Teresa would like to give a shout-out to Libby Anne and all the people who comment on her blog. She reads Love Joy Feminism every day.
Let us leave out, for the moment, this gullible prof’s extreme shortsightedness, when it comes to the longevity of the average college student’s views on life.
I take issue with this man’s definition of feminism. He is straw-manning those with whom he disagrees. Dismissing the commonsensical idea that feminism might have something to do with “equal pay for equal work,” Dr. Markos declares that “academic feminism rests on the fiercely-held belief that there are no essential differences between the sexes.”
Dr. Markos, I must tell you: as one of the homeschool girls you praised for being capable of challenging your “masculine view of the world” (your words sir, not mine) I would appreciate it if you refrained from telling me how to be a feminist.
To me, it sounds as if you are delineating a certain caricature of feminism I grew up with: that to be a feminist means being mannish. And unlovely.
Is this honest, professor?
I wonder what you would say, Dr. Markos, if one of those doted-on homeschool graduates informed you that the ideas you’d praised her for disowning, had never been adequately or honestly presented to her in the first place?
Suppose one of them ventured to admit that there was actually something to this idea of leading a rich and full life. That there was value in the idea of women being capable of independence, and of courage.
Would you admire the dear girl less, Dr. Markos? My idea is that you would quickly prop up your flattened straw-man: “My dear young lady, pray remember that a feminist hates being a woman and longs to be a man! Consider how unattractive feminism will make you to men! To ME!”
Feminism was born to save us from such.
You praise us because we resemble Jane Austen’s characters.
And yet, if there is one thing that all of Jane Austen’s heroines had in common, it is the fact that they were completely dominated (though not necessarily fooled) by what Betty Friedan would one day call the “feminine mystique”.
If you are an admirer of this system, I do not think you stand with Jane Austen.
What I find in Pride and Prejudice, alongside the sparkling narrative, is a nagging problem (a precursor to “the problem that has no name”.) It is well fleshed out in the part where Charlotte Lucas decides to marry a guy she isn’t crazy about:
Without thinking highly either of men or matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want.
I hope you would agree, Dr. Markos, that the circumstances that created Charlotte’s situation are not good. Self-preservation should be an option for women regardless of whether marriage is on the table.
So much for Charlotte Lucas. But, what if the core problem isn’t just Charlotte’s? Suppose it extends to every woman, young and old, that lives in a world like the one in that book?
Let’s take a look at Elizabeth Bennet, whose youth and beauty enabled her to reach the pinnacle of success (in such a system): marrying a wealthy guy she actually likes.
Surely you, and I, and most Austen fans, have occasionally wondered…
Now what? What does she do with the rest of her life?
But Austen avoids the question. She stops the book.
It’s as if she knows there is no answer.
Dr. Markos, I would argue that Betty Friedan gave us that answer. Or, at least, fresh hope that we would find one (since the answer is surely different for every human being, in every age.) Betty Friedan asked us a question eternally asked by people who resemble Elizabeth Bennet, post-marriage... people who had gotten the husband they wanted, but still felt the need to do something with the rest of their lives:
Each suburban wife struggles with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffered Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night- she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question– “Is this all?”
Dr. Markos… I am a former homeschooled girl who decided that it isn’t.
This isn’t all.
One last thing I think you and I need to address:
Feminists, whose view of the world is far more masculine than my own, do not like homeschooled girls, for such girls explode all the vicious and untrue stereotypes that feminists have been propagating for the last several decades.
Careful there, professor.
The stereotype you explode may be your own.
While Jane Austin may not have asked “Is this all there is?”, George Eliot (Marian Evans) often did.
From Middlemarch (1874) speaking of Dorothea,
“Many who knew her thought it a pity that so substantive and rare a creature should have been absorbed into the life of another, and be only known in a certain circle as a wife and mother. But no one stated exactly what else that was in her power she ought rather have done…..”
I find it really sad that nearly 150 years later some people are trying convince women the only road to satisfaction is through marriage and children.
Win win post! Give the English prof the lit back!
This is wonderful. I, too, had no idea what “being a feminist” meant until I left my childhood, upbringing, and family behind, and started reading and learning for myself instead of doing so to please my parents or fulfill their rules. And then I discovered that hey, you know, even if a woman has hairy legs and underarms and dresses like a guy or even [*gasp!*] wants to BE a guy — that’s fine too. Feminism means the ability to decide for myself whether I want a litter of kids or if I’d rather pursue my dreams, finish my BA, look at an MA, and help the population that I can help — not that I’m forced into one, or the other.
And I never learned that until it was almost too late — I wouldn’t have learned if my parents had any say. What creeps me out the most about that professor is that… I knew so many girls and women like that. I managed to avoid being one but I always was the “wild” one — and my time was hard enough. I can’t imagine being fresh out of oppressiveville and having to deal with Smarmy McSmarm there.