Conservative Writer Urges Women to 'Stay Fit' for Their Husbands

Beth Greenfield
Senior Writer
Keeping your body fit is “one of the best gifts” a woman can give to her husband, one writer says. (Photo: Getty Images)

Sometimes there are sexist, feminist-baiting articles so over-the-top that they are simply best left ignored. But every now and then comes a missive that both infuriates and offers a minuscule glimmer of intellectual intrigue (in this case, a smart writing style, and a couple of vaguely valid points), and it needs to be challenged.

Enter conservative columnist Inez Feltscher’s latest marriage-advice essay: “Staying Fit for Your Husband Is One of the Best Gifts You Can Give Him.”

Yes, it sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit or some sort of 1950s throwback article. But it’s actually a real, modern-day story, from Jun. 22 of 2017, published by the right-lurching website The Federalist.

In it, Feltscher, a 29-year-old “Constitutionalist #TeaParty. Habitual snowflake triggerer,” according to her Twitter profile, notes that millennials have “been sold a pack of feminist lies that make both men and women unhappier,” including the belief that “a selfish, ‘be yourself’ attitude is a good prescription for marital bliss.” Instead, the Breitbart contributor advises, “Maintaining their figures and beauty — through reasonable efforts — is one important way that women can make their husbands happy.”

As for men keeping themselves from going to pot for their wives? Feltscher says it’s not a concern, as women are far less stuck on the appearance of their men, an idea that she says has been “confirmed by brain scans.” She also maintains that it’s a fact that’s obvious to any “intellectually-honest person,” who can just look to articles in the Daily Mailabout hot young women dating less-hot old men, as further proof.

It’s the “feminist” denial of the fact that men and women are fundamentally different in relationships, she says, that leads to marital struggles. To make the road less rocky, here’s what Feltscher recommends women do: “…try shifting your appearance a notch or two up your priorities list. Cultivate an active lifestyle or carve out the time to work out regularly, and curb your caloric indulgences. Wear clothes that flatter you instead of those that are just easiest to reach for. Even in the busiest of schedules, find the five minutes to put on a little lipstick or a spritz of the perfume you used back when the two of you were dating. He’ll appreciate you making the effort.”

A couple of problems here, just for starters: a) The changing of appearances and shifting of priorities in long-term relationships is not quite so simplistic, but rather attached to an endless myriad of complex issues; and b) denying that men and women have differences is actually not an essential part of being a feminist — which is, at its core, about equality. Bottom line, Feltscher’s brand of advice is bizarrely out-of-date; it’s so sexist that it’s actually kind of funny, in an I Dream of Jeannie kind of way. It’s also probably really depressingly unhelpful for anyone who might truly be having relationship issues.

As marriage and family therapist Paul Hokemeyer tells Yahoo Beauty after reading Feltscher’s essay, “The majority of people feel that woman need to be treated with respect and add value to the world not only through their ability to reproduce, but also through the incredible value they add to the world through their inherent skills in nurturing, comforting and leading with intelligence and grace. Central to this capacity is a woman’s ability to think for herself and take actions that are authentic to her, rather than placing herself in a position to be manipulated, objectified and thereby diminished by the standards and corresponding judgment of others.”

He adds, “For this reason, it’s important for women to push back against this manipulative force that tries to control how they look. The best way for them to do this is by living in the world in a skin that suits them, rather then a skin that’s approved by others.”

Hokemeyer, who stresses that he would definitely never recommend this sort of advice to his clients, also notes, “People [who] point their finger at others telling them how they should look and behave are the very people who need a recalibration. These are the folks in whose souls fester incredible self-doubts and insecurities. To be comfortable in ones own skin requires an acceptance of the skin of others.”

Even Federalist readers are taking Feltscher to task for her advice, through hundreds of comments on her article.

“Inez, the important thing is that you’re happily married,” one woman notes. “I was a size 0-2 when I met him, a size 4 after we married, a size 6 before I got pregnant the second time… when I fretted over the changes and thought about losing the weight, he said, ‘No, no! This is good! Keep this!’ So now I’m a size 12, and he’s still happy. Go figure! The guys will surprise you, sometimes.”

Another chimes in, “Any man that expects his wife to stay the same dress size, especially after growing his children in her womb, is an ass,” while yet one more explains, “I lost the baby weight 3 freaking…times. Each time took more time and far more willpower than the time before it. I cut out grains, dairy, refined sugar, diet soda, and {most} alcohol. I’ve done Whole30 more than once. I’ve run 3 half marathons and 4 10-milers since my first baby was born in 2011. I do two BodyPump classes and 2 spin classes per week. If the fact that I did/do that for MYSELF rather than my husband’s viewing pleasure makes me a selfish feminist, then I’ll wear that title proudly.”

Another speaks directly to Feltscher: “When she’s married as long as I’ve been married, I wonder if she’ll be embarrassed by this piece. I hope so. If not, it’ll be because she’s divorced. This is such a shallow take on marriage. She literally paints traditional marriage as a body-for-cash exchange, all while sneering at feminists, which is hilarious, given that that was the old-skool feminist position — marriage = prostitution.” And, finally, this: “Real love the kind that lasts till the end of your days isn’t about how much you weight its about how you treat each other. Feminism has nothing to do with it. His happiness isn’t my job. My happiness isn’t his job. If you are trying to make each other happy when the other isn’t you will fail no matter what you do.”

Twitter also had a good go at the writer, natch.

Yahoo Beauty reached out to Feltscher to ask her some follow-up questions, and she responded by expanding upon her original thoughts, taking the opportunity to defend and clarify her position.

“I’ve found most of the reactions are in response to something I didn’t actually write, e.g. that looks are the ONLY thing that matters (or even the most important thing) in a marriage, or that women ‘letting themselves go’ in any way condones men breaking their marriage vows by cheating. Of course marriage is, or at least ought to be, much deeper than that,” she says.

“What I wrote was that women should consider their husbands’ thoughts about their appearances and make reasonable, healthy efforts to keep them up,” the writer continues in her email. “What’s reasonable depends on individual circumstance, obviously. What’s reasonable for me as a childless 29-year-old may no longer reasonable for a woman a decade or two my senior with children. It’s about the effort and respect for your spouse, not about being perfect. Lord knows I’m not.”

Feltscher says she was inspired, in part, by the current campaign for “body positivity” in the media. “While there’s no reason for anyone to constantly beat up on themselves for flaws…I do think it goes too far when we are called on to celebrate them,” she explains. “I think ‘body positivity’ is just one aspect of a larger cultural message that I think is damaging, a message that says ‘if you [spouse that has taken a vow to be with me ’till death do us part] truly love me you have to celebrate everything about me, even my weaknesses and flaws, as wonderful.’ That’s harmful when it removes any duty to do (key emphasis: reasonable) things that make your spouse happy. It allows us to feel good about being selfish.”

When pushed on the issue of why keeping healthy and fit for one’s husband is what she emphasizes, rather than doing it for one’s self, she says this: “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being fit for yourself, your health, or a thousand other reasons. I think they’re all great! I just don’t think doing it for your husband is a bad reason either, and that’s where I differ with most people, apparently.”

Finally, when asked what same-sex couples are to make of her very man-woman relationship wisdom, she wisely plead the fifth. “I’ll leave that to the folks in those relationships to talk about how those dynamics play out.”

And there you have it, folks.

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