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The Evolution of Gender-Based Career Quizzes

The use of polarized language as a source of polarized ideas is nothing new. A classic case in point: The Quiz. Though the decision to have a career, a spouse, and/or children is clearly an individual and entirely subjective one, magazines throughout time have provided readers with the sometimes dangerous ability to define their identity, beliefs, and capabilities on the basis of arbitrary questions about life choices. Though such quizzes are silly and pointless when taken literally, comparing the gender-related values represented in contemporary women's magazine quizzes to those that showed up in publications from the 1950s is an interesting exercise that shows how views of women and their careers have shifted, and, for the most part, improved.

The use of polarized language as a source of polarized ideas is nothing new. A classic case in point: The Quiz. Though the decision to have a career, a spouse, and/or children is clearly an individual and entirely subjective one, magazines throughout time have provided readers with the sometimes dangerous ability to define their identity, beliefs, and capabilities on the basis of arbitrary questions about life choices. Though such quizzes are silly and pointless when taken literally, comparing the gender-related values represented in contemporary women’s magazine quizzes to those that showed up in publications from the 1950s is an interesting exercise that shows how views of women and their careers have shifted, and, for the most part, improved.

(A photo that appeared in the 1953 issue of Glamour | Photo Credit: ?he ?oincidental Dandy | Flickr)

The following quiz, What are you best fitted for: LOVE or a CAREER?, appeared in the May 1953 issue of The Girl Friend and the Boy Friend Magazine. Blogger Sally Edelstein scanned and posted the quiz in a recent post, A Test of Gender on her blog, Envisioning the American Dream.

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(Photo Credit: Screenshot of vintage quiz uploaded by Sally Edelstein. The original quiz appeared in the May 1953 issue of The Girl Friend and the Boy Friend Magazine | “Envisioning the American Dream”)

With a prognosis that more “No” answers to questions such as the one above concluded that a woman was fated for love and marriage, The Girl Friend and the Boy Friend quiz illustrates how back in 1953, whether or not a “real” woman could even have a career at all (and the suggestion that she couldn’t), was a question de rigueur. The underlying message is that a woman who cares about men, love, and/or sex doesn’t want to (and probably shouldn’t) also prioritize her career.

Fast forward to this 2015 quiz, What’s Your Career Style?  from website Mom365, in which the question is not whether a woman should choose between work and love but rather how she can or should manage both. The intro reads: 

“We all have different needs and wants when it comes to balancing career and motherhood,” reads the lead up to the questions. “Are you a born stay-at-home mom? Or a die-hard career junkie? Or somewhere in the middle? Take the quiz and find your ideal career style!”

One question in the quiz that follows reads:

(Photo Credit: Screenshot of the quiz, “What’s Your Career Style?” | “Mom365” )

Seventeen.com gives us another set of contemporary examples. A recent quiz called “The Career Quiz: How Will You Land Your Dream Job?” includes questions like this one:

(Photo Credit: Screenshot of the 2015 quiz, “How Will You Land Your Dream Job?” Seventeen.com)

None of the questions reference a woman’s career in relation to men, love, or gender. Incidentally, these topics are covered in a separate quiz posted directly before the career quiz called, Quiz Alert: Am I in Love or Is It Infatuation?. A sample question reads:

(Photo Credit: Screenshot of the 2015 quiz, “Am I in Love or Is It Infatuation?” Seventeen.com)

Though as silly and arbitrary as any love and relationship quiz that presupposes the authority to dictate a course of action by way of objective questions about subjective things, the Seventeen.com love quiz is still a refreshing change from the 1953 career quiz due to the simple fact that love and careers are presented as independent topics and encourage women to consider whether they’re treated with respect in their relationships.

And now to turn all of the above examples meant to illustrate the progression of societal beliefs about women and careers entirely on their heads, check out the following post from Edelstein’s blog, which shows how some women in the ’50s had career-gender equality figured out all along! Marriage and Career – You Can Have It All.

Tell Us What You Think

Have an opinion on how you or women in general balance careers and relationships? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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