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Article  •  18 January 2023


6 of the worst tips women have been told for centuries

Prepare to shriek, roll your eyes and tut at this absurd advice on how to become a 'proper woman', meek, weak and slow to speak.

With humour, rage, intelligence and wit, Kaz Cooke's You’re Doing it Wrong: A History of Bad & Bonkers Advice to Women unpacks the bonkers and bad advice that has been handed down and foisted upon women for centuries. 

So, women (aka bints, frails and slatterns): head up, shoulders back, legs crossed, powder your knees and get ready to learn the top 6 tips to become a proper woman because you're doing it wrong . . . apparently. 

Disclaimer: This article is for satirical purposes only. Do not follow ANY of these bonkers tips! 

1.Be meek

 ‘A single trait of rudeness, a severe air, or even the character of majesty would injure the effect of womanly beauty.’ This tip comes from the annoying fool Alexander Walker in his ludicrous book, Beauty: Illustrated Chiefly by an Analysis and Classification of Beauty in Woman (1836).

2.Keep still 

‘Being able to sit very still is sexy.’  This bizarre idea comes from Sex and the Single Girl, by Helen Gurley Brown, in 1962. It does beg the question: How do you get anything done if you are actually a statue?

3. Don’t speak:

‘Speak low, and look as quiet and sedate as possible.’ If you don’t know what ‘looking quiet’ might entail, you may want to pick up a copy of Girl’s Own Paper from the 1880s.

4. Periods are shameful

‘Women should not have cold baths during periods. They shouldn’t do any running, dancing, bicycle riding or use a sewing machine, or take exciting music lessons.’ This advice is some 19th-century wellness wisdom, without evidence or, erm, logic.

5. Look prettier

No matter if you are the most gorgeous creature in the known universe, every woman has a duty to make herself look prettier. An ideal view of prettiness was explained by Mrs Humphry in her 1899 book How to Be Pretty Th­ough Plain as ‘a pleasant expression, a bright countenance, a graceful figure, a charming manner and attention to details of toilet and dress.’

6. Disguise your body 

Women should use fashion to alter the shape of their bodies. From iron cages in the shape of hips and bottoms strapped to their waist, swagged-draping for a bustle, a false bottom. We’ve also strapped on farthingales – hoop skirts and layered petticoats, cage-shaped crinolines the size of yurts.


For centuries women have been subject to a load of nonsense advice on how to become a tolerable woman.

So, from now on we can murmur it like a 19th-century girl, ‘we shall no longer countenance this preposterous state of affairs, or we can, indelicately, stand up and shout:


Up to you.


For actually useful advice and more fun from Kaz, sign up for her newsletter, The Tea.

Feature Title

You’re Doing it Wrong: A History of Bad & Bonkers Advice to Women
You’re Doing it Wrong is an outrageous tour through the centuries of bonkers and bad advice handed down and foisted upon women, told as only Kaz Cooke can – with humour and rage, intelligence and wit.
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