September 20, 2020

Gender Studies with GSL


Jackie from June 1965. Never has a woman been better positioned to change the world for the better than Jackie at that point in time.  I don't fault her for not realizing it but a shame GSL wasn't there to provide guidance on how to leverage her vast power. If you were to privately poll women of any age which 20C woman they most admire, who would surpass the support of Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, Jane Addams, and Toni Morrison combined? I'd love to ask them why looking fab in clothes designed especially for her by Cassini or Givenchy is more admirable than winning a Nobel Prize in Physics AND Chemistry.
pic from Timmy Jr on Flickr

I had a little disagreement on IG earlier today. The esteemed Mark McGinnis was paying tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and someone I follow made a valid, but I think misplaced, observation that she didn't understand men who didn't appreciate smart women. OK, fair enough but far more women don't appreciate smart highly accomplished women in the public eye unless they happen to be beautiful and/or glamorous and I'll present evidence.

A couple years ago celebrating 'The Notorious RBG' became trendy with all the Usual Suspects late arriving to what we Crafty Old Pros have known for decades. Her close friendship with ideological opponent Justice Scalia was best reflected in their mutual love of Opera. Of course, the last arrival to the RBG Celebration was that endlessly annoying American-born Duchess who referred to RBG as her childhood inspiration. Somehow that 'Duchess' found 15 women more inspiring than RBG, as she battled cancer, when she did that feature for Vogue...that included Christy Turlington.
pic: Wikipedia

As longtime Den readers (across 6 continents and counting) will attest, GSL is a champion of women of merit due to his strong matrilineal line. My Great-Grandmother was widowed at age 26 when her husband died in the Spanish Flu Epidemic (is it racist for me to call it that?) of 1918.  She had 4 hungry children under 6yo to feed yet she didn't do victim. She began selling insurance in rural Ohio to supplement her teacher's income and sent those 4 children to college. My grandmother & mother were equally strong and resourceful even if their circumstances were less daunting. I have vivid recollections of Mum & Grandma Cooper singing my Great-Grandmother's praises of overcoming the adversity she faced but they never once put her success in the context of men making negative comments or being an obstacle. I'm sure some men did underestimate her and made belittling comments but G-Grammy didn't catalog those slights to pity-party over nor teach her daughters to either. One reason I suspect is because men were usually the buyers of those insurance policies and more often than not felt duty bound to offer encouragement and referrals to a young widow raising 4 young children...just as I would.

From left Grandpa Cooper, Great-Grandmother Long, Uncle David, Mum, Grandma Cooper in Ohio circa 1945. G-Grammy widowed from Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918 supplemented her teacher's salary by selling insurance sending her 4 children to college. A self taught organist known as among the best in Ohio likely went a long way in convincing potential clients she had the smarts if not the formal biz background of most men.

How many times have we heard the reason some of the best early women writers used male pseudonyms because male owned publishing houses wouldn't publish female authors? Let's put that bullshit to rest and chalk it up to Feminist S & M Fantasies. First of all, Elizabeth Carter, publishing under her own name, earned 1000 pounds, a staggering sum in 1758, for the first English translation of Epictetus. I'd bet the ranch at least 90% of the buyers/readers were men whose purchase was largely due to Dr Johnson's high praise.

Maybe all that male oppression of 19C women writers can be laid at the feet of  'misogynist' George Eliot whose 1856 essay Silly Novels by Lady Novelists expressed disgust over their low quality...yet we've been told women writers couldn't get published?

Here is that 19C misogynist George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) who wrote the nasty essay so dismissive of her sister writers' literary output. Georgey continues to endure male oppression with her Middlemarch considered the greatest novel in the English language by none other than Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, and polls by BBC and The Telegraph.
pic: Wikipedia

Hey girls, perhaps those Whine Merchants in the faculty lounges of Gender Studies (that Camille Paglia astutely notes, incomprehensibly make no allowance for Biological examination) have been peddling snake oil all these years. I think the real reason first rate women writers used male pseudonyms is because they wanted to be taken seriously and not be associated with all the garbage then being published, purchased, and read by women. Dickens knew at once Middlemarch, that he rated highly, was written by a woman.  They'd never say it at Vasser or Wellesley but the best female writers historically had, as their early champions, men rather than women, and valued the readership and affirmation of men over women (ouch!).

Nobel Prize winning Doris Lessing became a Feminist Icon with her touchstone The Golden Notebook.
 After winning Nobel and selling zillions of copies to Seven Sisters idolaters, Ms Lessing attributed GN's zealous acclaim by Feminists as a "hysterical misreading".  Ouch!

GSL thinks it no accident that 'Feminist Icon' Jane Austen has Mr Bennet the parent that appreciates and encourages his precocious daughter's intellectual attainments and Mrs Bennet silly and ridiculous who only desires her daughters marry well.  Jane Austen was mostly educated by her father and brother Henry was her great champion. 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of a good intellect must be in want of a GSL.

I'll be here all week.

P.S. The Den has been especially disappointed by the neglect female readers have for Barbara Tuchman  and Hillary Mantel .  GSL is also grateful to Peter Hitchens for his recommending the largely forgotten Josephine Tey.


  1. I've never bought the Unpublishable line before, possibly because Gender Studies was not a feature of a tertiary education amongst engineers and mathematicians, and anyways, only a cursory survey of Olde Books brings one Ann Radcliffe to light, gothic novelist and she of the Mysteries of Udolpho, which gets endless references even today, my latest being a throw away line in a recent costume drama. According to the highest authority in the land, Wikipedia, she was the highest paid novelist of the 1790s and was almost universally admired. From then on, the same story is repeated endlessly. P'rhaps the occasional authoress whose work was, shall we say, unmarketable, needed to find an excuse? All smacks of Urban Myth, frankly. I imagine many reasons for adopting a masculine pseudonym, and Gravitas is only one. I must concur with the general praise of Middlemarch, and not because I want to be seen to be nodding obliging with great male critics, and I frankly couldn't give a fig what she thought of other lady writers, her books are all that interest me. Call me old-fashioned but what an author looks like or thinks on their days off has no bearing on what I think about their published work. Having a good face for radio is as true in the world of books.

    Now this is your second reference to Josephine Tey in the last little bit, so she must go onto The List forthwith. Hillary Mantel is a goddess and needs no further introduction but I'm unaware of BT and The Guns of August and think it would fit very nicely with my current reading diet. I'm still busy with WWII fodder, but always have room for another war.

    Your family tree sounds lush and strong, GSL, and it's very gracious that you recognise this and sing praise. And it's always good to learn when you're young that pity-parties are a dull option.

    1. Very well said Pippy but what an author thinks "on their days off" has everything to do with their published work and their referrals have often guided me to more undiscovered treasure. It was Patrick O'Brian who informed me Jane Austen was far more than posh chick lit. Knowing that during Tolstoy's trip to London in 1861, he was able to witness his idol's public reading of A Christmas Carol prompting Tolstoy to place a pic of Dickens over his writing desk at his summer home, Yasnaya Polyana, so that a son of the Marshalsea Debtor's Prison provided a watchful eye as War & Peace and Anna K were born places those artists and their work much deeper in my heart.

    2. These are definitely enriching nuggets which you posit, GSL, and I cannot cannot quibble. I was thinking more along the lines of the reputational trashing of writers which then dissuades a reader from picking up a book without sneering, when they might previously have enjoyed them. Virginia Woolf's suicide, for instance, gave rise to surprising aspersions cast upon her and coloured many a reader's approach to her work at the time. Say what you will about her novels, I've recently had her conversational company in the form of her 1925 First Common Reader and she comes across as funny and open-minded, and you can't guess what dark days are in store for her.