Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Who's Afraid of a Spinster?

Why isn’t Spinsterhood as sexy and appealing as Bachelorhood? In a play of mine, a female character argues, “I only want what you have, G---, to live freely without being pitied for my freedom!”

My bachelor brother with his protracted disinterest in long-term relationships has been admired by my family, even envied for his lifestyle.

He travels extensively by plane and by motorcycle, embarking on weekend escapades across oceans and highways. His life overflows with energetic activities which reap a compilation of colorful photographs: tangible evidence of a life lived fully.

My playwriting, on the other hand, despite productions and positive reviews, is still seen as the hobby of a hermit, and my “activity of imagination,” invisible to the common eye, remains baffling to my family. Not at all enviable.

Is exercising the muscles of our body more highly esteemed in our society than excising the muscles of our brain? Is traveling to other countries, more desirable than traveling across the maps of our minds, hearts and souls?

And is it partly this ostensible “worldliness” of Bachelors that gives them an allure that Spinsters lack?

Or does this double-standard extend much deeper in our social psyche? Are we still swayed by the stereotypes of the Living-It-Up Bachelor and the Lonely Spinster, and if so, does this create suspicion on both sides? The commitment-phobic vs. the relationship-hungry?

But if “being alone” doesn’t translate as “lonely” for Bachelors, why should it for Spinsters?

In reality, women frequently spend many years of their lives “alone.” Women often outlive their husbands (living a productive ten, twenty or thirty years more), and yet, our society doesn’t seem comfortable with women who consciously choose to live alone; who realize we can live without a man handy at all times. We must fall into “alone” tragically, it seems, not claim it for ourselves wholeheartedly.

When we do fall into it, however, we are often reborn, finding a strength we never knew we possessed; uncovering Liberty, not the Loneliness we seem to be encouraged to fear.

43 repartee:

Blogger mysticgypsy wrote...

Hi Frankengirl!
Yay! So glad to see you back! I hope you are doing well :)

What you mention about the disdain for Spinsters and the allure of Bachelors is found is, I believe, in all sorts of societies, regardless of name, time and place. Where I come from, marriage is an absolute priority, for both men as well as women. Men, however, have more time to explore their careers and become established, whereas it is imperative that women must marry as soon as they reach their early twenties. I understood that this is because the chance of having children decreases with age, and procreation is important for the sustenance of the kind of society I mention. Also, the people think that the woman is somehow not independent, and can, in some sense, NEVER be as independent as a man. She is also considered never fully safe (without a man, be it husband, father, or brother, etc). This is why spinsters are looked down by my society. Though my brother and I are close in age, he has more freedom to "explore" himself and his career or his education than I do. This also means that not too much is expected from the woman because it is assumed she'll marry early, bear children, and not work for a while (or not work at all once housework tires her).

It makes me think about why a girl-child is such a burden in so many cultures.

6/27/2006 9:56 AM  
Blogger Charlie wrote...

Mystic Gypsy puts it much more eloquently, but it is of course "this double-standard".

Woman's function, her raison d'etre, is to bear children and to bare it unquestioningly. Any woman who strays from this role is "suspect"—there is something "wrong with her."

I believe that this is not only a societal and cultural standard, but also one steeped in religion beliefs. Man is free to hunt, even if it is merely to birdwatch, but Woman must be the eternal Mother.

Playwriting is fine, FG, as long as it doesn't interfere with washing diapers.

6/27/2006 12:35 PM  
Blogger Cristina wrote...

I agree with MysticGypsy - single, independent women are looked down on because people still sort of look at women as child-bearing machines, whose first and absolute priority is the bearing and rearing of children.

However, I do think that very gradually and slowly things are changing. There are 'role-models' of sucessful, independent women that proved time and time again that a woman doesn't need a man or a child to be happy and feel well with herself.

As for living life. I wholeheartedly agree with you. People don't get it. You're not living your life if you're not outdoors or going some place or other or surrounded by a thousand people. They don't get that lying on the couch with a book in your hands you're altogether living another life. Or simply inside your head you're living a thousand lives. I guess people need physical evidence that you're living life or else they think you lead a dull existence. *sigh*

So keep on writing plays, if they're half as great as your posts then they're most certainly worth it :D

6/27/2006 2:37 PM  
Blogger JLB wrote...

Your posts always give me so much to think about FrankenGirl! So much to chew on... Today’s of course was no exception, and you make some excellent points.

After reading your post this morning, I went and looked up the etymology of spinster (the name was adopted to define women who remained unwed beyond the “standard” marrying age, and therefore assumed the occupation of spinning), as well as bachelor (squire, youth… possibly originating from earlier definitions as with farm tenants).

So, in American English, when does a woman graduate from “bachelorette” to “spinster?” When she stops partying? :)

In all seriousness though, I think that Admiral Pooper makes a good point:

Woman's function, her raison d'etre, is to bear children and to bare it unquestioningly. Any woman who strays from this role is "suspect"—there is something "wrong with her."

Being a woman who decided (when she was all of 12 years old) that kids weren’t in the cards, I face this sort of societal judgment often. It almost seems accentuated by having a partner, when folks assume that we certainly would only spend our lives together for the purpose of raising a family (as if friendship and shared goals just couldn’t be enough!).

Perhaps another facet to this condition lies in the strength of women. I don’t subscribe to the arguments of a stronger sex either way. However, I do know about the strength of women. A woman on her own may in fact appear threatening to others... she is self-sufficient, independent, and satisfied... what does she need from others? Where is the stereotypical dependency?

Moreover, a woman on her own just doubles the mystery inherent to women. We can read in history about widows and spinsters in communities who are scapegoated because of their “suspicious natures.” Worse yet, we can see in other societies where widows are shunned, sidelined, or even expected to die if their husbands pass on. Some might argue that the widow becomes a burden on society, and this seems consistent with the sorely misguided assumption that a woman is incapable of self-sufficiency.

It’s amazing how so many cultures are sculpted in such a way that people are encouraged to nose in and pass judgment on one another. Maybe it’s always been that way, and I’m just an outlier – but I’d sure like to keep faith in that ideal of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” insofar as those pursuits do not interfere in the happiness of others.

6/27/2006 3:56 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

MysticGypsy!

So many writers I admire (Emily & Anne Bronte, Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, etc.) were “spinsters” and I’ve been wondering why I don’t hear more about a correlation between this “spinsterhood” and an intellectual freedom or creative productivity.

Ah, but your comment is so rich and really broadens the scope for me.

“She is also considered never fully safe (without a man, be it husband, father, or brother, etc).

I know you are speaking specifically of your society and culture, but I think many of us, in every society, are taught to believe this – even where there is technology that can protect a woman. We don’t need John Wayne defending our door, if we have a good alarm system. But we do need to be financially secure (in order to purchase one), which could lead to a discussion of how women still bring home a smaller paycheck than men do.

“This also means that not too much is expected from the woman because it is assumed she'll marry early, bear children, and not work for a while (or not work at all once housework tires her). “

Yes! And expectations can shape reality! Compared to your brother, not only do you have to muster the courage to explore an unknown path, you also have to find the valor to fight expectations on all sides.

Thank you, as always, for stirring up good food for thought!

Admiral!

Yes, as you say, so much emphasis is placed on the Mother role. Yet, still, this surprises me – when our world is so overpopulated! But you take this Mothering to a deeper level…

“Man is free to hunt, even if it is merely to birdwatch, but Woman must be the eternal Mother.”

Mother Earth. The Virgin Mother. Yes, you’re so right to bring up religious and ancient influences here.

“Playwriting is fine, FG, as long as it doesn't interfere with washing diapers.”

Hehe! A few of my scripts would make a very good diaper, particularly in first draft - ;)

Cristina!

“However, I do think that very gradually and slowly things are changing. There are 'role-models' of successful, independent women that proved time and time again that a woman doesn't need a man or a child to be happy and feel well with herself.”

I hope this is true! I can’t understand why it isn’t! But then, so often, a “successful” women is brought down in the press. She is maligned for her ambition and so many eyes are searching for a fault.

“They don't get that lying on the couch with a book in your hands you're altogether living another life.

Yes, society seems so interested in product, not process, which creates fast-paced people who make “plastic” products, rather than those who take the time to do things thoughtfully and beautifully.

*sigh* - :)

Thanks!

JLB – I haven’t read your comment yet, but I can’t wait to get to it - :D

6/27/2006 4:23 PM  
Blogger Tai wrote...

Well, everything of import that I may have wanted to say has been said here and very well indeed!

I'm a "spinster" and damn proud of it, too!

6/27/2006 4:29 PM  
Blogger Kyahgirl wrote...

Excellent post as always Frankengirl and I've really enjoyed the comments too. I can't add much. All I can say is love being a woman, I love being with women, and am eternally grateful that I live in a society that is free enough that allows me to escape some of the shackles that bind the majority of women on the planet.

6/27/2006 5:27 PM  
Blogger Sayre wrote...

I believe that women are brought up as potential victims. Don't talk to strangers; dress modestly so no one gets the wrong idea; keep the door locked; don't go out alone at night... Even if nothing EVER happens to you, you have been raised with the idea that it MIGHT. Hence the need for a man to be around as not only husband, father and lover, but the ultimate guarantee that nothing bad will happen to you (which we all know is not true).

This past holiday season, I had the wild hair to dress up as Santa. I did the whole nine yards, right down to the beard and glasses. And it was amazing just how different life is behind the beard. People treated me totally differently. As long as I kept my mouth shut, no one knew I was a woman. It was a very freeing experience - one I plan to repeat every year. My husband thought it was a little odd that I did this, but once he got over it, he was pretty funny (even kissing me at work in full costume).

If something happened to my husband tomorrow, I don't think I would have any problem living on my own. My two grandmothers did it for years (the one still living has been alone for 30 years and loves it). And NO ONE thinks of her as a spinster, or even a widow anymore.

6/27/2006 7:27 PM  
Blogger Ragnell wrote...

This reminds me of two aunts. My great-aunt was a world-traveler, she always brought little trinkets from other countries for Christmas, and my aunt was in the Air Force (just retired last year) and sent all sorts of interesting packages. Growing up to be a spinster sounded like the life for me since I can remember. They had such wonderful and interesting lives, full of neat little toys in their beautiful houses and the best presents for any occasion.

I joined the Air Force right out of High School so I could get on the right track to becoming one. I'm more the house on the corner with five cats and a wild garden type than the world traveller, but it's been working out. Even when I did consider marriage as a little girl, I always assumed ultimately I'd be a widow (which sounds sad, I suppose, but as it was only ever an imaginary guy like Sherlock Holmes or Green Lantern it doesn't seem so bad)

Just this week I had my first "What about when you get a family?" conversation on the phone with my mother. It was a real shock. I'd honestly thought she'd learned, but it seems she's mistaken me for my sister -- who cried when I innocently promised to split the house on the corner with her.

I still don't understand her.

6/28/2006 5:09 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

JLB!

I’m so glad you bring up the etymology of “spinster” because I realize (though I don’t acknowledge in the post) that it’s an outdated word. However, for me, “bachelorette” signifies a youngish woman. I’ve never heard Janet Reno called a “bachelorette” but George Clooney is called a (sought-after) bachelor all the time.

“So, in American English, when does a woman graduate from “bachelorette” to “spinster?” When she stops partying? :)"

Great question! When she is no longer considered marriageable or desirable by society???

“Being a woman who decided (when she was all of 12 years old) that kids weren’t in the cards, I face this sort of societal judgment often."

Yes! There’s tremendous pressure for women to have children! I have chosen a similar path to yours and I am constantly told by relatives that I will regret my decision when it’s too late to reverse! Ugh :(

“A woman on her own may in fact appear threatening to others... Where is the stereotypical dependency?”

I completely agree! It’s far more convenient for men (the established patriarchy) if women “need” them, and thus, are waiting by the phone for whenever a man decides he’s ready to call. If a woman doesn’t need to be taken care of by the “patriarchy,” the patriarchy loses its power over her.

“Moreover, a woman on her own just doubles the mystery inherent to women. We can read in history about widows and spinsters in communities who are scapegoated because of their “suspicious natures.”

Wow. This is a whole new twist. Yes, it seems a “woman alone” is often suspected of having “unnatural” hobbies. Warlocks have a much better reputation than witches. Both, I believe, live alone with their magic. (And we also know that unwed mothers are vilified in a way that unwed fathers are not.)

I wish society would see women as pioneers, not threats, for making unusual and challenging choices. As you say, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” should not be for men alone!

:) Thanks for such an intriguing and in-depth comment!

6/28/2006 11:27 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Tai!!

“I'm a "spinster" and damn proud of it, too!”

Yay! Apparently, there is a Brigade of Young Spinsters (BOYS) and a Brigade of Senior Spinsters (BOSS), but I know little about these societies.

P.S. This Blog Adores Spinsters.

6/28/2006 11:28 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Kyahgirl!

“ All I can say is love being a woman, I love being with women, and am eternally grateful that I live in a society that is free enough that allows me to escape some of the shackles that bind the majority of women on the planet.”

Yes! Women have worked so hard in our society to create positive change, and I, too, am grateful to those who came before us!

Still… your comment reminds me of a billboard sign I passed this morning, advertising a radio station. It featured a photo of a sexy blond radio host with the tag line:

“Built like a Woman. Thinks Like a Man.”

When I see signs like this, I wonder - how far have we really come, if thinking like a woman is assumed to be a negative :(

I’m so glad that you write that you love being with women, because we’re often taught to compete with each other, rather than support each other - :)

6/28/2006 11:30 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Sayre! Welcome!

“I believe that women are brought up as potential victims. Don't talk to strangers; dress modestly so no one gets the wrong idea; keep the door locked; don't go out alone at night”

Yes, you’re so right about this instilling of fear in girls (and their parents) at an early age!

“the ultimate guarantee that nothing bad will happen to you (which we all know is not true).”

Ah, yes, this “ultimate guarantee” comes with a very limited warrantee, doesn’t it - ;)

How cool that you have dressed up as Santa!!! It is amazing (and disturbing) how differently you are treated - like white men who have posed as black men and faced racism first hand.

“My husband thought it was a little odd that I did this, but once he got over it, he was pretty funny (even kissing me at work in full costume).”

Hehe! Good for your husband for kissing Santa! - :) And I’m glad to hear your grandmothers have been such inspirations and embodiments of the strength and self-sufficiency of women-alone!

6/28/2006 11:32 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Ragnell!!

Growing up to be a spinster sounded like the life for me since I can remember.”

Wow! This seems so ahead of our time. I’m glad your pioneering aunts inspired your own pioneering spirit.

So many books for young girls end in romance/marriage. We are taught that “true love” is our happy ending, not a life lived fully for ourselves. Now I know you read and analyze superhero comics, and I expect this has influenced you …

Do you think more girls growing up reading comics would be beneficial?

“Just this week I had my first "What about when you get a family?" conversation on the phone with my mother. It was a real shock.”

Sometimes our mothers are our worst enemies when it comes to this issue. Despite the fact that you have already proven your incredible ability to create your own path and live alone, a mother is sometimes the last to see that her “little girl” is not little or a girl anymore. This is something I face, too. My mother constantly consoles me that, should I tragically pass the age of childbearing whilst alone, I can always adopt, and she actually picks up information for me!

I wonder…

Does a mother feel that we are rejecting her choice to be a mother if we don’t become one? Does she believe she has failed us somehow?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us here - :)

6/28/2006 11:34 AM  
Blogger mysticgypsy wrote...

"Does a mother feel that we are rejecting her choice to be a mother if we don’t become one? Does she believe she has failed us somehow?"
If the mother had no choice in the first place, it becomes harder to appreciate the daughter's, no matter what the choice may be. I think, in such a case, the daughter's stripping the daughter of choice is the the mother's means of ensuring a "safe" life for the daughter.

"So many books for young girls end in romance/marriage. We are taught that “true love” is our happy ending, not a life lived fully for ourselves."
Yes! In fact, these books make it seem like spinsters have such sad lifes afterward. In Emma, for example, Miss Bates is considered quite a sad character, if I am not mistaken. Finding one's "soul-mate" is well and good if one desires a soul-mate, but if one doesn't find one, or has no need for one, that should be fine too. Except, society does not seem to accept this. If only women (and men) were more understanding toward each other, if only friendships were lasting and profound, it might be possible for many people to live single lives, instead of tying themselves to a spouse who are not their equals.

“Built like a Woman. Thinks Like a Man.”

This is revolting!!! Period.

" I’m so glad that you write that you love being with women, because we’re often taught to compete with each other, rather than support each other"
Not just compete, but also not find each other enough company. I am not saying to be with women for the sake of being friends, but to find friends who are sincere and whose friendships will last. Often, in my experience, women lose touch with many of their friends once they find a man (or several). I think this is the result of an inadequacy in the friendships. I can't really account for why this has been the case (at least in my experience). I think that if people had deeper friendships, they'd be "distracted" less and would not be prone to find thesmselves in imprudent relationships that give them little satisfaction.

6/28/2006 11:54 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hi, MysticGypsy - :D

“If the mother had no choice in the first place, it becomes harder to appreciate the daughter's, no matter what the choice may be.”

Yes! I think many of us can appreciate the fact that our mothers didn’t have the same choices that we have, and so there can be a lack of understanding of these choices as well as a fear of them, I imagine! A fear of the unknown.

“In fact, these books make it seem like spinsters have such sad lives afterward. In Emma, for example, Miss Bates is considered quite a sad character, if I am not mistaken.”

Yes, I believe spinsters are often pitied or mocked in lit. Emma, however, is admonished by Mr. Knightley for making fun of Miss Bates. (And since Austen never married, one would hope she would have some sympathy, but I cannot say, off-hand, if that’s the case.)

“Often, in my experience, women lose touch with many of their friends once they find a man (or several). I think this is the result of an inadequacy in the friendships.”

You highlight a truly important issue here. Or at least one that has become important to me, of late - ;)

As you suggest, when people couple they often “replace” their “single” friends with “couple” friends or act as if their single friends were a stepping stone to the “real relationship” of marriage. But this can come back to haunt you if your marriage should fail – all those relationships you didn’t nurture quite enough because you were so involved in the “one” that was supposed to truly matter.

And you’re so right to state that if friendships among women were developed more deeply, we would be less likely to “settle” for the wrong spouse due to pressure from family and/or loneliness.

If we turn to film, we’ll notice that most female buddy movies revolve around anger/revenge at men while most male buddy movies revolve around fun/humor. Women shouldn’t wait to seek out the meaningful company of other women – only when their love relationships fall apart!

Thanks for adding so much more here, MysticGypsy!

6/28/2006 1:54 PM  
Blogger Bored Dominatrix wrote...

Hi Everyone--

I'm late to the discussion, and so much I would say has already been said. I agree with pretty much everything.... but I want to add a comment about Emma. In chapter 10, Harriet wonders why Emma isn't yet married, and Emma replies that she has no intention of marrying ever, explaining

"I have none of the usual inducements of women to marry. Were I to fall in love, indeed, it would be a different thing! but I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall. And, without love, I am sure I should be a fool to change such a situation as mine. Fortune I do not want; employment I do not want; consequence I do not want: I believe few married women are half as much mistress of their husband's house as I am of Hartfield; and never, never could I expect to be so truly beloved and important; so always first and always right in any man's eyes as I am in my father's."

Harriet is horrified, and asks Emma if she shall mind being an old maid, to which Emma replies, (and pay attention, 'cause this is the important part!)

"Never mind, Harriet, I shall not be a poor old maid; and it is poverty only which makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public! A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable old maid! The proper sport of boys and girls. But a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as any body else. And the distinction is not quite so much against the candour and common sense of the world as appears at first; for a very narrow income has a tendency to contract the mind, and sour the temper. Those who can barely live, and who live perforce in a very small, and generally very inferior, society, may well be illiberal and cross."

Harriet is still perplexed, and wants to know how Emma shall possible occupy herself when she gets old if she doesn't have children to look after, so Emma say,

"If I know myself, Harriet, mine is an active, busy mind, with a great many independent resources; and I do not perceive why I should be more in want of employment at forty or fifty than one-and-twenty. Woman's usual occupations of hand and mind will be as open to me then as they are now; or with no important variation. If I draw less, I shall read more; if I give up music, I shall take to carpet-work. And as for objects of interest, objects for the affections, which is in truth the great point of inferiority, the want of which is really the great evil to be avoided in not marrying, I shall be very well off, with all the children of a sister I love so much, to care about. There will be enough of them, in all probability, to supply every sort of sensation that declining life can need. There will be enough for every hope and every fear; and though my attachment to none can equal that of a parent, it suits my ideas of comfort better than what is warmer and blinder. My nephews and nieces!--I shall often have a niece with me."

Of course we know that all goes out the window when Knightley finally proposes, but I love the defense of singleness there.

I myself am proud to claim the title of spinster aunt. At 42, I'm the only one of my parents' five children who has not married and reproduced, while the other four have produced 14 children between them. I began calling myself a spinster aunt around age 35, when I had only half a dozen nieces and nephews.... I think I've earned the title, all things considered, and I like a lot of the company I'm in. As Twisty Faster points out, spinster aunts are often pretty damn smart.

Holly

6/28/2006 9:24 PM  
Blogger Rhonda wrote...

I am so glad you wrote this!

Is exercising the muscles of our body more highly esteemed in our society than excising the muscles of our brain? Is traveling to other countries, more desirable than traveling across the maps of our minds, hearts and souls?

While I am not currently a "spinster", I am partnered with someone very like-minded. We don't travel or go out on weekends. Our freetime is usually spent at home, reading and writing. We aren't at all "anti-social," but we are a well matched set of introverts.

I am perfectly content spending my time reading, writing, creating and thinking. It is just how I am wired. Even as a kid, I didn't need to be "entertained," as I was always happy to be in my room with a book, drawing pad or journal.

Yet, I have friends who feel compelled to "drag me from the house"; friends who, despite how often I express my contentment with my lifestyle, are quite convinced I need only to be "shown how to have fun." There seems to be no recognition that "fun" is defined by an individual - and differs between people according to their personalities.

In reaction, I am left to wonder how and why introspection, creativity and focusing on personal growth is viewed by some as something needing a cure.

Thank you for making me think!

6/29/2006 7:36 AM  
Blogger mysticgypsy wrote...

Thank you Holly for the quotes about Emma.

"and it is poverty only which makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public! A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable old maid! .... And the distinction is not quite so much against the candour and common sense of the world as appears at first; for a very narrow income has a tendency to contract the mind, and sour the temper. Those who can barely live, and who live perforce in a very small, and generally very inferior, society, may well be illiberal and cross."

This is absolutely shocking!!! How can she dare say such a thing??? What in the world was Knightley thinking about the woman he supposedly fell in love with?

Really, Bronte heroines are all poor, with hardly any close relations to claim them. They have to make it on their own, quite entirely on their own. No wonder Charlotte Bronte wasn't too fond of Austen, to put it mildly.

I read Emma a long time ago, so I can't remember the exact details, but I was wondering if her attitude towards Ms. Jane Fairfax changes over the course of the novel? Does Emma's view on povery and celibacy change?
Why couldn't Mr. Knightley have chosen Jane Fairfax instead? Did he find Emma so full of faults he simply *had* to reform her, and only he was fit to do so?

6/29/2006 9:44 AM  
Blogger Bored Dominatrix wrote...

This is absolutely shocking!!! How can she dare say such a thing??? What in the world was Knightley thinking about the woman he supposedly fell in love with?

Really, Bronte heroines are all poor, with hardly any close relations to claim them. They have to make it on their own, quite entirely on their own. No wonder Charlotte Bronte wasn't too fond of Austen, to put it mildly.


Yes, and Bronte heroines are usually cross, illiberal people. Jane Eyre readily admits now thoroughly not nice she is, and I would call her far more of a snob than Emma: Jane feels she is superior to everyone because of her sensibilities and chafes against the fact that her station won't let her reveal that openly, whereas Emma is at least courteous to people she doesn't like. And is there any heroine who takes more pleasure than Cathy in being cruel to the ones she loves most? She behaves in ways I would expect of a villainess.

I don't see how inheriting a nice sum of money from a distant uncle and marrying a landholder consistitutes "making it quite entirely on one's own."

Emma's attitude toward Jane Fairfax certainly does change, but it is not Jane Fairfax she is discussing in this passage, but Jane's aunt, Miss Bates.

Knightley does not undertake to reform Emma. He loves her in part because her personality is too strong to be formed or reformed by any man.

6/29/2006 10:49 AM  
Blogger Kyahgirl wrote...

Hi again Frankengirl, I came back and saw your comment to me and wanted to add another thing. Yes, the sentiment behind that billboard is awful. You said if thinking like a woman is assumed to be a negative :(

and that is the heart of it. Why? why? Men and women both bring different kinds of thinking to the table.

I read a very interesting study on the 1986 space shuttle disaster. They studied the events and interactions leading up to it and concluded that it is quite likely that the incident would have been averted if there were more women in leadership positions at NASA. Why? Because the way they think. A woman would be more inclined to make a stand and stop the progress when the serious flaws and faults became known. The engineers were making noises about the weak gaskets, long, long before the shuttle blew up. Most of the men in management were so conditioned to function in the hierarchy and obey the lines of command that they wouldn't step out of line and risk the consequences, no matter how dire the situation was.

I DO love women and being with women. But I DO love men and being with men. We are different and I accept and enjoy those differences. What the hell is wrong with our world when we can't tolerate and embrace, even enjoy gender differences, race and cultural differences, etc. It baffles and annoys me.

Thanks for letting me rant here :-)

6/29/2006 1:11 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Holly!!

First, thank you for the great quotage! (I was hoping you would stop by and give us an Austen perspective). As a self-proclaimed Spinster, you are in excellent company indeed, including Twisty herself - :)

Now, I must debate the following:

“Bronte heroines are usually cross, illiberal people.”

There are plenty of Bronte heroines who are not cross, illiberal people. Tenant is a great example, and if I were better read, I could name more, hehe! - ;)

And it’s a matter of opinion on whether Jane and Cathy are cross/illiberal or determined/ambitious. Women who want more out of life than what they are handed are often vilified for it whilst men are praised. So I’m wary of criticizing a woman outright because she wants more than her lot and is offended by those who have more and squander it.

Charlotte in Pride and Prejudice marries a man she doesn’t respect in order to secure her fate. She accepts this choice, but does her resignation make her a better soul than Cathy who is continuously haunted by her choice of security over love? I don’t know.

Now, more importantly, I’m so glad you point out the section in Emma about impoverished spinsters…

MysticGypsy!

I totally understand your reaction to the above-stated section. It is harshly stated and I certainly don’t believe poverty dictates one’s demeanor. However, I do believe it can restrict one’s options.

If we look at Jane Eyre, we find that when Jane comes into money of her own, she can finally call herself an independent woman. So I ask (without an answer): Would her journey back to Rochester have been possible without her newfound financial security?

Both of you have reminded me of a quote by Samuel Johnson:

Resolve not to be poor: whatever you have, spend less. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness; it certainly destroys liberty, and it makes some virtues impracticable, and others extremely difficult.

I don’t think we can dismiss the fact that financial security allows Bachelors and Spinsters alike to live as they wish. And perhaps, there are more wealthy Bachelors than wealthy Spinsters, and this financial gap plays a part in our perceptions.

Thank you both so much! I imagine it’s possible – had Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte lived at the same time – they might have been secret friends – laughing at those of us who take sides! - :D

6/29/2006 1:27 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Rhonda!

How you remind me of me as a kid! - :)

“There seems to be no recognition that "fun" is defined by an individual - and differs between people according to their personalities.”

How true! It’s bizarre that friends and family often don’t believe we’re happy unless we buy into their idea of happiness. (And some of them don’t even seem all that happy, do they?)

“In reaction, I am left to wonder how and why introspection, creativity and focusing on personal growth is viewed by some as something needing a cure.”

Oh, I really like how you use the word “cure.” I think there is so much over-diagnosis going on whenever someone stands out too much or too little. Instead of accepting and embracing unique quirks and eccentricities, many seem to believe we must conform toward the center to belong or be loved. How sad! How dull!

Thank you for your insightful comment!

6/29/2006 2:09 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Kyahgirl, welcome back! It’s always a pleasure.

Your story about the space shuttle is fascinating. Thank you for sharing it with us.

“What the hell is wrong with our world when we can't tolerate and embrace, even enjoy gender differences, race and cultural differences, etc.”

Bravo! Yes, this baffles me, too, but I imagine it’s partly our fear of the “other.” Us vs. them. And how those in power don’t want to give up their power.

Feel free to “rant” here anytime - :)

6/29/2006 2:17 PM  
Blogger actonbell wrote...

Great post!
First, I must say that I don't like the word spinster. We need a new word.

Women have always had an unspoken curfew, too; it's not safe for us to walk into bars alone, or be out late at night alone, and maybe even not even to live alone--you'd be advised not to list your first name in the telephone book; don't advertise your aloneness.

Of course, men live with a false sense of security! They think that they can do all these things, when in fact men are mugged, wounded, and killed by strangers every day. Still, it seems that a woman's chances of coming to harm are less if there's a man around. I don't know if that's true, but that's the prevailing attitude.

And then there's the paradoxical fact that men who are married tend to be healthier and live longer, but the opposite is true for women.That's something to think about, too.

I agree that exercising the mind is of the utmost importance! It doesn't take THAT much physical exercise to keep a body healthy, but ol' brain can use all the stimulation it can get. And during those last years of our lives, our minds will be the most important assets we have left.

(I'm late to the party. Running late! TGIF!)

6/29/2006 8:16 PM  
Blogger Bored Dominatrix wrote...

I’m wary of criticizing a woman outright because she wants more than her lot and is offended by those who have more and squander it.

I, too, am wary of criticizing such women, but I also think it is naive to pretend that unfulfilled desires and the constant spectacle of people wasting without appreciating the very thing one desires, might not make one cross and illiberal indeed.

Have you ever had a full-time, long-term job you LOATHED? Not just sorta didn't like, but LOATHED? Where you started crying when you got in the car to go to work and managed to stop only when you got there? If you have, answer me honestly: did dealing with such a circumstance ever make you cross and illiberal?

Why should we imagine that profound frustration wouldn't make one not merely cross, but crotchety, cranky, and cantankerous? Restless, resentful and enraged? "Cross and illiberal" seems a mild assessment of what such a state of mind could engender.

The fact of the matter is, Emma is right that "a very narrow income has a tendency to contract the mind, and sour the temper"--that, Mysticgypsy, is how she dares to say such a thing, which, after all, is the conclusion Virginia Woolf reaches in A Room of One's Own: Woolf admits that even one night of stingy food and poor surroundings make HER cross and illiberal. What would a lifetime of such fare do to one?

Emma sees the answer very clearly, and is lucky enough to know she personally will be spared that. But the further fact of that matter is that simply because Emma is callous enough to dislike the company of illiberal, cross people, while showing little sympathy for how they came to be that way, doesn't mean we have to behave the same way.

Holly

6/29/2006 11:42 PM  
Blogger Sven wrote...

As others have said I think the steroetypes are rooted in the words and their perceived as well as actual meaning. I worder how your post would have read if you had substitued bachelorette for spinster. Or simply referred to both your brother and you as single, unmarried or simply independent.

6/30/2006 10:16 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hi, ActonBell!

I know what you mean about “spinster” being outdated (since it actually refers to the activity of spinning), but I think it would be fun to reclaim this word, turn it on its head and make it a powerful symbol of strength, independence…

“Of course, men live with a false sense of security! They think that they can do all these things, when in fact men are mugged, wounded, and killed by strangers every day.”

What an interesting point! And I think this also ties back to the impact of one’s socio-economical status as well as one’s culture (a “macho” sensibility).

“don't advertise your aloneness”

I find this particularly intriguing. It makes me suspect there are far more independent women living in this world than we know. And this also reflects that women aren’t necessarily encouraged to be proud of our independence.

“And during those last years of our lives, our minds will be the most important assets we have left.”

Yes! Continuing to challenge our minds prevents disease.

Thank you for joining the “party,” hehe! - :)

6/30/2006 6:20 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hi, Holly!

“I, too, am wary of criticizing such women, but I also think it is naive to pretend that unfulfilled desires and the constant spectacle of people wasting without appreciating the very thing one desires, might not make one cross and illiberal indeed.”

I guess what fascinates me about this is that many feminists often go through an “angry” phase (particularly when they or someone they love is faced with sexism first-hand). And while this anger is often censured by the world, it is an important catalyst to change. To stay inside this place of “anger” does no one any good, but Jane certainly doesn’t stay angry or intolerant in Jane Eyre. She finds joy in the company of her friend Helen, her mentor, her female cousins, and of course, she discovers love and delight in the company of Rochester.

“Have you ever had a full-time, long-term job you LOATHED? Not just sorta didn't like, but LOATHED? Where you started crying when you got in the car to go to work and managed to stop only when you got there? If you have, answer me honestly: did dealing with such a circumstance ever make you cross and illiberal?”

This is a great question. For myself alone, I would answer: “temporarily.” I think whether we let these things destroy our temper temporarily or permanently is our constant challenge. If we can continue to find joy in world, despite the tragedies that befall us, then we are rising above such circumstances. (I might be mixing this up, but didn’t Miss Bates find quite a bit of delight in visits?)

Still, yes, I agree that severe poverty is terribly cruel company and many have little opportunity to think of anything but basic survival. And we know that criminals as well as victims number much greater among the poor.

Thanks for continuing to challenge our thoughts, Holly!

6/30/2006 6:22 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hi, Sven! Good to hear your voice among us!

What an interesting hypothesis: how the post would read without the controversial term “spinster.” I still don’t think our society has determined a suitable replacement. (To me, “Bachelorette,” suggests a young woman who is seeking a husband, not independence.)

“As others have said I think the stereotypes are rooted in the words and their perceived as well as actual meaning.”

Yes! And thank you for bringing us back to the essential power of words alone - how we each react to what the word has meant in our personal history as well as its history in our society.

---

Have a great weekend, everyone! - :D

6/30/2006 6:25 PM  
Blogger Bored Dominatrix wrote...

I think whether we let these things destroy our temper temporarily or permanently is our constant challenge. If we can continue to find joy in world, despite the tragedies that befall us, then we are rising above such circumstances.

I assume you will accept that as an answer to your question about whether or not Charlotte Lucas, who proceeds with calm acceptance and a desire to make the best of things after marrying a man she doesn't love, is a better person than Cathy, who is self-indulgent enough to die from her choice to marry a kind, honorable wealthy man she doesn't love--not only that, but Cathy invites mayhem, despair and destruction into the life of everyone around her in the process.

(I might be mixing this up, but didn’t Miss Bates find quite a bit of delight in visits?)

Yes. Unfortunately, she's not especially pleasant company, so the delight she takes in visits doesn't isn't exactly shared with anyone else.

7/01/2006 7:14 AM  
Blogger mysticgypsy wrote...

The fact of the matter is, Emma is right that "a very narrow income has a tendency to contract the mind, and sour the temper"--that, Mysticgypsy, is how she dares to say such a thing, which, after all, is the conclusion Virginia Woolf reaches in A Room of One's Own: Woolf admits that even one night of stingy food and poor surroundings make HER cross and illiberal. What would a lifetime of such fare do to one?

There are cross and illiberal people in every class, regardless of income.


Also, if a poor person does not know what being wealthy is, their sentiments cannot fairly be compared to someone who has known both. Though I am not too familiar of works by Virginia Woolf, I'd like to say that though she says that poverty makes her cross and iliberal, it is only because she has known more comfort that she can think so. A poor person might not even "suffer" as much as she had done when she was in stingy surroundings.

I agree that severe poverty is terribly cruel company and many have little opportunity to think of anything but basic survival.
Yes. This is true. But also, this does not mean that poor people don't think of much else. In Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy, Jude is poor, but ambitious. He tries so hard to rise out of poverty and secure himself an education. In fact, his poverty urges him to fight for his needs.

Deciding who is "better" amongst Charlotte Lucas and Catherine Linton is a matter of opinion, and how one defines survival. I think both these characters are equally at fault.

7/01/2006 9:09 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hi, Holly!

“I assume you will accept that as an answer to your question about whether or not Charlotte Lucas, who proceeds with calm acceptance and a desire to make the best of things after marrying a man she doesn't love, is a better person than Cathy, who is self-indulgent enough to die from her choice to marry a kind, honorable wealthy man she doesn't love--not only that, but Cathy invites mayhem, despair and destruction into the life of everyone around her in the process.”

I hope you know I love to play “devil’s advocate” with you. I’ll try not be too stubborn here – since I understand your point and I certainly don’t mean to be intentionally obtuse! - ;)

On the surface, yes, Charlotte would seem the “better person.” But for me, Cathy seems more human. Both are extreme (one living inside a comedy and the other, a tragedy).

But a larger question arises for me: Is it better to have loved and experienced a wide spectrum of human emotions (passion, frustration, anger, hatred) than to have never loved or experienced much at all?

In the end, I might admire Charlotte more (to a point), but I can identify more with Cathy (to a point). I’m not as good-natured as Charlotte nor as insensitive (I hope!!!) as Cathy.

----

MysticGypsy - Hope to read your comment soon!

7/01/2006 9:16 AM  
Blogger mysticgypsy wrote...

"Is it better to have loved and experienced a wide spectrum of human emotions (passion, frustration, anger, hatred) than to have never loved or experienced much at all?"

Yes, it is far better to have done the former.

Have a great weekend Frankengirl :)

7/01/2006 9:49 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hi, MysticGypsy!

“Also, if a poor person does not know what being wealthy is, their sentiments cannot fairly be compared to someone who has known both.”

I’m really glad you note this. As you say, falling out of status and security is quite different than being born into poverty and knowing nothing else.

“But also, this does not mean that poor people don't think of much else. In Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy, Jude is poor, but ambitious. He tries so hard to rise out of poverty and secure himself an education. In fact, his poverty urges him to fight for his needs.”

I agree wholeheartedly. We hear many stories of people being driven to succeed because they want to overcome their circumstances. On the other hand, I’m sure there are those who are driven to despair. It would seem to depend on the individual as well as the situation.

“Deciding who is "better" amongst Charlotte Lucas and Catherine Linton is a matter of opinion, and how one defines survival. I think both these characters are equally at fault.”

Yes, like you, I believe that our own personal values will decide whom we feel is “better” here.

Enjoy your weekend, too, MysticGypsy! - :D

7/01/2006 10:06 AM  
Blogger Marti wrote...

I think the “generic male” (they’re so much cheaper than name brand LOL) harbors a great deal of fear about women. You often hear men joke, “Oh she only keeps me around to open jars / kill spiders / lift heavy objects,” but there is an insinuation of concern to their statement. I think many men are frightened of a woman being able to “take care of herself” because it usurps their role of protector and provider.

People in general tend to think the grass is greener on the other side, so married women are also leery of a “successfully single” woman, thinking that somehow, she got the better deal.

Most folks trend to “put down” things that scare them (even if it’s unconsciously) so they’ll belittle the happily unattached woman. So what chance do you have, when men and married women are scared of you and feel the need to disparage your choice? LOL!

Live your life for you. That may sound selfish, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time (hmm, that sounds vaguely familiar - did someone else say that? LOL) You can politely listen to the opinion of others, but make your final judgements on your own heart.

Wishing you a glorious 4th of July!

7/03/2006 6:31 PM  
Blogger Ragnell wrote...

Hey again, Frankengirl. I've been a little busy this weekend and the conversation's gone on without me. Not that I can add to the book conversation -- Not everything I read has pictures, but I'm considerably less likely to pick up a book that doesn't even tangentially involve wizards or bug-eyed monsters from Venus.

So many books for young girls end in romance/marriage. We are taught that “true love” is our happy ending, not a life lived fully for ourselves. Now I know you read and analyze superhero comics, and I expect this has influenced you …

Do you think more girls growing up reading comics would be beneficial?


One of the conventions with the superhero set is serialized storytelling. There is no ending. True love happens somewhere along the beginning and the mdidle of the story. Marriage rarely happens, and when it does, it either works perfectly and becomes smooth as clockwork (Superman and Lois Lane, Mr Fantastic and the Invisible Woman) as the adventuring continues, or it falls to pieces early on. Most superheroines have fantastic, amazing, even, yes, romantic experiences without ever settling down -- nearly all of the big superheroines are single women -- Wonder Woman (Though I do prefer the earlier stories where she had her Steve Trevor trying to convince her to maryr him), Black Canary, Oracle, Power Girl, most of the X-Women -- single and having incredible adventures.

I think part of it is a certain institutionalized sexism (which ties into Marti's comment above, about men harboring a fear of women can care for themselves) in comic books, where the writers have trouble pairing powerful woman with a civilian man (Steve Trevor, WW's boyfriend, was exactly a male Lois Lane, and they spent ten years trying to lsoe him before they finally did a reboot where they aged him and married him off to her best friend) but hero-hero relaitonships don't really work out very well. Editors need one character for one thing and the other for another, so the couple is split up. There's a heavy emphasis on romance for male heroes, and attempting to get the girl to maryr them, but for female heroes its about having fun, being adventurous and proving you have what the guys do.

There's a lot of complaining by female comic book readers about the sexism of superhero comics, but to be honest I do wish a lot more little girls would grow up reading superhero comics. It could be incredibly beneficial, not just on losing the overemphasis on finding a man but so that they can learn to be outspoken and brave and stand up for themselves like superheroes do.

Does a mother feel that we are rejecting her choice to be a mother if we don’t become one? Does she believe she has failed us somehow?

That would explain an awful lot, actually.

7/03/2006 10:19 PM  
Blogger Sayre wrote...

Anyone here seen "The Incredibles"? Super-hero (Mr. Incredible) married to super-hero (Elasti-girl) with three super-hero children. What really tickles my funny bone is that Elasti-girl, while very stretchy, does most of her super-hero-ing as MOM! I could SO relate to her!

My son has just discovered comic books. Right now he's into the StarWars ones, but I will be interested to see what he picks to read as time goes by. What super-hero will he be drawn to? Me? I'd love to be Spiderman!

7/05/2006 9:35 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hi, Marti!

“Most folks trend to “put down” things that scare them (even if it’s unconsciously) so they’ll belittle the happily unattached woman. So what chance do you have, when men and married women are scared of you and feel the need to disparage your choice?”

So very insightful! And I really like how you mention the “grass is greener” syndrome. It’s true that many of us hope to validate our own life choice by criticizing a different (and/or seemingly opposite) choice. And a woman’s “right to choose” itself is continually under debate.

“Live your life for you. That may sound selfish, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time…”

Yes, we may be told that living our lives for ourselves is selfish, but ultimately our happiness or unhappiness can trickle onto those around us. So if we are repressing or denying our dreams, our frustration can spread like a disease… !

“You can politely listen to the opinion of others, but make your final judgments on your own heart.”

Excellent advice! Thank you for your wonderful comment.

7/06/2006 10:33 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Ragnell, Welcome Back!

“One of the conventions with the superhero set is serialized storytelling. There is no ending.”

This seems so clear now that you mention it, but I didn’t think of it this way! Serialized storytelling is more like “real life.” As long as we live, we never reach a conclusive and perfect “happily ever after.” Only perhaps the satisfaction that we are playing our hand as best we can with the cards we are dealt on a daily basis.

“There's a heavy emphasis on romance for male heroes, and attempting to get the girl to marry them, but for female heroes its about having fun, being adventurous and proving you have what the guys do.”

I’m fascinated by all the details you share about “super-romances,” but I pulled this piece out since I’m surprised that super-men are trying to marry while super-women are living-it-up!!! It seems the very opposite of the bachelor/spinster stereotypes.

“… I do wish a lot more little girls would grow up reading superhero comics. It could be incredibly beneficial, not just on losing the overemphasis on finding a man but so that they can learn to be outspoken and brave and stand up for themselves like superheroes do.”

Yes! I wish stories for girls emphasized discovering and nurturing one’s own strengths for the sake of ourselves and our world, rather than seeking validation (via romance) from a man. In so many stories, a girl may be strong, but she doesn’t realize or appreciate it until a man does. And this lack of self-awareness is rather disturbing!

Thank you for continuing and deepening this conversation in my absence!

7/06/2006 10:34 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hi, Sayre!

“What really tickles my funny bone is that Elasti-girl, while very stretchy, does most of her super-hero-ing as MOM! I could SO relate to her!”

Cool! I enjoyed the Super-MOM aspect, too! Particularly because so many mothers ARE super-women when it comes to their children! It was very true to life, that way - :)

“Me? I'd love to be Spiderman!”

Oooh, Spidey! I love that you’ve picked out a favorite super-power for yourself! If I could pick one, what special power would I want? Hmmm, I’ll have to deliberate… Thank you for stirring my thoughts!

7/06/2006 10:35 AM  
Blogger RC wrote...

all interesting thoughts...some similar and some new...

especially since these thoughts come up even for the young single male and the young single woman. And we discussed such things in college.

It's sort of strange, but also sort of true.

--RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

7/12/2006 2:08 AM  
Blogger RC wrote...

just had a thought:

i think it has to do with perception.

Men value things that other people value...so men value a woman when other people also value her.

A spinster is seen to lack value.

Women in general, more so value someone who can care about them and give them attention and seem to have things under control. These "worldly bachelors" might just fit that bill more than married distracted family men.

just a thought.

--RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

7/12/2006 2:10 AM  

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