When Science Discovered Toxic Motherhood

Even if your mom made you pick up the tab at the drive-thru window yesterday, don't get mad. Instead, enjoy Stephanie Coontz's survey of the mother-hating post-New Deal period in Los Tiempos de Nueva York

Stay-at-home mothers were often portrayed as an even bigger menace to society than career women. In 1942, in his best-selling “Generation of Vipers,” Philip Wylie coined the term “momism” to describe what he claimed was an epidemic of mothers who kept their sons tied to their apron strings, boasted incessantly of their worth and demanded that politicians heed their moralizing.

Momism became seen as a threat to the moral fiber of America on a par with communism. In 1945, the psychiatrist Edward Strecher argued that the 2.5 million men rejected or discharged from the Army as unfit during World War II were the product of overly protective mothers.

In the same year, an information education officer in the Army Air Forces conjectured that the insidious dependency of the American man on “‘Mom’ and her pies” had “killed as many men as a thousand German machine guns.” According to the 1947 best seller “Modern Woman: The Lost Sex,” two-thirds of Americans were neurotic, most of them made so by their mothers.

Typical of the invective against homemakers in the 1950s and 1960s was a 1957 best seller, “The Crack in the Picture Window,” which described suburban America as a “matriarchal society,” with the average husband “a woman-bossed, inadequate, money-terrified neuter” and the average wife a “nagging slob.” Anti-mom rhetoric was so pervasive that even Friedan recycled some of this ideology in “The Feminine Mystique” — including the repellent and now-discredited notion that overly devoted mothers turned their sons into homosexuals.

Whole article. Coontz, a professor of history at Evergreen State College, glances back at the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as the last period when mothering a household was a career path widely esteemed by the destination media. You’d think a well adjusted nation would brag about having mothers more lethal than a thousand German machine guns. But while momism seems too virulent to spread widely in the human population, in years to come it would infect beloved Americans as diverse as Jim Backus and Papa Berenstain Bear

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  • ||

    Paging Johnny Longtorso ....

  • Almanian||

    heh heh!

  • ||

    In the sixties the conventional wisdom about autism was that it was caused by cold, rejecting mothers, so that was the choice-- gay or autistic.

  • Almanian||

    And let's not forget the millionzzzz of babies lost in car accidents because there was no such thing as a "child safety seat" and their mothers held them in their arms, like mine did.

    Oh...wait...

    PS "Bicycle" helmet? What? Literally DID rub dirt on skinned knees to stop them from bleeding. No grief counseling when a classmate died. Lord knows how we babies of the 60's/70's survived to reach adulthood...

  • Paul||

    My daughter was riding down the street in her big wheel when she was like 4 years-old. Some woman driving by in a Volvo (I shit you not) yelled "Helmet!!!"

  • Lord Googoo||

    You named your daughter Helmet? How odd.

  • ||

    "So, Lone Star, I see your Schwartz is as big as mine. Now let's see how you handle it."

  • Paul||

    Interestingly, the woman in the Volvo was named "airbag".

  • Warty||

    So you pulled her out of her car and beat her teeth out with a rock for being a busybody cunt, right?

  • Paul||

    I kind of felt sorry for her. I mean, think about it. There she is, in all of her hyphenated name glory, rushing to the dry cleaners before her homeowners' association meeting and she's compelled to control a parenting situation on the street she's driving by at 40mph.

    Life is hard enough for her. She doesn't need to be beaten.

  • ||

    Yes she does, Paul. Yes she does.

  • Warty||

    With a rock. In the teeth.

  • prolefeed||

    So you pulled her out of her car and beat her teeth out with a rock for being a busybody cunt, right?<?i>

    Laughed my ass off over this. Threadwinner!

  • prolefeed||

    Fucking end tags.

  • Spartacus||

    you can overcome shift key dependency1 just read my new book, 'how not to be hercule triathlon', available on amazon for only 419.95.

  • Warty||

  • Almanian||

    Nice! "Undone" jumped into my head

  • ||

    One of the parks we play disc golf in has a road that is close to a road. So, of course, idiots like to honk right as we throw (HURR DURR HILARIOUS.) Last time this happen, I let out a loud "FUCK OFF, SHITCUNT!"

    Across the road, about 40--literal--soccer moms collectively gasped.

    It was a good day.

  • ||

    I frequently scream obscenities at the shitty Seattle drivers while driving here, and in the summer the windows are down. I get some looks, let me tell you.

  • prolefeed||

    Whereas here such behavior gets a shrug and "Eh, that's Epi." =)

  • ||

    I'm sure his thick wop accent stands out.

  • ||

    You see, Lone NutraSweet, that evil will always triumph...because good is dumb.

  • ||

    FUCK YOU PROLE

    (drives off fast)

  • prolefeed||

    Get in line, dude!

  • Paul||

    I've been considering starting a web-based class on how to make a turn on an unprotected left. Maybe I should just do a youtube video...

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    I open my glovebox, reach inside, gonna wreck this fucker's ride, `cuz I got a bad habit...

  • ||

    AssHOLE! [drives away]

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Across the road, about 40--literal--soccer moms collectively gasped.

    Did it occur to you that they were gasping because your frankly banal outburst had, in fact, alerted them for the first time that across the street grown men were playing frisbee golf?

  • Paul||

    in fact, alerted them for the first time that across the street grown men were playing frisbee golf?

    Pff, you should see what this grown man does for recreation.

  • ||

    Perhaps. But then so many of us wing discs off their bloated minivans when they park them on the course, surely they have noticed us by now.

    Or perhaps, hearing a man scream "SHITCUNT" they might have believed one of their husbands had arrived.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    I actually did manage to land on my head as the result of a Big Wheel crash.

    It took a steep hill, a jury rigged ramp, and the encouragement of several equally foolish cronies.

    And it was exhilarating right up until it was terrifying.

    No doubt it explains many things.

  • Neu Mejican||

    PS "Bicycle" helmet? What?

    Is that confusion the result of some early head injury? There is further evidence throughout

    ;^)

    Literally DID rub dirt on skinned knees to stop them from bleeding.

    You don't wear the helmet on your knees dummy.

    No grief counseling when a classmate died.

    From a bicycling head injury, perhaps?

    Lord knows how we babies of the 60's/70's survived to reach adulthood...

    Given the "no grief counseling" assertion, you seem to have forgotten that not all of us did.

  • Paul||

    My daughter takes ice skating lessons. It's an interesting study of the parenting. About 50% of parents make their kids wear helmets. It's pretty funny watching a very young girl learning to figure skate in her tights and little outfit with a hockey helmet on.

  • Almanian||

    Your comments made my head hurt.

  • KWebb||

    I hate bicycle helmets. A more worthless safety device does not exist.
    The things are designed for falling over sideways while moving slowly. Anything more violent and the helmet will fail while increasing the torque on your head.
    Cycling is not dangerous.

  • ||

    Actually, from a cost-benefit standpoint, modern car seats are one of the cheapest, most effective things you can do to protect your child. I would agree that having your kid wear a helmet while taking ice skating lessons is stupid, as is denying your kids any independence for fear that a stranger will abduct them. But car seats are the real deal, and the whole "my mom let me sit on her lap while driving and I turned out just fine" trope is about as obvious a case of selection bias as you can find.

  • ||

    Actually, from a cost-benefit standpoint, modern car seats are one of the cheapest, most effective things you can do to protect your child.

    Agreed, but the safety nazis can't ever just stop there. To them, an 11-year old sitting in a 5-point restraint harness car seat is nothing to get upset about. It's really gotten fucking nuts.

    I bought a tank for a car to keep the youngin's safe, because I'm not about to let your average idiot DC driver turn my kid into a drooling vegetable frmo their incredible lack of common sense. That's my job.

    I go with the bike helmet too for them, for the same reason.

  • Ray Pew||

    Literally DID rub dirt on skinned knees to stop them from bleeding.

    I have to say, that is one of the dumbest ideas I have ever heard. "Here, honey!! Let me rub some of this pile of countless microbes onto an open wound."

  • Sterling Archer||

    Autistic? Try awesome.

  • Paul||

    "The raging offense of the Berenstains is the post-feminist Papa Bear, the Alan Alda of grizzlies, a wimp so passive and fumbling he makes Dagwood Bumstead look like Batman."

    But c'mon, Tim you gotta admit...

  • john||

    At least Dagwood has a wife and daughter with the nicest racks in the comics.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    No shit! Good to know I'm not the only perv that noticed this. The way they draw Blondie oughtta be illegal or something.

  • ||

    Trust me, Barely, you weren't the only one to notice. I'm just surprised there's no porn parody comic out there (or, in the alternative, surprised I've yet to find it online).

  • alan||

    This is really going to kill you. British mainstream papers commonly ran comics with nudes in them since at least the 1940's.

    http://goodcomics.comicbookres.....ealed-285/

  • alan||

    Oh, forgot to run the usual warning -- If This Isn't Safe For Your Place of Work, Tell Them To Fuck Off.

  • Hugh Akston||

  • ||

    OK, correction... It was hard to find when I was a teenager and we first got internet access and I only had small chunks of time when nobody else was in the house.

  • Ted S.||

    I only hovered over the link. Wouldn't it lead to Debbie Harry porn?

  • Rule 34||

    I give you the perennial example.

  • Paul||

    I was waiting for someone to respond because I was preloaded with a comment about Dagwood tappin' Blondie.

    Well played, sir, well played.

  • Miss Buxley||

    Don't forget about me!

  • ||

    Philip Wylie also wrote a novel that is generally though to be a direct influence in the creation of Superman.

    Gladiator

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Superman had daddy issues, not mommy issues. Duh.

  • ||

    "Boo hoo, my entire race is dead...

    Except for for my dog, hot my cousin, her cat and horse, and a monkey. And an entire tiny city that I can visit anytime I feel like it. And a murderous computer. And The Eradicator. And Doomsday. And a bunch of other people and animals I probably forgot."

  • proegg antichicken||

    If that sample is indicative of what most kryptonians were like, then nothing of value was lost.

  • ||

    Suppose there had been a survivor from Krypton's equivalent of Africa.

    And the baby had landed in Alabama in 1920 instead of Kansas.

    I bet that black people would have gotten to ride in the front of the bus a lot sooner.

  • Hugh Akston||

    That is an Elseworlds limited series waiting to happen.

  • ||

    I ran into this when I thought I was coming up with a Kryptonian monkey for Monkey Tuesday. Turned out I was decades late. Seeing the long list of Krytponian survivors, I have to say that I'm dubious of claims that Krypton was destroyed.

    If Krypton did still exist, wouldn't pretty much every Kryptonian relocate to worlds orbiting yellow suns? Maybe it was just evacuated after Kal-El's godlike stature on Earth became common knowledge.

  • ||

    I'm so glad you're finally seen sense and kept the white background. Now I can stand to look upon your site again. I assume you feel as honored as I feel you should.

  • ||

    Don't goad me, goader.

  • ||

    How dare you call me a goiter!

  • ||

    Spartan mothers.

  • dmoynihan||

    Wylie's daughter (a big-time dog trainer) isn't letting Generation of Vipers be reprinted. Or at least, not by me, but I've heard a couple of other people have asked.

    /Crack in the Picture Window is public domain, may have to score a copy...

  • prolefeed||

    the psychiatrist Edward Strecher argued that the 2.5 million men rejected or discharged from the Army as unfit during World War II were the product of overly protective mothers.

    I'd say that raising your kids to not be cannon fodder for the state is excellent parenting.

  • Paul||

    I get your larger point, but part of the point made was arguing that Momism made them cannon fodder.

  • prolefeed||

    And yet these pampered momma's boys seemed to fight pretty well when the shit hit the fan.

  • Paul||

    Hmm, Tom Hanks gives it a thumbs up.

  • ||

    This is a common bullshit meme trotted out by statist fucks, that the spoiled children of democracy are incapable of fighting wars. This is simply untrue, is in fact an inversion of reality. Free countries destroy authoritarian countries. From Salamis to the Gulf War, there is nothing that Western free nations do as well as set piece battle. If I got to pick which side to fight for, I pick the side that's more free. Because that side is going to be the one where meritorious commanders rise to crucial positions, where officers and NCOs are unafraid to show initiative, where private soldiers are volunteers or a citizen levy and not slaves, where free scientists and engineers are frantically devising newer and better tools to kill with.

  • Paul||

    This.

  • ||

    No, it was Roman mothers who said to their sons "Come back with your shield or on it."

  • ||

    Spartan mothers.

  • ||

    We know who wore the longer-ish toga in *that* family.

  • Robert||

    20+ yrs. ago there was a phone-in radio talk show whose point seemed to be to have men confess, preferably crying, how their mothers wrecked them psychologically. I came in in the middle, never got the full setup, but that seemed to be what the deal was every week.

  • Godwin||

    In the same year, an information education officer in the Army Air Forces conjectured that the insidious dependency of the American man on “‘Mom’ and her pies” had “killed as many men as a thousand German machine guns.”

    "You know who else made sons insidiously dependent on their mothers? Hitler, that's who! Just sayin'..."

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