Bernice Bobs Her Hair
Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"Don't you think common kindness –"
"Oh, please don't quote `Little Women'!" cried Marjorie impatiently. "That's out of style."
"You think so?"
"Heavens, yes! What modern girl could live like those inane females?"
"They were the models for our mothers."
"Yes, they were – not! Besides, our mothers were all very well in their way, but they know very little about their daughters' problems."
Bernice drew herself up.
"Please don't talk about my mother."
"I don't think I mentioned her." (50-53)
Marjorie's disdain for the older generation – and their belief in the Victorian standards of female propriety – emerges clearly here. She clearly doesn't think the old rules of feminine conduct apply to her or to her generation, and Bernice's identification with "those inane females" makes her even less comprehensible to her modern cousin.
"I think you're hard and selfish, and you haven't a feminine quality in you."
"Oh, my Lord!" cried Marjorie in desperation. "You little nut! Girls like you are responsible for all the tiresome colorless marriages; all those ghastly inefficiencies that pass as feminine qualities. What a blow it must be when a man with imagination marries the beautiful bundle of clothes that he's been building ideals round, and finds that she's just a weak, whining, cowardly mass of affectations!"
Bernice's mouth had slipped half open.
"The womanly woman!" continued Marjorie. "Her whole early life is occupied in whining criticisms of girls like me who really do have a good time."
Bernice's jaw descended farther as Marjorie's voice rose.
"There's some excuse for an ugly girl whining. If I'd been irretrievably ugly I'd never have forgiven my parents for bringing me into the world. But you're starting life without any handicap –" Marjorie's little fist clinched. "If you expect me to weep with you you'll be disappointed. Go or stay, just as you like." And picking up her letters she left the room. (55-57)
We can almost see Bernice's mind being blown here. Marjorie's insulting condemnation of the old-fashioned notion of "the womanly woman" is basically a personal attack – she doesn't believe in the same kind of outdated image of femininity that Bernice believes in, the image that Bernice has been striving to attain her entire life.
Bernice raised the brows in question.
"Do you mean to say that men notice eyebrows?"
"Yes – subconsciously. And when you go home you ought to have your teeth straightened a little. It's almost imperceptible, still – "
"But I thought," interrupted Bernice in bewilderment, "that you despised little dainty feminine things like that."
"I hate dainty minds," answered Marjorie. "But a girl has to be dainty in person. If she looks like a million dollars she can talk about Russia, ping-pong, or the League of Nations and get away with it." (60)
Marjorie outlines the delicate dance between tradition and modernity the successful socialite has to play – she must tread the odd line between traditionally feminine physical beauty and traditionally masculine independence of mind.