Erin Barney presented at the Intermountain Gender and Sexuality Conference at Idaho State University April 12-13. Barney presented on her documentary film, “Fascinating Womanhood,” as a work in progress.
“Fascinating Womanhood” is a biographical documentary film that tells the story of Helen Andelin (1920-2009), Arizona native, who became a media sensation in the 1960s when she published her secrets to a happy marriage in the self-help manual “Fascinating Womanhood.” The film features interviews with Stephanie Coontz, professor and author of “A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960’s” (2011); Joanna Brooks, Department Chair of English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University, writer and blogger at Religion Dispatches; Valerie Hudson, professor of political science at Texas A and M University, creator of WomanSTATS project; Julie Neuffer, author of “Helen Andelin and the Fascinating Womanhood Movement” (2014, University of Utah Press); Holly Welker, a writer whose poetry and prose have appeared in publications ranging from Seventeen to Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought to The New York Times to Best American Essays.
The story of Helen Andelin is the exploration of one woman in 1960s middle-America who felt called to speak out on the state of male-female relationships. She published “Fascinating Womanhood,” a self-help marriage manual that turned into a media empire. Hundreds of women set up classes around the country to spread her ideas in their communities. Yet, the story is complicated by the fact thatAndelin took the material for her book from pamphlets authored by a man in the 1920s, essentially plagiarizing someone else’s reactionary ideas to the flapper era. In contrast to the ideas in her book,Andelin spent incredible amounts of time traveling, promoting, and marketing the film, making money that Aubrey lost through a series of bad decisions. That said, Andelin’s charged interaction with leaders of feminist movement make her hero to some and a cautionary tale for others.