Our Women Are Our Future
by Olive Richard
Family Circle, August 14, 1942
The war news had me down. I had just been to see a friend whose husband, a naval officer, was killed at Pearl Harbor. Going home, I bought a newspaper with a "Wake Up, America!" editorial spread all over the front page. The general drift of it seemed to be that the country is on the brink of ruin and that we'd better wake up or else. Well, I was awake to the danger, all right, but I couldn't think of anything more to do about it. I'd paid my income taxes, bought war stamps and bonds, volunteered up to my neck for every defense project, cut out sugar and all pleasure trips with the car, and made the decision that I would look awful but patriotic in my old clothes.
Then to cap it all I turned on the radio and out blared the voice of an expert war-news commentator telling us in 15 minutes of dismal prediction that we should prepare ourselves for much worse disasters than anything we had yet suffered. Women must do this and women must do that and women must be charming through it all. Usually some everyday incident comes up to stop one going through thought mazes of this kind, and it happened here. On the table where I was about to throw my hat with a Katherine Cornell gesture was a comics book with a brilliant-hand cover bearing the picture of a pretty girl in a scanty costume leaping aboard a racing motorboat.
A memory stirred; this must be the "daughter or the brain of Dr. William Moulton Marston, Family Circle psychologist" that I had seen recently in The Family Circle.
"Well," I thought, "If Marston is whipping up comics stories while Rome burns, there must be a reason." So, I clamped the hat on again and made tracks for Rye, New York.
The Doctor hadn't changed a bit. He was reading a comics magazine, which sport he relinquished with a chuckle and rose gallantly to his feet, a maneuver of major magnitude for this psychological Nero Wolfe. "Hello, hello, my Wonder Woman!" cried the mammoth heartily. "I was just reading about you in this magazine. You're prettier than your prototype in the story strip, and far more intellectual. Sit down and tell me all."
"I came to be told, and what's the idea of calling me Wonder Woman, and I don't feel like listening to any male sarcasm on account of I've heard too much already."
"Your bracelets," said the Doctor, taking up one thing at a time "-they're the original inspiration for Wonder Woman's Amazon chain bands. Wonder Woman's bracelets protect her against bullets in the wicked world of men. Here, see for yourself."
The picture was the same that I had seen at home. In the motorboat were several characters of definitely Teutonic cast shooting rifles and machine guns at the smiling girl. The bullets glanced harmlessly off the fair intruder's twin bracelets, which did closely resemble-astonishing coincidence!-the pair of ancient Arab "protective" bracelets that I have worn for years.
I opened the book to read, "This amazing girl, stronger than Hercules, more beautiful than Aphrodite," and so on, and I remembered that my sons had argued as to whether she could lick the whole Japanese army all at once or whether she'd have to take them a few thousand at a time. The Doctor beamed when I told him this and said, "Tint's right, the kids love her. Wonder Woman's quarterly magazine outsold all others"
"I know, I know. You'll be writing advertising next But I came here to ask you about the war. Women feel so helpless and depressed about it. I wish you'd answer one question for Family Circle readers: Will war ever end in this world; will men ever stop fighting?"
"Oh, yes. But not until women control men," he answered mildly.
"According to the Wonder Woman formula, I suppose?"
"That's it exactly!" The Doctor got up from his chair and began to pace the floor as he talked - a mannerism that betokens extreme interest and enthusiasm. "Wonder Woman, and the trend toward male acceptance of female love power which she represents, indicates that the first psychological step has actually been taken. Boys, young and old, satisfy their wish thoughts by reading comics. If they go crazy over Wonder Woman, it means they're longing for a beautiful, exciting girl who's stronger than they are. By their comics tastes ye shall know them! Tell me anybody's preference in story strips and I'll tell you his subconscious desires. These simple, highly imaginative picture stories satisfy longings that ordinary daily life thwarts and denies. Superman and the army of male comics characters who resemble him satisfy the simple desire to be stronger and more powerful than anybody else. Wonder Woman satisfies the subconscious, elaborately disguised desire of males to be mastered by a woman who loves them."
"Hold on" I interrupted. "That's nothing more than the reaction of a little boy to his mother. In this comic strip it must be the same childish feeling-a longing for a mother to protect them-and they'll probably get over it at adolescence."
"Ah, there's where you're wrong." The Doctor continued his pacing. "They don't get over it at any age. Normal men retain their childish longing for a woman to mother them. At adolescence a new desire is added. They want a girl to allure them. When you put these two together, you have the typical male yearning that Wonder Woman satisfies."
"Almost entirely based upon theory," I countered. "What if boys do like Wonder Woman they probably like strong men better. It's just the strength that fulfills their wishes. They like her despite the fact that she's a woman!"
Dr. Marston gave one of his rumbling whoops of laughter. "Theoretically you might be right. But factually you're quite wrong. A popularity survey was conducted recently among comics readers of all ages by the publisher who brings out Wonder Woman, Superman, and several other superpowerful story characters. Wonder Woman was the only female on the list, yet she corralled 80% of the votes. Even the publisher was surprised. But to a psychologist it's the ABC of subconscious wish fulfillment. The fact that both sexes are beginning to recognize the desire for the supremacy of strong and loving women is by far the most hopeful sign of the times."
"Suppose you're right," I said. "Suppose men do long for superwomen to take them over. And assume for the moment that these strong-arm babes are willing to undertake the job. What makes you think they can do it? Do you imagine that we females can develop muscles that big overnight?"
The big man ignores sarcasm when he has something to say that he considers important. "The one outstanding benefit to humanity from the first World War was the great increase in the strength of women-physical, economic, mental," he stated with conviction. "Women definitely emerged from a false, haremlike protection and began taking over men's work. Greatly to their own surprise they discovered that they were potentially as strong as men-in some ways stronger. Women have more emotional power than men, they have greater endurance and more resistance to disease they live longer, and they can endure pain far better. The moment women began doing things to develop their strength, it increased enormously.
With enthusiasm the psychologist expanded his thesis: "Women now fly heavy planes successfully, they help build planes, do mechanics' work. In England they've taken over a large share of all manual labor in fields and factories; they've taken over police and home defense duties. In China a corps of 200,000 women under the supreme command of Madame Chiang Kai-shek perform the dangerous function of saving lives and repairing damage after Japanese air raids. This huge female strong-arm squad is officered efficiently by 3,000 women. Here in this country we've started a Women's Auxiliary Army and Navy Corps that will do everything men soldiers and sailors do except the actual fighting. Prior to the first World War nobody believed that women could perform these feats of physical strength. But they're performing them now and thinking nothing of it. In this far worse war, women will develop still greater female power; by the end of the war that traditional description 'the weaker sex' will be a joke - it will cease to have any meaning."
"Your enthusiasm is a great build-up," I admitted. "I feel like Wonder Woman already. But when I leave your hypnotic presence I'll lose confidence in myself as most women do when they have to generate their own steam. They're used to regarding men as their superiors, and even if a gal is physically strong and able to earn her own living, she can't cave-woman the man she wants to control or buy him. Now, Wonder Woman has magic powers. You wouldn't claim, I suppose, that we ordinary mortals have any such fantastic weapons as bracelets that repel bullets or her magic lasso that compels whomever it binds to obey her commands?"
Seriously the Doctor responded, "Of course all women have those two powers. Wonder Woman is actually a dramatized symbol of her sex. She's true to life-true to the universal characteristics of women everywhere. Her magic lasso is merely a symbol of feminine charm, allure, oomph, attraction every woman man uses that power on people of both sexes whom she wants to, influence or control in any way. Instead of tossing a rope, the average woman tosses words, glances, gestures, laughter, and vivacious behavior. If her aim is accurate, she snares the attention of her would-be victim, man or woman, and proceeds to bind him or her with her charm."
"But the trouble is," I objected "that ordinary feminine charm is a bond that is easily broken."
The Doctor nodded. "You've a point there," he admitted. "But not a very sound - one. Woman's charm is the one bond that can be made strong enough to hold a man against all logic, common sense, or counterattack. The fact that many women fail to make strong enough lassos for themselves doesn't deprive the lasso material of its native magic. The only thing is, you have to use enough charm to overcome your captive's resistance."
"The chains that the Nazis forge on conquered people," I muttered, "seem a whole lot stronger than the bonds of personal charm!"
"Ah, they only seem that way," the oracle replied And he continued with an exposition of the upside-downness of popular thought. Chains of force are always broken sooner or later. No human being can put another's soul or spirit in bondage, only his body. And in the end the inner self triumphs over the outer; mind and personality win back their control over flesh. Nazi chains already are beginning to snap in "conquered" France, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Czechoslovakia, sabotage and killing of oppressors goes on increasingly. But the real turn of the tide will come when Hitler loses his persuasive charm control over the German people.
Dr. Marston reminded me that Hitler gained his initial power by stirring oratory and personal magnetism-the magic-lasso method-not by force. When he resorted to force in the famous beer cellar Putsch he failed miserably and spent a year in prison. Mussolini similarly achieved his dictatorship by the magic of his persuasive tongue, and now, when force and military ability are needed in place of persuasiveness and drama, Il Duce is on the skids. Churchill never won a military campaign in his life, prior to the present war, but his political oratory has always been outstanding and the power of his keen mind and prolific pen has been equaled by few modern writers. President Roosevelt has one of the most charming personalities in the world and be casts this magic lasso over the radio with unerring aim. Three times he has caught and bound with his charm a large majority of American voters. And the Doctor asks, "Can you doubt that Roosevelt's control over America is stronger than Hitler's over occupied France?"
"So men have magic lassos, then, as well as women," I remarked. "And your own verbal lariat seems to be roping me in today."
"But you mustn't let it hold you," he grinned. "Wonder Woman can break any rope or chain with which a mere man tries to bind her. She stays bound only as long as may be necessary to accomplish her good purpose-then tears off her man-made shackles and goes to work on the man!"
At this point I protested. "Women enjoy being bound by men; it's less work and more fun than keeping male captives secure. Girls like to get their man, then surrender to him."
"And what happens next?" prompted the psychologist. "The man loses interest completely. No man wants to be freed by the girl who has caught him and no man has the slightest interest in tying up a girl who holds out her hands to be bound. If he takes her as his property, that's a bad day for both of them. The man begins to use dominance, and that's acutely painful for the woman captive. Wonder Woman and her sister Amazons have to wear heavy bracelets to remind them of what happens to a girl when she lets a man conquer her. The Amazons once surrendered to the charm of some handsome Greeks and what a mess they got themselves into. The Greeks put them in chains of the Hitler type, beat them, and made them work like horses in the fields. Aphrodite, goddess of love, finally freed these unhappy girls. But she laid down the rule that they must never surrender to a man for any reason. I know of no better advice to give modern women than this rule that Aphrodite gave the Amazon girls."
Hastily the psychological giant added, "Of course, she may let the man think she's helpless. My Wonder Woman often lets herself be tied into a bundle with chains as big as your arm. But in the end she easily snaps the chains. Women can do lots of things by letting men think they're fettered when they're not."
"Oh, sure," I agreed. "Women do things like that constantly. Why, just this morning I got myself out of a strait jacket in Sing Sing prison. Then I tore out a section of the prison walls and jogged back to Child's in New York for a refreshing quaff of tea and toast. I often move our house about on the lot to catch the sun at its best, and-"
Dr. Marston's laughter reached apoplectic proportions and I was trying to remember if you give stimulants for red unconsciousness when he said with seeming irrelevance, "I tell you, my inquiring friend, there's great hope for this world. Women will win! Give them a little more time and the added strength they'll develop out of this war and they'll begin to control things in a serious way. When women rule, there won't be any more because the girls won't want to waste time killing men. They'd rather have them alive; it's more fun from a feminine point of view."
"In all seriousness," he continued, "I regard that as the greatest - no, even more - as the only hope for permanent peace. And as a psychologist I'm convinced that the ever-increasing counterparts of Wonder Woman in real life will lead the way. More power to them! Let them keep their Amazon chain bands polished. And their magic lassos limbered up! Women are nature-endowed soldiers of Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, and theirs is the only conquering army to which men will permanently submit - not only without resentment or resistance or secret desires for revenge, but also with positive willingness and joy!"
At which moment I took wing and flew over the housetops to my little nest to spread joy among all the lucky males I could rope in with my magic-lariat charm.