Review – The Stepford Wives

Posted October 26, 2013 by Nicky in Reviews / 5 Comments

Cover of The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin The Stepford Wives, Ira Levin

The Stepford Wives left me with a nasty squirmy feeling inside. It’s a famous story, so of course I knew the basics already, but somehow the matter-of-fact delivery just really unsettled me. Maybe what unsettled me most was following a couple of links and finding out that people take it quite literally, or the explanation of the male protagonist masturbating to the idea of killing his wife and replacing her with a robot. Ughh. Really the creepiest thing is that this feminist, decent-seeming guy… even he gives in to this idea.

The first thing to bother me, though, was Chuck Palahniuk’s introduction. Here’s a bit from it:

This is seems is progress: women may now choose to be pretty, stylishly dressed, and vapid. This is no longer the shrill, politically charged climate of 1972; if it’s a choice freely made, then it’s… okay.

Which, yes, Mr Palahniuk, it is. If it’s really a freely made choice, then I will support any woman’s decisions about her own body, her own life. It’s none of my business. Funnily enough, it seems like you still think women’s bodies are your business, that women’s careers must meet your standards.

Now, if you look at it from the angle that it’s incredibly difficult to make a free choice in this society, then I’d agree. It’s entirely true that there are still men like Ira Levin’s Dale Coba, still men who want women to be nothing more than dolls, and men who will force women to be nothing more than dolls. It’s true that just earlier this week someone was berating me in one of the Coursera forums and saying that women just can’t think scientifically, etc, and that the West is “feminised” and… There’s all kinds of stupid ideas still out there. That’s all true.

But even the pretty, stylishly dressed and vapid among us have inner lives, unlike Ira Levin’s Stepford women.

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5 responses to “Review – The Stepford Wives

  1. Never read the book, but the film was pretty creepy. Then there was a remake where they missed the point entirely…doesn’t sound like I should read the book.

  2. majoline

    My copy of the book is labelled horror and I believe it. I think in today’s political climate it’s easy to overlook the fact that the book was supposed to be SCARY. Levin himself says he pairs the book together with Rosemary’s Baby.

    • Yep, I read it as horror and in that sense it’s very effective. It’s just Chuck Palahniuk’s intro that has me frothing at the mouth a bit! And he treats it as prophetic.

      • Many forewords by third parties are best avoided, or at least unread till after the book’s been completed, especially when — as in this case — they appear to miss the point. Though I’ve read Rosemary’s Baby I had no inclination to read this after seeing only a bit of the first filmed version, not to mention over-familiarity with the BBC One ident parody (the one with women in high heels mowing lawns).

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