I don’t know whether to laugh or cry…
Louise Livesey // 14 May 2008
This is the Marital Rating Scale developed in the 1930s to assess wives. Basically it’s a series of merits and demerits based on assumed gender traits (including that women should be subservient to men). Whats galling, and takes this beyond just the notion of arcane ephemera, is that the psychology PhD student (and their supervisor I assume) who draws our attention to it argues that is has “scientific” basis.
Although most people who read the test today find it humorous and obviously dated, Crane did attempt to make it scientific. His method was to interview 600 husbands on their wives’ positive and negative qualities. Then he listed the 50 demerits and merits that arose most frequently. Crane, did admit to using a personal bias in weighting the items that he thought were most important in marriage.
Here’s some issues I have with it:
1. There was only ever a “wife” scale (although apparently wives or husbands could complete it) thus making women responsible for the strength or weakness of their marriage.
2. This further reinforces that women should apparently make men’s concerns and desires central to their lives and that men have no responsibility in the success of relationships. Men can just be, women must fit around them.
3. The scale is based on illusory socially specific notions of femininity which are heavily classed and ethnicised. In short it’s based on a very white, urban, middle class sense of femininity.
4. The idea that the quality of a relationship can be judged on whether a woman swears or wears red nail polish is absurd and characterises men as a homogenous group without individual ideas too.
5. It also posits there is a one-size-fits-all notion of relationships.
6. Claims to “scientific” method are then undermined by imposition of the researchers own priorities on the results.
7. 600 men does not scientific research on happy marriages make. It’s a ridiculously small sample size, based on skewed notions of predictive capacities of such surveys and which is obviously gendered in it’s basis. I can (probably) find 600 men who claim that if a woman kisses a man willingly then him physically forcing her to have sex isn’t rape. Doesn’t mean that’s a scientific finding.
8. Joyce goes on to say that whilst dated there are paralells between this and how people might rate modern relationships on personal or annoying habits like not putting the top on toothpaste. I’d argue that there is a big difference (of scale for example but not just that) between toothpaste habits and a strict white, protestant, middle class straightjacketed notion of femininity and women’s roles.