Sunday, May 24, 2009

Going Public With My Reading List on Women and Marriage

I've read several great books recently ("scandalous books!" as one of my friends called them, while hiding them from her little brother's eyes and inevitable teasing!) that have to a large degree re-shaped my perspective on singleness and marriage.

I didn't say they have changed my state - singleness - but rather that they have changed the way I view my current state and my hope of marriage for the future.

I've deliberated for a long time whether I should quote these excellent but "radical" books on my blog... I don't want to give people the wrong idea about myself or my ideals, and I have a wide variety of readers, and some people, without reading the books in their entirety might not really "get it" ... but I've decided to take the risk and go ahead and post some of my favorite passages and quotes. I'm not going to expound to you on the whole book(s) - you'll have to buy your own and read them for that! Instead I'll just be throwing out random quotes as I have a chance to type them up.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on my "scandalous books" - particularly if you've actually read any of these books in their entirety.

Danielle Crittenden's book, "What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman," examines what feminism has done for women from a secular, but critical perspective.

Even though I was raised counter-culturally, in a home that had rejected modern-day feminism, I still found her book to be an excellent dose of truth and reality - one that I can share even with friends who really don't care about a Biblical perspective on womanhood.

Danielle writes:

It's common now for the elders of the women's movement to express disappointment in my generation of women - the "daughters of the revolution" now in their twenties and thirties - who came of age long after the last feminist brassiere had been burned. As they see it, we are enjoying the spoils of their victories without any gratitude for their struggle.
We get up in the morning and go to our jobs as doctors, executives, plumbers, soldiers without devoting a second thought to the efforts that were spent making these jobs seem completely normal. We deposit our paychecks without having to worry about whether we are getting paid any less because of our sex. We enroll in science courses with every expectation of being taken seriously as scientists; we apply for post-graduate degrees with every expectation that we will use them and not let them languish when we become mothers. When we graduate, our first thought is not, Whom will I marry? but, What will I do? and when we do marry, we take for granted that our husbands will treat us as equals, with dreams and ambitions like theirs, and not as creatures uniquely destined to push a vacuum or change a diaper.

....In that sense we are enjoying the spoils of our elders' struggles....

The urgent and compelling questions that haunt us from moment to moment are the ones to which the women's movement has no answers - or, when it does, answers that are unhelpful. Is work really more important and fulfilling than raising my children? Why does my boyfriend not want to get married as much as I do? why is the balance between being a good mother and working so elusive? ...By giving up my job, am I giving up my identity? Should men and women be trying to lead identical lives, or where there good reasons for the old divisions of labor between mother and father, husband and wife? If so, do these divisions make us "unequal"?

... The pleasure of being a wife or of raising children or of making a home - were until the day before yesterday, considered the most natural things in the world. After all, our grandmothers didn't agonize over such existential questions as to whether marriage was ultimately "right" for them as women or if having a baby would "compromise" them as individuals. Yet we do. We approach these aspects of life warily and self-consciously....

But feminism, for all its efforts, hasn't been able to banish fundamental female desires from us, either - and we simply cannot be happy if we ignore them.

For in the ripping down of barriers that has taken place over a generation, we make have inadvertently also smashed the foundations necessary for our happiness. Pretending that we are the same as men - with similar needs and desires - has only led many of us to find out, brutally, how different we really are.

-- Introduction, "What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us,"
by Danielle Crittenden, Simon and Schuster Books


Joy Courville said...

I'm glad you're going public. :) And I look forward to subsequent posts on your reading list of 'radical' books on women and marriage.

This statement stuck out in particular:

"But feminism, for all its efforts, hasn't been able to banish fundamental female desires from us, either - and we simply cannot be happy if we ignore them."

That is so true. I just watched the 1994 version of Little Women and there is the beginnings of feminism in the story with Jo going off to New York to pursue her own career. Throughout Louisa Alcott's writings one can find the subtle traces of the beginnings of feministic thought. BUT, at the end of Little Women, where is that Jo finds her true fulfillment? Is it in the publishing of her novel? Perhaps...but I think it is really in becoming the queen of the heart of the man she loves. In gaining the throne of his hearth and home. Her fulfillment is found in helping him, not pursuing her literary career.

It's inescapable. This natural desire. There is another author who in contrast to Louisa Alcott, combated feminism with her writing. In Augusta Evans Wilson's famous novel, St. Elmo, the heroine also pursued a literary career. But she used her pen to strengthen the dignity of women as the queens of their hearths. Here is an excerpt that is talking of the heroine's messages in her books:

"The tendency of the age was to equality and communism, and this, she contended, was undermining the golden thrones shining in the blessed and hallowed light of the hearth, whence every true woman ruled the realm of her own family. Regarding every pseudo "reform" which struck down the social and political distinction of the sexes, as a blow that crushed one of the pillars of woman's throne, she earnestly warned the Crowned Heads of the danger to be apprehended
from the unfortunate and deluded female malcontents, who, dethroned in their own realm, and despised by their quondam subjects, roamed as pitiable, royal exiles, threatening to usurp man's kingdom; and to proud, happy mothers, guarded by Praetorian bands of children, she reiterated the assurance that

"Those who rock the cradle rule the world."

Most carefully she sifted the records of history, tracing in every epoch the sovereigns of the hearth-throne who had reigned wisely and contentedly, ennobling and refining humanity; and she proved by illustrious examples that the borders of the feminine realm could not be enlarged, without rendering the throne unsteady, and
subverting God's law of order. Woman reigned by divine right only at home. If married, in the hearts of husband and children, and not in
the gilded, bedizened palace of fashion, where thinly veiled vice
and frivolity hold carnival, and social upas and social asps wave
and trail. If single, in the affections of brothers and sisters and friends, as the golden scepter in the hands of parents. If orphaned, she should find sympathy and gratitude and usefulness among the poor and the afflicted."'s&ei=sDMbSuqXHZnuNMiDlLoJ#PPA522,M1

Keep up the good posts, Mary! :)

Laurel said...

I'm thrilled you're "going public" also, Mary, and I'm very much looking forward to more posts!
I've found that the doors to growth of thought are thrown open when we are willing to look outside of our box, willing to be challenged and to consider things afresh.

Peachtree said...

I haven't read this book yet, though after Halley's post about it, I did look at it on Amazon, and kept hitting the 'Surprise me!' button until it started repeating itself.

From what I gathered, it looks similar to another book I read once, "Feminism, Mystique or Mistake?". That one was a real eye-opener for me. It amazes me how much of feminist thought and reasoning has crept into even the most 'counter-culture' and obscure groups. I found it in myself, and that was quite disturbing!

And how true, being 'equal' to men hasn't made women happier. It isn't our place in life that makes us happy, but rather how we view it and whether or not we choose to accept it . . .

(I'd sure be glad to borrow the book, if no one else is reading it at the moment! :) The tidbits I got off of Amazon were riveting!)