Archive for April 11th, 2006

Ride and Prejudice

The Irish Independent has an annoying tendency to leave out the contributors’ names on its on-line articles, so I shall point you in the direction of a bantersome piece (subs needed) written by a man (I assume) whom I shall simply call Renaissance Man (although I reckon I could hazard a guess):

Titled ‘Just what it is that makes men the best writers’, it presents remarkably little supporting evidence, but it hits out at the interpretation of the study I happened to mention the other day, citing ‘feminist conspiracy theory and misandrony’.

It notes:

‘Judging by their reading habits, 21st century women still want to grow up to be
fine-minded ladies with a life of idle joy funded by the blood of the working
masses at the side of Mr Darcy.’

So if a 21st century woman reads Jane Austen, it is with a view to ‘growing up’ (something they still want to do, apparently), and in line with certain material aspirations. This begs the question as to why a man would ever want to read Jane Austen. If there is no intellectual interest in reading, one is inclined to infer that any man who does must be a childishly bling homosexual. Or perhaps there is an intellectual interest in reading, but it is only men who possess it.

Now I don’t doubt that there are some women who read Pride and Prejudice because it is the book of the film of the same name, or, among other things, a rather luxurious precursor to Bridget Jones’s Diary. And some may have arrived at Wuthering Heights via the Kate Bush song of the same name (or even the Cliff Richard-starring musical). But that is not really the point.

The point is that the response to the perceived misandrony here is what seems to be an ill-concealed misogyny.

For instance:

‘Why such hypocritically pious feeble-minded heroines remain relevant to women
today is worrying: do all women who read elevate polite conversational
intercourse above sexual intercourse? Or do women who read not get the latter
and thus need the comfort of seeing the former thus elevated?’

That is, a woman who reads is such books is worthy of reproach, because she is not sufficiently interested in sex (presumably with Renaissance Man). Or it could be that all she needs is a good ride.

Reading this piece, I find myself wondering: is there some big joke I’m just not getting? Has my unwittingly puritannical nature led me to miss a gently elusive element of self-parody? For all the writer’s supposed understanding of 19th Century literature, there is something moustache-strokingly Victorian about his attitude towards women.

Renaissance Man concludes with the following determination:

‘Lack of social skills, obsessive behaviour, truncated interests, inability
to separate fiction from reality: all these are resolutely male features.

They are also features of all great writers.

Which is why almost all great writers, and scientists, are
men.’

One might also be inclined to wonder, if there is an element of truth to his determination, whether this is also the reason why so many men write like unspeakable idiots.

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