emma_in_dream: (X Files)
I was so obsessed with Catherine Dickens (Charles Dickens' abandoned wife) that I bought a biography. She might not have danced the night away after he left her, but she did stay out at parties, so hooray.

Dickens burnt her letters to him and wanted to destroy his to her, but she hung onto them and left them to her daughter with instructions that they go to the British Museum to prove her husband had loved her in their early days. Her daughter Katey nearly burned them, having accepted Dickens' version that they were always antipathetic to each other.

Luckily she consulted a friend, George Bernard Shaw, who said the letters were worth saving. Before reading them, he said 'that the sentimental sympathy of the nineteenth century with the man of genius tied to a commonplace wife had been rudely upset by a man named Ibsen' and that 'posterity might sympathise with a woman who was sacrificed to the genius's uxoriousness to the appalling extent of having had to bear eleven children [actually ten children and two miscarriages] in sixteen years than with a grievance which, after all, amounted only to the fact that she was not a female Charles Dickens'. [NB: the biography includes a chart of the relative time spent pregnant/not pregnant over the course of her marriage.]

After reading the letters he said: 'They prove with ridiculous obviousness that Dickens was quite as much in love when he married as nine hundred and ninety nine out of every thousand British bridegrooms.'

I like to think of this as Catherine Dickens getting the last laugh.


Dec. 15th, 2014 06:33 pm
emma_in_dream: (Default)
Hollow bitter laughter as Tony Abbot defends his chief of staff against the sexism of Parliament.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
You may know Valenti as one of the originators of the popular site http://feministing.com/.

She has recently had a baby, an emergency c-section of a premmie, and she has written a book about parenting in modern America. My hat is off to anyone who can manage a newborn and a new book.

*Why Have Kids?* covers a lot of ground, child birth, feeding, maternity leave, working patterns, use of child care, family types, choices to remain child-free. With a heap of issues like this - issues which people feel passionately about - I would doubt anyone would read it and agree with every word.

I find her section on breast feeding off-putting, mostly because she relies on anecdotal evidence about babies who nearly starved or who did actually die. Um, pretty unusual. Also, she talks about the pressure that breast feeding advocates put on new mothers, which is probably accurate, but does not spend equal time on the massive structural, society-wide issues impeding breast feeding.

On the other hand, I was nodding along to her introduction, especially when she wrote:

Read more... )

Her point, as I take it, is that our attention as parents is constantly being directed to small issues which we can fix as individuals. But we do not concentrate on the big picture because it is too massive and seems impossible to address. Also, no working together. Most parenting choices are positioned as individual choices - shall I vaccinate my kids? is that best for them? - and the wider issues - like herd immunity - are ignored.

And likewise I enjoyed a parenting book which puts the possibility of having a sick kid up-front instead of tucking it away in a separate chapter at the back (as in *What to Expect*).
emma_in_dream: (Default)
I’ve just read my first, and only, Dorothy Wentworth. She wrote murder mysteries, all well and good, in the tradition of Agatha Christie, etc.

But the romance! My goodness, it’s like watching a train wreck. At the beginning the heroine, Stacy, is divorced from her utterly foul alpha male ex. She goes out for a meal with him and he demands that she accept alimony although she initiated the divorce (on the grounds of mistakenly thinking he was a kleptomaniac).

Their romantic tete a tete includes this interlude:

Read more... )

Clearly nothing says romance better than physically coercing someone and meddling in their finances. Does this read domestic abuser, if I can’t have you, no one can, or what?
Naturally, within the conventions of this genre they reunite. It turns out his sister was the kleptomaniac all along! Wacky hijinks! And the murderer was someone else as well - his cousin’s fiancee and her boyfriend. All is clear for the inevitable reunion.

So in the last paragraphs of the book Charles and Stacy reunite, as he simultaneously reinforces his position as a man who is obsessed with controlling his woman and physical violence.

Read more... )

Obviously I’m a humourless feminist blah blah blah, because this genre of literary lovemaking - so prevalent in the 1950s and still written today - utterly repellant.


Aug. 7th, 2011 09:55 am
emma_in_dream: (Default)
The lead up to our own census reminds me of the release of the 1911 census data in the UK. It's available online - so great.

The 1911 census was the one the suffragists and suffragettes wanted to boycott - no vote, no census!

The census boycott was an easy one for people to join in on, they didn't have o risk imprisonment. I've just been reading about the suffragette movement and thinking how strange life must have been in London in the 1910s (and also how completely the neo-terrorism of it has been blanked out of the historical record).

Things that were happening - the suffragettes were told to 'be patient' by the PM and then went into all out war. It was not a good idea to say this to a woman who had been campaigning for the vote since the 1870s.

There were mass marches attended by thousands and when this didn't work a campaign of violence which by luck did not include any deaths. There were window breakings (but no one seriously injured by the flying glass), fire bombings of postal boxes (which caused injuries to several mailmen), and a lot of arson attacks. One of these lead to prosecution when a housekeeper heard them enter and came downstairs - they had thought the house was empty so it was only because the woman woke up that they avoided accidentally killing her.

There were strings of arson attacks, including burning down Lloyd George. There were a lot of acid attacks, mostly burning 'Votes for women' into the grass at male-only locations like golf courses. After Rockeby's Venus at the National Gallery was slashed women were not allowed to enter some museums and art galleries. Women were not allowed to attend political meetings.

There were literally hundreds of women in jail, many undertaking hunger strikes. The Cat and Mouse Act was regarded, even by opponents of women's suffrage, as a particularly nasty piece of legislation as it was designed to prevent women from dying while in jail so as to not embarrass the Government.

The leaders of the WPSU were forced into exile and there were escapees from the Cat and Mouse Act who were literally on the run. The Government used servaillance photos of notorious suffragettes, taken covertly and circulated to authorities as a security measure (the first time this was done in the UK).

So, basically, it must have seemed like London was under siege (or the suffragettes were). It's interesting that this is not really remembered while other terrorist campaigns (like the Irish movement in the 1970s and 80s) are acknowledged as such. (Another note of similarity: like the Irish, the women were on hunger strike because they demanded that they be recognised as political prisoners).
emma_in_dream: (Default)
I approve of the move to put cigarettes in plain packaging - I see it is based on some evidence that this will be a useful public health measure.

The campaign against this move does not, however, receive the EMMA seal of approval.

What is sexist about this advertising?


Why is it that it must be framed as a nanny state issue? It's really about mollycoddling. Dare I raise the phrase pussy whipped?

What all these ideas have in common is that it is unnatural and disorderly and just plain wrong for women to be telling people (men) how to live their lives.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
In the noughties, the suffrage movement had huge rallies, with hundreds of thousands of women. Unlike the trade union rallies, they generally made their own banners rather than buying them from professional corporations.

Some were painted onto plain backgrounds but others called on all the tricks of Victorian needlework and involved applique, quilting, embroidery and embellishment.

Some of the surviving banners have been put into an online collection: http://www.vads.ac.uk/results.php?cmd=advsearch&words=women%B4s+library+suffrage+banners+collection&field=all&oper=or&words2=&field2=all&mode=boolean&submit=search&FSB=1
emma_in_dream: (mlp)
I see that the large class action against WalMart in America has failed. Or, that's not really the right word. The Supreme Court has decided that all those women can't band together to argue discrimination because there are thousands of WalMarts each of which is run slightly differently.

So, despite the fact that WalMart itself in its own defense apparently produced figures which acknowledged some discrimination, there can't be a group action. Suing individual stores will, of course, be way more difficult. So, in effect, what this judgment says (as I understand it) is that really big companies are too big to be sued.

See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13845970

On a more positive note, there was also a really significant decision by Fair Work Australia recently. In May there was a decision that employees of non-government employers in the social, community and disability services industry throughout Australia were paid less, as a group, than employees in Government service. It was conceded that this was, in part, because these workers are mostly women.

See: http://www.fwa.gov.au/index.cfm?pagename=remuneration&page=introduction

I don't say this to say go Australia, boo America. Clearly the underlying pattern is women being paid less in both countries.

I was planning to write about the Australian case anyway, because I don't understand the details and I haven't seen much coverage in the news here and I want to know more. Has anyone seen anything else?
emma_in_dream: (Default)
I have been thinking about representations of female friendship. Here are a few thoughts... I’d be interested in recommendations from others.

Jane Austen’s *Sense and Sensibility* (1811) may not pass the Bechdel test* - most of the dialogue is about love and relationships and, you know, men - but it certainly is about female friendship. The love of Eleanor for Marianne is the centre of the novel. And the relationship between Lizzie and Jane in *Pride and Prejudice* (1813) is pretty cool too.

I guess I am reminded of Louisa May Alcott’s *Little Women* (1868) - Jo loves her sisters so much. There’s a line in there where she talks about wanting to marry Meg herself, to keep her in the family, which I guess is a bit creepy but in the context of the book just seems sweet. (And, indeed, the only one who does marry to get into the family is Laurie who is desperate to find a March girl who will take him in.)

*Little Women* would certainly romp home the Bechdel test as it’s essentially an all-female community which is interested in growing up and improving themselves. Ditto *Anne of Green Gables* (1908) which has the ‘kindred spirits’ of Anne and Diana.

Terry Pratchett’s *Witches* books take the Bechdel standard and toss it contemptuously aside as something far exceded. Each character is completely different and each one is completely kick ass. I particularly like the way they hand the roles of maiden, mother and hag around as they move through their lives.

Marilyn French’s *The Women’s Room* (1977) is basically all about women’s relationships, friendships. Like the blurb says, this book will change your life.

And, for another out of left field suggestion, John Marsden’s *Tomorrow When the War Began* series. Ellie Linton’s friendships with Corrie, Robyn and Fi are incredibly well drawn. She relies on them, idealises them, knows them so well, lives with them and fights by them.

So, what genres am I looking at? Not entirely sure actually. Obviously there’s tons of female-centred fiction in the genre of, say, school stories like the Chalet schools. Apparently there’s a lot of female friendships in classic girl’s stories like *Little Women* or *Anne of Green Gables* or, just thought of it, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s *A Little Princess*.

And when I get into contemporary writing, I’m all over the place. My examples don’t come from one genre. Perhaps that’s because there isn’t one genre of contemporary writing centred around female friendships?

* The Bechdel test - It has to have at least two women in it, who talk to each other, about something other than a man.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
Who states that no woman is his literary equal. He especially singles out Austen, criticising her 'sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world'.

He said: 'I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me.'

My first response is: tee hee, I know artists have to have rock solid egos but are you kidding? Without even venturing into the twentieth century, better than Austen? Charlotte Bronte? Emily Bronte? Elizabeth Gaskell? George Eliot? Sapho? A woman who suggested that all men - from Dickens to Heinlein - were also-rans would be laughed out of the room.

My more considered response is: I would suggest that women do often (though not always) write about matters that are different to those chosen by men. These are not inferior. To paraphrase Virginia Woolf (another author Naipul claims to be superior to) writing about war is somehow regarded as lofty, large scale and important, while writing about the feelings of women in a drawing room is hermetically sealed and unimportant.

And my final thought is: I haven't read Naipul and, after this, am not likely to. But I'd suggest that however good he might consider his own writing, he clearly sucks at reading if he thinks of Austen as sentimental. Austen is a woman who started a novel with this line: 'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.' Not what I'd call sentimental.

emma_in_dream: (Default)
The Geena Davis Institute says that in G-rated films produced 1990-2005 fewer than one in three speaking characters (real or animated) are female and more than four in five of the narrator's are male.

For G-, PG- and PG-13-rated films released between 2006 and 2009 there were 2.42 male speaking characters for every 1 female speaking character.


Hint: not because they are spending their time making non-racist films as 85.5% of the characters in 1990-2005 G-rated films are white.

Actually they went and asked 108 content creators (writers, producers, directors, executives) what they thought was happening. They responded that male stars attract, that male content producers are more likely to make male focussed films, that movies are made for male audiences, that female-oriented films repel male viewers and, overwhelmingly, that 'girls will watch stories about boys, but boys won't watch stories about girls'. 86.7% agreed with that one and a further 10.5% thought maybe this was true.

I don't know whether that is true or not, but certainly it seems to be the accepted wisdom for Hollywood.

See: http://www.thegeenadavisinstitute.org/
emma_in_dream: (Default)
Do you know what makes me want to rush right out and buy *Have You Seen My Duckling*? The fact that it is the only Caldecott winner with a standalone female character since the award was established in 1938.

A study by Florida State University found that male (humans) are central characters in 57% of children's books published each year, with 31% having central female (human) characters.

It's worse if you're a cute little bunny or a teddy bear. Male animals are central characters in 23% of books each year and female animals star in 7.5%.

Ho hum, apparently 'mothers reading to their children' make it worse by labeling gender-neutral animals as male. Possibly journalists also do their little bit by labeling those reading to children as mothers?
emma_in_dream: (Default)
Pearl just loves her Disney Princess magazines, but allow me to share my comments on one of the stories from her latest volume.*

This is one of the better stories, better than the one about sentient tools in the Beauty and the Beast being kept prisoner, and better than the Mulan story about how the other village girls pick on her for not having a nice dress.

* Thanks Baby_Elvis. I know how hard it is to resist those begging puppy eyes - I just got her the Angelina Ballerina magazine.

Read more... )
emma_in_dream: (Default)
A quick check shows that the City of Perth has an accessibility plan but it appears to apply only to public areas.

The Disability Services Commission is the place to go: http://www.disability.wa.gov.au/index.html

I will phone them after Easter.
emma_in_dream: (Invented in Russia)
Our experience of entering and exiting the building was much better today! I parked in the insanely expensive underground car park ($30 for the day!) but you could take two escalators out of the car park. We did try to take a lift down to it but, no, the lift inside the building goes to parking for guests only so after we walked around down there for a while we exited (via a car ramp) and re-entered the hotel (via another car ramp).

Nonetheless, I feel much calmer because:

1, I am not alone! The con was filled with people sympathising and bitching about the mad, stair-obsessed architecture.
2, We resolved on a course of action.

Indeed, there was a Gynaecon panel discussing accessibility, food and health at Swancon. I had to leave before the end because Pearl was getting bored but I made the following notes:

* We are to bring our concerns to the committee. Not in a bad committee! no biscuit! way but in a way where we'd like them to go to the Hyatt about this issue. Action: All to approach committee.
* We are to suggest that future committees consider accessibility (with specific reference to the disability access list created by WorldCon). Action: I am happy to take this to WASFF.
* We are to find out who to complain to about the Hyatt's accessibility. It meets minimum standards, but the standards are obviously very very low. Action: I will find out whether the agency in charge is the Disability Services Commission, City of Perth or whoever.

Plus I got to go to a panel! Well, I was on a panel. And we found our way to the children's room. All in all, a much better day than yesterday!
emma_in_dream: (supernatural)
I thought I'd do Bluemilk's feminist mothering questions: http://bluemilk.wordpress.com

Read more... )
emma_in_dream: (Default)
I've read a lot this month due to the terrible, terrible deterioration of Pearl's sleep patterns. Her cot broke and she moved into a bed and now she can get out of the bed so no more naps which means super cranky Pearl and bad sleeping in the evenings.

The most interesting book was probably the Duggars' 20 and counting. I have a fascination with them - their beliefs are so peculiar but they are... fascinating.

Also, Michelle Duggar is one of the few people who I think comes close to winning the 'tone' argument. You know how people always say they might be swayed by someone pointing out their racism or whatever if they *just said it nicely enough*.

There are only two people I have listened to who come close to achieving this impossible coal. One was Tony Blair who seemed so tremulously earnest in his attempts to persuade the public to invade Iraq.

Every time Bush came on TV I was enraged by his buffoonish gibbering. He could barely talk, much less frame an argument on a complex issue.

I disagreed with Blair just as much, but I didn't want to punch him in the face which was exactly the way I responded to Bush.

Michelle Duggar is similarly earnest and mild. She is also forbearing and appears genuinely sweet. I disagree with much of their way of life - especially the roles for the girls who don't seem to have any options other than being wives and mothers (or failing that daughters at home).

Read more... )
emma_in_dream: (Default)
In a delerium last night I was trying to decide whether the prospect of being turned by *Edward Cullen* would be worth it if in return I got to not be sick. Edward Cullen, people, that's how bad I felt.


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