Since World War II Americans’ attitudes towards shyness have changed. The women’s movement and the sexual revolution raised questions about communication, self-expression, intimacy, and personality, leading to new concerns about shyness. At the same time, the growth of psychotherapy and the mental health industry brought shyness to the attention of professionals who began to regard it as an illness in need of a cure. But what is shyness? How is it related to gender, race, and class identities? And what does its stigmatization say about our culture?
In Shrinking Violets and Caspar Milquetoasts, Patricia McDaniel tells the story of shyness. Using popular self-help books and magazine articles she shows how prevailing attitudes toward shyness frequently work to disempower women. She draws on evidence as diverse as 1950s views of shyness as a womanly virtue to contemporary views of shyness as a barrier to intimacy to highlight how cultural standards governing shyness reproduce and maintain power differences between and among women and men.
2 The Emotional Culture of Shyness from the Middle Ages to the Early Twentieth Century
3 “Build Him a Dais”: Shyness and Heterosexuality from the Roles of the Fifties to The Rules of the Nineties
4 Assertive Women and Timid Men? Race, Heterosexuality, and Shyness
5 Shyness from Nine to Five
6 “Intimacy Is a Dif?cult Art”: The Changing Role of Shyness in Friendship
Appendix A: Data and Methods
Appendix B: Sampled Self-Help Books, Child-Rearing Manuals, and Magazine Articles
About the Author
“This book’s significance lies in its treatment of an emotional state and in its use of documents that have heretofore received little attention from historians.”
-The Jourrnal of American History
“Patricia McDaniel provides an insightful look at the historical construction of shyness in Western society. This book is an important contribution to the literature on the sociology of emotions and the sociology of gender.”
“In this thoroughy researched study, McDaniel pretty much provides anything any academic might ever want to kow about shyness in society.”
“Patricia A. McDaniel brings shyness out of the closet in this carefully-researched and well-written social history. In documenting how shyness served social functions in the past, she explains why it has been transformed into a personal failing today. As Americans have become increasingly outgoing, gregarious and assertive, and as friendliness has become increasingly marketable, shyness has become a disease—one the pharmaceutical companies and clinicians are eager to treat with best-selling drugs like Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft. Shrinking Violets and Caspar Milquetoasts is the first book to examine shyness in all its historical and sociological complexity. Highly recommended.”
-Scott Coltrane,University of California, Riverside