The Patriarchal Trap

From Gissing’s The Odd Women comes this beautiful quote:

In no woman on earth could he have put perfect confidence. He regarded them as born to perpetual pupilage. Not that their inclinations were necessarily wanton; they were simply incapable of attaining maturity, remained throughout their life imperfect beings, at the mercy of craft, ever liable to be misled by childish misconceptions. Of course he was right; he himself represented the guardian male, the wife-proprietor, who from the dawn of civilization has taken abundant care that woman shall not outgrow her nonage. The bitterness of his situation lay in the fact that he had wedded a woman who irresistibly proved to him her claims as a human being. Reason and tradition contended in him, to his ceaseless torment.

Gissing’s words remain more than relevant still. His character allows the patriarchal mythology to destroy his life. Haven’t we all met such people?

“Binders Full of Women”

I see the Liberal outrage over Romney’s comment that he “had binders full of women” as profoundly hypocritical when accompanied by a complete lack of concern over Obama’s “women and families” and “this is not a women’s issue.”

I don’t think this fake outrage over what Romney said has anything to do with women’s rights. It only has to do with the need to dump on Romney.

Look, I dislike Romney as much as the next person. But what’s with this blind worship of a candidate that precludes people from seeing an obvious fail on his part? It’s kind of sad that the same Liberals who ridicule the Fox News crowd for not noticing Romney’s gaffes are completely blind to Obama’s mistakes.

Let’s remember that this is not the first time where Obama makes profoundly patriarchal remarks about women, either.

P.S. I said I wasn’t going to get past this soon.

Why Is Jane Austen More Popular Than George Gissing? (Classics Club #6)

I always wondered why there were never any interesting female characters in world literature. Male characters are always complex and easy to identify with while female characters are brainless, whiny, and only interested in selling themselves to the highest bidder. Now that I have started reading more second-tier British and Spanish writers of the XIXth century, I have come to realize that interesting female characters abound. The only problem is that the novels they protagonize are not nearly as popular as the ones whose female heroines are boring and pathetic.

Take Jane Austen and George Gissing. Austen’s female characters are interested in absolutely nothing but selling themselves profitably. Her novels always end with a wedding because once the bargain is struck and the contract is signed, nothing else of interest can happen in a woman’s life. If married women appear in her novels, their only goal is to sell their daughters, nieces, or friends. Austen’s women think of nothing, talk of nothing and dream of nothing but handing themselves over to a man for a good price. Austen’s most popular novel Pride and Prejudice is the most unapologetic hymn I have ever encountered to the only legalized form of prostitution.

George Gissing, on the other hand, realized that making even the most profitable marriage imaginable cannot fulfill a human being. The idea that women can be happy only serving the needs of their families and having no lives, no careers, no interests of their own was invented by men who don’t see women as fully human, Gissing suggests in his novel The Odd Women. Gissing believes that women should have the right to receive the same kind of education as men do, practice all of the same professions, and have the same rights and freedoms as men because there are no differences between men and women save for the purely physiological ones. Gissing’s Monica Madden is far less educated and intelligent than Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett. Yet she manages to realize that a patriarchal marriage – be it as profitable as it may – can only make a woman miserable. And men, Gissing points out, are as unhappy as women in a patriarchal society. Women who reduce themselves to the state of complete idiocy in order better to fit the image of an Angel in the House can cause nothing but suffering to men who choose them as life companions.

Gissing’s female characters work towards the liberation of women and create clubs to help each other. They study, engage in political activism, try to achieve financial independence and professional success. They even have conversations that do not revolve around or even mention any men.

In spite of all this, nobody knows Gissing (save for a few lucky nerds here and there) and everybody knows  Austen. Why do you think that happens? Why is Austin’s favorite (and only) idea that all a woman has to do to be successful in life is to get married to a wealthy man so popular? We all know who always was and still is the main reader of novels, so I think the answer is obvious.

I’m discovering such great writers through my Classics Challenge that every time I read a novel from my list, I want to set everything aside and read everything else by the author. I think I will probably reach the conclusion that the secondary classics that populate my list are better than their more famous peers.

Why I Care

A fellow blogger and academic left the following comment:

I actually showed some of the second debate in my class yesterday. (I work at a private school, and we haven’t been told to not talk about politics in class, so I’m happy to do so.) We picked apart some of the answers of both candidates. My only fear is that the students were left so dissatisfied with BOTH candidates’ idiotic commentary that they won’t vote at all. But I did point out what you said — that treating women as if all they care about is family is really sexist and undermines every woman’s goals and dreams outside of being a child producer. Your influence is hitting the heartland!!

Just the other night I had a discussion with somebody who asked me why I follow the US politics so avidly, watch the debates, blog about them, etc. if I can’t have any real impact since I don’t vote in the US. (I’m a citizen of Canada.) I answered that I don’t understand how anybody can live in a country and not care about its politics. Now, however, I also have proof that I’m making an input even without voting.

What Real Women Should Want

Certain male commentators are peeing themselves with joy over Obama’s put-down of women in the recent debate:

It also bears saying that Obama’s answer that connected women’s health issues with economic and family issues was beautiful. In a night of truly strong answers, it was nearly everything anyone concerned with the real lives of real women could have asked for.

I especially dig the “real women” bit. I’ve been sitting here with bated breath, waiting for some guy to tell me what real women should ask for. Because God forbid a woman should want something without a man telling her what it should be. That will probably make her an “unreal woman.”

Such is the unconscious chauvinism of Liberal men. Just imagine what the conscious, self-congratulating sexism of the non-Liberal is like.