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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Friday, March 9, 2012

MAD and Seeing Red: Jane AusTEN's Feminist Spirit Lives on in AusTIN Texas!

By a wonderful bit of synchronicity that Carl Jung would have loved, I was watching Rachel Maddow on the treadmill last night, when she reported on one of the most inspiring responses to the recent ratcheting up of the Repube/Tea Party war on women's reproductive rights. The response was initiated by Grammy-nominee musician Marcia Ball, as further reported here:

Marcia Ball took on the handsome zero-IQ governor of Texas, Rick Perry, and shot him right between the eyes, metaphorically speaking, branding him for the vile hypocritical misogyny barely concealed behind the handsome smiling face.

What came up for me immediately as I saw the women wearing red to symbolize their anger and fury at American Taliban mullah wannabes like Perry, was a very similar expression of anger by an author you just might have heard about--I think her name was Jane Austen----who in 1809 wrote the following letter (famous in the world of Janeites) to another male hypocrite, a "gentleman" named Crosby, the publisher who had acquired from the young Jane Austen the manuscript of _Susan_ (which later was revised and published after Jane Austen's death as Northanger Abbey) and then, for reasons never given, refused to publish it for nearly a decade, which needless to say really pissed Jane Austen off!:

Gentlemen, In the spring of the year 1803 a MS. Novel in 2 vol. entitled Susan was sold to you by a Gentleman of the name of Seymour, & the purchase money \10. recd at the same time. Six years have since passed, & this work of which I am myself the Authoress, has never to the best of my knowledge, appeared in print, tho' an early publication was stipulated for at the time of sale. I can only account for such an extraordinary circumstance by supposing the Ms. by some carelessness to have been lost; & if that was the case, am willing to supply you with another copy if you are disposed to avail yourselves of it, & will engage for no farther delay when it comes into your hands. It will not be in my power from particular circumstances to command this copy before the Month of August, but then, if you accept my proposal, you may depend on receiving it. Be so good as to send me a Line in answer as soon as possible, as my stay in this place will not exceed a few days. Should no notice be taken of this address, I shall feel myself at liberty to secure the publication of my work, by applying elsewhere. I am Gentlemen & c. & c.
April 5 1809 M. A. D. Direct to Mrs. Ashton Dennis

Of course, M.A.D. spells MAD, as in angry and/or crazy (or my interpretation: angry to the point of feeling crazy), and Mrs. Ashton Dennis was a pseudonym for Jane Austen herself! Jane Austen was furious because the one among her novels which wore its feminism MOST prominently on its sleeve, Northanger Abbey, was not seeing the light of day, publishing-wise, surely because the publisher, upon more closely reading the text, realized that beneath its apparent parody of female obsession with the Gothic, was actually a devastating ANTI-parody of male sexism, in particular the subjugation of married English gentlewomen, who were turned into breeding cows upon marriage, suffering through endless serial pregnancies, which often ended in dreadful death in childbirth. And so Crosby was in effect censoring this "scandalous" attack on the patriarchal status quo in England.

So I think you see why I thought of the above letter when i heard and read about Marcia Ball's thrilling battle cry to women (and men who care about women) everywhere, because in two centuries, nothing really has changed, men are STILL trying to control women's bodies, and women's sexuality, and take everyone ALL the way back a few more centuries before Jane Austen's era, to the really good ol' days when the men did not pussyfoot around, but simply labeled troublesome women as witches and burned them at the stake!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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