Book Review: The Stepford Wives

The Stepford Wives

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

I assume most of you have seen the movie, or at least know the general concept of this book: A couple moves into an idyllic neighborhood, excited for the future. Soon after moving in, however, they begin to notice something’s strange. The women are all so submissive, putting housework before everything else, and expressing no desires to do anything other than what their husbands would want them to do. The wife is alarmed by this. The husband . . . thinks she’s making a big deal out of nothing. Mystery ensues

It’s a fast read (just 144 pages), one of the reasons I was drawn to it, honestly, since I was behind my reading schedule for the month. But it’s very compelling, and it holds up as well (or better?) today as it did when it was written, 47 years ago. The ammunition men use in the book to keep the women in their place is still used today. Gaslighting. Dismissing the problem. It all raises the question of what a woman’s place is in society and what men really want out of the situation. (Since the desires of the women turn out to be, shall we say, less important?)

As a man reading this, I wonder what I’ve done unconsciously to exacerbate this problem over the years. When you live with a system that supports sexism, it’s very difficult to get out of that system, even if you’re aware of the problem. In other words, I read this and am horrified that anyone might do this sort of thing to women, but then I think back on my life and see that I’ve done it (to a smaller degree) myself. Case in point: I think I still subconsciously view “cleaning the house” as a problem that’s not my responsibility. If I help out, I’m going above and beyond what I need to do, and I should be lauded for whatever I feel like contributing.

I know that sounds stupid. I know it makes it seem like I’m full of myself, and I don’t agree with the mindset at all. And yet I still end up falling into that routine. So if I can see myself doing that in areas that I can recognize, where else do I do it in areas that don’t even occur to me?

Maybe I’m having trouble expressing the thought, but hopefully it’s making sense to you.

The book’s been adapted twice, once faithfully in 1975, and a second time that was a bit . . . looser with the interpretation in 2004. If you’re looking for a thought provoking, quick read, I highly recommend this one. It would make for an excellent discussion afterward. 10/10

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