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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Sunday, July 28, 2013

P.S. re Supporting Caroline Criado-Perez, A Key Activist Who Got Jane Austen on the 10-Pound Note, Under Attack from Hateful Misogynists: Charlotte Bronte was KIDDING about Jane Austen!


It was pointed out to me a short while ago in another online venue by a sharp observer of the attacks on Caroline Criado-Perez by Neanderthal misogynists, that what is almost as bad as the threats against  her are the many commenters who say that Ms. Criado-Perez should just ignore the tweets, or just have a thicker skin, because it’s really an issue of free speech.

To that, I responded as follows:

NOW you know exactly why Jane Austen was so clever and so careful to never come out and explicitly say how she really felt--how outraged she really was---about the dreadful, hypocritical way women were treated in her world. Instead, as I've reiterated a hundred times, she hid her true feelings in plain sight where only those in sympathy with her true point of view would bother to figure it all out, and would have developed the habit of reading against the grain for subversive feminist meanings in Ann Radcliffe, Charlotte Smith and Sophia Lee!

After all, most of the men (besides the rare insightful ones like Sir Walter Scott) of her era thought Jane Austen's writing was just "women's writing"--witty, entertaining, morally proper, but not terribly important, and certainly not serious literature. PLUS....her novels all end with the girl marrying the rich guy, so they had no reason to suspect there were other things going on under that light bright and sparkling surface, which might constitute a devastating, global, systematic critique on the entire patriarchal system.

But back to Criado-Perez for another round---there's still an enormous amount that needs to improve in terms of women's rights in Western society, even today in 2013, but imagine for two seconds what would have happened to Criado-Perez had she taken that kind of overt stand on some feminist issue in 1813?

She'd have been crucified in the press, from the pulpit, and in the statute books, even by a lot of women----ten times worse than the hatchet job that vilified Wollstonecraft after her death. Polwhele's "Unsex'd Females" would have devoted half of its bloated length just to attacking her!

But here's the saddest irony of this latest uproar, which was, in hindsight, perfectly predictable. Of course, we had to expect all the men screaming and complaining that Jane Austen did not deserve to replace Darwin on the 10-pound note, demeaning Jane Austen in the most insensitive ways. And of course this is not even talking about the dangerous creeps who actually threatened Criado-Perez, and it really would be spectacular if some of them were actually held accountable legally and even criminally.

But I can't count how many of the negative comments I have read on the Internet about the Austen 10-pound note, which are being written by women, sincere, passionate feminists, who are complaining that Jane Austen is too tame, too romantic, too establishment, too UNfeminist to justify her taking up that precious small space on that 10-pound note.

If only they knew that Jane Austen was actually just as revolutionary in her feminism as Charlotte Bronte, and a really good first step in that direction would be to show them that Charlotte Bronte herself was putting Henry Lewes on with her famous critiques in that same dismissive vein, when Bronte actually loved, emulated, and even alluded to Jane Austen's writing:

If the real, radically feminist Jane Austen were the “currency” of scholarly and popular discourse about her writing, and not the watered-down forgery that still changes hands, metaphorically speaking, every day, then perhaps that deep misconception about her would gradually fade away, replaced by a clear image of who she was, certainly a woman worthy to be the sole representative of womankind on pound notes in Great Britain!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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