American Women: Partners in Research (film #135 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

This 50s film, sponsored by Corning Glass, is purportedly about market research in consumer products, but it's really one long, oppressive collection of gender-role stereotypes. It starts with a campy sequence of head shots of housewives expressing their preferences, though for what, we don't know. Then our manly host Chet Huntley appears and over scenes of women shopping and drinking coffee in a kitchen says, "These women are doing research." Chet then tells us all about how companies like Corning are using the opinions of women to design household products, in a tone similar to one an animal behaviorist might use when presenting his paper on the social behavior of some rare species of jungle fauna. He does this while stroking a large phallic-looking rocket nose cone on his desk, and he is careful to specify that all the designers and engineers are MEN. He also mentions that although they are all great designers, all their hard work could come to naught because "women have minds of their own." Then we get to see the step-by-step process Corning uses to design a new coffee percolator. This includes lots of fun scenes of industrial machinery exposing Corningware dishes to various kinds of abuse. The only women employees shown are one woman whose job it is to test the coffee pot to see if it makes coffee that meets the standards of the Coffee Institute, and, of course, the "girls" in the test kitchen. All these women probably got home economics degrees from Iowa State College. In the end, the percolator is put to the ultimate test by being offered for sale in a department store. Husbands are informed that due to the sophisticated mind-control, er, I mean, "market research" techniques by Corning, their wives will demand the coffee pot despite all logic. This film is a must-see for a "ladies night" of msting––you hardly know where to start with it. Though no one instance of sexism is particularly jaw-dropping, it has a cumulative effect that just doesn't quit.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.

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