10 absurd pieces of advice people used to give women
We grow up hearing all kinds of advice, including things like "you'll get curly hair if you eat the crusts of bread". But while these are largely quite harmless, it seems that the advice people have been dished out over the centuries is rather more... questionable. Especially for women.
Yes, we've got the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow telling us all sorts of absurd things to do with our vaginas. But at least now we're a lot more educated about certain matters, largely thanks to the internet. However, that wasn't always the case, and many of the so-called "wisdoms" of the olden days can actually be to blame for the problems women face in terms of gender norms and roles in relationships.
Here are 10 of the most ludicrous bits of advice that date back from the Roman age to - shockingly - only a matter of decades ago.
1. Get uglier friends to feel better about yourself
Back in the Roman age, girls aged 14 were considered the ideal age for marriage. Roman writer Lucian wrote that when you reach a "certain age" – presumably 10-20 years after that – you're best to flatter yourself with the company you keep.
He recommended that women surround themselves with "old women and maids uglier than herself" to make them seem more attractive.
2. Using a pad will ensure you're still a virgin
Some people these days still make the choice to "wait for marriage", though it's generally something we think of as an ideology of former times (like, where you'd hang your stained bedsheets out the window after consummating the marriage for the world to see). But astonishingly, it was still touted in mass media well up until at least the 1930s, when the tampon was invented. Yes, it can stretch or tear a woman's hymen, but counting this as sex is just ridiculous.
3. If you masturbate you'll stay "flat-chested"
"Girls who have followed masturbating habits… show usually strong indications of it in the failure of their glandular development. Such persons are apt to be flat-breasted, or, as we term it, flat-chested," claimed an 1869 book by Jown Cowan. Err, no that's not true. And we wonder where the taboo of women masturbating comes from?
4. Shoot for a boring, unimaginative partner devoid of emotions
"A girl should be wary of selecting a mate who is very emotional. Such a person thrives on ‘thrills’ and may be much too interested in sex. Not uncommonly he works in some job like radio or the movies where he hopes to find glamour and excitement," writes Dr Clifford R Adams in his 1902 book, How to Pick a Mate. Thoughts and prayers for all those with "some job" in the creative field.
5. If he's unfaithful, just pretend it didn't happen
Dr William Josephus Robinson gave sage advice in this 1917 book, Her Sex and Love Life, by assuring wives that they mustn't react if they find out their husband has been cheating occasionally: "in case of an occasional lapse on the part of the husband — there a bit of advice may prove acceptable. And my advice would be: forgive and forget. Or still better — make believe that you know nothing."
6. Your life will be ruined if you get a higher education
A German newspaper column in the 1890s reported about "a great number of weary, grey old women of scarcely thirty years" who apparently "creep about in the attempt of acquitting a man's education; all vivacity of feeling, all women's emotions, and physical health besides has left them."
Your soul will literally be sucked out of you if you want to smarten up.
7. You aren't allowed to make a man feel dumb – that's your role
“The average man marries a woman who is slightly less intelligent than he is. That’s why many brilliant women never marry. They do not come in contact with sufficiently brilliant men, or fail to disguise their brilliance in order to win a man of somewhat less intelligence," wrote Dr Adams. "College males tell us that they want a girl for a wife who is intelligent but makes them feel they are still more intelligent!”
8. Marry someone a few decades older than you
According to a book by Maud Wheeler in 1984, a groom should have a bride who is half his age plus seven. The Victorian era echoed this, where it was a huge faux pas to marry a man of your own age or – gasp – younger.
9. Never, and I mean never, show that you're not perfect
Elinor Glyn wrote in 1925 that "nothing appeals more to a man than immaculate cleanliness". She gave warning about looking "even slightly soiled", advising women never to have "red hands or arms", wear "cheap perfumes" or "earrings like chandeliers". She wrote that "fat women with bobbed hair" are particularly unappealing, and even the most "stunning beauty" will be unattractive to a man if she engages in "giggling" or "whiney voices". Jeez Louise.
10. Even if you're not in the mood, just go with it (but don't say a word)
Dr Robinson adds that as well as turning a blind eye to his cheating, you shouldn't speak up if you're not in the mood for sex: "To the man it makes no difference in the pleasurableness of the act whether you are frigid or not unless he knows that you are frigid. And he won't know unless you tell him, and what he doesn't know won't hurt him. Heed this advice. It has saved thousands of women from trouble."
In case you're still wondering – don't heed any of this advice. Yes, it's a common courtesy not to look grotty and "soiled" if you want to be generally presentable, but the notion that women are submissive, uneducated, meek things that are just there to look after their husbands, and be ogled at – that can stay well and truly in the past, thank you very much.