Women Don't Need "Wife School": How These Scams Prey on Women's Insecurities10/14/2015
By Bee Quammie As a married woman, almost nothing makes my skin crawl like hearing someone speak on “how to be a wife.” Through the succes...
By Bee Quammie
As a married woman, almost nothing makes my skin crawl like hearing someone speak on “how to be a wife.” Through the successes and failures of myself and others, I’ve learned that the best guide includes knowing who you are, finding a significant other that isn’t necessarily the same as you but is in sync with you, and treating your relationship as a living entity that ebbs, flows, and shifts energy throughout. These things are unique to each person and each relationship, so anyone pushing a cookie-cutter mold is fallacious, careless, and untrustworthy.
One of these questionable characters is Mrs. Ro Élori Cutno of the Institute of Feminine Grace, who is playing to the vulnerabilities of Black women by charging them $299 for her upcoming “Wife School” weekend in Orlando, Florida. Per IFG’s promotional flyer, the cost covers lessons in the art of seduction, feminine graces, etiquette, culinary arts, masculine and feminine communication, and how to date for marriage. Now, if any woman attends, enjoys the program, and marries a man that likes the kind of seduction, graces, etiquette, culinary skills, and communication that Cutno teaches, more power to her. However, I’ll bet my bottom dollar (or 299 of them) that the program fee isn’t worth the risk of its inevitable failure.
As I did some research for this piece, I Googled Cutno and ended up traveling down a hellish digital rabbit hole of YouTube videos like “American Woman’s Loss Of Femininity” and books like “Man Leads…: Woman Follows, Everyone Wins.” These finds provided further context as to the kind of woman and organization who would rest full blame for perpetual singleness and unfulfilling relationships squarely on the shoulders of Black women, and it all became clear to me: IFG’s “Wife School” is nothing more than a weekend getaway aimed at churning out Black Stepford Wives and upholding misogyny.
Wife School’s heteronormativity is explicit as this program is solely for Black women who want to marry men. Lesbian relationships are seen as a result of ascribing to the Strong Black Woman myth, choosing to be so strong that one has “given up on men” altogether.
Additionally, Cutno’s assumed position as Wife School’s leader is dubious. Her claims to fame are an apparently happy marriage of her own, and two years of research with “the best wives” in 16 countries. Can general nuggets of wisdom be shared to enlighten others on what works in other folks’ (hopefully happy) relationships? Sure. Can someone teach you how to become a “certified wife” (yes, per Cutno’s Facebook page, you’ll receive a certificate deeming you a certified spouse at completion of the program – whether or not you have a significant other in the picture)? No – because no two wives, husbands, partners, or marriages are the same. Aside from that, Cutno has appointed herself as a curious governing body with this certification process, which has no validity in real life and relationships. Do successful pupils produce their Wife School certificates on dates, proving to their suitors they’d make excellent spouses? Is that covered in the Dating For Marriage curriculum?
One of the biggest problems with relationships is modeling your own after what you think or are told it should be based on someone else’s arbitrary experience or opinion. Instead of encouraging you to find a partner who fits your values, personality, and lifestyle, Wife School seeks to teach you how to fit into a predetermined wife box – individuality be damned. With this thought, I’d wager a guess that IFG’s program will develop more unhappy marriages and women within them than the opposite.
Another rankling point of Wife School and Cutno’s teachings is that we have yet another enterprising soul who is making a name and living for themselves off the “fixing” of women while leaving men to just be men. These snake oil charmers claim to aid in women’s understanding of men, but instead they provide shoddy blueprints on how to bend, twist, and contort to meet men where they are, a place that fails to ever require any analysis or readjustment (Note: Cutno edited certain Facebook posts to add that IFG also teaches “Husband School,” but no details were available at this time).
The stench of personal salvation through marriage reeks throughout these kinds of programs. Getting hitched is a goal and dream of many, but it’s uncomfortable to witness how much self-worth is wrapped up in the institution. Cutno and those like her would have single women believe that they are lacking in life without a husband and would have wives in unfulfilling marriages believe that their problems are exclusively due to their own personal failures. We continue to encounter these self-touted “relationship experts” who speak at Black women, blaming us for our shortcomings in love, attempting to convince us that feminism and independence are wholly equivalent to misandry, and proclaiming to show us the “right way” to be a lady, a wife, a person worthy of love and respect. Ask yourself this: who determines what’s “right”?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with reveling in your personal brand of femininity, if that’s what makes you feel good. Nothing wrong with desiring to be in a healthy, happy relationship. Nothing wrong with doing the inner work needed to ensure that you’re your best self before committing to someone else. With the narrow definitions of femininity, masculinity, and relationships that Cutno and her ilk hold, it’s nearly impossible to see how IFG’s Wife School or any such program champions true self-development and healthy intimate connection. Buyer, beware.
Photo: Andrey Popov/Shutterstock.com
Bee Quammie is a Toronto-based health & social work professional, writer, and founder of ‘83 To Infinity and The Brown Suga Mama. Recognized by Black Enterprise & the Black Canadians Awards for her digital work, Bee aims to live '83 To Infinity's motto: "It's never too late to learn something new, do something new, or be someone new." Follow her on Twitter at @BeeSince83.