Words are changing. Some resist the waves, saying that the language is already inclusive and should not be messed with. No matter what we think. It is mutating. Young people are looking for ways to express themselves and if we don’t go with them we are just going to be left behind, obsolete, archaic, useless and, as it is happening as we speak, misunderstood.
Italy has chosen her first prime Minister. It is not good news for feminism in Italy, and around the globe. Georgia Meloni. A far-right politician and journalist. Leader for more than eight years of Brothers of Italy, one of the most conservative parties. Involved in politics for nearly twenty. Always militating for the far-right, always instigating. A nationalist. A true warrior of ‘God, homeland and family’. Her win was implicated by the same patriarchal discourse.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes. This woman is the first that comes to my mind when I think about this book. She is prismatic, multifaceted, a whole, complete, intellectual, emotional and spiritual woman. Wherever side you look of her, it has been worked, it is full with experiences and memories, and specially with wonderful teachings in which every single woman can benefit from.
This novel incarnates an amazing power and a vast relevance to these days. It is easy to forget that it was written in the 50s, as we are still discussing the subjects of the book, which are all different, although they make part of the same woman’s life. These woman’s thoughts are full of contradictions between being a communist and racist, between being a feminist and a homophobic, between being a good partner to her men and a lousy mother to her daughter.
The book narrates the life of Anna Wulf, an independent writer, communist and in a certain way a feminist. She has a dear friend, Molly. I found this friendship to be dysfunctional, or at least to accentuate the dysfunctional personalities of both women individually, which causes great damage to them and their children. The entire book is narrated by Anna. It is not divided in titles or chapters, which made the reading difficult. However, it is interesting how the author changes subjects, dividing the book in notebooks, black, red, yellow and blue. It is still disorganised, as she changes subjects and colours as she writes, but one can follow the sequence of the changes when getting used to what she is talking about.
The book starts with the protagonist, Vivian Morris, writing a letter to Angela, a secondary character. I have always cherished whoever can write a letter, as I do not know many people who can actually do it. At this point of the book Vivian has aged and she is planning to recall her own story only to answer one single question from Angela. “Vivian, Angela wrote, “given that my mother has passed away, I wonder if you might now feel comfortable telling me what you were to my father?”
I wanted to read this book for a long time. I considered it an ovation to feminism. It really is. Vivian Gornick’s feminists statements are the mix of a self-portrait of a woman who decided to live alone, and another who is looking for meaningful company. She has devoted to the type of feminism that was on furore on the 70s, the one that is not into marriage. This type of feminism that interlocks with spinsterhood is the life she has been living since then. Gornick loved to find sisterhood groups, full with intellectual-type ladies, dedicated to solve the problems of the everyday life for women. However, those groups always lost their momentum, and ended up melting again into the same cultural patterns they were fighting, alienating her all over again.
A lot of academics argue that if someone doesn’t know anything about a subject, the best thing to do is to keep quiet and let the experts handle the matter. I cannot disagree more. In cases that involve human rights violations the importance is not about the knowledge of the conflict, or even the politics, but the empathy towards the victims. I say this now because I was also part of that academic world, the political analysis, where a lot of arguments and conversations flew around, directed only to intellectuals, and not to the public, that was ultimately the one with the power to implement changes.
There is an unbalance between the scientific field and the literary field. The literary world has always been considered inferior. Maybe it is because its association with the feminine. But why are the sciences regarded as hard and masculine and the arts and the humanities regarded as soft and feminine? And within both the scientific world and the literary word, why are male scientist and writers preferred, more trusted, over women? And why if the literary world is considered a female science, writer women are always discriminated as less intelligent and less articulated than male writers? This is what Siri Hustvedt is good for. To spot the biases that go unnoticed to some of us. Hustvedt has accurately pointed to several misogynist aspects in the arts and the sciences.
I am fascinated by this book. Because Elena Ferrante does not disappoint when digging into the physic of her characters. They are normal people, like any neighbour we could have, to whom we say hello in the morning, without really thinking about their lives. That is only the beginning, as the stories start recounting their apparent normal lives. In this case, it was from Giovanna’s perspective, an only child, who lived with her likely normal parents, attending a normal school, with her normal friends, in a normal neighbourhood.
Gnozi Adichie writes a warm letter to one of her friends from childhood who asked her how could she educate her daughter to be a feminist. When I took a first look at the book, I though her arguments were clear and at some point a bit obvious. But I realized soon enough, with sadness, I must say, that not even this feminist statements have been embraced by the majority of societies and cultures because this world favours men. And this is still happening all around the world. What can we do to change this mentality?