Archive for ‘Gender Issues’

September 2, 2014

When the daugther of the sea rises up to the air…

But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more.

Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is a beautiful tale of love and sacrifice. I guess many will disagree with me but I always thought that there was something very empowering in the little mermaid’s struggle to be with her prince.

There is a tendency I observe in society that either puts women on a pedestal or debases them to the point of elimination. It is clear in either scenario that the woman is not considered a human-being, let alone one that is equal to the man. We are all familiar with the second scenario from the different kinds of violence all women suffer on a daily basis. But in the first scenario, the woman is claimed to be well-respected. This might be one of the greatest delusions of society. Women are loved, hated, praised, shamed, adored, etc. but they are not respected. Respect is reserved for man only. Those who claim great respect for women often merely regard them as a precious object to be admired, possessed and enjoyed. The woman is not even granted the benefit of the doubt that she might have an opinion and feelings of her own. Consequently, she is not given any choices. She doesn’t have a voice.

In the tale, the little mermaid saves the prince’s life in a storm that breaks out on the sea. How often do we come across a female assuming an active role and saving a male’s life in fiction? Later she decides to abandon her life under the sea to follow her heart. She strikes a deal with the sea witch to have legs in return for her beautiful voice. She is to suffer with each step she takes as she walks on land but she will be able to dance and glide more gracefully than anyone. So the minute she loses her voice, the tables are turned. Only the reader knows the lengths the little mermaid has gone to earn her prince’s love. The prince is enthralled by her beauty and overwhelmed by her devotion. But that’s it. It doesn’t occur to him to find out about her mind or her feelings.

But still it is refreshing to read a love story ending in tears (actually it doesn’t end with tears but I won’t get into the immortal soul bit) where the heroine gives up everything and yet can’t be with her prince rather than a love story with a happy ending where the hero gets to be with the princess who does nothing but exist like an empty shell.

April 14, 2013

A Pure Woman

Vineyard house season is officially open. Last week I took the 8PM dolmuş there. The two-hour journey on the bumpy roads of central Anatolia was almost… otherworldly. I read rather enthusiastically a few chapters from Music by My Bedside. Then the driver turned the lights off inside the vehicle and my carefully-selected mix of heavy metal music accompanied me for the rest of the way in semi-darkness. Metallica’s Low Man’s Lyric was especially memorable in the setting. I realized how much I had missed being on my own and surrounding myself with my “likes.”

I don’t know what to call this… this “mood” really. It’s when you are alone and very comfortable, completely immersed in your own world, either curled on your bed, on a long bus ride, lying under cherry blossoms or simply sitting in front of your computer, drinking a warm cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate or a glass of your preferred spirits and you’re watching/reading/listening to something you like or something you longed to watch/read/listen to. Bullet points might have helped with the description, but whatever, you see what I mean.

Anyway, I’m visiting the vineyard house for the first time in six months, I’m in the comfort of my bedroom in the attic and I’ve just found out that I could take an extra day off work. Perfect! Yay!  So I settle to watch BBC’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, starring Gemma Arterton. Only this time, I devour all four episodes in one go instead of watching them one at a day like I did with North and South.

And? Well, I was expecting something else altogether. Most of all a happy ending. Honestly, Tess must be one of the most depressing pieces of fiction I ever came across. But it was very interesting. There are so many things to be said about it. I have so many things to say about it, but it would make more sense and read the book first and then restructure them. In the meantime, I came across this journal article by Ertuğrul Koç: Tess of the d’Urbervilles: the Tragedy of Godless Human Existence. It felt good to do some serious reading and actually like it. Yes, this counts as serious to me *grins*

Wallpaper - 2560 x 1600

Wallpaper – 2560 x 1600

November 27, 2012

Thoughts on some historical romance novels #7

This was supposed to be included in the same post with my short review of Mary Balogh’s More Than A Mistress but then it took a (very) different turn and Yours Until Dawn was to get its own post. Then I thought I was gonna post it together with a review of Julia Quinn’s Romancing Mr. Bridgerton but I got carried away (just scroll down and you’ll see how) and so here you go. My review of…

Yours Until Dawn by Teresa Medeiros (a.k.a. A toi jusqu’à l’aube)

I wasn’t really impressed by this. The whole idea of a woman looking after a man is very attractive to me but this book wasn’t really what I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it. I really did. It’s just… Well, I blame it on the French! I attempted to read this one in French because I thought, well, if historical romances can get me to read so much, at least I could make it useful by polishing up my French. And I certainly don’t regret the decision. Besides the challenge proved to be rather easy. I had no difficulty following the plot. Although I would look some words up from the dictionary, its frequency didn’t bother me.

The characters are good, except for their stupid behavior towards the end. Gabriel is depicted as a rake struck by love. To prove his love is real, he goes as far as enlisting himself to fight at the war which costs him his eye sight. He returns home as a wounded man. Not only physically but also emotionally because his beloved, seeing his pitiable condition, leaves him. I would like to read a prelude to this story. To see how Gabriel fell in love with Cecily. We are given insight to this period though short passages from letters exchanged between Gabriel and Cecily at the beginning of each chapter. This was definitely a winner for me, though I was too daft to understand their purpose until it was revealed.

Samantha/Cecily is full of surprises and pleasant ones at that. I admire her for trying to atone herself for abandoning Gabriel when she finds out that he got blind at war. Adopting a false name and disguising her natural perfume to avoid being uncovered by Gabriel, she becomes his nurse. Gabriel falls in love with Samantha without knowing that she’s the same woman he loved before. When Gabriel regains his eye sight at the end (bah!) Cecily has no choice but to leave him. Burdened by guilt over having left him helpless and vulnerable, she can’t have him know her true identity. No matter how much it breaks her heart… Wow, I should try my hand at writing romance blurbs!

I did like this book but going back and rereading some parts, I realized that it contained some morally disturbing scenes… At least to me. So, I want to take a closer look at the love scenes. There aren’t so many anyway but already the size of this review is scaring me. Anyway, the following four quotes are from when Gabriel and Samantha make love for the first time.

All excerpts from the book © Teresa Medeiros All rights reserved

read more »

November 5, 2012

Additions to “A Hathaway Review”

After rereading some passages (guess which ones!) and giving the series a little bit more thought, I came up with a few additions to my original review.

The good first… I discovered that there are things I really find adorable about Cam and Amelia. For one thing, I love it when Cam calls Amelia “hummingbird.” That is very fitting because Amelia is always busy with something, running from one place to another solving problems, being therefore people and looking after her siblings… just like a humming bird. Every once in a while this all becomes too much for her so she has this habit of tapping her foot whenever she gets nervous. And I love it when Cam touches her leg with his to stop her. The role Cam assumes as the head of the family to take some of the burden off Amelia’s shoulders is also very touching and all the more fitting because he is also renowned for “managing” things because he’s the manager of a tavern.

And now the bad… Or rather morally problematic, disturbing sections. In the beginning of Tempt me at Twilight, shortly after Harry sets his sights on Poppy, he tells his assistant Valentine to deliver a piece of jewelry to his mistress, Mrs. Rawlings. And as an explanation, he simply says, “I’m getting rid of her.”

In my opinion, “getting rid of” is a very strong word to be used for a woman, whether she’s his mistress, a random prostitute or a lady, by a gentleman as respectful as Harry Ruthledge. I wonder if other readers found this bit disturbing because, I’m afraid, there is an underlying message that points to the rivalry between women according to the norms set by the male-driven society. The society treats with contempt women who earn a living through the use of their bodies. Still. Though one cannot make a generalization, if we consider that most of these women were driven to opt for such employment due to dire conditions, it is unfair to disrespect them so openly. I can’t especially bring myself to do so as a woman. So that’s why, such open disregard for a mistress in a book read generally by women and written by a female author of romance caused a little pang in the moral shelf of the “idealistic” department of my brain, which is linked with my heart with a strong artery. Women should be united against men if they should be united against anything. We shouldn’t turn in on each other on such matters. It’s a trap set by the male-driven society. Rather, we should have sympathy for one another and be in solidarity. I’m not gonna start quoting de Beauvoir right now because that’s not the issue I want to devote this whole post to. I’m just saying. Of course, there’s the possibility that I’m reading too much into this. It’s not Lisa Kleypas speaking after all, it’s Harry Ruthledge. In that case, badly done Harry! Badly done!

In Married by Morning when Cat and Leo finally get to it, Cat tries to remember the tactics she learned from her aunt (who is a prostitute!) to please Leo. This just didn’t do for me. Sex in historical romances is all about passion and spontaneity, not making calculations or assessing ways to pleasure your partner (at least not in your first time!) And later on the bit about finding appropriate names for the female genitalia just ruined the mood of the whole scene. Besides, Leo’s account for the French word is wrong. In French, the equivalent of pussy is “la chatte,” meaning a female cat.

That’s all for now… If I come up with anything else, I think I’ll just update this post rather than start a new one. I just started reading the Wallflower series by Lisa Kleypas and I am loving it. Let’s see if it will give more insight to some of the characters in the Hathaway series. I know Cam is in it for one thing!

November 1, 2012

Being a man in a man’s world

Mary Balogh’s More Than A Mistress just didn’t work for me. I don’t think I’ll read Mary Balogh anymore or I’ll have to be really desperate because I have Ferdinand’s story (No Man’s Mistress) too as this is a “two novels in one volume” book. Anyway, the plot wasn’t that interesting and her characters didn’t grow on me. You know the latter matters more for me. The conflict didn’t constitute a dilemma unlike in Sherry Thomas’ Private Arrangements. Jocelyn and Jane’s incessant bickering towards the end didn’t help me either. And I noticed that I don’t like Balogh’s Hollywood sort of endings where the hero and the heroine are surrounded by a crowd in awe of their love while they just beam at each other and in this case waltz and share a scandalous kiss in public. Also Balogh’s sensuality rate is Warm whereas I would prefer Hot, though in this case this is the least of my concerns.

The only bits I liked were the ones with Jocelyn and Jane’s den. It was adorable how they spent time in each other’s company in a very domestic way, which included reading Mansfield Park!!! Fictional characters reading real fiction! 9GAG had a meme for this but for TV series instead of books: “That awesome moment when you favorite series make a reference to your other favorite series” or something like that. Except here More Than A Mistress is certainly not my favorite piece of fiction.

Though it’s worthy to mention the books criticism of masculinity stripped off of any regard for human emotions. Jocelyn shares a private (a very private) memory with Jane. It is so horribly disgusting that I can’t bring myself to repeat it here. But anyway, this horrible scheme that was intended to turn him into a man when he was sixteen simply kills the human side of Jocelyn.

You are yourself. You were a sensitive, artistic, romantic boy, who had been repressed and was finally cruelly seduced. That is all, Jocelyn. You have allowed your life to be stunted by those events. But there is much life left to you. Forgive yourself.

After this Jocelyn finds himself weeping in Jane’s arms. Now, does that make him emasculated?

friend of mine, who’s from the US, once told me that he had a male friend who was an activist campaigning against society’s pressure on men to be emotionless. It was something I had never heard or considered before. I felt like I had discovered the atom or something. It was a revelation for me. And after that day I started pitying men for they are not so better off than women after all…

Just as society has certain demeaning expectations of women such as being quiet, not too clever, motherly, ladylike and passive, the same goes for men too. They are considered man if they have a good job, an obedient wife, a son and a commanding, strict posture which must at all times be devoid of any emotion. “Men don’t cry…” How many times a movie or book has included this particular line in every living language? Personally, I love men who cry which makes me even more partial to anime (*cough* Rose of Versailles *cough*) because it shows crying men while still managing to make female fans swoon over their virility.

And of course this post calls for this piece of news (click here for the English version) on a certain initiative entitled “We Are Not Men” which emerged after the rape and murder of the artist and peace promoter Pippa Bacca back in 2008. This particular initiative is still and will always be very memorable to me.