Sunday, 21 November 2010

Feminist literature

Since feminism is largely dead and the world is still full of inequalities and unfairness, it's a pleasure to read Helene Cixous (for my course) and reawaken my interest in Susie Orbach, Germaine Greer, Betty Friedman and the 'new' writer Natasha Walter.

Women now are under such pressure to be happily partnered (and there is still a cachet to marriage), have successful and bonded children, great careers and live somehow at 100 miles an hour in the modern world we wrestle with if we're single. The house is still always a measure of how successful she is, a pile of smelly laundry in the corner of the bedroom means you aren't coping. Having children who play up at school or being passed over for promotion because of all that sick time you had to take when he had chicken pox and then gave it to her means you have failed. Women are as much defined by society's expectations as ever, and now they have to be eternally thin and young. I was shocked to see a programme on plastic surgery recently when they interviewed boys and girls between 14 and 16. All would have plastic surgery if they could afford it. Gorgeous in their youth, girls wanted liposuction and boob jobs, to make themselves more 'successful'. Men still talk to the boobs, apparently. Boys were self conscious about weight, their musculature. No-one was prepared to exercise or diet to achieve this goal, it was all to appear like the role models they see all around them, in shops, in magazines, in toys. Every actor and presenter now has to meet an artificial standard of beauty, that seems unreal. In the case of airbrushed images, of course, they are literally unreal. I say all this as the mother of an eleven year old who's developing breasts and a twenty three year old who didn't really do much in the boob department. Both seem cool with what nature has/hasn't provided but the world puts pressure on them every day.

It all seems unfair to women, stereotyped as I have made them sound, as well as men. Reading the subject again makes me cross that feminists were shouted down as 'fat, hairy lesbians' at a time when we were striving for equal opportunities, better quality of life for all, and are now buried in a layer of history. Feminism, real feminism, needs to be redeveloped and back on the march or the TV interview so people can be the people they are born to be and enjoy the lives that they will value, not society. Soap box moment over.

Anyway, to celebrate this revival I'm writing a prose poem, something that I'm new to. I wonder about the relationship of prose poetry and flash fiction. Both make each word count, quite possibly do the work of two words, each cuts the topic down to its interesting bones. I'm trying to tell a story as much through the feeling of what it was like to be there as the action, but the action is still there. I've got 350 words so far, and wonder if it will turn into flash fiction anyway, though there's something about the language...maybe that is the real difference.     


  1. Good to hear that there is a revival, I grew up reading these books!

  2. I was dispirited to overhear a conversation between female undergraduates, who thought a boob job might be as good for their job prospects and general well being as getting a good degree 'because it would make them more confident'. Clearly, something is wrong here!

  3. As the mother of a 7 year old girl, I despair.