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KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
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Feminism

For all her liberal rhetoric, Audrey lives quite a traditional life as a wife and mother, taking a back seat to the ambitions of her powerful husband. And yet she resents motherhood and simmers with rage over her husband's transgressions.

 

Rosa balks at the antiquated restrictions her new religion places on women, but as her friend Carol points out, she does not seem entirely comfortable with her own femininity.

 

What message does the novel convey about feminism? What about motherhood? Do women in the novel pay a higher price than men for expressing their sexuality?

 

Are women any better off in the ultra-liberal political realm than they are in the realm of religious orthodoxy? Or perhaps feminism is more of an individual choice that exists outside the realm of political or religious ideologies?...

 

Where do women like Berenice and Jean fit into this discussion?
Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Feminism

I'm not sure that it gave any particular message about feminism, but it certainly did give a message about the "double standard" being alive and well. Joel was sowing wild oats all over the place while Audrey, as far as we know (unless I missed something) was faithful in fact, if not in spirit. 
_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
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daylilies1126
Posts: 21
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Feminism

I think it did show the double standard, but it also showed that regardless of how much women say about feminism, and how far we've come, that they don't apply those same standards to their own life.  Audrey felt that other women should feel able to do whatever they want, but that this doesn't apply to her own life or her children's.  She allows herself to be completely consumed by Joel, and she puts up resistance when her own children want to do their own thing.  I believe that Jean is the most feminist of them all, even though to all outward appearances, she was the least feminist.  However, she believes in her independence and her ability to do whatever she wants, and applies that to Audrey and all of Audrey's children.  She doesn't seem to distinguish between the two.
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thewanderingjew
Posts: 2,247
Registered: ‎12-18-2007
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Re: Feminism

I think being a feminist exists outside the realm of politics and religion. The ability to express yourself and make your own choices, is what matters. Some women may choose careers, politics, motherhood etc. The important thing is that in the sixties, a variety of choices opened up to women that didn't exist before, but in limited areas only. In orthodoxy, feminism didn't exist at all. Women were considered chattel. Having the choice to do something other than become a wife and mother was the new idea. Having independence in any form was an achievement. In those days sexual mores were quite different. Women were not encouraged to express their sexuality so I am sure that had something to do with Roas's repression.
Berenice chose to remain in the background until Joel died. Perhaps it was out of respect for their relationship, perhaps she thought one day he would leave Audrey and marry her, perhaps it was because of the shame involved in having an affair. However, I don't think anyone judged her behavior very negatively, in the book anyway, except for Audrey because she was personally affected and hurt by what transpired between Joel and Berenice. Audrey was faithful and although she knew he was not, secretly fathering a child with another woman is the ultimate insult.
Jean's financial independence bought her a bit more opportunity to make choices on her own. Women did not make much money even when they worked, in those days. There was no pay equity. There were few job opportunities let alone well paying ones. So, although they may have had more choice and some equality, they really could not live independently very well, without a man's income. Audrey had little choice but to be in the background with Joel in the foreground unless he decided to help her move forward.
Berenice was a liberated woman for that time, truthfully. I am not sure that she would have been quite as "understood" in the world that existed outside this book in the sixties. Not only was the relationship with Berenice extramarital, it was interracial and that was uncommon in those times. Our world view was narrower and less tolerant.
These were the early days of feminism and women were just beginning to feel their oats.
twj
KxBurns wrote:
For all her liberal rhetoric, Audrey lives quite a traditional life as a wife and mother, taking a back seat to the ambitions of her powerful husband. And yet she resents motherhood and simmers with rage over her husband's transgressions.

 

Rosa balks at the antiquated restrictions her new religion places on women, but as her friend Carol points out, she does not seem entirely comfortable with her own femininity.

 

What message does the novel convey about feminism? What about motherhood? Do women in the novel pay a higher price than men for expressing their sexuality?

 

Are women any better off in the ultra-liberal political realm than they are in the realm of religious orthodoxy? Or perhaps feminism is more of an individual choice that exists outside the realm of political or religious ideologies?...

 

Where do women like Berenice and Jean fit into this discussion?

 

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Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
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Re: Feminism

[ Edited ]

I am puzzled by your response TWJ.  The major part of the book was written about 2002 onwards. Only Audrey and Joel's meeting in London in 1962 was about the period when women had fewer freedoms etc.  Audrey, Joel, Bernice and the children's lives take place in the period contemporaneous with our own so their opportunities, attitudes to sexuality etc. would have been similar to ours.  The Orthodox community which Rosa linked up with had more traditional, perhaps Victorian, attitudes.

 

Whether feminism is still counted as a political movement, given the backlash against it, I don't know but it certainly has been a recognised political movement and the leaders of it operated in the political arena seeking to change laws which cracked the 'glass ceiling' etc.

The Suffragettes and others in the suffrage movement were perhaps the first real 'movers and shakers' of feminism as a political movement.  Although we should not forget the valiant attempts of Mary Wollstonecraft, George Sand, George Eliot and others to 'break the mould' in earlier centuries and they are perhaps more comparable with Rosa's experiment with Orthodoxy in that they had to had to contend with traditional religious views about the woman's 'place' in society.

 

I think it is easier for women to 'rebel' in a liberal society because the mores or that society are open to question.  Religious societies of all kinds are very resistant to their beliefs and traditions being questioned.   

 

 

 


thewanderingjew wrote:

  

I think being a feminist exists outside the realm of politics and religion. The ability to express yourself and make your own choices, is what matters. Some women may choose careers, politics, motherhood etc. The important thing is that in the sixties, a variety of choices opened up to women that didn't exist before, but in limited areas only. In orthodoxy, feminism didn't exist at all. Women were considered chattel. Having the choice to do something other than become a wife and mother was the new idea. Having independence in any form was an achievement. In those days sexual mores were quite different. Women were not encouraged to express their sexuality so I am sure that had something to do with Roas's repression.
Berenice chose to remain in the background until Joel died. Perhaps it was out of respect for their relationship, perhaps she thought one day he would leave Audrey and marry her, perhaps it was because of the shame involved in having an affair. However, I don't think anyone judged her behavior very negatively, in the book anyway, except for Audrey because she was personally affected and hurt by what transpired between Joel and Berenice. Audrey was faithful and although she knew he was not, secretly fathering a child with another woman is the ultimate insult.
Jean's financial independence bought her a bit more opportunity to make choices on her own. Women did not make much money even when they worked, in those days. There was no pay equity. There were few job opportunities let alone well paying ones. So, although they may have had more choice and some equality, they really could not live independently very well, without a man's income. Audrey had little choice but to be in the background with Joel in the foreground unless he decided to help her move forward.
Berenice was a liberated woman for that time, truthfully. I am not sure that she would have been quite as "understood" in the world that existed outside this book in the sixties. Not only was the relationship with Berenice extramarital, it was interracial and that was uncommon in those times. Our world view was narrower and less tolerant.
These were the early days of feminism and women were just beginning to feel their oats.
twj

KxBurns wrote:
For all her liberal rhetoric, Audrey lives quite a traditional life as a wife and mother, taking a back seat to the ambitions of her powerful husband. And yet she resents motherhood and simmers with rage over her husband's transgressions.

 

Rosa balks at the antiquated restrictions her new religion places on women, but as her friend Carol points out, she does not seem entirely comfortable with her own femininity.

 

What message does the novel convey about feminism? What about motherhood? Do women in the novel pay a higher price than men for expressing their sexuality?

 

Are women any better off in the ultra-liberal political realm than they are in the realm of religious orthodoxy? Or perhaps feminism is more of an individual choice that exists outside the realm of political or religious ideologies?...

 

Where do women like Berenice and Jean fit into this discussion?

 


 

Message Edited by Choisya on 11-17-2008 08:44 AM
Contributor
CDover1978
Posts: 17
Registered: ‎02-12-2008
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Re: Feminism

I agree with Everyman... I wouldn't say that being a strong woman is being a feminist.  But Rosa and Audrey led "double-standard" lives.  They lived one way while wishing they were living another life all together... If only I had done this, or if only I had done that was all that was heard from them.  They were more dissatified with parts of their life than anything else.
Courtney
Inspired Bibliophile
thewanderingjew
Posts: 2,247
Registered: ‎12-18-2007
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Re: Feminism

[ Edited ]

Hi,
I guess I interpreted the characters as being very defined and shaped by that time period since the main characters were and they had such a strong influence on those with whom they came in contact, that I just assumed they absorbed those values as well.

Although this has nothing to do with feminism, it will help to explain my reasoning. I may have made a giant leap of faith to get there...
I have a friend whose husband is very much like his own father, a man who was probably shaped by the "thirties and forties ". Although this man came of age in the sixties, he identified with his father even down to the way he dressed. His son, who grew up in the eighties, also seems shaped by the forties because his father is so strong a personality. (I might have the decades off a bit, but my point is that they are stuck in the past because of the influence of a parent.)

twj

 


Choisya wrote:

I am puzzled by your response TWJ. The major part of the book was written about 2002 onwards. Only Audrey and Joel's meeting in London in 1962 was about the period when women had fewer freedoms etc. Audrey, Joel, Bernice and the children's lives take place in the period contemporaneous with our own so their opportunities, attitudes to sexuality etc. would have been similar to ours. The Orthodox community which Rosa linked up with had more traditional, perhaps Victorian, attitudes.

Message Edited by thewanderingjew on 11-19-2008 03:16 AM
Wordsmith
marciliogq
Posts: 244
Registered: ‎02-22-2008
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Re: Feminism

It's very interesting how subtle are discussions about the roles of men and women and their own beliefs on the building of a gender discussion. I don't think the debate in The believers is exactly about "feminism" but about how  "men/women" or "male/female" construct and continue on their own identities. The discussion is beyond the nature realm of sex. A feminist identity is not only connected to women though women are responsible by the advent of feminism. Who reivindicates the feminine? The believers proposes a good reflexion about that through continuing actions of men and women that sometimes insists on propagate their culturally stablished roles. As an exception, Rosa leaves us a message of how important is questioning the fossilized culture of the relation: religion, behaviour, men and women.