The Soul of a Woman —By Isabel Allende

Politics and Feminism

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Isabel Allende recounts her personal story. I felt like talking with a very good friend, having a pleasant conversation, those in which you put your heart and soul right there in the middle of the table for everyone to see. This is how Isabel Allende strings together all the facts and people that influenced her life, where her thoughts and feelings contradicted her way of life, and created great concern and anger between her parents and grandparents, because at that time, nobody dared to question the inequalities in Chile and much less the place of women in society. This did not sooth her, it did not silence her internal voice, on the contrary, with time everything fell on the right place until finally she found herself as a writer, a feminist and an activist. She reached a maturity in which she is now comfortable and happy. The author also takes a look at the new generations and their role in feminism and pays tribute to people who opened the door to the actual feminist movements.

Despite this book not having the literary rigor that her previous books have —I do not think this was the intention of the author either—, it is definitely a very important text that points also to the inactivity of women on the fight against the authority and domination of men, which has helped enormously to maintain misogynism relevant and even perpetual. It is the new generations, says Allende, the ones that need to carry the tireless and unrelenting fight against oppression, if we really want to see circumstances change in our favour. Feminism is ‘the mutiny against men’s authority’ and ‘every oppressed person should join in’ (my translation). This is because a lot of people —especially women— still do not realise how patriarchy affects their lives, and the lives of their loved ones. The author explains how in every area women are destined to be inferior, from every religion —for their misogynist theories, like virginity and infidelity, that affect only women—, to the organization of families, where the women are never a factor in applying hierarchies. Relationships between couples are also dominant. Allende states that marriage is very convenient for men, who protect and order, and not at all for women, who obey and serve. Considering this, ‘the two happiest groups are the married men and the single women’. Allende has chased the romantic love all her life, with three marriages, several extramarital adventures, and two divorces, looking precisely for those equal relationships, where lovers are together, with her maintaining her own identity and total freedom and he being comfortable with this agreement, and used to respecting it, forever. 

And not only is inside those internal spheres that women find opposition to their good will, it is also outside. Working spaces are entirely dominated by men. The author experienced this in her own writing profession, nevertheless she applauds her luck, as she achieved to stand along all the male authors that were making part of the Latin-American boom, as the female author who wrote the outstanding novel The House of the Spirits with immediate success. This was not a common case, as she herself recognises. Female authors were commonly ignored by critics, literature teachers and even students and were seldom published. This situation has improved, she says. Now women are published and recognised as well as men.

The resistance against the success of women is not only masculine, unfortunately. A lot of women still say they do not identify with being a ‘feminazi’, that is only a cruel adjective that damages the legitimate fight against male domination. Each one of us have witnessed —if not being victims—of destructive comments against our own capacities, sometimes as a joke, sometimes in a more aggressive form. Women have also experienced violence from members of the family and/or from friends. Women who live in war zones are the ones most affected, with no protection from their countries or the international community. It is to them that we owe this fight for a safe future.

A 100% recommended book


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