned for those poor tubs o’ lard.

Note that Fein and Schneider’s view of fatness is that it is an entirely voluntary state achieved by wretched slobs with no willpower.  The idea that involuntary factors affect one’s fatness never occurs to them. We don’t give a shit if you’re a woman with PCOS, a slow-burning metabolism, generations of fat ancestors and a regimen of antidepressants with a side effect of weight gain!! None of these attributes have anything to do with your fatness! You’re fat because you’re lazy and disgusting, no exceptions.

Page: "You can make simple but effective decisions, like choosing the stairs over the elevator or walking to campus instead of taking the shuttle bus."

People with mobility impairments need not apply.

Page 247: "With all the attention paid to gay marriages today, you may forget how to behave in a same-sex relationship. There are still Rules; they just promote a little more camaraderie and mutuality; there’s some more balance. The spirit of the Rules still applies: you should never show all your cards, pursue anyone relentlessly, or erase all boundaries."

What the hell is up with that first sentence? Some of us might be really excited about marriage equality, but that doesn’t mean that our personal interest in the subject wipes our minds clean of how to do whatever type of relationship we feel like doing. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible for queer people to think about two things [or even more!!!!] at once.

As for the rest of the paragraph, it doesn’t actually say anything, except, "If you’re queer, what we just said doesn’t apply to you, except when it does, but we’re not going to tell you when it does because we have no flipping clue." Here’s a thought, Fein and Schneider: Leave us out of your heteronormative manipulative dating bullshit. Your token attempt at inclusion proves its irrelevance to us, and we’re not impressed.

The End.

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Not Your Mother’s Rules: more

Not Your Mother’s Rules: more published on No Comments on Not Your Mother’s Rules: more

Pages 35-37: "We tell clients to grow their hair long or even to get hair extensions.  … Also, curly dos can look messy, while long, stick-straight hair looks more like one of those luscious shampoo ads.

"…We often tell women who feel blah with brown hair to try highlights or go blond.

"…If you have a lot of facial hair — a unibrow or even a mustache — you should get it lightened or waxed. If you have weak nails or bite them, get a gel French manicure that can last for two or three weeks. … Get your teeth whitened… Wear contact lenses [try blue and green shades!] instead of glasses."

Hate your race. Pursue Aryan perfection.

Pages 39-40: "…[A]ny Rules girl’s best accessory is big [three-inch] hoop earrings in silver or gold. … Little or big diamond studs … are too dainty and suburban-looking when you are single. …

"Another great accessory is a chunky gold watch. It’s bold, modern and reeks of self-confidence. …

"Big sunglasses and the au courant bag are also smart investments…"

When did "suburban" move from neutral adjective to sneering insult?

"Reeking" of self-confidence doesn’t seem particularly attractive to me.

Page 42: "Sometimes successful women are the biggest Rules breakers. They argue that their MBAs or graduate degrees give them license to pursue men like they pursue careers and condos."

This anti-MBA theme is becoming tedious.

Page 43: "Abby, a twenty-one-year-old journalism major, thought the Rules were so yesterday."

The best way to relate to today’s youth is to make sure that your musical references are at least ten years out of date. Lollerskates!

Page 99: "Few guys want to read paragraph after paragraph about a woman’s feelings, thoughts, wants or needs."

Shut up! You are a fuckhole, nothing more.

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Not Your Mother’s Rules: ready…set…barf!

Not Your Mother’s Rules: ready…set…barf! published on No Comments on Not Your Mother’s Rules: ready…set…barf!

Not Your Mother’s Rules, the latest in the Rules franchise of advice books by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, came out this January, approximately 18 years after the original Rules. [Why won’t it die????] As soon as I heard that Fein and Schneider were repackaging their shit for a new generation, I immediately purchased it.

SPOILER ALERT: This is only "not your mother’s Rules" insofar as het women reading the original didn’t have to deal with the same technology that het women reading this version face. Other than that, it’s completely the same.


Cover: Wow, they really cheaped out on the cover design. That rhinestone-studded key pendant is available at Claire’s, your neighborhood purveyors of tacky shit, for ~$3.99. I know because I have one. Makes a great 1:6 scale key. Is this an indication that this is some sort of half-assed, shoestring project?

"Now with their daughters, too!"

Oh jeez, what fresh hell is this? Some marketing peon no doubt thought that a Rules update should include actual perspectives from the target demographic, so they hauled Fein and Schneider’s kids in to shill for their moms’ insecurity industry.

Page 3: "But the truth is, all the old Rules still apply!"

Then why does this book exist?

Page 4: "In fact, one of the guys we interviewed said, ‘I could never be a girl — you talk about relationships too much!’ LOL!"

You can tell they’re totally hip to the millennials’ jive because they’re using chatspeak.

Page 4: "…[M]en are extremely visual and cannot be attracted to a girl just because she is nice, smart or funny. … It may sound bad, but physical attraction is everything for a guy."

"May" sound bad? It does sound bad. It portrays het men as stupid subhumans with an inability to think critically or perceive anything beyond the surface. It also perpetuates the bilgey stereotype that men only think about sex, and they do so constantly; thus they are pretty simple-minded.

You know what also sounds bad? Throughout their series, Fein and Schneider refer to woman as "girls," but never to men as "boys." Men are always "men" or "guys." But women are always infantilized and trivialized through their terminology.

Page 8: "We’ve also included special commentary from our daughters, who grew up with the Rules and can help you apply them to a younger generation and the latest technology. Sometimes a twentysomething can best understand what another twentysomething is going through."

Translation: We brainwashed our kids into accepting our retrograde heteronormative dating bullshit. Also we’re woefully out of touch. OMG! LOL!

Page 10: "Our moms never pushed this way of dating on us, but we both have traditional values and believe in old-fashioned courtship, even today."

That’s "their daughters" talking [supposedly]. I bet they’re contractually obligated to say that.

Page 13: "We … have come to the conclusion that those who became promiscuous or acted out sexually  did so because they did not get enough attention, affection or approval growing up. … [W]e … have been shocked to find out how many of our clients who have trouble dating had disapproving or absentee mothers."

If your daughter’s a slut, it’s your fault, you frigid bitch.

Page 18: "Don’t react or overreact when your daughter tells you something you don’t like. … If she tells you, … ‘I’m pregnant’ or ‘I think I’m gay,’ just say, ‘I’m so glad you told me. I love and support you no matter what. It’s your life, so how would you like to handle it?’"

Being queer: now just as horrific and shameful as becoming pregnant while a teenager!

Page 24: "When your mother or friends suggest the Rules, do you say, ‘I have an MBA. No one is going to tell me what to do’?"

Wow…they’re still harping on women with MBAs, even two decades later. Someone ought to tell them that holding grudges is a waste of life.

Page 30: "Alexa, a 32-year-old MBA, called us crying after her boyfriend of 3 years walked out. She was up all night reading the Rules and hysterical after finding out that she had broken every single one of them."

Holy cannoli, here we go again. Will you please stop displacing your own personal frustrations onto women who don’t even know you exist? Quit having an external locus of control and take some responsibility for your life.

Yes, I understand — you have no control over the fact that you didn’t get into Harvard Business School. However, if you’re that hung up on the concept of an MBA, you do have control over whether you waste your life raging about it or instead do something constructive with your piss.

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“The Rules”: further skimming

“The Rules”: further skimming published on No Comments on “The Rules”: further skimming

Page 120: "…[H]ighly educated girls have the hardest time with the Rules. They tend to think all this is beneath them. They’ll say, ‘I went to graduate school, I’m not playing these games…’ … If you think you’re too smart for the Rules, ask yourself, ‘Am I married?’ If not, why not? Could it be that what you’re doing isn’t working? Think about it."

The authors rag so persistently on women with graduate educations that I suspect there’s some sour grapes going on.

Also [say it with me!] CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION.

Page 126: "Abuse doesn’t happen in a Rules relationship because, when you play hard to get … , he thinks you’re the most beautiful, wonderful woman in the world…"

It’s always the wife’s fault that her husband abuses her. She didn’t do the Rules and make him love her enough.

Page 139: "Don’t be stupid about safety! Date rape has become quite rampant in college these days."

If you get sexually assaulted, it’s all your fault. You were probably just asking for it anyway, you whore.

Page 144: "Rule #31: Don’t discuss the Rules with your therapist. … Some therapists will think that the Rules are dishonest and manipulative."

La la la I can’t heeeeeeeeear you la la la!

Page 167: "Always try to show utter contentment with him, yourself, the world."

Frank N. Furter has words for you.

Page 168: "Remember that, if you want a good marriage, the Rules never really end!"

So you’re telling me that I have this heteronormative manipulative dating bullshit to look forward to every single day of my life?

[runs for the hills screaming]

The End.

Watch this space for the actual Not Your Mother’s Rules later.

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“The Rules”: skimming

“The Rules”: skimming published on No Comments on “The Rules”: skimming

Page 66: "The Rules are about opening up slowly so that men aren’t overwhelmed by us. It’s rather selfish and inconsiderate to burden people with our whole lives on a three-hour date, don’t you think? Remember, the Rules are innately unselfish."

They are not! Technically, they’re a manual about self-abnegation practices that supposedly further one’s goals, assuming that one’s goals involve het marriage to an emotionally clueless jerk.

Page 70-71: "Rule #12: Stop dating him if he doesn’t buy you a romantic gift for your birthday or Valentine’s Day. … Flowers, jewelry, poetry and weekend trips are the kinds of gifts given by men in love. Sweat suits, books, briefcases, toasters and other practical gifts are the kinds of things men give you when they like you … but don’t really want to marry you."

The rigid expectations of the Rules do neither the women who are supposedly reading them and the men they are supposedly dating any service. The Rules assume that there is only one right way to perform marriageable het masculinity — by coughing up flowers and chocolates on designated occasions — and only a single way to perform appropriately responsive het femininity — by accepting only flowers, chocolates and jewelry as sufficient tokens of romantic love.

In the Rules world, it is truly impossible for a briefcase to signify romantic love, even if the giver and the receiver’s shared private connotations of briefcases make them giddy with lustful, infatuated, affectionate glee. Anyone who gives their dating partner a briefcase, no matter how thrilled they know this will make the recipient [beyond flowers, beyond chocolates, beyond precious metals!], is a Horrible Failure Who Should Be Dumped Pronto.

Page 82: "You have to trust that, if you relax and let him explore your body like unchartered [sic] territory, you will have fun and be satisfied."

Fact #1: Men always know what they’re doing in bed.

Fact #2: Communication kills boners.

Page 91: "Of course, a playboy type who falls in love with you because you did the Rules will automatically mend his ways."

I don’t think that’s how it works….

Page 100: "Before he comes to your apartment, tuck this book away in your top drawer… Hide in the closet any grungy bathrobes or something you don’t want him to see, such as a bottle of Prozac."

Censor! CENSOR!!

Page 115: "When you meet a man at a dance or social situation, it really isn’t necessary to mention your children at all. …[W]ait until he calls …to gently weave it into the conversation … Just casually say, "Oh, that’s my son playing the piano," or something like that…"

This one in particular blows my mind. Kids are huge parts of parents’ lives, especially when their children are dependents. Most parents identify strongly with their role as parents and do feel it necessary to talk about their kids because their kids are important to them. To ask a parent not to talk about their kids is, in effect, asking someone to be something they’re not. How does this deception promote trust and love in a dating relationship?

Furthermore, as a child-free person, let me just say that kids are a serious subject, even if one doesn’t have them. Maybe one’s dating partner doesn’t want any extant or future children. Being truthful about one’s important roles, relationships and values when one is dating [e.g., "I am a parent; I love my kids and spend lots of time with them, not to mention thinking and talking about them a lot!"] bespeaks consideration and respect for one’s dating partner.

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“The Rules”: finally hitting an actual Rule

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Page 22: "Rule #1: ‘Be a ‘Creature Unlike Any Other’"

Look — "unnecessary" "quotation marks!"

Page 22-23: "It doesn’t matter if you’re not a beauty queen, that you never finished college, or that you don’t keep up with current events. You still think you’re enough. You have more confidence than women with MBAs or money in the bank."

I do not understand the authors’ sneering fixation on women with MBAs.

Phew! Now that I’ve successfully passed Rule #1, I’m doing some serious skimming.

Page 43: "Life has enough pain without our adding man pain to it. We can’t control cancer or drunk drivers, but we can restrain ourselves from dialing his number."

In their authors’ sordid worldview, random events cause women misery, to which the only acceptable response is to not reach out for companionship when one wants and/or needs it. Hmm, I see they’re advocating the social equivalent of aiming a loaded semiautomatic at your shoes and leaning on the trigger.

Page 46: "Remember, early on in a relationship, the man is the adversary (if he’s someone you really like). He has the power to hurt you by never calling again, by treating you badly, or by being around but indifferent. … He runs the show. The best way to protect yourself from pain is to not get emotionally involved too quickly."

There’s such bitter, painful resignation in this passage. The authors recognize the damaging, unfair nature of the heteronormative dating status quo. However, they cannot imagine an alternative model for social interactions, so, with a heavy heart, they resolve to play the game with a vengeance. They’re gonna achieve "happily ever after" if it kills ’em, dammit! [Pay no attention to the corrosive misery and internalized misogyny behind the curtain.]

Wow, now I’m depressed. 🙁

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“The Rules” again

“The Rules” again published on No Comments on “The Rules” again

I’m trying to progress past the first chapter here…

Page 6: "If you follow the Rules, … your husband will treat you like a queen, even when he’s angry. Why? Because he spent so much time trying to get you. … [H]e thinks of you constantly. He’s your best friend, your Rock of Gibraltar during bad times. He’s hurt if you don’t share your problems with him. He is always there for you — when you start your new job, if you need surgery. He even likes to get involved in mundane things, like picking out a new bedspread. He always wants to do things together."

This paragraph implies that the standard het marriage consists of a woman who wants more personal attention and emotional connection and a man who doesn’t supply it. I’m very distressed by the authors’ insistence that a) the standard husband is a neglectful, self-absorbed clod who has no capacity to respect and sympathize with his partner and b) the only way to counteract this is through playing constant head games.

Page 9: "We understand why modern, career-oriented women have sometimes scoffed at our suggestions. They’ve been MBA-trained to ‘make things happen’ and to take charge of their careers. However, a relationship with a man is different from a job. … [T]he man must take charge. … We are not making this up — biologically, he’s the aggressor."

Pay attention to this mini rant against women with MBAs. Fein and Schneider have a particular animus towards Masters degrees in business administration, presumably because any education beyond a BA irreparably damages a woman’s marriageability, which, I guess, is like some sort of psychosocial hymen.

Don’t look at me. I didn’t write this shit!

Whenever I see the phrase "I am/We are not making this up," I think of humorist Dave Barry. He frequently prefaced especially absurd — but completely true — details in his columns with this earnest disclaimer. Then, of course, whatever came after the disclaimer seemed extra hilarious. I therefore cannot imagine this phrase as being said with anything else other than tongue in cheek.

"No REALLY!!" is not a convincing clincher for an argument.

Oh look — essentialist claptrap!

Page 13: "…[W]e were offended by what seemed to us to be downright trickery and manipulation. The Rules would send women back twenty-five years. What would the feminists say? On the other hand, Melanie had what we wanted: the husband of her dreams who adored her. It made sense to rethink our offended psyches!"

Those poor, deluded, man-hating feminists! They’re all just bitter because they think that het relationships should contain honest and direct communication. Hah! Where are they now? They’re joining lesbian separatist communes where they don’t pluck their chin hairs.

…Oh wait. You say that some of them are, in fact, in marriages with the husbands of their dreams who adore them? Well, that’s because they clearly recognized the truly passive essence of femininity and faithfully practiced the Rules.

Whaddaya mean — some of them base their marriages on equality, respect, mutual friendship and affection? That’s just… That’s just…

[head explodes]

Page 15: "But First the Product — You."

Just in case you weren’t certain that this book is the product of a capitalist culture that not only objectifies women, but also commodifies relationships as economic transactions, here’s your proof.

Page 16-17: "Men like women who are neat and clean. They also make better mothers of their children — the kind who don’t lose their kids at the beach."

Well, someone clearly had a traumatic experience at the age of 4 after purchasing an ice cream cone independently and turning around to see where Mom was, only to experience momentary panic because she had moved 12 feet to the left to enjoy the respite of a shade tree.

Page 17: "Personal shoppers can help you find clothes that look good on you and that hide your flaws, as opposed to clothes that are perhaps trendy but not flattering."

How much money do the authors think their readers have? Do they know how expensive personal shoppers are?

Page 18: "When you’re shopping in a department store, stop by a cosmetics counter and treat yourself to a makeover."


Page 19: "…[G]row your hair long. Men prefer long hair, something to play with and caress. … It doesn’t matter that short hair is easier to wash and dry or that your hair is very thin. The point is, we’re girls! We don’t want to look like boys."

God help you if you’re bald, either out of choice or necessity. We can’t help you there. You’re just screwed. Resign yourself to dying an old maid.

Page 19: "Don’t act like a man… Don’t tell sarcastic jokes. Don’t be a loud, knee-slapping, hysterically funny girl. … Don’t talk so much."

Wait…I’ve got it:

The men up there don't like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore
Yes, on land, it's much preferred
For ladies not to say a word
And after all, dear, what is idle prattle for?

Come on, they're not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On a lady who's withdrawn
It's she who holds her tongue who gets her man

Ah, you say that Ursula the sea witch was being rather sarcastic in Poor Unfortunate Souls when she was singing this in Disney’s animated Little Mermaid, trying to convince Ariel to trade her voice for a pair of legs?

Well, no wonder Ursula’s still single. Hmph!

Holy shit, I haven’t even gotten to the actual Rules yet.

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Heteronormative manipulative dating bullshit GO!!!

Heteronormative manipulative dating bullshit GO!!! published on No Comments on Heteronormative manipulative dating bullshit GO!!!

In prep for my evisceration of Not Your Mother’s Rules, I felt it essential to revisit the toilet paper classic, the original Rules, or The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right, a 1995 tree murderer publication by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider. It is ostensibly a advice book for white, bourgeois, U.S., 1990s, het, cis, non-disabled, college-educated, professionally employed, [sub]urban, monogamous, single women who want to have lifelong, loving, satisfying marriages to white, bourgeois, U.S., 1990s, het, cis, non-disabled, college-educated, professionally employed, [sub]urban, monogamous, single men.

So apparently the target population is like 3 people.

Anyway, I will not be eviscerating The Rules in detail, merely making snide remarks on bits that catch my attention. My excerpts should easily give you an idea of the content and its retrograde ideological underpinnings.

Let’s go!

Page 1: "No one seems to remember exactly how the Rules got started, but we think they began circa 1917 with Melanie’s grandmother. … Back then, they called it ‘playing hard to get.’"

‘Kay, I’m done. That’s all I need to know. This book is going to tell its audience to sit on its collective asses and…wait for it…do nothing! [Why this requires a multi-book series, I’m not sure.]

The concept of courtship/dating/relationship formation with partners as that of a man aggressively chasing a desirable, passive woman goes much further back than 1917. The active man/passive woman binary appears nearly everywhere around the world as a standard feature of kyriarchy, but acknowledging that would require research and facts, two things that this book clearly can’t be bothered with.

Page 2: "Deep inside, … we really wanted to get married — the romance, the gown, the flowers, the presents, the honeymoon — the whole package."

Notice the complete absence of a marriage partner from this fantasy. Instead, the authors focus on the material trappings of the wedding industrial complex that they are culturally expected to want. I am not disparaging anyone’s interest in these trappings. [I like presents!] I am merely pointing out that, already, this book is really, really, really hung up on achieving mainstream societal markers of successful femininity. 

Wow, this is going to take forever. At this rate, I’ll never get to Not Your Mother’s Rules! :p

More later….

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Oooh! Oooh!

Oooh! Oooh! published on No Comments on Oooh! Oooh!

I’m very excited. As previously mentioned, I ordered Not Your Mother’s Rules for evisceration. To make sure that my disembowelment of the turd was truly comprehensive, I also ordered the original Rules, as well as The Rules II. My copy of the original Rules is out for delivery right now!!!!! I can’t wait!

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Oh Jesus, they’re back!

Oh Jesus, they’re back! published on No Comments on Oh Jesus, they’re back!

Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, authors of The Rules, a 1995 book of relationship advice for hetero women gender-policing blockbuster of retrograde shit, have repackaged their stale turds in Not Your Mother’s Rules: The New Secrets for Dating. Of course, the "new" "secrets" for dating are, in fact, your mother’s Rules, assuming, of course, that you had a mother and that she loathed herself enough to take the original turds seriously.

I’d like to check out this "update," if only to see what Fein and Schneider are saying about queer couples. As I recall, there were some vague statements about folks like us in the original Rules books. However, without the "war of the sexes/genders" framework in which to slot each of the players and their "opposite sexes" paradigm with which they make sense of romantic relationships, their comments amounted to, "The Rules are a good guideline for all relationships, even queer ones. Because of reasons. Yeah, and, um…stuff." There was a lot of tokenistic, slightly panicked hand-waving in that dismissive paragraph or two, as I remember. It was actually pretty hilarious.

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