by Harriet Goldhor Lerner

A Psychologist Tells Why

The first self-help book I ever read was called Always Ask a Man, by Arlene Dahl. It was written at a time when women were explicitly encouraged to offer men narcissistic protection by feigning weakness, dependency and incompetence. “Never upstage a man!’ Dahl advises. “If you smoke, don’t carry matches!’ “Never launch loudly into your own opinions … instead draw out his ideas to which you can gracefully add your footnotes from time to time!’ Dahl’s advice typifies guidebooks for women written before the 1970s — explicitly prescribing male dominance while implicitly warning women that men are weak.

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12 Stepping It: Women’s Roads to Recovery

The articles in this special section:

A Psychologist Tells Why

by Harriet Goldhor Lerner

A Feminist Tells How

by Gail Unterberger